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Gouves in Crete

Situated on the northern coast of Crete, Gouves is a great spot for a relaxing holiday in picturesque surroundings. Gouves is a unique blend of two settlements. Firstly there's a small traditional village known as Pano Gouves nestled on the small but breathtaking Mount Ediri which has amazing views of the coastline. In the twists and turns of the narrow alleyways you will find traditional buildings and little churches; Agios Georgios (Saint George), Panayia (dedicated to the birth of Our Lady) and Agios Ioannis (St. John). Around the Kato Gouves Square little kafeneia and a tavern serve as meeting places and central hub to this piece of old Crete. In contrast there's also a larger tourist area by the sea more commonly known as Kátó Gouves. Other than its obvious modern additions the area manages to retain its traditional farming roots.

The tourist part of Gouves has a great selection of hotels, shops, restaurants and a beautiful long sandy beach. To the west there are areas of rocky beach too which gives you a little bit more privacy if you want some peace and quiet. The long stretches of warm sand are speckled with brightly coloured umbrellas, the blue sea is perfect with safe smooth waters to swim in (there are wave breakers put in the sea to ensure this is the case). The only time the sea is not safe is when there is a strong wind, but there are clear warning flags put out on these occasions. Gouves has an array of fun activities to enjoy in its inviting waters including paragliding, banana boats, pedalos and canoes. There is also a small harbour where you can hire boats.

The resort has accommodation to suit all budgets from large hotels, small family run guest houses, self catering and even camping. The varieties of shops are great to browse round and have a good range of souvenirs, such as the local pottery, raki and clothes. Gouves is a very popular place to visit for all ages, so the beach can get busy. Visiting in May or September/October gives you warm balmy days but avoids the crowds that July and August brings.

Gouves has one of the loveliest promenades along the beach called Possidonos Street, which is 3km long and dotted with ornate lights, perfect for a stroll. There are loads of lovely little bars and a wide range of restaurants. If you search away from the more eclectic range of restaurants on the sea front, the local tavernas offer a delicious range of traditional Greek cuisine. Highly recommended is the kleftiko, a mouthwatering dish of lamb and vegetables delicately seasoned and cooked so that the meat falls off the bone. Delicious! There is the occasional disco in the bars and the larger hotels offer quiz nights and karaoke, but generally you are more likely to end up chatting the night away.

Travelling to Gouves is simple. It's only 20km east from the international airport at Heraklion; about 20 minutes travel by car/taxi. Flights times to Heraklion from the UK are around four hours. There is also a boat to and from Athens daily. The vicinity is well serviced by public transport with easily accessible services and frequent buses to areas of local interest.

The whole area around Gouves is a wealth of history and archaeology and you won't be short of places to visit. The church of Saints Constantine and Helen nestles in a pine grove by the sea and is lovely for a bit of tranquility or on the other end scale is a fantastic colourful experience should you happen upon a christening or a wedding and will fill your senses with memories to last a lifetime. Nearby Skotino Cave is a highly recommended place to visit. It is 160 metres deep and its caverns are layered over four levels. There are numerous legends about the cave including that it was where the mythical Minotaur had its labyrinth. However, myths aside, this is simply a stunning place to visit.

Amnísos is a bronze age settlement further along the coast. As well as being a popular beach destination for residents of the modern city it also is an important site for its excavations, particularly of a villa known as "The House of Lilies". A kilometre south of Amnisos lays the cave at Eileithyia. It's a Neolithic site, dedicated to the goddess of childbirth and has been a sacred place for Minoans and Mycenaeans; it's even mentioned in Homer's Odyssey. North west of Gouves the remarkable remains of Minoan villas of Kokkíni Háni are well worth investigating. The villas cover an area of 1000 square metres and show courtyards, corridors, storage rooms, light wells and shrines.

So great beaches, fascinating history, wonderful food. This is the recipe for your Gouves holiday. Enjoy!