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A guide to Sissi in Crete – Crete’s prettiest village

As the transfer coach snaked along the mountain-backed coastal highway on Crete’s northern coastline, the excitement levels began to rise. Having visited Crete only once in my late teens on an inexpensive 18-30s holiday, I reminded myself that I had shockingly never seen this Greek island in the daylight.

Passing the hedonistic resort of Malia, the site of said nocturnal holiday, the coach thankfully carried on without stopping. Taking a winding, dusty road past traditional houses with sun-bleached shutters and expansive Olive groves, towards the tiny fishing village of Sissi – arguably Crete’s prettiest village.

August 18, 2022


A mini guide to Sissi, Crete - Crete Holidays

This rambling enclave of white-washed buildings that appear to tumble down to the calm waters of the harbour below, was to become home for the next two weeks.

Protected against the wild waters of the Mediterranean, the humble fishing vessels bobbed gently in the picturesque harbour as the waterside cafes and tavernas hummed to the sound of a busy lunch service.

After spending hours searching for a picture-postcard Greek resort, far from the madding summer crowds, the relief was palpable knowing that we had found it here in Sissi.

Escaping the Instagram hoards

Unlike so many other Greek villages, Sissi has so far appeared to have escaped the Instagram hoards looking for the perfect spot for their holiday photos. This is even more surprising considering its accessible location, just 45-minutes from Heraklion airport. Instead, it welcomes a healthy mix of European holidaymakers, mainly families, with no one nationality dominating.

As a thriving fishing village first and foremost, Sissi has retained its character without giving way entirely to touristic demands. During the day, locals parade their fresh fish and locally grown fruit and vegetables from the back of their rusty pick-ups, and by night, the whole village appears to make its way down to the calm waters to swim and meet.

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Dining in Sissi - Crete's prettiest village

Considered the bread basket of Greece, Crete is a foodie paradise and a holiday in Sissi certainly doesn’t disappoint the tastebuds.

A weekly market (Monday) provides the opportunity to purchase sweet tomatoes and ripe watermelon, freshly collected honey, tasty sweet treats, and bread straight from the oven. The tavernas that line the water’s edge transform this regional produce into the traditional Greek dishes we have come to know and love, including Moussaka, Stifado, and Kleftiko.

It is easy to eat and drink your way around Sissi – beginning the day with fresh fruit and yoghurt at Ormos Cafe, before a wood-fired pizza lunch at Plori and a hearty dinner at Paradosiako. Not forgetting incredible gelato at either one of the two village bakeries and Stam Stam for sensational Gyros – both inexpensive and easy to locate, just a few steps from the waterfront.

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Beaches in and around Sissi

While temperatures in July and August hit the mid-thirties, it may feel almost impossible to leave the sanctuary of the hotel swimming pool and the sunbed. For those that can tear themselves away, there are two beaches within an easy walk - Limani on the harbour’s edge and Boufos Beach, a 10-minute stroll out of town.

The former is a small beach with a few sunbeds and a sandy walkway into the calm waters of the harbour. Ideal for those with children - the shallows make the perfect place to bob around and watch the fish swim past at sunset. Boufos is a larger beach with a good setup of sunbeds however it is a much wilder introduction to the sea and one that may not be suitable for younger children and weak swimmers.

Instead, book a taxi (around 15 euros each way) to Potamos beach, a 10-minute drive along the coast towards Malia. Incredibly well looked after, this Blue Flag beach has everything needed for an enjoyable day at the water’s edge. Sunbeds and parasols are plentiful and can be hired at a reasonable rate. Facilities at this sandy beach include a lifeguard station, toilets, a taverna, and a kiosk providing food and drinks, showers, and a steady supply of street vendors selling everything from homemade doughnuts to bowls of fresh fruit salad.

For those seeking a livelier atmosphere - Malia Beach, just a few hundred yards down the road, offers beachgoers a wide beach with access to plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars.

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Exploring Crete - excursions from Sissi

Sissi may feel difficult to leave, but there are several worthwhile excursions to consider when holidaying in the area. As well as car, moped, and quad bike hire being easy to arrange in resort, the Happy Train offers tourists the opportunity to be guided around the area on either a 1 hour or a half-day tour.

There are also two impressive water parks closeby - Acqua Plus around a 30-minute drive from Sissi, and Water City around 1.5 hours drive. We visited the former and were very impressed with the setup. Taking a package including a coach transfer each way, booked with Lemonade Tours, tickets cost €40 for adults and €20 for children. The waterpark featured a selection of water slides for all ages, Crete’s largest swimming pool, and a fabulous splash park for younger children.

Aside from waterparks, Crete is steeped in history and offers visitors a huge variety of culturally significant sites to explore. Just 10 minutes from Sissi, the Palace of Malia is the third-largest of the Minoan Palaces and covers 7,500 square metres. Just outside the capital Heraklion, the Palace of Knossos is one of Crete’s most popular attractions - once serving as the political centre for the Minoans.

For book lovers, Victoria Hislop’s, The Island, tells the story of the leper colony that once resided on Spinalonga - off the coast of Elounda on Crete’s east. Boat trips to the island can be arranged as well as cruises that take you around the edge of the island avoiding the summer crowds that descend upon it.

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Crete - the perfect twin centre holiday

As Crete is such a large island, the largest in Greece and 88th largest in the world – it is nigh on impossible to visit the whole island in one visit.

The pretty Venetian port of Chania, the winding streets of Rethymno, the Samaria Gorge, Lake Kournas, and Balos Beach are all worth visiting but visitors to Sissi may consider combining their holiday with time spent on the island’s west coast to allow easy access to these popular sights.

Flights to Crete operate into and out of Chania and Heraklion so a twin-centre trip is possible, with the option to combine with island-hopping to/from Santorini and onwards to other islands in the Cyclades.

Koutrakis Suites, Sissi

For our holiday to Sissi, we stayed at the family-run Koutrakis Suites overlooking the Mediterranean, just a 5-minute walk from the harbour.

This small complex consisted of double rooms and 1 bedroom suites making it ideal for couples and families. Along with a pool, the bar area served food all day, and the suite itself had a sizeable outside terrace, fridge, separate bath, and shower.

Within a 5-minute walk of Limani beach, a couple of supermarkets, various tavernas, and the harbour - Koutrakis was a quiet and relaxing base for our holiday to stunning Sissi.

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August 18, 2022