Friday, July 16, 2021

Another Greek Ferry Tale ~ Destination Crete

The summer sun was uncompromising as we pulled into the line of vehicles waiting to enter the ferry. Often times -- especially on hot and humid afternoons like this -- we wonder why so many people flock to Greece in the summer as shoulder seasons - spring and fall - offer far kinder weather for travel. 

Perhaps, this year the visitors are like we are, making good on a promises made during COVID lockdown to travel again as soon as possible. . . no longer put off trips to some future date. 'Carpe Diem!' we think, even if the sun is baking our brains while we await boarding.

Bound for Crete

This trip in late June, our second 'ferry tale' since Greece reopened to travel in May, was to Crete, the largest and the most populated island in Greece. This ferry took us and our trusty Hi Ho Silver (our Toyota RAV) from Gythio, a town just an hour's drive southeast of us in the Peloponnese to Kissamos, the westernmost port in Crete. 

Our ferry route in red and orange

Often times ferry departure and arrival times are at odd times of the day, such as in the late afternoon and in the middle of the night, as was the case for this trip. Our projected midnight arrival time was actually delayed when one of the semi trucks got high centered on the loading ramp . . .thus we didn't get to our hotel in Chania until 1 a.m. That delayed arrival made us even happier in those wee small hours of the morning that we had brought our car and didn't need to search out a rental car lot along the dark perimeter of the ferry dock. 

Ready to drive a car onto a Greek ferry are you?

But taking a car on a Greek ferry is somewhat 'a trip' in itself - and certainly not for the faint-of-heart or timid driver.  It is especially hair-raising for Americans who are used to having space, lots of personal space. It just isn't that way in Europe. So I must tip my hat to The Scout, who had the duty of driving the car into the ferry.

Drivers wait for cars to move so they can get into their car

The cars are packed so tightly into the belly of the ship that passengers aren't allowed to stay in them when they are driven into the ferry. So The Scout drove the car in and I waited at the ferry entrance for him to emerge. (When we disembarked passengers were allowed to go to the car and wait and thus I was able to take these photos.)  This vessel had a gargantuan loft on which we were parked which required driving down a narrow and steep ramp, 'Tap your brakes! Tap your brakes! Tap your brakes,' the staff shouted as we began our descent.

Tap your brake! and down we went in a blur

Now before I prompt an onslaught of  'unsafe' and 'overloaded' comments, let me assure you that every ferry on which we've ever traveled in Greece with a car has looked this same way. The staff carefully load by vehicle size and destination as these ships often have buses and large semi-tractor trailer rigs filling the center sections. This ferry route operates once a week so they make use of every bit of space.

Inside look at Greek ferries

Our journey was scheduled to be 7.5 hours in length. We could have sat inside at tables in a cavernous restaurant or in airplane type seats in a small airconditioned television area. We, like many others, chose the view seats on the upper exterior deck. The ocean breeze lessened the heat and the canopy provided shade.  This vessel also came without internet so one entertained oneself by reading or sightseeing (or watching Greek television inside). 

Upper deck where every seat has a view. . .

While this was a modern ship, its engine did seem to have mechanical intestinal disturbances which resulted in oil and soot being belched from giant smokestacks making us very cautious in leaning on railings and moving around to different seats.

Soot and oil on passenger benches: don't wear white!

I know I've sung the praises of Greek ferry travel before, but I must again tell you that the Absolute. Best. Part. is:  arriving and departing islands that you might otherwise never have seen as you make your way to your destination.  

This routing took us to the island of Kythira, two hours from Gythio, and then to Antikythera another two hours south.  No matter what the ferry or the island, there is an excitement about approaching land. Once docked, the mad dash and a scramble to load and unload passengers and vehicles always makes for great entertainment. And such was the case in this teeny tiny place. A virtual parade of construction vehicles rumbled off the ship here.

Approaching Potamos, the port in Antikythera 10 p.m.

This route let us see the port shrouded in darkness as well as the way the tiny little place looks in the blazing heat of day. Antikythera reportedly has a year-round population of about 45 and that number can swell to 500 in the summertime.  The island has a medical center, police station, small grocery stores and a helipad.

Approaching Potamos port in Antikythira island at 10 a.m.

Now the larger island of Kythira has perhaps one of the most desolate looking ports we've seen in Greece, but having spent a week here a couple years ago, let me assure you the place also offers charming villages sprinkled about its hillsides and beaches. For a look at Kythira, click this link.

Tourists wait for the ferry at Kythira port

A number of you've written, saying you hope to experience a Greek ferry trip one day. We encourage you to do just that but do keep in mind a few key points: first, weather can impact ferry schedules, up to and including, keeping the ferries from sailing, so make sure your schedule allows for possible delays.  Also check which days the days and how often the ferries sail to places you want to visit. You might be thinking two nights and the ferry may only come once a week. Check arrival and departure times as they could be 2 a.m. in the morning.

Ferries, still our favorite way to visit Greek islands, are conducive to 'slow travel' -- but that doesn't appeal to everyone so pack your patience or book a flight if you can't sit back and relax.

And they aren't the cheapest way to travel either. Our tickets, for a small SUV and two passengers traveling between Gythio and Kissamos cost 150 euros or $177US each way. (Now I have to admit it was great buying things like big jars of Cretan honey and simply putting them in the car, not worrying about fitting them into a suitcase!)

Destination Crete

Crete ahead!

We were gobsmacked to realize that it has been seven years since we spent time in Crete. How had we let that much time slip by without returning to the island where we had actually looked for real estate before settling in the Mani? 

Would Niki still have a bakery in Chora Sfakia on Crete's southern coast? Did they still make those Cretan meat pies at our favorite restaurant in the village? Would Elounda to the east be as charming as we remembered it?

I have Facebook friends on Crete who I've known for years now. It was time to meet as many of them face-to-face as I could. The ferry travels between Gythio and Crete every Wednesday. . .we had a week. in which to travel down Memory Lane. Hope you'll join us next time as we do just that!

Until then, thanks for your time and stay safe!

Linking up soon with:

Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday


  1. I love traveling where we have our own car! What a scene this is - I can't get over the cars packed in like sardines! Looking forward to reading about your adventures in Crete!

    1. It really isn't for the faint-of-heart or those timid drivers!

  2. Oh my gosh, those cars are packed in tightly! I think I'd be game to try the ferry to visit these great spots. Maybe my experiences driving in Puglia would be helpful.

    1. Probably would be as the Greeks drive a lot like the Italians do!

  3. I look forward to your posts about your time on Crete! It sounds like there are pros and cons to taking the ferry. It is nice, I'm sure to have your own vehicle and also to be able to easily bring back purchases with you, but the cost and travel time are things that could be reasons to fly instead, if time is a factor.

    1. I do shake my head when someone writes that they are island hopping by ferry and hope to see x-number of islands in a week's time. Sometimes a ferry takes an entire day to reach an island!

  4. What a thrilling, yet slightly scary way to travel. The idea of standing on the bridge of the ferry as it navigates the passage would be amazing. Salt air and sunshine for all!


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