Travelling in the off season has its pros and cons. There are minimal crowds, the weather cools just enough to still be comfortable for our Canadian skin, and you can enjoy many attractions and experiences at a fraction of the cost!
The challenge comes when you’re looking for a location a little bit off the tourist track. Many shops, restaurants and accomodations are closed and transportation is limited, with ferries and airlines reducing their schedules. We wanted to visit a Greek island that wasn’t too touristy or expensive, something more family friendly with a beach for the kids while the weather was still warm. In the end, we decided to spend two weeks in Rethymno on the island of Crete and it was the perfect place for us!
Where We Stayed
Rethymno is almost halfway between Crete’s two main airports of Chania and Heraklion. Flights were cheaper and had better schedules out of Heraklion from Rome so we flew there. We picked up our rental car from the airport and we were on our way!
I booked an Airbnb just outside of town from our lovely hosts, Anastasia, Mike and little Giorgio. Just a 5-minute drive from the historic old town, it was a spacious half duplex with a pool and beautiful views of the ocean. We had everything we needed for our stay, and Anastasia was so kind to have stocked the fridge for us and make us dinner since our late Sunday arrival meant almost everything was closed.
What We Did
Within a 10-minute drive from the house was an equestrian centre where Avery had riding lessons most mornings. She was happy to be back in the saddle after many missed lessons in Tuscany due to rain. With kids back in school it was easy for us to book last minute private lessons for her and we received a discount for booking multiple days. Even Lily got to ride a pony!
The Beach and Old Town
The town of Rethymno stretches along 2km of sandy beaches. We had a great time playing in the water, building sandcastles and basking in the sun. We never had to fight for beach chairs or deal with the intense Greek sun. The weather was perfect for spending hours outside and it was free! We spent time in Old Town window shopping and eating at various restaurants. During the week there were hardly any tourists and we just took our time wandering the streets, visiting shops along the way.
Day Trip to Santorini
We managed to book the very last day trip to Santorini being offered before closing for the season. Since they still had lots of room on the trip we were offered a deal where the kids went for free which saved us close to 200 Euros!
We were glad we just booked a day trip with the kids because we didn’t find it to be a kid-friendly destination. Everything is expensive and besides the few towns along the coast there wasn’t much to see. We felt we had a more immersive experience in Rethymno and learned more about the Greek way of life and traditions.
Our cooking class with Avli Restaurant was such a great experience. We had a full afternoon learning about Cretan cuisine and preparing our dishes. Because it was the off-season they were kind enough to offer our whole family the class for less than ¼ of the original price! You can read more about the experience here.
Lazy Days at Home
We took advantage of great weather and spent many days in our pool, barbequing and eating outside. I loved having a full kitchen again with a stove!! We cooked many of our favourite foods and it was so nice to feel like we were home. Our host Mike’s parents live next door and often had our girls over to play with their grandchildren. It was a great feeling letting the kids out and knowing they had a safe place to just be kids.
Driving to the Mountains
There is a lot more to the island of Crete than the beaches. Rethymno has lots of mountains and gorges to explore. We ate a traditional lunch at a tavern specializing in Antikristo and learned to make raki! You can read about our experience here.
We had a lot of wind on the island later on our trip but we were still able to get some great drone footage. Take a look!