Crete Guides

Crete travel guide

The Rough Guide to Crete and The Lonely Planet Guide to Crete

Review by Stelios Jackson (July 2002)

rough guide to crete

Rough Guide to Crete


Buy the Rough Guide to Crete from Amazon UK

lonely planet guide to crete

Lonely Planet Guide to Crete


Buy the Lonely Planet Guide to Crete from Amazon UK

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! (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? 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 requirements:

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 to copy:

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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 staying.

"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 down).

"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

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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 hour.


There is a wide variety of water sports activities   available in Bali.

"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 airport.

"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 rooms.

There is a wealth of restaurants and cafes clustered along the coves.

"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 €5.90

"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.

Getting around

"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

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Rough Guide To Crete (Between the sections on Psiloritis and The Idean Cave)


“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 work’s 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.”

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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, 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.

In conclusion and to answer my own question as to which one of these to take with you 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


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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


crete guide


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)




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Rough Guide To Crete: Maps


Ferry Links

Chapter Divisions

Iraklion Province


Palace of Knossos


Central Hersonissos

Palace of Malia


Palace of Festos

Ayia Triadha

Moni Koudouma walk

Lasithi Province

Lasithi Plateau

Ayios Nikolaos


Hania Province


Samarian GoRough Guide To Cretee

South Coast Walks

Kastelli, Kissamou



Walks around Spili



Palace of Zakros


Rethimnon Province


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The Lonely Planet Guide To Crete: Maps


Minoan Trade Routes

Minoan and Bronze Age Sites

E4 Walking Trail



Road Distances

Iraklio Region


Palace of Knossos



Agia Triada

Palace of Malia

Rethymno and Central Crete

Hania and Around


Western Crete

Samaria GoRough Guide To Cretee


Eastern Crete

Agios Nikolaos


Zakros Palace


Stelios Jackson / July 09, 2002

crete guide

Rough Guide to Crete


Buy he Rough Guide to Crete by Amazon UK
crete guide

Lonely Planet Guide to Crete


Buy the Lonely Planet Guide to Crete from Amazon UK
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