It was 2020, and the covid recently kicked off, and like almost everyone, my wife and I started to work from home. Despite the tragedy, this pandemic proved to be a disruptive force in the workspace. Companies were forced to go remote-first, which we saw as an excellent opportunity to be more flexible and work from wherever we wanted, be that from home, a village, or even better from an island.
The idea came to us when we were in England. It was the month of July, and we were getting extremely bored with all lockdowns in place, so we decided to run away. We kept an eye on the news for a destination that wasn’t that affected by Covid. Guess which one was in the front runners? Correct, Greece. We dug deeper and found out that Crete had zero covid cases back then. Bingo! (We’ve been to Crete before, but merely for a short 10-day stay).
I think some of your might be familiar with the picture above ☝️. You might have seen it in some magazines, on travel websites or on postcards somewhere in shops. It’s Agios Nikolaos.
The city is probably best known as a tourist town that serves as a hub for the twenty small villages and farms that make up that part of Lassithi. Tourist attractions include the small lagoon Lake Voulismeni, small beaches in the town, the tiny island of Agioi Pantes, the archaeological museum, the local flora exhibition “Iris”, and numerous fairs.
Agios Nikolaos is Lasithi’s capital lying east of the island’s capital Heraklion, north of the town of Ierapetra and west of the city of Sitia. Its streets are a colourful combination of bars, traditional tavernas and upscale clothes shops, counterbalanced with fish markets and coffee places.
On top of that, we weren’t searching for a big city, nor for something too rural, but rather something in between, that offered a good combination of both worlds: quietness, amazing beaches, and at the same time an interesting nightlife with plenty of restaurants, clubs and sports activities to do around.
More on the nightlife of Agios Nikolaos here.
Also since Crete is not that “big”, it’s doable to rent a car and road-tripping around the island. There is a motorway that almost connects the island from the west to the east, which made this even easier and more fun.
As I said, we were on Crete before, but this time was different. We started to research a bit more about the weather in September and October, and we found out that these are the best months to travel due to the soft weather and slim crowds. Given that we started the planning in July, we told ourselves to book a flight in august and stay there for 3 months.
After checking the flight prices with Google Flights, we bought two one-way tickets from London Luton airport to Heraklion on the 1st of August for just 186.78 GBP (200 EUR) with Wizz Air.
It could’ve been even cheaper if it wasn’t for the baggage, but we had to figure out a way how to carry out our monitors. It was risky but totally worth it. You should see the faces of counter personnel when we were telling them that there are monitors in there…
We have no idea how Crete was able to pull it up in terms of safety and a low number of covid cases, but the airport is terribly organised, unfortunately. Nobody respected any safety rules, nor did the staff seem to care so much. We stayed in the queue for about 30 min because only one passport check counter was working at the time for such a big influx of passengers – there were two planes which landed approximately at the same time, so I figured around 500 people all in one place with no AC whatsoever, and covid? Never heard of it.
The next thing to sort out was the accommodation, perhaps the most challenging one as we didn’t want to pay for a “normal” overnight stay. Our leverage was that we knew we could get a better offering if renting for 3 months, and because of Covid, the demand was pretty low, and the owners were willing to provide better prices in the end.
We mainly searched on these four websites:
For Booking.com and Airbnb, we didn’t try to book the accommodations directly on their website, as it was too expensive. Instead, we tried to contact the owners first. Luckily Airbnb has such a feature, although we soon discovered they were trying to mask everything in the chat when it comes to phone numbers, emails or Facebook accounts, which made it damn difficult, but fair enough. At some point, we exchanged the information in a cryptic way like using letters instead of numbers or them trying to explain to us how they look on Facebook, so we could search by their name first, and then use their photo description to identify them. It was fun, and we were able to get in touch with some of them but didn’t find anything good for the long term, unfortunately.
For the other two websites Spiti24 and Spitogatos, we also could find some interesting information, and it was a much more straightforward approach since it’s a free listing website and they provide contact information freely, and the prices were also good, to be honest.
After much searching, we found one suitable for us. The position of the apartment was slightly peculiar. The entrance to it makes you too feel like you enter into a basement, but once you are in there, you have a nice open garden. We’ve been told these types of apartments are cooler during the summer to live in. It was indeed. We didn’t have an AC, nor did we need one.
Moreover, we had two rooms where we could work separately, a small kitchen with a stove (that had to be replaced at some point) with decent furniture, a fridge normally, and a small table to have our meals on, which we didn’t really use that much, just for storage purposes. We had a garden and terrace to enjoy.
The garden, in fact, was pretty cool. When one usually gets their limes, bananas and pomegranates from the supermarket shelf, we had the opportunity to collect them from the garden. The only condition was to take care of it. The banana tree is the only failure we had it needed more time, but then we left, at least we saw it growing for around 20 cm. Next time perhaps.
We also met our new neighbour. Just look at her eyes
The price of the flat was 500 euros a month, everything included – no extra bills. However, if want to stay for even longer periods, you can find something for a better price.
Since we had two rooms, practically we had an office for each one of us where we could focus on our own tasks. Both room windows were facing the garden, so the view wasn’t that bad at all. My wife’s room.
The internet was more than enough, around 30-35 Mbit/s. For those who think it’s not, I have been in a village where I got around 8 Mbit/s and was able to make even video calls.
If you wanted to change your view, you can go to nearby cafes and get a view like this. This was one of my favourite locations. It is called ARC Espresso Cocktail Bar.
Our second favourite location was this Migomis Café, where we also occasionally took our coffee and breakfast in the mornings.
Whenever I felt overwhelmed, I always could go to the beach for a quick swim or walk. Or sometimes just having lunch there and then a cup of greek coffee to get me back in a working mood. The food is amazing here btw.
At some point, I felt the need for a monitor for myself, I found this place to have good enough prices Kotsovolos. Spent around 100 euros on a brand new one, which again wasn’t that bad.
When I tell my experience to some people, they say something like “I’d never be able to work from an island that long. It’s too boring”. But Crete is not your typical island. It is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the 88th largest island in the world and the fifth-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It has big enough cities, mountains and valleys, gorges, rivers and lakes. Also, a number of small islands and rocks hug the coast of Crete. I assure you, you will never get bored. “Hello Awin”