Sunday, 25 August 2013

Free-camping or a day at the beach, Agios Pavlos... with your dog

Agios Pavlos Beach with Betty and Sage
As we arrived at Agios Pavlos after dark, and after a long day of traveling (see:, waking up early and seeing this beach for the first time was really special. From our 'tent' we could see the small taverna close by. Just beyond was the beautiful church of Agios Pavlos (Saint Paul). And beyond that... endless beach, amazing clear blue water, pine forests, mountains...
Our makeshift tent
There is no better way to wake up, than to jump into a cool, deep, clear sea! Especially if there is nobody else around, or just a couple of small fishing boats in the distance.

I don't know how much our girls slept the first evening, being in a new exciting environment, with all the smells and sounds of the beach and the forest behind. They were certainly awake when I woke up.

Although there is natural shade on this beach, for a few hours in the middle of the day it is pretty hard going, so we tried to make the most of the morning cool. After a swim, and a quick coffee in the taverna, we walked a little way up the beach for another swim and a bit of exploring.

I had wanted to see the church of Agios Pavlos since reading about it a couple of years ago, and it absolutely lived up to my expectations. It is so beautifully built that it almost fades into the scenery behind, nestling on the edge of the pine forest, right on the beach itself. It has been constructed from materials found nearby, so it suit its environs perfectly (you can even see beach pebbles in the exposed vault).

The church was originally constructed in the 10-11th century, supposedly by Agios Ioannis Xenos (Saint John the Stranger) in commemoration of the Apostle Paul's visit to the area. It is a cruciform church, with a dome.
The church of Agios Pavlos
As the church is exposed to the elements, the wall paintings have suffered, and large sections are blackened with mould, or missing altogether. Those that remain, however, are fantastic.
Wall paintings in the church of Agios Pavlos

I have been trying to find out what the paintings depict, and I'm still not sure (please let me know in the comments box below if you have any information). One of the remaining scenes shows a bearded male figure, with a halo, holding the baby Jesus (the first photo above). I had not seen this before in Byzantine iconography. The only parallel I could find is a 14th century icon showing the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, where the Virgin presents Christ to Simeon for rites of purification. I think the second photo shows the Apostle Paul holding a book or letter. These paintings are said to be from the 13th century. 

Of course, we left the dogs outside in the shade while we went in to the church. 
By this time it was kind of lunchtime, so we headed to the taverna, again, and stayed there until we saw shade from the rocks by our tent. The owners of the taverna were more than happy for our dogs to come and sit with us. They came over to pet them and play with them, and there were at least two other groups who had brought their dogs with them too. It is a very dog-friendly place. 
The afternoon passed easily enough, eating, drinking, finally slinking off to the rocks to lie down, a bit more swimming, playing with the dogs... As soon as it was cool enough, we had a longer walk up the beach. We reached the end of the bay, where the beach comes to an end and you have to climb up the sand dunes to the path to  continue round. 
Then back, once again, to the taverna for an evening meal. 

The next morning we woke early to beat the sun, and set off back to Agia Roumeli along the E4. With slightly less to carry, and in the daylight, this walk seemed much easier, although I wouldn't have wanted to do it later in the day. With the morning sun it was glorious. We had one last altercation with the goats, and found ourselves sitting in a taverna by the harbour at Agia Roumeli, waiting for the 11 o' clock ferry to take us home. 
Morning hike back to Agia Roumeli

I really enjoyed this trip. I loved the journey there - how the landscape changes so much (starting from Heraklio) from the busy, developed north coast, through the wild mountains inland, to the bare, rocky coast line with small seaside villages and coves, to the pine forests and long, deserted beaches. I loved the boat ride, and the views, and watching the coastline from the sea. I really liked the sense of adventure, hiking to an unknown beach as it was getting dark. And I loved the beautiful church with its incredible wall paintings, built in the middle of nowhere. I would say, however, that it really takes quite an effort to get there (or else quite a lot of money), and if isolated beaches, and carrying your provisions, and hiking are not really your thing, then this probably isn't the trip for you. 

Other things to be aware of: 

Wasps. We woke up, the first morning, to the sound of snapping jaws. Our two dogs were sitting outside our tent, trying to catch wasps... with their mouths. Thankfully, they didn't manage. But in the morning, they were everywhere. They particularly liked it when we came back wet from the sea, and were swarming around us quite ferociously. There were also wasps in the (hole in the floor) toilets at the taverna. They disappeared as soon as the sun came up, but were back to pester us the following morning. I suppose this is worse at certain times of the year.

