That's where it all started.... Cradle of civilization, home of the gods, the island of the labyrinth emerges from the waves of the Big Blue with the Aegean Sea to the north and the Libyan Sea to the south. It is perhaps no coincidence that Zeus was born in Crete...
That's where it all started.... Cradle of civilization, home of the gods, the island of the labyrinth emerges from the waves of the Big Blue with the Aegean Sea to the north and the Libyan Sea to the south. It is perhaps no coincidence that Zeus was born in Crete... Landscapes of white mountains (Lefka Ori) flowing into the sea, beautiful fishing villages nestled in the hollows of deserted coves, sumptuous gorges invaded by oleanders, make the island ideal for hiking and swimming. This original itinerary allows you to explore the 3 most beautiful gorges of Crete (Aradena, Agia Irini and Samaria), to make the most of the swimming time on very pretty beaches, such as Marmara's and to optimize the number of days of walking. On two occasions, this route also offers the added but not insignificant comfort of not having to pack and unpack every night, while preserving roaming....
• The variety of landscapes between gorges, coves and panoramic peaks.
• The Samaria, Aghia Irini and Aradena gorges.
• The mixed of walking, swimming, and relaxation.
• The authentic welcome in mountain pensions and seaside villages
Points of interest
LOUTRO: How can you not fall in love with this village? Established on the south coast of the island between Chora Sfakion and Agia Roumeli, Loutro and its sixty or so residents is a unique place, without a car and only accessible by sea or on foot. It takes its name from a Greek word meaning "bath" because of the many ancient thermal baths scattered throughout the area. If the village is animated during the day by visiting tourists, it is in the evening that it is advisable to take advantage of its typical alleys and restaurants serving quality fish. The charm still works.
The SAMARIA GORGES are located in the west of the island, in the White Mountains (Lefká Óri). They are part of the National Parks of Greece and have been recognized as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO since 1981. Sixteen kilometers long, they are among the longest gorges in Europe. Only the Gorges du Verdon in France are even longer with twenty kilometers. Samaria gorges are one of Crete's most popular tourist spots and during the high summer season, more than four thousand people take the path that crosses them every day. These gorges are bordered by vertical rock faces, sometimes six hundred meters high, which at the narrowest point, called "The Gates", form a passage three to four meters wide.
SOUGIA, which has 109 year-round inhabitants, belongs to the district of Chania. It used to be called Syia and was one of the ports of the city of Elyros. It belonged to a confederation of small independent cities called Oreii, around 300 BC. The peculiarity of the place is linked to the ruins of the ancient site of Lissos. These are varied: there are houses, a temple, the chapel of Panagia and the remains of an early Christian basilica. These ruins are still visible today and are a stopover on our stay. Sougia is a village that has remained away from mass tourism and therefore has a tranquility that attracts tourists in search of rest. Its hotel capacity is quite low with 250 beds and only about ten restaurants. No increase in this capacity is planned in order to preserve the unique character of the place. Surrounded by the mountains, the large beach between pebbles and coarse sand remains untouched by crowds and pollution. On the eastern part of the beach, nudism is tolerated. It is a very pleasant 2-night stopover on our route.
OMALOS PLATEAU welcomes us for a fresh break. Situated at 1250 meters of altitude, it is the starting point of the Samaria gorges at the place called Xyloskalo ("the wooden stairs"). In Xyloskalo, on the other side of the gorge, rise the summits of Gigilos (2080m), Psilafi (1984m) and Agathoti (1768m). According to the legend, the king of the gods, Zeus, had his throne at the top of Gigilos and organized chariot races at the top of Agathoti. Only three accesses lead to the plateau: the road from Chania, the Samaria Gorge to Agia Roumeli and the road southwest to Sougia. This hard-to-reach position explains why Omalós was a center of resistance against the Turkish occupation.
Day 1: Arrival in Heraklion
Transfer and meeting at the hotel
Transfer by your care to our hotel, close to the Venetian port and a stone's throw from the city center. Aperitif and presentation of the week. Dinner in a restaurant in the lively center of the capital. Night at the hotel. D.
Day 2: Chora Sfakion / Loutro
Elevation: +200 m / -200 m / Walking time: 2h / Distance: 7kms
After breakfast, transfer by private minibus to the south coast to the village of Chora Sfakion. Lunch on the port and departure for Loutro. A couple of hours along the coast on a spectacular long-distance hiking trail. Halfway along the way, Sweet Water Beach nestles impressively at the foot of the coastal mountains that rise vertically to over 800 m in height. The arrival on Loutro, a superb village accessible only by boat or on foot is major. B,L,D.
