HIKING THE GOLDEN ISLAND OF THE MEDITERRANEAN
Crete is the largest island in Greece and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean Sea. Located at the southern end of the Aegean Sea, it has an area of 8,300 square kilometers, a coastline of 1,040 kilometers, and a population of about 600,000 inhabitants . It has an elongated shape and is 257 kilometers long and between 61 and 12 kilometers wide. It is divided into 4 regions, from west to east: Chaniá, Rethimno, Heraklio and Lasithi.
Geographically, Crete is a very mountainous island. The 3 main mountain ranges that divide the island between north and south are: White Mountains (Lefká Ori), Psiloritis or Ida and Dikti, which together with other smaller ones occupy more than half of the island’s surface. The highest summit is Timios Stavrós in Psiloritis with 2,456 meters. And Pachnes in the White Mountains with 2,453 meters. There are more than 50 summits of more than 2,000 m, some 400 gorges and thousands of caves and chasms. Here are the 2 deepest in Greece at 1,208 and 1,110 meters deep.
The most important cities are to the north where communications are better. In the north and center we find fertile valleys, plateaus and plains suitable for agriculture, the livelihood of Crete for more than 5000 years.
DAY 1. FLIGHT TO HERAKLION
Departure by flight to Sofia. Arrival in Sofia, assistance at the airport and transfer to our hotel.
Hotel accommodation, Heraklion.
DAY 2. ASCENT TO TSILORITIS
Breakfast at the hotel. Transfer by bus to the Nida plateau, from where we will begin the trekking day to climb Psiloritis. ½ hr journey
Ascent to the highest mountain on the island, also known as Mount Ida. From Anogia we will go up with our vehicle to the Plateau de Nida (1,360 m), the starting point of the walk. Very close to the parking lot, you will visit the Ideon Andron cave, a place where according to mythology Zeus grew suckled by the Amalthea goat. We will continue the route following the marks of the E-4 trail through rocky terrain and with little vegetation. After 1:30 we arrive at a pass (1,890 m) that gives access to the long tail that leads to the summit of Psiloritis. Here we will leave the marks of the E-4 and continue along the wide ridge and avoiding some peaks such as the Kousakas (2,211 m), we will reach the Vouloumenou peak (2,197 m). At this point we find the E-4 marks again and in just under 1 hour we will reach the highest point, Timios Stavros of Psiloritis peak (2,456 m). On the rounded top we will find a shepherd’s refuge, a cross and a magnificent 360º view, with the White Mountains to the west and the Dikti to the east, and on both sides the Libyan and Aegean seas. For the descent we will return to Vouloumenou and follow the E-4 marks that descend into a valley where we will find some more vegetation. We will descend to the Kolita pastures (1,799 m). Here we will have to go back about 90 meters of unevenness until we reach the pass that gives access to the descent to the Plateau de Nida. In the afternoon transfer to the town of Anogia, where we will spend the night.
Characteristics of the walking tour: Mountain tour. Very stony, without vegetation.
Distance: 18 km.
Difference in altitude: +/- 1,250 m
Time: 8 hours
Hotel accommodation, Anogia.
DAY 3. RETHYMNO REGION
Transfer by bus to the Arkadi Monastery: The Arkadi Monastery, one of the most iconic Orthodox monasteries on the entire island, which is 23 km away. south of Rethimno, in the vicinity of Mount Psiloritis. The initial monastery was from the s. V but the current one is from the s. XVI, made in the Venetian era. In addition to its importance as a monastery and center for arts and sciences, it is a symbol of Cretan resistance during the Ottoman occupation. In 1866, in the uprising against the Turks, 940 people, including many women and children, found refuge in the monastery. After three days of fighting, and looking lost, they blew up the barrels of dynamite in the powder keg, preferring death to defeat. From the Arkadi monastery we will start our archaeological walk on a route that connects Arkadi with the ancient city of Eleutherna and the pretty town of Margarites. The city of Eleutherna is the most important archaeological site in the Rethymno region, founded by the Dorians around the 9th century BC and inhabited until the first Byzantine years. In its long history, its strategic location at a height of 380 m contributed. at the point where the paths that linked the ancient cities of Kydonia (present-day Chaniá) and Cnosós and Mount Psiloritis cross. On our tour we will see the 2 Roman cisterns of the s. II excavated on the east face of the hill and the necropolis of Orthi Petra. This necropolis is a point of reference for archaeologists to study the cremation traditions of cremation and its abundant findings “illustrate” the verses of the Iliad that describes the cremation of Patroclus in Canto XXIII, while verifying Homer. In this place was found the tomb of the warriors with 480 vessels, weapons and the grave of the warriors who died in battle, dating from the end of the s. VIII a. C. (730-710 B.C.) We will continue our way through the Margarites gorge until we reach the town of the same name. This town was famous for its pottery since Byzantine times and today you can see remains of old workshops and of course modern ones, since its inhabitants continue to dedicate themselves to it. This area at the foot of the Psiloritis is rich in clay deposits that explains the strong pottery tradition that has been preserved to this day and is the main occupation of many of the town’s residents. The architecture of the town also deserves our attention since, due to its boom in Venetian times, houses with the characteristic features of its architecture, such as the arches of the doors, abound. In the afternoon transfer to Rethymno. Characteristics of the walking tour: A journey without great unevenness through small trails, a dirt track and some stretch of asphalt.
Distance: 12 km.
Difference in altitude: +286 / – 486 m.
Time: 3h30 hours
Hotel accommodation, Rethymno.