Rubbish. There is no waste disposal. The taverna discourages guests from throwing their rubbish there, as everything has to be burned or ferried back to Agia Roumeli. I spent a lot of my time on the beach clutching plastic bags of dog poo, which I didn't want to leave on the beach, but didn't especially want to pack in my backpack and carry around with me. I like the idea that you carry out what you carry in....but it's good to have this in mind when you pack. For example, the essentials, one bottle of raki may be less effort to carry (both ways) rather than cans of beer or bottles of wine. The taverna ships out empty glass bottles.

Heat. I watched quite a few brave people hiking, in both directions, past the beach of Agios Pavlos. I was impressed. For me, once the sun was up, I was stuck on the beach until dusk. Although lazy days hiding from the sun in the taverna, and behind rocks, and cooling off in the sea can be wonderful, you should know in advance that this is probably what you'll be doing. I also worried about my dogs' feet. Betty, in particular, is quite sensitive to heat, and doesn't like the sea, so I ended up carrying her whenever we made a dash from the sea to the shade, or to the taverna. 

Cost. It's not that easy to pop to the shops to pick up a cheesepie or packet of crisps, so you end up eating and drinking at the taverna, unless you are very well organised. I thought the prices there were reasonable, especially as they have to ferry in all their provisions. They also had quite a reasonable menu, with one or two specials, and the usual pork chops, chicken etc. If you are eating there 2-3 times per day, however, it would start to get a bit pricey.

A final note: I was filling water bottles from the bathroom at the taverna, for our dogs to drink. When I accidentally tasted it myself, I realised it was near enough pure sea water. I recommend that you buy bottled water for your dogs, or carry it with you from elsewhere. I'm pretty sure this is why Sage was sick on the floor when we got to Agia Roumeli...although this is a bit of a running theme with expeditions with my dog.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Heraklio to Agios Pavlos, by car, ferry, boat and foot... with your dog

Let me tell you a story....
It's a story about two dogs who traveled a very long way to reach a magical, faraway place. They crossed mountains and plateaus and long winding roads by car. They past secret beaches and small villages by ferry. They saw huge mountains and endless sea from a small wooden boat. And finally, they walked across sand, climbed over rocks, and past through a pine forest until they reached their destination...

This is the odyssey of Betty and Sage....

Recently, while dog-sitting for some friends of mine, I decided we should all go on a camping trip. Instead of going back to an easy tried-and-tested spot, however, I had the reckless idea we should go to the beach of Agios Pavlos, in the Chania Region. I looked up details of how to get there on

We set off a bit late in the day, and drove through the midday heat from Heraklio to Vrises, on the national highway. Turning inland at Vrises, we started up through the White Mountains. This road passes through spectacular scenery, right on the outskirts of the mountain range. It's pretty deserted, and dry, and wild. Not a great point, in other words, to start having car problems and bunny-hopping up steep mountain roads. At this point I was having serious doubts about my plan.

We limped up the mountain as far as Askifou, near Petres in the Sfakia area, and stopped at Karkanis Bakery and Cafe. There were a few tavernas at this point, with panoramic views over a beautiful, fertile plateau to the east of the road between Vrises and Xora Sfakion. I'm sure most of them would have allowed us to sit with our two hot and bothered dogs, quietly at our feet. It was a welcome break anyway, for us and for the car, and we continued on the dizzying road down to the coast.
Hora Sfakion
Arriving at Hora Sfakion, just about keeping the car-sickness at bay, we were met with a chaos of parked cars and ticket booths. In the end we found a parking spot by the port, and without knowing what we were going to be able to do, we paid for 2 nights parking (3 Euros per day).

I was so relieved to be out of the car, I quite enjoyed Hora Sfakion. It does slightly have the feel of a waiting room, as ferries leave from there to various destinations - Loutro, the island of Gavdos, Agia Roumeli, Sougia - but it is pretty, with a few tavernas and small hotels clustered around the harbour and a dramatic backdrop of the mountains behind.

