A Writer’s Retreat to Crete

A Writer’s Retreat to Crete

Every writer knows that a blank page is an incredibly scary concept. Yet when we’re at home trying to muster up any ounce of inspiration to conquer that blank page, it’s far too easy to become distracted. Before you know it, you’ve spent the day procrastinating and that blank page is still looming on your computer screen. What you really need is a break from your day-to-day life so that you can really concentrate on your writing. What could be a better escape than a trip to Crete – a magical island that not only inspired Ancient Greek poets and writers, but also William Shakespeare himself.

Crete - the largest Greek island - and its surrounding islands have inspired such books as The Island, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, The Two Faces of January and the Odyssey itself. Whether you want to conquer writers block or find inspiration for your next writing piece; here are my favourite Crete activities to inspire creativity.

Hike Down Samariá Gorge

A long walk helps to clear the mind, allowing you to focus and hone in on your ideas. What better way to do this than to hike 16km down the Samariá Gorge? Open between May and October (dependent on the weather), the best way to enjoy this walk is through a guided tour. The bus will normally pick you up from wherever you are staying, and drop you off at the entrance of the gorge. A tour guide is on hand to provide information and advice, but the walk is taken at your own pace with a meeting point set for later in the day. The hike will end on a black-sand beach, where a boat will take you back to the bus. Expect to be inspired by wild mountain goats, awe-inspiring views, a small ghost town, under-passing streams and beautiful rock formations – some of Greece’s most spectacular scenery.

Spend the Day on the Beach

As you would expect with a Greek island, Crete is full of gorgeous beaches ideal for bringing a notebook and spending a lazy afternoon people watching. Elafonissi beach is the most picturesque beach in Crete, with its stunning turquoise waters and pink sand. It can get busy in high seasons, but if you take a short hike or drive along the coastline, you’ll discover numerous secluded beaches. A personal favourite is Sougia beach in the southwest of Crete; an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Elafonissi. Sougia beach has been largely untouched by tourism and truly is a peaceful haven with its 1.3km long beach.

Be Inspired by Your Accommodation

There is nothing less inspiring than a heartless hotel room. Instead, opt to immerse yourself in Crete culture by renting a local Cretan home with secret views of Crete. Here you’ll find yourself feeling like an authentic local as you type away in a gorgeous private garden surrounded by smells of local Mediterranean herbs and spices – most notably of thyme and rosemary. To fully immerse yourself in local mountain life, you can choose to stay in a traditional 300-year-old natural local stone hotel. With no possible distractions of modern amenities – electricity is limited to a fridge and one bathroom light – this is the perfect retreat to inspire and focus on your next writing project.

The Cove of Seitan Limania

Translated to the Ports of Satan, Seitan Limania is – despite what its name suggests – a secret and very heavenly beach located in Akrotiri. You’ll need to hire a car to get to the beach, as the path is situated up some mountainous terrain, however, there are plenty of parking spaces at the top. You then travel down the cove by foot (be sure to wear trainers) until you reach the beach. Here you’ll find yourself in a state of tranquillity, surrounded by stunning cliffs, rocks and crystal-clear waters. Keep in mind though; there are no amenities nearby so you’ll need to bring food and water with you.

Indulge in the Local Cuisine

You’ve not fully experienced Crete until you’ve sampled some of its famous local cuisine. Similar to a Greek lasagne, Chaniotiko bouréki has layers of courgette, potatoes and a Cretan cheese called myzíthra - it is simply delicious. Also, a must-try is Crete’s national dish – snails which have been dipped in flour and fried in olive oil. Usually served with vinegar and rosemary, snails are an incredibly refreshing dish on a summer’s day.

Be Inspired by History

No writer’s visit to Crete would be complete without a visit to the Museum of Nikos Kazantzakis, which is dedicated to the writer’s life and works. Situated in Myrtia (his birthplace), the museum holds original notes and manuscripts by the ‘Zorba the Greek’ author as well as personal items that give an insight into his life and inspirations.

George R Vaughan