Arrive in Chania at any time. As your fellow travellers are arriving at various times throughout the day, there are no planned activities other than a group dinner and info session, so check into our hotel and enjoy the city. Look out for a message at reception from your G Adventures representative detailing when and where to meet for the welcome briefing. Crete is Greece’s largest island, filled with stunning scenery and friendly people. Although most tourists only see the major towns on the north coast, we will be visiting some of the smaller towns of the South-western coast and interior, where our walks take place. Crete has an interesting and full history, beginning with the Minoan culture, which flourished from about 2800 BC and suddenly disappeared around 1450 BC. Crete then passed through the hands of the Romans, Genoese, and Venetians before the Turks finally conquered it in 1670. It became a British protectorate in 1898 after much social and civil unrest, and was finally united with mainland Greece in 1913.
Estimated Travel Time: 2 hours We leave the city of Chania by public bus and head south across the island to Paleochora. After checking in at the hotel, we get wet with the sea kayaks. Basic lessons will be taught on safety, paddling technique and sea orientation. Then we’ll be free to explore the local beaches and dive in the crystal clear waters of the Libyan Sea. Paleochora was built on the ruins of ancient Kalamidi. In 1282 the Venetians built the historic Kastello Selino, after which the Selino district was named, previously known as ’Orina’. The township we know as Paleochora was finally established at the end of 1800. The fortress, which dominates a small peninsula and commands a lovely view over the Libyan sea, was built and destroyed again and again by the Venetians, the Turks, Barbarossa’s pirates and later by Cretan rebels and finally Germans during the Second World War. At present Paleochora is a lively rural community, with lots of sun-seekers thanks to the great beach and warm sea. Paleochora is also the starting point for boat trips to Sougia, Agia Roumeli, Samaria Gorge, Sfakia and Gavdos island. Paleochora is very close to the three gorges of Southern Crete: Samaria, Agia Irini (St. Irene) and the Anidri gorge.
Today we leave Paleochora and paddle towards the remote community of Sougia. On the way there we make a stop to explore the ancient Roman site of Lissos, noted for its temple architecture and graves. The ancient seaside town of Lissos is famous for its curative springs. This place also used to produce distinctive gold coins, on which the head of the goddess Diana and a dolphin were minted. After exploring the compact site, we then complete our day paddling to Sougia, where we can sample some fresh seafood for dinner. The name Sougia originates from the Greek word "sis" (pig), so we find ourselves in “Pigtown”. It appears that over the centuries there was a systematic rearing of pigs in the forests of oak surrounding the site. The bed of the waterfall of Lakou Zografou divides the remaining ruins of the old town into two parts. On the western side there once was a well-defended port which today, with the geological rise of western Crete, has disappeared. Most buildings in Sougia were on the eastern side, where even today we can see reservoirs, relics of ancient houses, hot springs and parts of the city walls. The ancient town flourished both in the Roman times and during the Byzantine period. East of Sougia is the famous gorge of Tripiti, with a beautiful bay at the exit from the ravine. Today, Sougia is a cosy picturesque harbour, which offers a great beach and many taverns to choose from. Worth visiting is the village church, which contains several 6th century mosaics of Saints.
Estimated Travel Time: 40 minutes by minibus; 3-4hrs hike Today we leave Sougia and the seaside, heading inland, to walk up the rugged Agia Irini gorge. Our walk involves a climb of around 600m on a well-marked path. The scenery is memorable and quite different from previous days. We will arrive at the top of the gorge for lunch, before jumping aboard our minibus to head to the highland outpost of Omalos in the Lefka Ori (or White Mountains) where we'll spend the night. The famous plateau of Omalos is surrounded by the high crowns of the Lefka Ori (White Mountains) at 1,040-1,250m above sea level. The plateau of Omalos is the physical border between three prefectures of Chania, namely Kydonia, Sfakia and Selino. The plateau was an important rebel stronghold during the two and a half centuries of resistance to the Turkish occupation, and also during later wars against invaders. From the plateau and specifically from the spot known as Xyloskalo at 1,250m, the trail along the world famous Samaria gorge begins. In Xyloskalo there is a forest outpost and information centre (small museum) about Lefka Ori and Samaria. Opposite, towering above Xyloskalo, is the peak of Gigilos (2,080m). In ancient times it was believed to have been the location of the throne of the Cretan-born god Zeus. West of Gigilos in the peaks of Agathopi (1,768m) and Psilafi (1,984m) it was believed that Zeus, the head of the Greek pantheon, organized horse races. In the recent past, the peaks of Agathopi have hosted slalom ski races. One of the most beautiful routes in Lefka Ori is the climb to the top of Gigilos, about two and a half hours of slow, steady walking. This route is of medium difficulty and rewarding. Half-way to Gigilos (one hour from Xyloskalo), there is the spring of Linoseli (Seli of the Hellenes) where the water at 1,500m is icy cold all year round. In ancient times there was a famous Oracle there. Also nearby is Demonospilio, which, according to Greek tradition, was a cave where many demons resided.