Asking around the port, we learned that tickets to Agia Roumeli (our goal) cost 13 Euros return per person, and that dogs are permitted onboard. I think a single ticket was 15 Euros, but since the return is open, it makes sense to book both ways. There are 3 boats per day during the summer. To travel to Agia Roumeli by water-taxi, according to one office anyway, costs 90 Euros!!! We decided to wait for the ferry, of course.
Delfini Taverna, Hora Sfakion
As we had about 3 hours to wait for our boat, we found the nearest taverna - the Delfini - and happily past the time taking turns to swim while the other sat with the dogs, drinking cool beers, and eating. Not bad for a 'waiting room'. The taverna was fine about us having the dogs at our table, and there were not too many people around to feel like we were in the way. Prices there were a little higher than elsewhere in Crete, but not extortionate.

Waiting to board the ferry to Loutro

Here is the link for ferries from Hora Sfakion. Do check first as the timetable changes depending on the time of year:

Our ferry arrived, just a little bit late, around 6.30. Streams of people were leaving the ferry as we waited, and I started to get very nervous about having the dogs on board.

Luckily, there were not many people going in our direction. This first boat was the ferry, which accommodates cars too. There are cages for dogs in the section where you leave your car, and it is not permitted to have your dog with you on deck - you must put them in the cage provided. But, we were allowed to stay down by the cage, and from there you could still see the dramatic landscape of the coast. The staff were also very helpful and friendly to us and our dogs.

On board the ferry from Hora Sfakion to Loutro
I hadn't realised that we would have to change boats at the village of Loutro. There are some direct boats from Hora Sfakion to Agia Roumeli, but others stop at Loutro and from there you continue on a smaller, passenger boat. I much preferred the second boat. Firstly, we could sit together with the dogs. Secondly, it was more open and you had amazing views of the coast. Thirdly, it just felt more like an adventure.

Loutro seemed a very pretty village. We didn't stop for long enough to explore, so I just saw it from the boat, but there are a small number of hotels and tavernas, again ranged along the harbour, and nearby you can find small coves and rocky beaches to swim from.

View of Loutro from the boat
I carried Betty on to the boat, while Sage managed to climb clumsily in by herself. Dogs are not allowed inside the cabin. Again the staff were friendly and helped us onboard with our many bags, two excited dogs, etc.

On the boat from Loutro

This journey was wonderful. Unless you brave the very long, dry hike along the sea front (which according to my E4 map takes about 7 hours), there is no other way to see this spectacular landscape. The coast is quite barren as you set off from Loutro. An almost solid wall of mountains plunge into the sea broken by just the occasional tiny cove. We were traveling in the early evening, and the light was fantastic, making the rocks glow a brilliant yellow against the dark blue of very deep sea water.

View of coast between Loutro and Agia Roumeli
Our girls were very well  behaved. They didn't seem particularly anxious about being on a boat, more curious, I would say. Sage did some posing by the Greek flag, Betty mostly just sat on my lap and looked at the view.

Finally we arrived at Agia Roumeli. Now we were faced with the choice of whether to find somewhere close by to settle down for the night, or to push on and arrive, probably in the dark, at Agios Pavlos. I had read that the footpath from Agia Roumeli to the beach was fairly even and easy to manage, and would take about 1 hour. Needless to say, we went for it.

I should say that the footpath is not very easy, especially when you are carrying sleeping bags, water, provisions etc, and shepherding two dogs who have been cooped up all day on various forms of transport. It's also not that easy because a large part of it runs along the beach, so you are plodding through sand, and small pebbles get stuck in your sandals. It's also not an hour. It's not very wise to walk this for the first time once it has got dark. 

But, it's a nice hike. It's actually part of the E4 trail that continues on round the coast. After the beach section you pass up over some rocks through a woody area full of pine trees. Sage was off chasing lizards and crickets, relieved to be free to run around. Betty seemed to enjoy it, apart from being pounced on by a large excited Sage.
The hike from Agia Roumeli to Agios Pavlos

When it got dark, and we were still up on the rocks, aiming for a single bright light in the distance (the small taverna on the beach at Agios Pavlos, we hoped), we used torches to find our way. It took us about 1.5 hours, at a fairly fast pace.

Finally, we found ourselves sliding down from the path on a small sand dune, right to the door of the a very welcome taverna. 

And when we woke up on the beach of Agios Pavlos the next day.........

To be continued

View Heraklion to Agios Pavlos in a larger map

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Try the few quieter north coast beaches... with your dog

Sign at Mononaftis Beach
Busy Mononaftis Beach, North Coast, Heraklio
For a change of scene, I thought I'd post about north coast beaches in Crete.

