Crete Retreat

Article excerpt

The Greek island has year-round attraction for homebuyers, who enjoy its historic towns and countryside beauty.

CRETE is Europe's southernmost island, lying 90 miles from the Greek mainland.

Boasting a combination of clean, rocky, sandy and pebble beaches - more than 90 have been awarded the Blue Flag - and an ever-improving infrastructure means that both quiet bays and bustling towns are easy to find.

Climate

The climate is typically Mediterranean with summer temperatures as high as the mid-30s degrees Celsius.

The sheer size of Crete and the geographical variety it offers mean that the climate can vary considerably between coast and mountains.

Activities

Water activities are excellent, ranging from windsurfing to diving, though the north-facing coast can produce rough seas.

Away from the coast, Crete attracts walkers to its spectacular mountains and gorges. Walking the dramatic Samaria Gorge through the White Mountains takes a full day, passing through beautiful meadows, pine forests and flower-filled fields.

Where to head for

Second-homeowners may be new to Crete but tourists most definitely are not, and this island has some wellestablished and classy destinations.

East of the capital at Heraklion is Elounda Bay, which has some of Europe's swankiest hotels. In the east, Malia wins the competition for the most downmarket destination on Crete, a teenage holiday haven of neon lights and brash British bars. But Crete is a big island and Malia is one smallish resort where the lights and noise are well confined.

Culture

Along with natural beauty, Crete has some of the best historical sites in the classical world. Knosos, the controversially restored Minoan palace, is an essential day trip, but just driving around the island you can see Roman aqueducts, ancient Greek temples and Ottoman ruins.

Access

The Greek islands are not on the map for low-cost flights from the UK yet.

Despite the founder of Easyjet being Greek, the company only flies from London to Athens.

British Airways franchise partner GB Airways flies from Gatwick to Crete from late March to October, as do several charter airlines. Outside of this summer season, visitors have to transfer through the modern airport at Athens.

Property

As a relatively new property market, Crete benefits from strict planning laws.

Many new-builds, though small, are good quality with 10-year building guarantees and good green credentials. Now that non-Greeks can obtain mortgages, through local banks prices are predicted to increase further.

Average prices on Crete are [pounds sterling]140 a square foot, according to local developer Manousos Gaganis, and it is the affordability of Crete when compared with other Mediterranean resorts that is encouraging buyers to look there.

"I see this market chiefly for secondhomeowners who intend to use it themselves," says Nikos Christohides of overseas property agent Parador.

The Greek island has year-round attraction for homebuyers, who enjoy its historic towns and countryside beauty. …