Hike: 18km, approx. 5-6hrs (steep downhill, rocky path (well-maintained); river-bed; woodland track) Today we set off after breakfast to hike the famous and spectacular Samaria Gorge. The first part of the walk is the steepest but the path is very well maintained, so about an hour later we should reach the bottom of the gorge and follow the riverbed. We will make a stop to eat our packed lunch by the river. After around 6 hours of walking, we’ll reach the fishing village of Agia Roumeli where we spend the night. There will be plenty of time for swimming or just resting on the beach when we reach the coast. Samaria Gorge is well known in Europe as a unique geological formation. It is the deepest and narrowest gorge on the continent. At one point, it's width is less than 2.5m and the height of the stone walls exceeds 600m at many points. The natural beauty of the area overrides any feeling of exhaustion during the walk. Agia Roumeli is a small settlement at the exit point of the Samaria gorge. The village is built on the ancient site of Tarra, mentioned by many ancient writers as a small but independent-minded town. It used to mint its own coins, on one side depicting the Cretan mountain goat and an arrow, and on the other side a bee. Agia Roumeli is very remote, connected with neighbouring towns and villages only by sea or footpaths.
Leaving early as usual, we paddle from Agia Roumeli to Loutro, a fishing village nestled in a lovely cove. In about an hour we reach the marvelous small church of Agios Pavlos where we take a small break. Our next stop will be at Marmara Beach where we will have lunch, and a good opportinity to swim. After Marmara, it will take a little more than an hour to reach Loutro, today’s destination. The seaside village of Loutro is situated at the end of Cape Mouri, where the ancient city of Finix once stood. The village was named after the baths (Loutra) found in the area, from which water was directed to nearby Anopoli. Loutro also served as the port of ancient Anopoli. Later it became the winter time port of the town of Sfakia, due to the fact that the enclosed bay and the small island in its entrance create a natural harbor where ships can be safe even in very bad weather conditions. Loutro is completely inaccessible by major roads, with sea and mountain paths being the only transportation routes. Please note, on occasion we may stay in the village of Lykos rather than Loutro. Lykos is a tiny and remote fishing village and a great way to get a real insight into local life in this region. These mountains rearing straight up from the sea, deep wooded gorges, ravines and valleys have been the site of many heroic deeds, ancient civilizations, and constant intrigue for thousands of years. Today the village of Loutro is a magnet for tourists, especially for other Cretans who escape the crowded and noisy northern regions of Crete, for peace, fun, and relaxation. Loutro is their secret holiday hideaway not yet discovered by the average tourist. The majestic scenery, crystal clear Mediterranean water, friendly people and peaceful atmosphere all make Loutro an ideal place to relax after all the distance we have covered. This evening we will enjoy dinner with a local family who will share with you the secrets of home cooked Cretan cuisine.
Estimated Travel Time: 2 hours Continue paddling from Loutro to Sfakia, the easternmost point we will visit on the coast. We stop at the stunning and pristine Sweet Water beach for a swim and then finally reach Sfakia, an old village bordered by the tall peaks of the White Mountains. Due to its geographic position, Sfakia is isolated from the rest of Crete, on the steep shores of the Libyan Sea. It is known for playing a key role in the revolution and liberation of the island from the Turks. Today, it is a picturesque, large village, built amphi-theatrically above the harbour. There are no indications of habitation in ancient times, only the Venetian castle of the 15th and 16th centuries survives. The fortress was once used as the residence of the Providore, (administrative leader in the years of Venetian dominion). It was renovated and used by the Turks. Owing to the barren soil, the inhabitants’ main occupation was navigation and commerce. Worth visiting are the temples of Agios Georgios (St George) and Agion Panton, which have remarkable murals. From Sfakia we return to Chania by public bus, crossing Imbros gorge and the beautiful plateau of Askifou, then circling around the White Mountains to bring us back into bustling Chania for our final night on the town with your new-found friends.