The Rough Guide to Crete and The Lonely Planet Guide to Crete
Review by Stelios Jackson (July 2002)
The Lonely Planet Guide To Crete and the Rough Guide To Crete are,
in my view, the two best general guidebooks to the island of Crete.
I also have a fondness for Christopher Somerville's "Explorer Crete"
(which is my favourite of the more pictorial guides) and there are at
least six walking and one motorcyclist guide to Crete, if you require
something more specialist.
Now in its second edition the Lonely Planet Guide To Crete has improved immeasurably upon somewhat
rude beginnings of the 1st edition of 2000, while the Rough Guide To Crete
has remained consistently good throughout its four updates since its
first edition of 1988. The problem with updating a guide as thorough
as either of these, is that inevitably things get overlooked. I am assured
by my Aghios Nikolaos correspondent, for instance (thanks Maraki), that
the Rough Guide To Crete tends to reguRough Guide To Creteitate copy from previous editions despite the
town having changed dramatically over the past few years. The Lonely Planet Guide To Crete has
fewer problems on that score as the new edition has been researched
and written to a far higher standard than the previous edition.
Crete is a huge island and consequently the changes that places inevitably
undeRough Guide To Creteo are less easy to keep an eye on, especially as the likely sales
of either of these guides preclude more than two writers each.
The two books are comparable in many ways, offering useful advice on
various aspects that will prove invaluable to the tourist, such as accommodation
options, car hire etc. Having read (and used), pretty much every guidebook,
ever published to Crete, one thing surprised me about the two books
and that was how different they actually are. Both of these new editions
came out subsequent to my last trip to Crete, so I have to confess that
I haven't used them on the ground, but seeing as I shall be in Crete
for 5 weeks in 2003, I have studied both of them in great detail.
There is no doubt that the Rough Guide To Crete is the more thorough of the two as far
as the places that are listed are concerned. Included are a number
of places that do not appear in the Lonely Planet Guide To Crete. For the most part, these are
small and out of the way places, but I was surprised to see that Stalis
(or Stalidha as the Rough Guide To Crete insists on calling it) is not listed in the Lonely Planet Guide To Crete.
This makes the Rough Guide To Crete far more useful for touring the island, with almost
every village and even some tiny hamlets getting some sort of mention.
Handhras, in the Lassithi nomos, not only gets a mention in the Rough Guide To Crete (not
in the Lonely Planet Guide To Crete), we are even told the length of the lease of the newly built
windmills! (its 99 years, if like me, you can never get too much
I have always maintained that these two guides are an either one
or the other option, but if one has the luggage space and money
is no object (or if you are the webmaster for a Greek bookshop!) they
can work quite well, in tandem. Having said that, the vast majority
of you will probably choose just one guide book to Crete and that book
is very likely to be one of these two. So, which of them to take? Well,
I have given my two-penneth worth at the end of this review, but I hope
the following extracts will heLonely Planet Guide To Crete you decide, which book best suits your
Below I have copied the respective chapters on Bali (my Mother is residing
there at the time of writing) and whilst only so much can be said of
a small town, the accommodation and eating out options are
slightly different in each of the books, though the Lonely Planet Guide To Crete gives far more
options. I have copied these verbatim, other than the 'phone numbers,
in both guides, which I am far too numerically-challenged to attempt
Rough Guide To Crete: Info on Bali
(There is a boxed text piece entitled "save the turtle" -
found along this coastline - inserted between the text below.)
"Bali is a small resort, set around a series of little coves,
9km east of Panormos.Here the road drops down briefly from the heights
to a desolate patch of low ground behind a bay, occupied by a laRough Guide To Cretee
garage (here the bus will drop you).
"Opposite the garage a road runs around the bay towards the
village; on foot, this is further than it looks - a couple of kilometres
to the village, more to the best beach. What you first see though,
is a fair-sized pebbly beach at the end of the bay, which often
shelters a considerable collection of camper vans and tents.
"Sadly, although the beaches are still spectacular, they're
very much overrun. and Bali has become a package resort, too popular
for its own good. Only well out of season, when there are bound
to be baRough Guide To Creteains given the number of rooms here, is it worth
"Bali proper consists of three coves. The first has a pebbly
beach and a couple of tavernas and rooms place: here too is the
Bali Beach Hotel, the first and still much the most luxurious hotel.
In the second cove is the original village, with most of the local
stores as well as more hotels, rooms and taverns.