The north coast is much more developed than the south, in terms of roads, airports, hotels etc. As a result it is much much busier. The laws in Greece concerning dogs on beaches seem to me a little bit vague.
Officially, unless there is a sign stating otherwise, pets are permitted on Greek beaches, if they are on a lead and you carry their health book (to show they have been vaccinated etc.) In reality, the general rule seems to be: busy beaches 'no', more isolated beaches 'yes'. Even more in reality, I don't know any dog owner in Crete who has not got into trouble at one time or another for having their dog on what they believed was an isolated beach, away from other beach goers.

My story was at Tsoutsouras Beach, south east of Heraklio. We were sitting far away from the last sun chair and tourist shop, when an officious man in uniform (maritime police?) came and shouted at me, took my details, and told me repeatedly that it is against the law to have your dog on ANY beach in Greece. At the time I had not researched the matter, I just assumed that if you were out of the way of others, and didn't leave any mess behind, then it wouldn't be an issue. He never followed it up, but it made me quite nervous to take Sage with me to any beach. I have heard similar stories from the beach at Kommos (also south of Heraklio), and several others.

This is the information I have gathered from tourist guides to Crete:

From http://www.cretanbeaches.comThe animals are generally unwelcome in all crowded beaches of Crete, although they are allowed by law. However, if you go to a secluded beach, nobody will disturb you. It is obvious, of course, that you must take care of your pet and keep the area clear. Also, you must have the certificates of your pet (health card) because you may be asked.


Dogs have the right to come on Crete beaches, unless there is a Municipal or Prefectural sign indicating otherwise. According to Law 3170 of 2003, you can walk your dog in outdoor areas (i.e. including beaches) as long as it is on a lead and you clean up after it. You should also carry its health book with you to prove it has been vaccinated if requested to do so.
Dogs may not swim on busy beaches on pain of a € 50-150 fine. However this does not apply to remote beaches, even if there are people swimming there

I am not sure exactly how a 'remote beach' is defined, however. In the examples of Tsoutsouras and Kommos, these are very quiet beaches, far from the tourist track, with plenty of space to get away from other bathers. I think this leaves it a bit too open to interpretation. I found this English translation of Law 3170 of 2003, and it doesn't state specifically that dogs are or are not allowed on beaches, although it does say that they are permitted in 'communal spaces':

Since my girl is big (and beautiful), I've decided to play it safe, and avoid all beaches where there are sun chairs/umbrellas/cafes and generally lots of people. Luckily, I prefer the quieter, hidden away beaches on the south and east coasts anyway. For those looking for a livelier beach experience, I strongly recommend you leave your dog at home (or your dog-friendly hotel), to avoid confrontation, especially in the busy months of July and August.

Sage on the beach near Ammoudara
3 dog-friendly beaches I've been to on the north coast
Ok ok, this photo makes Ammoudara (behind the Pankritio Stadium) look like a tropical paradise... and I must admit, that is not how most people would describe it. On the other hand, we found this beach really convenient. For a start, it is not organised (i.e. no sun chairs and umbrellas in this section of the beach). There are never that many people there, even in August. Every time I went, I saw other groups with their dogs on the beach. It is a large, long sandy beach, so you can find a place to relax with your dog. And finally, some parts of Ammoudara have been awarded a Blue Flag (, but I'm not sure this applies to the section I'm talking about, nearest to the city, behind the Pankritio Stadium. We discovered it because we were staying close by there in a friends' studio, but it is not well known and most residents of Heraklio don't know about it. There is a pretty fish taverna close by, right on the beach front - Ta Kalutera (The Best), but sadly we didn't get a chance to try it out.
A more honest photo of Sage at Ammoudara Beach
(behind the stadium)
Another north coast beach I have been to with Sage is Fodele (also in the Heraklio region, also awarded a Blue Flag). This beach is convenient for you and your dog for the same reasons (not organised, not many people, often other dogs on the beach), although it is a bit smaller than Ammoudara. This beach also has the benefit of being close by the national highway between Heraklio and Rethymno, so can provide a good break from the car. There is a small cafe by the car park.

