Lake Kournas, 4km inland from Georgioupoli, is a lovely, restful place to have lunch or to pass an afternoon. The island’s only natural lake, it is about 1.5km in diameter, 45m deep and is fed by underground springs. There’s a narrow sandy strip circling the lake and you can walk two-thirds of the way around. The crystal-clear water is now off-limits for swimming (to protect the environment) and changes colour according to the season and time of day. You can hire pedal boats (€7 per hour) and canoes (€4 per hour) and view the turtles, crabs, fish and snakes that make the lake their home.
Tourist buses crowd the lake in the peak of summer, and the basic tavernas around the lake fill up. To stay over, try Korrisia Taverna & Rooms, on the northern edge of the lake, which has simple but immaculate rooms and a good taverna.
To get away from the summertime lakeside fray, head up the hill to Ambrosia where you can sup on traditional Cretan dishes, like gamopilafo (lamb and stock-cooked rice) or faves like homemade pizza in a stone-built restaurant with a balcony high above Lake Kournas. Or just grab an iced coffee and take in the excellent vista.
The lake sits below Kournas village, a steep 5km southeast up the hill. Kournas is a simple village with a couple of kafeneia. The reason to go is for a delicious meal at the Kali Kardia Taverna on the main street. Owner Kostas Agapinakis is known for his award-winning sausages, excellent apaki (smoked pork) and meats cooked on the grill outside the taverna. If you are lucky you might get to try his delicious galaktoboureko (custard pastry) while it is still warm.
A tourist mini-train runs from Georgioupoli to Lake Kournas in summer, but there’s no public transport.