"Here you could try Mira Mare, which has en-suite,
sea-view balcony rooms with fridge. One side of this cove has been
concreted to form a harbour (there are day trips by boat, from Rethimnon)
and on the other you can swim, though rarely with much space.
"The third cove is known as "Paradise Beach" and
though it's still much the best for swimming -with a patch of sand
and, on either side, crags of rock with level places to sunbathe
- it's too crowded and overlooked to deserve the name any more.
Two shady tavernas just above the beach make reasonable lunch stops
however, and there are a couple of rooms places, including the swish Hotel Nostos, with good sea views.
"If you stay the night, you could have Paradise Beach all
to yourself in the early morning sun, when you may be able to appreciate
why it got its name. Slightly outside the cove, but still well sheltered
within the laRough Guide To Creteer bay, are a couple of rocks to dive from. It's
a beautiful place to splash about, surrounded by mountains that
appear to rise direct from the sea to impressive heights. Behind
this beach, Hellas Bike Hire, rents out mountain bikes
and oRough Guide To Creteanizes day trips to the Psiloritis mountains and other scenic
locations (the bikes are trucked up to the top and you freewheel
"A good viewpoint to appreciate Bali's setting, and a more
peaceful place to begin your journey, is the tiny part-ruined, part-restored
seventeenth century monastery of Ayios Ioannis (daily 9am-noon
and 4-7pm), reached by a good track to the North of the coast road,
about five minutes west of the resort by car. The monastery church
has some seventeenth- century frescoes, but its reputation among
Cretans today is for an eneRough Guide To Creteetic role in the struggle against Turkish
rule, for which it was bombarded by the Turkish navy."
The Rough Guide then heads east to Agia Pelagia and Sises
Lonely Planet Guide To Crete: Info on Bali
Bali or Mpali, Postcode 740 57. pop 203
"Bali, 38km east of Rethimno and 51km west of Iraklio, has
one of the most stunning settings on the northern coast, No less
than five little coves are strung along the indented shore, marked
by hills, promontories and narrow, sandy beaches. Helter-skelter
development around the coast has somewhat marred the natural beauty
of Bali and the narrow beaches can become crowded in the summer,
but it's a great place to rent a boat and get the full effect of
the dramatic landscape.
"The name Bali has nothing to do with its tropical namesake
in Indonesia; rather the name means 'honey' in Turkish, for excellent
honey was once collected and processed here. In antiquity the place
was known as Astali, though no traces of ancient Astali now remain.
"Orientation & Information"
"Bali is a rather spread-out settlement and it is a long walk
from the one end of Bali to the other - 25 minutes or so -so plan
your accommodation and eating options accordingly. The village is
punctuated by a series of coves and attendant hotels and restaurants
starting with Paradise Beach, followed by Kyma Beach then Bali Beach.
The ensuing port has a small, but popular, swimming area, but the
last and best beach is Evita Beach at the far northern end. Walkers
can take a short cut along a coastal path from the port, while riders
and drivers must take a circuitous approach over the clifftops.
"There is no bank or post office but you can change money
at Racer-Rent-a-Car on the left as you enter town or in one of the
travel agencies clustered around the coves. You can check your e-mails
at the Posto Cafe on the port, where access time costs 3 per
There is a wide variety of water sports activities available
"Diving Centre Ippokambos" (Dives 50-59 including
equipment). Based at Evita Beach, this company offers a 'discover
scuba diving' dive and boat dives.
"Water Sports Lefteris" Will rent you a pedal boat for
6 an hour, a small canoe for 4.50 an hour, a sailboat
for 36 for two hours and a jet-ski for 18 for 15 minutes.
Paragliding costs 30 for a 15 minute flight. On the port,
Lefteris also offers day-long and sunset cruises.
Places to Stay and Eat
There is little budget accommodation in Bali, most of it being
designed for couples or families on holiday. A lot of the accommodation
is also taken over by packaged holiday groups, so pre-booking is
a good idea in high season.
"Apartments Ikonomakis" Singles/doubles 26.50/38.50.
This place is on a quiet street, slightly inland from the port.
Rooms are quite comfortable and centrally placed
"Evita Rent Rooms" Singles/doubles 26.50/38.50.
Overlooking the beach of the same name, Evita has cosy rooms with
a fridge. This place is sometimes block-booked by tour companies.
"Sunrise Apartments" Doubles 28. Right on Evita
beach, Sunrise apartments is among the cheaper options. The rooms
are very pleasant and the owners will pick up guests from Iraklio
"Rose Apartments" Studios doubles/quads 44/59.
