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KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD (foreign office travel advice)

Kolymbari

Kolymbari holidays

There's no shortage of relaxation opportunities at this quiet coastal town, from lounging on the beach to tasting Cretan wines at the local winery.

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Stunning sea views

Kolymbari is a relaxation-seeker's haven sandwiched between mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. If you opt for cheap holidays to Crete here, you'll be hard pressed to find a spot where you can't view the water. Most days are spent hiking up to serene spots surrounded by pine trees or stretching out on a sunbed with the water at your feet.

Many of the activities in Kolymbari – also written as Kolymvari – will get you up close and personal with the local way of living, with wine tastings at the town's winery and tutorials on how the islanders make their famous olive oil. Plus there are snorkelling excursions in the nearby coral reefs, where you can meet the underwater locals.

And when you're ready to branch out and see how the rest of Crete spends its days, you can hop on a bus and wind your way down to Chania, the island's shopping and cultural hot-spot.

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Aquamarine water

As a coastal town, Kolymbari is understandably treated to a great beach scene. The town's main beach isn't usually packed, so you won't have to worry about finding enough space to lay out your towel on the warm sands.

The waters here are known for being shallow initially and then shelving steeply – this, combined with coral reefs scattered offshore make the seas near Kolymbari top spots for scuba diving and snorkelling.

The town is also privy to the shores at Balos beach, where white sands sprawl out to crystalline seas that are a gorgeous aquamarine colour. You'll find this patch of shore is a little more full, with crowds of sunbathers catching rays from the rows of sunbeds.

Living like a local

Many of the activities in Kolymbari are aimed at getting visitors in touch with the local culture. Crete is famous for its olive oil, so here, you can tour an olive oil mill and see firsthand how it's made before it's used to flavour your dishes at nearby tavernas. You'll even get the chance to purchase a bottle for yourself.

The Karavitakis Winery is also nearby, and offers tours and tastings, complete with light nibbles and a shop where you can take home your favourite vino.

There are opportunities to tour the area by bike, or you can embark on a boat cruise and explore the coastline from a distance. Kolymbari is surrounded by olive groves and pine forests, which make for excellent afternoon hikes. Up in the hillside you'll find the Monastery of Gonia, a peaceful structure that offers incredible views of the surrounding greenery and sea.

Harbour tavernas

With its waterfront location, it'll come as no surprise that quite a few of Kolymbari's restaurants feature seafood-heavy menus with fresh ingredients caught the very day you eat them. Dishes like octopus and garlic-drenched prawns blend effortlessly with the local Greek cuisine that otherwise dominates Kolymbari's tavernas. Even if you're looking to make your holidays in Crete All Inclusive, it's worth heading out from your hotel at least once to enjoy the delicious fare on offer elsewhere too.

A lot of the top spots are located right along the harbour and feature stunning coastal views, but you'll also find a nice selection of eateries tucked into the neighbouring hills.

Once the sun drops, the energy in Kolymbari keeps its laid-back atmosphere. Many of the coastal tavernas double as evening spots, whose after-hours fun is filled with glasses of local wine and shots of ouzo.

Market finds

Every Friday morning in Kolymbari, the locals host a market filled with Cretan goods. It's especially great for picking up olive oils and honey, but also often features handmade textiles like cushions and tablecloths.

Further shopping opportunities await in the busy town of Chania, which is known as one of Crete's retail hotspots. Alleyways like the Mercato Agora di Chania are lined with handmade wares, while other stalls around town offer goods like jewellery and clothing, as well as local produce and wines.

Chania

Days in Chania are spent strolling the Venetian harbour, wandering past market stalls and sharing mezze platters at waterfront restaurants. Only a 30-minute drive from Kolymbari, it's an easy daytrip that'll add an energetic edge to your Greek beach holiday.

There's also a bus service that runs from Kolymbari and ends in Chania – it stops in most major resorts in the Chania area, so you can see all the highlights of this section of Crete in one go.

Details from Chania's long history of periodically swapping ruling hands are hidden around every street corner. There's a Venetian fortress that keeps a close watch over the resort, plus a towering mosque whose domed exterior dominates the skyline.

You can get a glimpse at more recent history – from the last couple of hundred years – at spots like the Maritime Museum of Crete or the Greek National Football Museum, or go way, way back at the ruins of Aptera, a fascinating site that was once home to the ancient Minoan people.