HEDONISTIC hippies found Crete in the Sixties and introduced eager hordes of tourists to the Greek island but property buyers have been rather slow to follow.
So despite being the largest of all the Greek islands and with one of the better infrastructures, Crete is described today as an emerging market.
It is an historically intriguing island, a member of the EU with a low cost of living and has direct scheduled flights from London for seven months of the year. Crete should appeal to buyers looking for a healthy mix of culture, accessibility and affordability.
It is the most southerly Greek island, a long thin strip measuring 160 miles by 37 miles at its widest with a whopping 650 miles of Mediterranean coastline.
Its history covers 4,500 years, and Minoan, Dorian, Venetian and Ottoman ruins and architecture are still on show, including the restored Palace of Knosos, home to every schoolchild's favourite mythical monster, The Minotaur.
The northwest of the island, with towering mountains topped with snow in winter and wildflowers in spring and summer, is the most developed and attracts most homebuyers. The coastal towns of Chania and Rethymnon, where full facilities and beautiful Venetian harbours provide year-round activity, are particularly popular.
"Crete is a great place to be out of season when the holidaymakers have gone home," says Nikos Christohides, general manager of Parador Properties Hellas.
"Crete has more property for sale than any other Greek island and is large enough to cater for all buyers."
Parador opened its office in Crete, its first in Greece, in January and claims that demand has exceeded its expectations. "The market is in its infancy yet there's good accessibility through two international airports, favourable landregistrationlaws and established local developers building to high standards," says Parador's Martin Gow Most clients are looking for a twobedroom house or flat costing about [pounds sterling]150,000 with views to the mountains or the sea. At Kera, near Chania, Parador is selling three-bedroom bungalows on a hillside overlooking the bay from [pounds sterling]204,000.
Further east at Agia Triada, seven miles from Rethymnon, there are larger stone-and-plastered houses in a peaceful hillside location overlooking olive groves. A 1,507sq ft threebedroom house with pool, basement and terraces costs about [pounds sterling]220,000.
Most developments on Crete are small-scale with between three and 11 units, and many Cretan developers are targeting buyers looking to retire to this affordable island. A more family-friendly option is nearby Kournas Apartments, where 65 town houses from 700sq ft with small gardens are arranged around a series of communal pools. Prices there range from [pounds sterling]102,500 to [pounds sterling]155,000.
In the east of Crete on the southern coast, Erna Low Property is selling Bay View, one- and two-bedroom flats and town houses priced from [pounds sterling]67,500.
The nearby fishing village of Makriyialos has glorious sandy beaches and is well established with holidaymakers. This eastern region is due to receive [pounds sterling]1.3 billion in government grants to improve tourist facilities and extend the small domestic airport at Sitia; further evidence that the Crete property market is emerging into the bright Greek sunshine.
Parador Properties (0800 781 4198; www.paradorproperties.com) Erna Low Property (020 7590 1624;
'We love the friendly people and scenery'
McKay CHARLIE and Molly McKay from Surrey had always planned to buy a second home in France until a lastminute holiday to Crete made them think again. "We had visited Crete three times previously," says Charlie, a human resources director at BT.
"We love the friendly people and the varied scenery on Crete. The climate is good: in November, you can see snow on the mountains but still enjoy temperatures of 21 degrees celsius on the coast. …