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Why Crete is perfect for an ‘inbetweeners’ holiday

Simon Calder’s Travel

“Have you come on a lads holiday by mistake? We haven’t come halfway round the world to look at some boring Greek ruins…”

That exchange from The Inbetweeners Movie perfectly captures the tensions underpinning a Cretan holiday. On the one hand, it’s the cradle of European civilisation, birthplace of Zeus and home to any number of Minoan ruins and antiquities. On the other hand: paaarty! There’s the nightclubs, foam fights and general reputation for off-your-tits mayhem associated with Malia, prime destination for teenage debauchery.

The arrival of mass tourism in the 1980s, with the construction of a new road opening up a stretch of coastline to the east of Heraklion, has made it possible to have two wildly different holiday experiences on Greece’s largest island. There’s the Crete of upscale villa rentals, designer hotels on turquoise beaches and breathtaking mountain trails. And there’s the budget option – fly to Heraklion, dump your bags and start raving.

But what if you want something, well, in between? For what might be our last family holiday before the children fledge into gigantic adults, we need to lure them out of their man-caves with breadcrumb promises of fun and action. A house in the hills above Crete’s notorious party strip, picked from luxury villa rental specialists Oliver’s Travels, offers the best of both worlds. For the olds, a zen-influenced villa and pool, a white cube of Mykonos-style minimalism beamed down into the dusty backstreets of a mountainside village – but within striking distance (or certainly driven-by-mum distance), the coastal fleshpots of Hersonissos port and Malia, a few kilometres and a couple of centuries away down the hill.

Hersonissos is a popular spot for tourists
Hersonissos is a popular spot for tourists (Getty Images)

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Like the cats which congregate on every street corner, our village, Koutouloufari, seems to be unfurling after a long cold winter and stretching itself out in the April sunshine. There’s a feeling of renewal as owners spruce up their shops and tavernas in readiness for the tourist season and the air hums with birdsong and the gentle rattle of nailing and drilling.

Our home for the week, Villa Ying, is a swift 25-minute drive from Heraklion airport. The village’s shops and restaurants are within easy walking distance, but our vine-shaded backyard is secluded enough…

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