Lonely Planet Guide to Crete and the Rough Guide to Crete

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.

rough guide to crete
lonely planet guide to crete

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 regurgitate 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 area, 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! (it’s 99 years, if like me, you can never get too much detail).

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?

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.

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, it’s 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.

Which guide to buy?

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 help you to decide which one best suits your needs.

Lonely Planet Guide to Crete or Rough Guide To Crete? It’s your choice.

Review by Stelios Jackson / July 09, 2002

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
  • Index

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
  • Getting around
  • 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)
  • Language
  • Glossary
  • Index

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