A final fairly dog-friendly beach I have been to on the north coast is Pacheia Ammos, Lasithi region. This is a pebbly beach, with no sun loungers/umbrellas etc. I always feel very sorry for the residents and cafe owners, as this beach has an annual problem with rubbish swept in from the sea due to the currents. Not to make light of their misfortune - this does mean that it is not a very popular beach with visitors, so you can usually sit there undisturbed with your dog. There are numerous cafes and tavernas along the beach front, and the surrounding landscape is spectacular. It is also very close by the Heraklio-Lasithi highway, and makes a very useful stop-over on long journeys east.

I am sure there are many other similar north coast beaches, as well as strips of more rocky coastline where there is not much development. These are 3 that I have found to be very convenient and dog-friendly.

View North coast dog-friendly beaches in a larger map

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Rethymno town.. with your dog

New signs against dog fouling by Rethymno Beach
 I'm sure every new city is difficult to navigate with a dog. Until you learn where the small, more deserted parks are, the places where other dog-owners congregate, the areas of wasteland where you can let your dog get some exercise and pee without annoying other people, any city is a bit of a challenge. This said, I don't find Rethymno particularly dog-friendly. Especially in summer.
In the old town, Rethymno

Rethymno is an extremely beautiful town, with small winding streets full of flowers, well-preserved Venetian walls and fortress, stunning architecture, and interesting bars and tavernas. But it seems to me a town for cats. They suit the place, posing prettily in doorways among the flowers, prowling the tavernas hunting for handouts. I like cats. Sage doesn't. Trying to negotiate the narrow streets full of tourists browsing the many jewellery, pottery, leather shops, passing endless nice smelling restaurants, and avoiding cats with a large dog just isn't very relaxing. 

If you live there, I'm sure life with a dog is easier. As a tourist, the main attraction is wandering slowly through the streets, stopping to look at interesting houses and shops. It doesn't provide much entertainment for a dog.

Resident of Rethymno, with her dog

We did stop there recently, for a drink in one of the bars in the old town, Figaro, and they didn't seem to mind Sage being there. I think another group who were leaving as we arrived had been sitting in the internal courtyard with their dog. Probably most of the cafes and bars would turn a blind eye if you are outside, and not in the way, with your dog. The few hotels I asked in, in the old town, did not allow dogs in the rooms however.
In Figaro Cafe-Bar, Rethymno
Walking around the outskirts of the old city is great, with some lovely views of the sea, the city walls and fortress. Unfortunately, we tried to do this around 5 in the afternoon, and there was no shade. Trying to get down onto the rocks by the sea was not easy, there were too many people and it seemed by the smell that this area is used as a public toilet. Anyway, we didn't find a good place to let Sage run around.

Finally we tried the beach front area. We had been told of a new initiative to prevent dog owners letting their dogs foul along the seafront (first photo). I could see immediately that the beach was far too crowded to accommodate dogs (dogs are forbidden on all busy beaches, especially organised beaches with sun chairs and umbrellas etc). The 'promenade' next to the beach may be nice for a dog walk, although running between the busy beach and the strip of tavernas and bars, it's still pretty crowded in summer.

I love this town, and would really like to hear from anyone who can suggest dog-friendly activities in Rethymno (dog-parks, areas by the sea where there are less people, dog-friendly bars, hotels etc.). From my own (small) experiences of Rethymno, I would recommend you leave your dog behind for the afternoon, then head together to the less populated areas outside the town...
Exploring the narrow streets of the old town, Rethymno

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Saturday, 10 August 2013

Free-camping or just a day at the beach... with your dog

Sage admiring the view over Peristeres beach
In a recent post I described the dog-friendly hotels and tavernas in the area of Polirizos, below Rodakino village (4/8/2013). While we were there we explored the nearby beaches, which were easier to visit with Sage than the beach at Polirizos (less people, more space etc), and would be perfect for free-camping with your dog.

From the western end of Polirizos a dirt road continues on round to Peristeres beach. Alternatively, you can take the short footpath up over the rocks. This path needs a bit of scrambling at the end, but the views from the top are breathtaking. The beach seems endless and deserted, with brilliantly blue, cool sea, a few tamarisk trees, and small, wooded mountains sheltering it from behind.
Sage vs a vulture on the path from Polirizos beach

On our first afternoon there, we went exploring up over the rocks. It was a nice, discrete place to let Sage pee away from tavernas and beaches. The path is short, but quite lovely - full of trees, goats, thyme... we saw a vulture too, a huge bird with massive wing-span, really majestic. Luckily Sage was not tempted to chase it.