Day 3: Loutro / Anopolis / Aradena Gorge / Marmara Beach
Elevation: +690 m / -670 m / Walking time: 5h00 / Distance: 17kms
In terms of scenic beauty, this day is worth the detour, as the Aradena Gorge ranks among the most beautiful hikes in Western Crete. Everything is there today, dry ascent, panoramic views, steep canyon, superb creek and remote village. The departure is from behind our accommodation and climbs dry up to the church of Agia Ekaterini. Superb view on the bay of Loutro 650 m below. We cross the village of Anopoli towards the entrance of the gorge with its impressive suspension bridge between the two sides of the mountain. The descent is wild and we have to be careful in some places. The arrival at Marmara Beach at the end of the gorge is a must: bar and swimming! Return to Loutro by boat. Let's do it ! B,L,D.
Day 4: Loutro / Agia Roumeli
Elevation: +400 m / -400 m / Walking time: 5h00 / Distance: 15kms
Today we follow the GR E4 which runs along the coast at the foot of the mountains. The itinerary is lined with many small and large pebble-covered bays, runs alongside a remarkable Byzantine chapel, crosses a small pine forest that brings a little greenery and shade and meets a welcoming tavern. Our destination is the village of Agia Roumeli, lost on the seaside at the entrance to the famous Samaria Gorge. To sum up: superb itinerary, easy, certainly one of the most beautiful coastal paths of Crete. B,L,D.
Day 5: Ascent of the Samaria gorge.
Elevation: +1160 m / -50 m / Walking time: 5h30 / Distance: 19kms
Wonderful hike through the gorges, if not the longest in Europe, the most famous ones in Crete, classified as a National Park. You have to have done them once, at least that's what people think in high season up to 2000 visitors a day! Since the vast majority of hikers go down them, we will go up them... and thus enjoy the site for the first 3 quarters of the ascent. A lunch break in the back will allow us to let the crowds go down and finish the last part, the steepest part, in peace and quiet. From Agia Roumeli, we go deep into this Grand Canyon to reach the "Iron Gates" quite quickly. Only 3m apart from each other, the 300m high vertical walls, overhanging in places, form here the narrowest passage of the canyon. The path is embellished with rest areas, chapels and water points before passing the abandoned village of Samaria. After the rest area of Vrissi, the slope becomes steeper. The ascent takes place in the forest canopy (cypress, oak, pine) and ends on a stepped path.Here we are in Xyloskalo, at the top of the gorges. A short transfer and we disembark at the village of Omalos, on the plateau of the same name, where we spend the night. B,L,D.
Day 6: Omalos / Agia Irini Gorge / Sougia
Elevation: +130 m / -1000 m / Walking time: 5h00 / Distance: 20kms
We cross the Omalos mountain plateau at 1200m altitude to reach the path which turns out to be a mule track built with large retaining walls. It descends into the scrub to reach the entrance to the gorges. Compared to Samaria and Aradena, the Agia Irini gorge is rather modest. With its virgin forest-like vegetation in the upper reaches and numerous gullies further down the gorge, it is nevertheless very pleasant to walk through. A path built in the 90s with rest areas and fountains leads comfortably through the gorge, which is good 7 km long. At the exit, a bar welcomes us before our short transfer to the village of Sougia where we stay 2 nights. B,L,D.
Day 7: Sougia/ Tripiti/ Sougia
Elevation: +730 m / -730 m / Walking time: 5h00 / Distance: 12kms
From the village of Sougia you can already see the destination of the day: far to the east, a chapel stands on a hunchbacked cape. By boat we will reach Tripiti and the original entrance to its gorges. No time to blow, we attack straight down the slope to reach a pass and the ruins of a citadel built by the Venetians because of its strategic location. The chapel is only 15 minutes away, planted 400 meters above the sea. The coastal path that takes us back to Sougia offers grandiose panoramic views of the wild coastline and only inhabited by wild goats, called here Kri-Kri (no relation with my wife...). B,L,D.
Day 8: Sougia / Paleochora / Heraklion
Elevation: +400 m / -450 m / Walking time: 4h00 / Distance: 10kms
The hike offers all the charm of a choice hike in Crete: a wild and romantic gorge with oleanders, a dry plateau and a scenic coastal path. It also passes through the archaeological site of Lissos, which was excavated in the 1950s. In this valley, far from everything, there was once, in the early Hellenistic period, a spa that the Romans later took over. It was also one of the few places where gold coins were minted. Our walking tour ends on Sandy Beach. We take advantage of the place for a last swim and a well-deserved cannon. A private transfer takes us in the afternoon to Heraklion where we meet to celebrate the week. B,L,D.
Day 9: End of stay
Elevation: +400 m / -450 m / Walking time: 4h00 / Distance: 10kms
Breakfast at the hotel.
END OF THE TRIP
Transfer on your own to the airport and return to France or extension of your holidays. B.
B: breakfast / L: lunch / D: dinner
NB: For safety reasons due to the nature of the terrain, weather conditions or any other reasons, the guide may have to modify the initial programme.