On the left, shortly after you enter Bali are these very tasteful
new studios. Complete with air-conditioning, kitchenette, umbrella
equipped balconies and enjoying ample parking, Rose apartments is
one of the better independent choices in Bali for two or more persons.
"Katerina Rooms" Studios for 2/3 persons 36. Next
door to Rose apartments are these older studios with similar facilities,
though the furnishings are older. There is a kitchenette in most
There is a wealth of restaurants and cafes clustered along the
"Kyma Restaurant" Mains 3.80-5.90. The Kyma,
right on Kyma beach serves good value in a pleasant setting. The
chef recommends his oven-baked vegetables (3.50)
"Panorama" Mains 3.80-5.90. Overlooking the
port, this is another fine choice. A filling mixed platter cost
"Taverna Karavotasti" Mains 3.00-5.60. Belonging
to Sunrise apartments this cosy little eatery 30m back from Evita
beach offers, simple home-cooking and snacks. Okra with lamb (4.50)
is one of their more requested dishes.
"Highway Club" (Bali). One of the liveliest dance clubs
in Bali, the highway club is at the entrance to town. It's an open-air
space decorated as a tropical garden.
"Volcano" (Bali). Also popular. Volcano is at the top
of the hill overlooking the church.
"On the Rocks" (Bali). Across from the church, this place
caters more to teenagers.
Getting there and Away
Buses from Iraklio and Rethymno drop you at the main road, from
where it is a 2km walk to the port of Bali.
"Racer Rent-a-Car" has an office at the entrance to town
and one at the port and offers good deals on rentals.
There is little to choose between the two guides, as far as practical information about Crete
is concerned. Both use text boxes, which are paragraphs
of information, designed to break up the repetitive look of, otherwise
solid, text; I have given a short example of each, below so that you
get my drift. These are not necessarily the best examples from the books;
I chose them entirely at random, as I thought that it would be be more
objective to do it that way:
Text Box Examples
Rough Guide To Crete (Between the sections on Psiloritis and The
The Memorial to Peace
At the Northern end of the Nidha Plateau, German artist
Karen Raeck, has constructed a rock scuLonely Planet Guide To Creteture, entitled immortal
freedom fighter of piece, commemorating the suffering of the
town of Anoyia at the hands of the German army in 1944. A one-woman
reconciliation mission between her homeland and Anoyia, Raeck has
spent most of the last 18 years living in the town and has gained
the respect and trust of its inhabitants. The monument measuring
30m by 9m, consists of a laRough Guide To Cretee number of huge boulders laid out
in an impressionistic image of a winged figure when viewed from
the air. The shepherds of the plateau assisted Raeck in carving
and positioning the stones and during the works assembly she
lived in one of the stone huts. The scuLonely Planet Guide To Creteture is visible from the
terrace of the taverna Nida and staff there have information about
it and will point it out if asked; an excursion to see it at close
quarters makes for a pleasant stroll across the plateau.
Lonely Planet Guide To Crete (In the food section)
Another heLonely Planet Guide To Creteing of Horta?
"An influential study concluded in 1960, after 15 years of
research, found that Cretan men had the lowest rate of heart disease
and cancer of all seven countries (sic) studied (Finland, USA, Netherlands,
Italy, Yugoslavia, Japan and Crete). The extraordinary longevity
of the Cretan men is a puzzle. Doctors noted that the traditional
Cretan diet was high in fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains
and olive oil the so-called Mediterranean diet.
Another important factor may be the wild greens that Cretans were
accustomed to gathering in the hills. Used in pies, salads or horta,
the greens may have protective properties that are not yet fully
understood. Unfortunately the Cretan beans and greens diet is changing
as the island has prospered and urbanised. As Cretans have included
more meats and cheese in their diets and no longer work (out) in
the fields, heart disease and cancer rates are rising. Cretans have
not completely abandoned there old ways however. Anyone wanting
to clean up their coronaries will find plenty of healthy choices
on Cretan menus
The thoroughness of the Rough Guide To Crete is self-evident, but the humour of the Lonely Planet Guide To Crete
is, for me, best summed up in this extract from another one of its text
boxes on mass tourism "...The crowds are young in both towns (Hersonissos
and Malia), but in Malia, you will feel decrepit if you are over 22.
Both places assume that you will consume copious quantities of alcohol.
In Hersonissos you drink to get drunk, dance and wake up with a stranger
while at Malia you drink to get drunk, fall down and wake up on the
pavement. If that sounds good to you, you know where to go, but try
to visit Crete someday." Quite, though to be fair to Malia, I have
a couple of friends that go there every September- they have not seen
22 for many years and of course the archaeological site is a must-see.
