The drive from Rethymno to the south coast village of Agia Galini takes just over an hour, and the 50km journey, through the mountains and rolling hills of Rethymno province is worth it alone. Through Spili and past Akoumia, the road runs through one of Crete’s most alluring landscapes, until an abrupt right turn brings you to this ‘old school’ seaside hamlet. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Libyan Sea, you’re almost in Heraklion province here.
Agia Galini may feel a bit worn at the edges, (much of the village’s hotel accommodation was built in the 1970s), but its retro laid-back feel remind us of gentler times; a simple seaside sanctuary, friendly, modest, not overly sophisticated, but with a deal of Cretan charm and bags of authenticity nonetheless.
You won’t get lost here. With a resident population of less than 700, the village divides into three distinct areas all within easy walking distance: the long pebble beach to the east (and a host of cafes and tavernas offering sunbed-side refreshments); the tiny harbour with a handful of comfortable lounge-style cafe bars; and above, up flights of stone steps, cosy alleyways with shops selling souvenirs and tourist keepsakes nestle alongside a handful of bars and traditional style tavernas.
At the harbour a few local seafarers offer trips exploring the coast and the Gulf of Messara. Also Preveli beach drop-offs and pick-ups available.
Agia Galini Boat Cruises
Jump aboard with skipper Nikos for a rare trip to the uninhabited Paximadia islands. Paximada, the easternmost, is the one to head for. Pristine beaches, crystal clear waters and serene solitude. Tel. 693 097 9864
Elizabeth Fishing Trip
Captain Vassilis and son-in-law Theodore look after you on this much recommended cruise with a difference; what you catch they cook. Not serious fishing, more a day on the water exploring caves and isolated beaches. Great swimming. Tel. 693 684 8445
Agia Galini’s culinary options are like the town itself – simple and satisfying.
At the beach, Kostas‘ Taverna serves fine fruit salads with yogurt and honey, along with excellent club sandwiches direct to your sun-bed. At the taverna itself the menu comprises traditional Greek favourites and fresh fish at decent prices. Tel. 2832 091323
Overlooking the harbour Madame Hortense (Tel. 693 298 9538) and its balcony with stunning views has been a favourite for decades. Beef Stifado and Lamb with honey and mustard recommended.
The fish taverna Faros (Tel. 693 726 7598) has been here since the 1970s. Honest, simple and authentic. Fresh fish and mussels in white wine with cheese are some of the specialities.
Taverna Avli (698 409 8135) receives regular good reviews for its authentic and creative traditional dishes served under the attentive eyes of owners Nikos and Katerinia. Good food and friendly service.
The essence of Agia Galini is sit back, relax and take things easy, and let its quiet charm wash over you. Very popular in high season the best time to visit is late spring and early summer, and September/October.