Walking in Crete
|Walking in Crete
This island walking holiday on Crete provides the best that the region has to offer. Discover isolated beaches, secluded coves and impressive canyons walking in the White Mountains and through the Samaria and Zaros Gorges.
Day 1 Join trip in Chania
Arrive in Chania, a beautiful old Venetian walled town, with a bustling harbour and lively tavernas. A great place to start your introduction to Crete.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. Due to the number of evening flights into Chania, your Leader plans to do the welcome meeting on the morning of day two, and will leave a message in reception with details on timings and everything else that you’ll need for the day. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Chania at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to arrive at Chania International Airport (CHQ) which is around 20 minutes’ drive from the hotel.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to stroll along the narrow streets to the Venetian harbour and along the harbour wall to the Lighthouse. There are numerous waterfront restaurants where you could sample a selection of Cretan meze.
Day 2 Walking tour of Chania; drive to Omalos Plateau
This morning we will take a walking tour around Chania. We will walk around the harbour, lined with pastel-coloured buildings and through the winding back streets, home to the traditional cobblers who make the very traditional Cretan leather boots. This afternoon we take a bus up the winding roads to the Omalos Plateau (1,082m). This wild plateau is situated in the middle of the massive White Mountains, poised on the edge of a titanic split in the rock and the gateway to the longest and perhaps most beautiful ravine in Europe, the Samaria Gorge. The isolation of the plateau made it an historic refuge for Cretan revolutionaries against the Turks.
Today’s two kilometre walk is expected to take around one-and-a-half hours along a flat route.
Day 3 Hike Samaria Gorge to Agia Roumeli
Today we walk through this spectacular gorge. To make the complete descent to the fishing village of Agia Roumeli may take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours. We follow a steep zig-zag path, some 760m down into the gorge itself, past high cypress trees and many different alpine shrubs – and if we’re very lucky, we may catch a glimpse of the wild Cretan Ibex (Kri Kri) leaping from ledge to ledge. In midsummer, the river dries to a trickle, but there are still stretches of water to be crossed with handy stepping stones. After walking for roughly three hours from the entrance at Xiliskalo, we stop at the now uninhabited village of Samaria, where the Venetian Church of Holy Mary with its old Byzantine mosaics and inscription over the front door can be seen. Now the gorge really starts to close in around us, and the river often disappears underground. After passing below the Church of Aphendis Christos, we hike through the narrowest part, the sidheroportes (the ‘iron gates’, only 4 metres wide, but over 350m high), and continue along the rocky riverbed into the small village of Agia Roumeli.
Today’s 15 kilometre walk is expected to take around six-and-a-half hours with 1,250 metres of descent. There is an alternative walk along the coast that can be chosen by your Explore leader if the Samaria gorge is closed due to risky weather conditions.
Day 4 Coastal walk to Loutro
Today we take a beautiful walk along the coast, following the well marked cliff path we walk through pine woods, passing by secluded beaches. At Ayios Pavlos we will see on old chapel situated on a ledge above the water, built on the spot that Saint Paul is said to have first arrived at in Crete. Inside the somewhat crumbling facade are frescos dating to the thirteenth century.
For those who would prefer not to walk today there is the option to have a relaxing morning in Roumeli and then take the ferry to Loutro (not included).
Today’s 15 kilometre walk is expected to take around five-and-a-half hours with 275 metres of ascent and descent.
Day 5 Exploring Loutro
This quaint seashore village, perched on craggy rocks and nestled in a cove, affords an opportunity to experience life in a less accessible part of the island. Most houses are the very traditional white with blue shutters providing a harmony of architecture. We’ll spend the day here, perhaps taking a walk along the coast or inland, swimming or simply relaxing. An optional boat trip by water taxi can often be arranged to Marmara or Finix beach.
Alternatively, you may prefer something more active such as a full day or half day walk behind the village, up to the historic village of Anopolis or perhaps down the Aradena Gorge enjoying spectacular views of the coast en route. In the evening you may care to try the delicious fresh seafood caught by local fishermen.
Today’s optional 12 kilometre walk is expected to take around five hours.
Day 6 Morning relaxing; ferry to Chora Sfakion; drive to Zaros
Today we get the ferry along the coast to Chora Sfakion. A pleasant coastal village with a few hundred inhabitants and an old reputation as a lair of brigands, smugglers and pirates. The Sfakians cherish their independence and see themsleves as Sfakians first, Cretans second and Greeks third! As a rallying point for revolutionaries, there are many sea caves in the area which were used as great hiding places during disputes. We then journey by bus to Zaros in the rugged Idi Mountains. We’ll pause en route at Preveli cliff-top monastery. Perched high above the sea, its fame was capped in World War Two when the monks sheltered allied troops who were stranded on the island after the Battle of Crete and helped them to escape from the beaches nearby. The views from here are magnificent. We also break the journey for a short while in the pretty Greek village of Spili . We plan to arrive in the village of Zaros in the early evening.
Day 7 Hiking Zaros Gorge
Deep in the heart of Crete are the Idi Mountains This region is very scenic and is particularly noted for its spring waters, which are bottled and sold throughout the island. Our primary reason for visiting Zaros is to walk in the surrounding mountains, and we set off after breakfast to explore the dramatic Rouvas Gorge. Local vehicles take us to a steep rough track from where we’ll descend the dramatic 5km long gorge on foot enjoying spectacular views of the Psiloritis range as we go. The afternoon is left free for you to explore the surrounding area. Located in a peaceful setting overlooking the Koutsoulidi valley, this is an ideal spot to relax.
Today’s five-and-a-half kilometre walk is expected to take around four-and-a-half hours with 540 metres of descent.
Day 8 Drive to Heraklion airport where the trip ends
We leave Zaros today to drive to Heraklion Airport where the trip ends.
There will be two transfers provided to Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport (HER) today, which is around a one hour drive from the hotel. The main morning transfer will arrive at the airport around 11.45am, a later afternoon transfer can also be arranged, and the time of this will depend on the group’s flight times. The earliest your flight can depart is 1.45pm.
It can also be arranged for you to be dropped-off in Heraklion city centre so you can travel to the airport independently at a later time, there is luggage storage available at the airport.