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Western Crete is hugely popular for its beaches, which are mostly situated around the north and south coasts, with a huge mountain range dominating the skyline between. In fact these mountains are so huge that they can even split the weather across the island and whilst the north may be experiencing heavy rain and storms, the south may be quiet, gentle and sunny.
In general the north beaches tend to be favoured by tourists and they are served by a large highway that runs along the length of Crete. They are well served by resorts and ideal for package holidays for families. However, for those seeking remote and beautiful scenery it's the far west that will appeal - a magnet too for day trippers. Much of the south coast is uninhabited due to the mountain range plunging into the sea, but Plaka is an example of a quiet but beautiful town to visit with incredible scenery. For all-inclusive holiday packages, the former capital of Chania is ideal with lively nightlife and a busy coastline.
The sandy beaches at Almirida and Kalives are always popular with visitors and the white mountains provide a beautiful backdrop. Many visitors have invested in homes here and this influx has bought new development and life into the region, with new tourist facilities still cropping up. This has resulted in luxury villas now being available to stay in, as well as the regular hotels and self catering appartments.
Kalives is a small Crete town of typical character, it is disorganised and busy but charming and managing to stay relaxed. The streets are narrow and winding and the shops open out directly onto them. Pedestrians and animals both share the road and tourists can fit in easily to the companionable community. It is also a working town and has many useful facilities for tourists, including bank, supermarket and shops. The beach of Kalives is very beautiful indeed with fine sands backed by trees and surrounded by benches for visitors to enjoy the shade in. There are many fine cafes and tavernas alongside the beach for breaks and refreshments although it's worth noting here that the currents in the sea can be strong so children should be watched at all times, however, it's considered to be a good family beach with great facilities.
As well as visiting the beach and the pleasant town centre, particularly the square near the church, it's worth visiting the Stone House, a private house where the buildings have been entirely covered in coloured stones in the style of Gaudi.
The old fishing village of Almirida is a favourite weekend getaway for local Cretans, with a straggling resort that winds around the sheltered bay and offers beach-front restaurants and tavernas, small shops, jewellers and cafes. The waterfront has a shallow cove at one end which is ideal for children to splash in and the cove opens out at the other end to a long beach stretch with many watersports. There is beautiful scenery to enjoy with colourful gardens and houses stretching back to the hills and the snow topped mountains in the distance. The village has a relaxed atmosphere and is ideal for strolling, eating good food, enjoying drinks and taking a break from the pressured pace of life.
The seaside resort is particularly thriving and there is a windsurfing school and diving school open for visitors, as well as bars and restaurants which make for a lively nightlife. Mountain bikes are available for hire and there's a taxi rank available for getting about. There is also a ten pin bowling lane at the Almirida Beach Hotel and there are many local attractions including the ancient 5th century mosaic at the entrance to the village and other finds at Aptera, located just ten minutes away.
If you enjoy walking, there are some great coves along the cliff path towards Kalives and many general walks around the area with great views of the Souda Bay. It's also worth visiting the hill villages of Plaka and Kokkino Khorio which were featured in the film Zorba the Greek and are also known for having many shady tavernas, set along tree lined streets, noted for their fine local cooking and delicious meze.
As with the rest of Crete, dinner is taken later than in the UK and so bars and clubs generally don't see visitors until after 11pm. This means a long evening can be enjoyed with food in a taverna, where entertainment and music may be laid on, some drinks in a bar by the sea and maybe one of the clubs later for a dance!
Flights to the Heraklion International Airport at Nikos Kazantzakis all have easy transfers to Almirida and Kalives. There are coaches and buses available for journeys or you can hire a car from one of the airport booths. These are often good value if you are planning to make day trips and excursions around the island.