There were a few people on Peristeres Beach, but walking five minutes further down from the small cantina at the start of the beach, there was nobody and we could let Sage off the lead to run around and have a swim.

The cantina was great too, really relaxed with simple but good food, fantastic views, nice music, reasonable prices. There were a few families there, and a couple had brought their dogs with them too. We kept Sage on her lead there, mostly because I don't like her begging from other tables and causing a nuisance.

We stayed there until it was almost dark, then hurried back over the rocks to Polirizos. Again, we had to keep her on her lead for some of the way, until we got past the curious goats who wouldn't get out of our way (well, it's their home I suppose).
Dog-friendly cantina at Peristeres Beach
On the second day, after a lazy morning at Polirizos sheltering from the heat, we walked round to Peristeres Beach via the dirt road. This way is definitely easier, but does take longer, and no vultures.

We walked all the way along the beach until we came to Agia Marina Beach, which is perhaps even more deserted, unspoilt, and perfect than Peristeres. It takes its name from the small church of Agia Marina, tucked away in the tamarisk trees just off the beach.

Agia Marina is perfect for free-camping. It's a lovely sandy beach with the cool, clear, deep
water typical of the south coast of Crete. There are several areas where the tamarisk trees have created little shelters, right on the beach, just the right size to protect a tent. There are also large rocks to use as shelter from the sun or wind. The dirt road continues on as far as the church, then winds on up inland.

We continued right to the end of the beach, and found a small cove to swim at. Here the track ends with a fence and we didn't explore any further round.
Swimming at Agia Marina Beach
On the second evening, I wanted to stay for an evening swim at Agia Marina. As the sun is going down, the rocks glow a really vivid orange colour, and the sea turns pinky-purple. It faces the wrong direction for dramatic sunsets, but you don't need one - the changing colours of the scenery there are truly spectacular.

We stopped at the small taverna hidden away right at the end of Peristeres Beach (towards Agia Marina) - the Taverna tou Drakou. I loved this place. It was so small and sleepy, with a really nice hushed atmosphere. They served a limited menu, but the food was really good. They were very welcoming to Sage, and there was another family who came in to dine with their dog. 

I can't recommend this place enough, for anyone 
who likes to sit and relax with a drink, or something to eat, and to be surrounded by mountains and sea, and very little else.

The owner was very hospitable, to us and to Sage, and tried to give us her torch when we left, to find our way back in the dark. We managed to find the way back along the road easily enough anyway.

You can find descriptions of these beaches on the useful website:

In the Taverna tou Drakou at the end of
Peristeres Beach

The day we left for Heraklion, we made a quick stop for a swim at Korakas Beach, to the east of Polirizos. This beach is more organised, with umbrellas and sun loungers. On this particular day, the wind had picked up, so there were not many people there. However, with so many beautiful beaches to go with your dog to in this area, Korakas is probably not the easiest option. 

Korakas Beach
I wrote on my post about Polirizos that this area is paradise unless it's windy... if you are planning to go free-camping, do check the

weather forecast, as north winds play havoc on the south coast beaches, making camping, or

even just sitting on the beach, quite unpleasant. 

I also feel obliged to say that free-camping is not permitted on most Cretan beaches, and I have heard reports that this year they are being quite strict about this.... If you are not inclined to risk a windy night in a tent, or a potential run in with the authorities, there are many lovely dog-friendly rent rooms and hotels in the area that you can use as a base, to discover this beautiful area (see post 4/8/2013).

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Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Travel by bus... with your SMALL dog

Bus travel with your dog in Crete is not really an option unless : A) you have a dog to aid a disability B) you have a small dog in a suitable carrier

The bus company in Crete is divided into 2 sections, the first dealing with West Crete (Chania, Rethymnon), and the Central-East Crete section (Heraklion, Lasithi). Both sections are known as KTEL, but they have different websites.

The West Crete KTEL does not mention transport of animals on their website, so I contacted them for information. I received the following response:

According to the decision B / 41804/4443 of the Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, we like to inform you that on the following routes you will be able to transport until 2 small animals – accompanied by the owner - within the passenger compartment:
Chania - Rethymno - Heraklion 6:30, 11:30, 14:30, 17:30, 21:00
Heraklion - Rethymnon - Chania 5:30, 9:30, 11:30, 14:30, 17:30
Chania - Paleochora 8:30Paleochora - Chania 12:00Chania - Kissamos 8:30, 16:30Kissamos - Chania 7:30, 16:30Chania - Sfakia 8:30Sfakia - Chania 11:00

According to the law, animal passport and legal cage is mandatory.
This still leaves open the definition of 'small animals', but I am guessing that my dog, for example, at 30 kilos would not be classed as 'small'. Note that transportation of animals is not allowed on every service, so check the timetable if you are planning to travel by bus with your (small) dog.

