Extending the season on Crete: a swim in November?

Villa specialist Freelance Holidays is keeping some of its villas on Crete open until the end of the year to compensate for the season’s late start.

“Villas are usually ‘put to bed’ after October half term but we are working with local owners to keep selected properties open until the end of the year,” says director Paul Fogg.

Crete is on the same latitude as winter sun destinations Tunisia and Cyprus. November days are typically 18 – 21˚C with sea temperatures to match and December days reach highs of 17˚C.

“Crete is a superb experience out of season as our team knows from living here, and I don’t only mean empty beaches for an afternoon swim,” says Paul.

“Chania’s Venetian harbour and narrow streets are quiet but ‘open for business’ year-round. There are no queues at the Palace of Knossos and other museums. The grape harvest is at its height in September; olive picking doesn’t get going until November and it is December before the oranges and mandarins ripen. These are all experiences that peak season visitors miss but our guests this year can enjoy.”

The selected villas all have an open fire, heating, WiFi and are within easy reach of villages with at least one taverna open for locals, “which means it’s good” adds Paul. Swimming pools will be maintained throughout, though are not heated.

Villa Vangelis is a traditional stone house (sleeps four) has far-reaching sea and mountain views and a cosy open-plan living space and a well-equipped kitchen. The covered terrace is furnished for both eating and relaxing. Stylos village, two kilometres away, has mini-markets and tavernas: the kalitsounia (filo pies filled with mountain greens) at Faraggi are highly recommended. Seven nights’ rental in November is £1083.

On the edge of Armeni village is stylish Villa Amvrosia, chiselled out of the hillside with the house on three levels, including a lower ground floor room with a heated spa pool, and the garden on two levels.  The pool deck has great views and smart seating areas; on the next level is a big covered BBQ kitchen and dining ‘room’ and another deck with a swing seat, hammock and table tennis.  Sleeping six in three bedrooms, a week in November is £1643.

Other options are brand new Villa Yoannis at Kissamos (sleeps six; £2238 for a November week), Villa Argiro in Plaka (sleeps six; £1615) and houses in Koukounara, Vrisses, Almerida, Plaka and Gavalachori – all locations where local services remain open. See the villas here: https://bit.ly/3dyTATb

Things to do in Crete in the Winter:

  • Visit a winery such as Manousakis or Dourakis
  • Enjoy Elafonissi or Falassama beach to yourself
  • Eat Cretan food in Drosostalia Taverna in Armeni
  • Hike one of the many way-marked trails: the Samaria Gorge is closed in winter but Sunflower Books’ ‘Western Crete’ guide has more than 40 other routes
  • Join the olive harvest and seeing them pressed at Terra Creta in Kolombari
  • Explore Chania’s Venetian harbour; visit the Maritime Museum
  • Learn to cook Cretan dishes with local cookery school
  • Linger over coffee and cake in a village cafenion

How to travel to Crete in the winter?

There is a host of direct flights from the UK to Chania and Heraklion until the end of October. For later stays Aegean flies daily from Heathrow via Athens to Heraklion and Chania. November fares from £179 return. Freelance Holidays does not book flights.