The most north westerly town on the island is known as both Kastelli and Kissamou, and is truly Cretan in atmosphere and appearance. Whitewashed houses with flower-filled gardens sit in the higgledly-piggledy back streets and small shops and cafes line the narrow main street where the locals stock up on their day to day provisions and catch up with the gossip. Down on the paved waterfront small tavernas serve freshly-caught fish and local specialities in the relaxed and informal atmosphere that has been lost in the main tourist resorts.
To the west of the town, beyond the rivermouth, there is a surprisingly good sandy beach, ideal for whiling away lazy days without venturing far from town. Slightly further west the harbour, now the departure point for sailings to Kythira and the Peleponnese and excursions to Gramvoussa Island, was in ancient times the port for Polyrhenia, an important Dorian hillside town which prospered beyond Roman times. Today the site is well worth a visit not only for the keen archaeologist but also for botanists, walkers and anyone appreciative of its stunning situation.
The far west of the island has much to be explored with numerous historic villages such as Kaliviani at the foot of the wild and haunting Gramvoussa peninsula, the wide sands and excavations of the ancient city at Falassarna, not to mention the almost tropical lagoon at Elafonissi. East of Kastelli the coastal plain extends towards the Rhodpou peninsula with a wealth of quieter beaches backed by agricultural hamlets such as Drapanias. Some 20 kilometres east of Kastelli lies Kolimbari a truly unspoilt Cretan coastal village with a Greek Orthodox academy and the 17th century monastery, Moni Gonia.