Margarites village on the island of Crete is one of the prettiest villages on earth. A big claim, I know.
We visited Crete for the first time in August 2020 and stayed at a private villa near Rethymno. We were six months into the Covid-19 pandemic and had been stuck in our flat in our first lockdown that lasted from March 23rd to July 4th.
We needed space. And fresh air. And sunshine. And to not see each other’s faces for like five minutes.
During that vacation, Peter went on and on and on about a place called Margarites village.
We’d be at a cafe drinking our morning coffee and he’d say, “We should go to Margarites today.”
I’d shake my head no. We came to Crete to relax by the pool and excel at doing absolutely nothing. I didn’t understand his desire to unnecessarily drive into the mountains just to visit a village.
A couple of days later, he’d mention Margarites again. Every time he broached the topic, he added a positive tidbit or two, trying his hardest to get me to change my mind.
“We should go to Margarites. It’s like a mecca for handmade pottery.”
I continued to resist, knowing his pursuit to visit Margarites would continue for the duration of our vacation.
We ended that vacation in a Margarites truce, agreeing to visit Margarites on our follow-up vacation to Crete in May 2021 (delayed to June 2021).
Approximately nine pandemic
years months later, we arrived in Crete, ready to hit the pool and mountains.
Margarites is located 18 mi / 30km southeast of Rethymno and can be accessed from the north or the south. We accessed the village from the north since we drove from Rethymno.
The road is long and winding but to our surprise, much of it had been newly paved. In fact, many roads we drove on during our two weeks in Crete had either been newly paved or were in the process of being paved.
We parked in a small parking lot on the north side of the village, just a few steps from this ceramic studio. We arrived around noon and there was only one other car in the parking lot. The parking lot only had a dozen parking spaces, however, the road is wide enough for on-street parking on one side of the road.
Parking would be a nightmare in the high tourist season and/or at peak times. I again found myself grateful for being able to visit when so few tourists were on the island.
There are a handful of restaurants in the village and I think it’s safe to say that whatever restaurant you dine at will be “the best restaurant in the village.” Why? Because it’s difficult to achieve having a bad meal in Greece.
We ate lunch with a well-behaved stray cat on the veranda at Taverna Veranda. It’s probably the best restaurant in the village. Joking aside, the veranda offerred sea and mountain views and I’m still dreaming of the house salad, creatively named “veranda salad”.
As with all dishes in Greece, the portions were huge so be mindful when ordering.
After lunch, we set out on foot touring the village and hopefully fulfill our goal of finding ramen/pho bowls. The village is small and I thought we’d be hauling our new pottery to the car within 20 minutes.
Um, I think I spent 20 minutes taking photos of this truck and the adjoining alley and we had only ventured 30 footsteps from Veranda Taverna.
Satisfied with my truck photo, we ventured up the hill where we found this tiniest of tiny churches, Saint John the Baptist. It’s been documented that artwork behind the plaster dates back to 1383. I was too timid to venture inside but I did note that I was taller than the doorway.
We were now 30 minutes into our walkabout and about 80 footsteps from Veranda Taverna. I was all in for this self-guided photography tour and deeply regretted not bringing my proper camera.
I walked down nearly every alley in the village whilst Peter hunkered down in the shade. We popped in and out of the pottery studios along the way.
Roughly an hour after leaving Veranda Taverna, we arrived at a pottery studio on the south side of the village called Ilys Ceramics. Just to be clear, the walk from Veranda Taverna to Ilys Ceramics at a normal walking pace and without stopping would take about three minutes.
I knew Ilys was going to be the studio from which we purchased our pottery from the moment I walked through the door. I totally lost myself in that studio, wanting to buy everything in sight, whilst at the same time understanding that pottery is fragile and very heavy.
All of the pottery at Ilys is handmade and the materials are certified from CERECO (Ceramics and Refractories Technological Development Company). The pottery does not contain lead, cadmium, or other toxic substances.
It took me 10 minutes of browsing like a normal person and then later, crawling through a section of the the studio on my hands and knees so that I could see the pottery on the bottom shelves before I found our perfect ramen/pho bowls.
Including lunch, we spent two-and-a-half hours in Margarites and this tiny mountain village will enter my travel history book as one of my favorite places.
Come for the pottery, stay for the photography!