Hiking trip. Creation, organization and leading by a French state qualified Mountain Leader.
The stay is moderate to moderate + on certain stages. You walk between 4 and 6 hours a day on rocky paths. Most of the time these are paths in good condition which sometimes require vigilance (high paths, rocks) especially in the gorges and on some coastal routes. You must be in good shape and wear good hiking boots or trail shoes. Poles are recommended but not essential. You only carry a light bag containing the day's gear (camera, water, food, change of clothes, etc...) except on day 5 (night in Omalos) where we do not have access to luggage and where you have to equip yourself for 2 days. You will enjoy a good picnic made of local products or stops in small taverns.
Transportation and transfers
A private transfer will take you from your hotel in Heraklion to Chora Sfakion (about 2.5 hours drive), the start of the hike. It is the same on the last day from Paleochora to Heraklion (about 3H00 drive).
During the hike, you are transferred from the top of the Samaria gorge to your hotel in Omalos and from the exit of the Irini gorge to your accommodation in Sougia. Two boat transfers (small boats with a capacity of about 20 places) are planned from Marmara beach to Loutro and from Sougia to Tripiti.
The ferry carries luggage from accommodation to accommodation except overnight in Omalos where there is no luggage access.
We are in a 3* hotel on Heraklion on the first and last day. In the village of Loutro we stay 2 nights in apartments/villa away from the hustle and bustle of the port. Agia Roumeli welcomes us in a family hotel by the beach. The night in the mountains on the Omalos plateau is in a family hotel. Finally, we will stay 2 nights in the charming village of Sougia in apartments. Single rooms are subject to special request due to the low accommodation capacity in some places.
Food and water
Tap water is safe to drink everywhere. However, you can find bottled water in every supermarket. The food is excellent and varied, made of vegetables, meat (especially lamb) and fish. The restaurants are chosen for their welcome and the quality of the dishes.
Breakfast (B) consists of coffee or tea, orange juice, toast, bread, butter, jam. Cuts of cottage cheese and fresh fruit, eggs (fried or scrambled) and cereals alternate depending on the place. In Heraklion you enjoy an international breakfast.
The picnics lunches (L) are prepared by us, made of fresh local products: fruits, vegetables, salads, cheese, meat,... They are carried in your hiking bags and eaten on the way. Sometimes the meal can be taken in a local tavern.
Dinners (D) are taken either at the hotel or at a local restaurant. They consist of several choices of starters and main courses. They are followed by a dessert accompanied by raki.
Lefka Ori (White Mountains) / Sfakia
Map TOP 25 Peak 11.11 - 11.12
Greece is part of euro-zone. ATMs are available in Heraklion, Chora Sfakion, Sougia. In more isolated places, you should have enough cash for various expenses (souvenirs, drinks,...).
"Nous venons de passer une semaine de randonnée en Crête. Le mois de Juin est très agréable pour cette région: peu de monde sur les sentiers, une température agréable, une végétation en pleine floraison et la possibilité de baignade chaque jour. Les logements dans les villages, pour la plupart en bord de mer, sont corrects voir « luxueux » pour une randonnée. Nous avons été bien accueillis par les habitants. Cette magnifique escapade entre bord de mer et montagne via des gorges splendides a été organisé par notre guide accompagnateur Sebastien. Sebastien sait parfaitement gérer le groupe malgré les différences de niveau de marche de chacun, de plus il sait trouver les bons restaurants indispensables après une bonne journée de rando. Pas de fausse note, des magnifiques photos et plein d’agréables souvenirs." Marie-Agnès et Patrick, Nantes, Juin 2019
"Nous tenons à remercier et féliciter Sebastien pour l’organisation parfaite qu’il nous offre à chaque séjour. Sa superbe préparation des parcours nous permet de nous focaliser sur les paysages, nos amis et nos efforts physiques. La bonne humeur, l’expérience et le professionnalisme sont toujours au rendez-vous." Catherine et Jean-Luc, Castres, Juin 2019
" Après l'expérience réussie en Corse, j'ai remis ça avec la Crète avec un groupe sensiblement comparable. Organisation parfaite comme en Corse, le trajet mer montagne, avec un peu plus de mer, ce qui a permis de bonnes baignades avec une eau à température clémente. La Crête est plus aride mais les paysages sont somptueux avec une eau turquoise. Étapes plus confortables qu'en Corse avec une nourriture excellente (Ah le régime crétois !) et des gens très accueillants. Un itinéraire parfait, le sud de la Crête est moins peuplé et plus authentique. L'organisation était parfaite, avec un guide présent du levé au couché et toujours à l'écoute des participants, ce qui donnait une ambiance très conviviale. Je recommande et attends avec impatience l'année prochaine pour une nouvelle randonnée.
Amitiés." Thierry, Paris, Juin 2019