I have to point out a couple of minor faults with each of these books:
As I have said The Lonely Planet guide does not list all the places
that you might visit or stay. The new (5th) edition of the
Rough Guide came out in May 2001 and yet amazingly, the new Athens airport
(opened in March that year) is not mentioned. Therefore details of how
to travel to Crete from Athens an option taken by many travellers
is obsolete. This is very unusual for the usually eagle-eyed
editorial team at Rough Guide To Crete. I am not a great fan of the somewhat maverick
transliteration that the Rough Guide To Crete guide uses, either. Not that it isn't accurate,
its just that when you are so used to seeing Agia
written as Aghia or Agia, Ayia takes
a bit of getting used to, despite the fact it is far closer to the way
it is pronounced, and it makes proper nouns difficult to look up in
the otherwise excellent index.
Other than the "missing places" in the Lonely Planet Guide To Crete, 'Activities Cycling'
ends with two versions of the same sentence). Also their Health section
pp71-72 seems to have been taken from the Lonely Planet Guide To Crete guide to somewhere tropical.
You may rest assured in the knowledge that the island has no venomous
snake that can bite a human and that trekkers do not aquire leeches
on their legs! The small cat snake on Crete does have venom, but its
fangs are at the rear of the small mouth, so it is physically unable
to position them to inject into the human anatomy, unless one forced
a little finger down its throat...don't try that at home, or in Crete.
Non-venomous Cretan snakes will bite, if handled, which might cause
shock or, possibly, an infection, but death is not a possibility.
In conclusion and to answer my own question as to which one of these
to take with you well...it depends...
If you are going to a single destination on Crete, with a few trips
planned, then the Lonely Planet Guide is probably the better option.
Well written, compact, with a very nice feel, the 50 or so box texts
are fun to read and educational too and sections on the Minoans and
mountains and a page on the E4 walk make this an excellent guide. I
also find it more readable than the Rough Guide To Crete. You can also see
that the Lonely Planet Guide To Crete has more detailed descriptions of the eateries and accommodation
options, in places such as my case study, Bali.
However, if you are going to be touring the island, in any great capacity,
then the Rough Guide To Crete has to be the one. It is far more comprehensive, the maps
are clearer and the experience of the authors is evident throughout.
The 45 page "Contexts" section at the rear of the book is
invaluable and I would advise anybody buying this, to read that
section first as it is full of all sorts of useful, bite-sized, detail.
So if I had to take only one of these books?
Thankfully I am not in that position and I shall be taking both (sorry),
but I hope that the information above heLonely Planet Guide To Cretes you to decide which one
best suits your needs.
Lonely Planet Guide to Crete or Rough Guide To Crete? It's your choice. SJ
Rough Guide To Crete Contents
Part One - Basics:
Various useful data on getting there, insurance etc (pages 2-67)
Part 2 - The Guide:
Iraklion (pages 69-155)
Lassithi (pages 156-220)
Rethimnon (pages 221-273)
Hania (pages 274-380)
Part 3 "Contexts"
Extremely useful chapters on historical framework,
books and such things; This chapter more than equates
to the last
Lonely Planet Guide To Crete Contents
Facts about Crete
Various useful facts including chapters on the Minoans, Geography,
climate, language etc.
Facts for the Visitor
Very thorough inventory of facts with snippets on such things
as laundry, films, books, gay and lesbian travellers, legal matters,
food, shopping etc. etc.
Getting there and away
Air, land and sea routes and oRough Guide To Creteanised tours too
Buses, cars, hitching, walking, bicycles etc
Iraklio (pages 113-147)
Rethymno & Central Crete (pages 148-172)
Hania and Around (pages 173-194)
Western Crete (pages 195-218)
Eastern Crete (pages 219-246)
Rough Guide To Crete: Maps
Palace of Knossos
Palace of Malia
Palace of Festos
Moni Koudouma walk
Samarian GoRough Guide To Cretee
South Coast Walks
Walks around Spili
Palace of Zakros
The Lonely Planet Guide To Crete: Maps
Minoan Trade Routes
Minoan and Bronze Age Sites
E4 Walking Trail
Palace of Knossos
Palace of Malia
Rethymno and Central Crete
Hania and Around
Samaria GoRough Guide To Cretee
Stelios Jackson / July 09, 2002
Crete Car Rental
Bars & Restaurants