The Heraklion-Lasithi website mentions transport of animals under the 'General Information' section:
You can't have your animals, except for the handicaps’ escort animals or small pets, which are transferred by the appropriate means of transport in accordance with the driver’s judgement, who is appropriately trained for this purpose. Trust the driver!

This seems to be the same rule, that transportation of small animals is permitted, if they are in an appropriate carrier. For these regions, there does not seem to be restrictions on the routes you are permitted to travel with a small animal.

In summary, you can not put a large dog on the bus in Crete unless it is a guide dog. You can travel with up to 2 small animals, in carriers, but keep your pet's passport handy and check the timetables of the West Crete buses.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Daytime coffee, evening drinks - Heraklion parks... with your dog

In the unofficial dog park by Kommeno Bendeni
In a previous post about the Venetian walls that circle the old city of Heraklion (13/06/2013), I intentionally left out the parks that surround the outside of the walls. These parks are some of the nicest, easiest places to go with your dog when you are in Heraklion.

We were living lose by to Eucalyptus Park, by the entrance to the city - Kommeno Bendeni - so this was our typical evening walk spot. Sometimes we'd wander up or down the walls first, other times head straight to the park. This spot is great for dog walking for four reasons:
1) All through the day, but especially in the evenings, one part of this park is full of dog walkers who let their dogs run free within a confined space. When Sage was a pup, she used to love playing with the other dogs there. She got a little more fussy as she got older, but still I liked her to have a lot of contact with other dogs
Sage with her old friend Drakos in park by Kommeno Bendeni

2) Just next to the dog park there is a wooded area with some fairly mature eucalyptus trees. These give a bit of shade in summer, and I've sheltered under them from the rain too. On days where I'd left it too late to take Sage for a walk anywhere else, we would always head to this park, to sit under the trees

3) They opened a cafe there, among the trees. This cafe means that more people are coming to the park, so that even late in the evening there were people and lights on - making me feel safer to walk Sage there. It's great to sit with friends, enjoying a beer, and watch our dogs run around under the trees. On weekend evenings in the summer, this place can get pretty busy and loud - I have been once with Sage when it was like this, but not sure she enjoyed herself much. The rest of the time they play quieter music and there is a relaxed atmosphere and mixed aged range of customers. You can also bring a picnic and eat at the picnic tables under the trees next to the cafe.
Eucalyptus Cafe in park by Kommeno Bendeni

Sage and Betty in park by Eucalyptus Cafe
4) This park is quite enclosed. It is situated in the 'moat' that ran around the outside of the walls, so on both sides the walls rise quite steeply. This makes it easier to let your dog run freely, and not to paic constantly about them running out onto a road, or leaving the park. There are three or four entrances, if you follow the outside of the wall.
Another great park to go to is Georgiadi, just off the central square Eleftherias. This park is surrounded by roads, so does not feel so safe and enclosed as Eucalyptus, but is arguably more dog-friendly in terms of the people who go there. There is always a huge mix of people at the cafe in the park, lots of families with children running around, students, some tourists, older generations. The music is always a bit subdued, a relaxing background noise rather than an imitation club. This cafe is open in the winter months too, weather permitting. In the summer, they stay open very late, depending on how many people are there. You can drink coffee, soft drinks or alcohol, and they serve a basic mixed meze plate - all at the lowest prices you can find in Heraklion.
Early evening at Georgiadi Park

Georgiadi Park

The park can get extremely busy during the summer, especially when they host festivals or concerts. A lot of people allow their dogs to roam freely - I used to until I saw that Sage was begging from other tables and some people were afraid and/or annoyed by her. Nowadays I keep her on a long lead by my side, and take her for short walks around the park when she gets bored.

There are always a  lot of friendly stray dogs hanging around waiting for scraps (or just attention), and often some brave cats too. This is a lovely, relaxing place for you and your dog, just bear in mind that the space is shared between dog-owners and child owners (and others of course), and this is a delicate balance that should be maintained by everybody.

Evening in Parko Georgiadi

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