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Hiking Highlights from Our Holiday in Crete

We took a spring holiday to Crete this year and did a lot of hiking. Crete is an excellent place to be in spring. The hillsides are covered with flowers (the yellow ones give off a scent you can smell even while driving), baby sheep and goats are everywhere, and you don't get too hot and dried out while hiking. It did rain occasionally while we where there but never enough to stop us from enjoying a hike. I guess the best thing about spring in Crete is that the island isn't yet overrun with tourists and the prices are still at their off-season lows.

We did too much hiking to detail every trail here so we're just going to talk about the highlights. We saw a lot during our 2 weeks on Crete but only in the western and central parts of the island. Crete is just too big to explore even superficially in such a short time.

Contents

Agiofarago Gorge

The church at Agiofarago The first hike we did on Crete is still one of our favorites. We had a bit of trouble finding the start of the trail - it's not signposted and wasn't marked on our very inaccurate road map. But after a bit of driving up and down and making inquiries in our next to useless Greek, we finally found the start of the gorge.

The hike was very easy but also very pretty. We walked about 1½ hours down the gorge past numerous caves to the sea and after a rest stop there headed back again. While we were the only humans on the trail that afternoon, we were never alone - we could always hear the wind-chime sound of bells on mother sheep and the baaing of their babies.

The highlight of Agiofarago is the beach end of the trail with its high cliffs, Agios Antonios church, and a beautiful clean beach (though it was too cold for us to think of swimming there in April).

This is a picture of the church. Guy is in there too if you can find him.



Aradhena Gorge

A rough map

Drakondia plant

We made a really long hike of this one by starting high up in Anapoli at about a 600m altitude. We then went down towards Lutro but veered west before coming right down into town to join up with the trail from Lutro to Livaniana. Life would have been a lot easier if we'd just started the hike from the nearly deserted Livaniana because we now had to walk half-way back up the hillside we'd just descended to get to Livaniana. We hiked right up to the highest point in town - the church - from where we could see the Aradhena gorge on the other side.

We went up the gorge to the small church of Agios Athanasios. This part was a bit tricky since the trail disappears and you can't see the church until you actually get to it. But from the church we soon picked up the trail markers again as we descended into the gorge.

The rest of the route was downhill through a beautiful gorge to the sea. We arrived at Marmara beach where we might have enjoyed swimming had it been a little hotter. From Marmara we hiked along the coast to Lutro where we stopped for some fresh squeezed orange juice before tackling the nasty climb back up to Anapoli.


Bunch of sheep

We met the sheep along the way. We saw a lot of "Drakondia" plants (like the one pictured above) on the route between Anapoli and Lutro and later in many other places on Crete.



Agios Pavlos and the Selludha

A rough map

There are many easier ways to get to Agios Pavlos but we rarely do things the easy way.

We started this hike from a pasture somewhere off on one of the dirt roads that branches off the Aradhena to Agios Ioannis road. It took us a long time to find the spot. We'd probably have been better off starting from Agios Ioannis itself though that would add some small distance and a bit of height to the route. And we already had a 600m cliff to descend and climb back up.

The Selludha is the trail descending the 600m cliff. It's got beautiful views of the coast. Though it's not far from the hike we did from Anapoli down to Lutro, this area is covered in trees giving off a nice pine scent.

Guy grumbled the whole way down the Selludha as he did not at all like the idea of having to go back up it to get back to the car. Michal's advice - go without a car. Then you don't have to go back up anywhere you've already been. (Guy's advice is to not go at all but he's unusually lazy for a hiker.)

Anyway, Agios Pavlos made up for all the hardships. The beach features a very old church with frescoes and a fresh water spring. The spring was great fun as the fresh water emerges right from the beach sand very close to the water line. It didn't look like any of the other hikers passing through the area even knew about the spring. They must have thought it very strange that we were sitting on the beach drinking what looked like sea water.

The church of Agios Pavlos. The flat-looking sand In the background is actually dunes running down from the trail to the beach.

The church at Agios Pavlos

Suyia to Lissos

A rough map

We did this one on a rainy afternoon. But we lucked out and a bit of drizzle at the start of the hike was all we had to deal with the whole way.

This trail started from the small harbor of Suyia, went up a very green gorge, over a plateau, and down a cliff into a valley containing the ruins of Lissos (with a mosaic floor), ancient Roman tombs, two very old churches, and another spectacular beach that we didn't swim at. A hike with both history and beauty.

The tombs at Lissos



The Roman tombs at Lissos.



More About Hiking in Crete

Books

There are some good hikes detailed in the Lonely Planet book Trekking in Greece by Marc Dubin. We found the trail descriptions to be very accurate but no matter how long the book said was necessary to complete a trail, it always took us twice as long. And we are not slow or out-of-shape hikers!

There are other hiking books that deal only with Crete and have details of a lot more hikes than the book we took. But since we didn't use any of these, we can't recommend any.

Maps

Buy a good map that includes hiking trails in one of the larger cities of Crete or at one of the bigger tourist sites. The cheap maps the car rental places give away are very inaccurate. The don't show many of the roads that do exist and they mark as paved roads several routes which can only be done on foot.

Links

Interkriti: The Website of Crete

Eva's Homepage! - Eva doesn't have anything on Crete yet but promises to in the future. And she has a great collection of Greek hiking links.

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