DAY 4. ASCENT PICO GIGILOS
Breakfast at the hotel. Transfer to the Omalós plateau, 1040 m high. 1.5 h of travel.
We will start at the point called Xilóskalo, at 1200 m to ascend to the Gígilos summit, at 2080m, the most visible from the starting point of Samariá. We will climb the east face of Mount Psilafi with the Samaria Gorge below us. At 1450 m high we will pass under a stone arch known as the “Door”. At 1 hour from the door and following the path we will arrive at the Linoseli fountain with drinking water. We continue along the slopes of the mountain until we reach the Gigilos crest, where we will have in front of us the Tripití gorge and on the left we will continue to the summits. The last part of the route is cresting and more with hands than with feet. In 3 hours we reached the summit of Gigilos. Great panoramic view of the mountains of the sector. Return to Omalós. Characteristics of the walking tour: Mountain trail, which is quite uneven,
Distance: 9 km.
Difference in altitude: +/- 800 m.
Time: 7 hours
Accommodation in guesthouse, Omalós.
DAY 5. SAMARIÁ GORGE
During this day we will descend from the Omalós plateau to the sea, to replace the stony scenery of the summits of the White Mountains with the virgin forest of Samariá. The route is clear and always under the shade of the pines and cypresses, following the route of the river. We will be surrounded by the mountains and we will be able to appreciate the intense wildlife that is preserved in the area, birds, eagles and the wild goats of Crete, called Kri Kri. The gorge is 18 km long. with spectacular changes of landscape from the greenery of the beginning to the stony ground that we find at the end, with the famous “Iron Gates”, the walls of the gorge 3 meters wide by 300 high. Inside it we will meet the abandoned town of Samariá and the tour ends in the Libyan Sea, in the town of Agia Roumeli. For those who feel like it, you can go up from the town to the 2 Ottoman control towers, one of the many that were built in the area between 1866 and 1898, due to the constant local rebellions. Characteristics of the walking tour: Descending tour, initially on a dirt path between forest and the last part on stony ground.
Distance: 18 km.
Difference in altitude: -1040 m.
Time: 6 hours
Hotel accommodation, Agia Roumeli.
DAY 6. AGIA ROUMELI- ARÁDENA GORGE-ANÓPOLIS
The sea is going to be an integral part of this route, since we will constantly have it by our side. We will follow route E-4 to the east, from Agia Ruomeli to the exotic beach of Agios Pavlos, an hour away. On this beach there is only a tavern and the small Byzantine stone church of the s. XI, the church of San Pablo (Agios Pavlos). There we can get more water for the section to Marmara, about 3 hours. We continue our journey parallel to the coast to the beach of Marmara (Marble), which is the end of the Arádena gorge. There we can rest, bathe and there is a tavern bar to eat or drink something fresh. Climbing up the Arádena Gorge: Always by the floor of the canyon and for a little more than 6 kilometers we will advance through the gorge, overcoming some sections with metal stairs, until we reach the foot of the bridge that crosses the gorge, 138 meters high. Further on we will reach the stairs carved into the walls that were the only form of communication until the construction of the bridge in 1986. Zigzagging up we will arrive at the “ghost” town of Arádena, abandoned in 1950 due to a “vendetta” between families, something prevalent until relatively recently in Crete. The town is like an ethnographic museum of local architecture, with its reddish stone, surrounded by olive trees and overlooking the southern face of the White Mountains. In Aradena our vehicle will wait for us to take us to the small town of Anopolis, located just 5 km away. Dinner all together in a nice local restaurant.
Characteristics of the walking tour: Tour on the E-4 trail parallel to the coast and then up the Arádena gorge,
Distance: 17.8 km.
Difference in altitude: + 860 / -240 m.
Time: 7 hours
Accommodation in local apartment or guesthouse, Anapolis.
DAY 7. WHITE MOUNTAINS (LEFKA ORI). ASCENT TO PACHNES PEAK
4×4 ascent to the starting point of the ascent to the Pachnes peak. Today’s journey takes us to the lunar landscape of Pachnes, the second summit of the island with 2,453 m (only 3 meters apart from Psiloritis, the highest summit), in the heart of the mountains, between impressive karst, volcanic rocks and black sand. This part is known as Madares (bald mountains), considered the only high altitude desert in the entire northern hemisphere. During the walk we will find ourselves in complete solitude, surrounded by peaks and with the Aegean Sea on one side and the Libyan Sea on the other. The honor of being the highest summit is always disputed between Pachnes (in theory 2,453 m) and Psiloritis (2,456 m) in the center of the island, and the inhabitants of the area who climb it are said to place stones to reach the 2,456 m . The beginning of the journey in this mountainous desert is relatively easy. After 2 hours we reach the summit, with an unbeatable view of all the summits of the White Mountains, of the Psiloritis in the distance and if the day is clear you can even see the coasts of the island of Santorini. I descended the same path. If time permits, we can extend the walk by climbing to some other summit in the sector. In the early afternoon, we will go down by 4×4 to Anópolis, and then head to Loutró on foot. Along a path we will go down to the town of Loutró, on the coast. This town is only accessible by sea or on foot, and has no roads. The city located on the site of what is now Loutró was known as Phoenix, a place name that is preserved in the neighboring town of Phoenix. Phoenix flourished during the Hellenistic and Roman times, while it later became a den for Saracen corsairs and slave traders. This situation changed when the Venetians arrived in Crete. They expelled the pirates and fortified Loutró with a fortress whose ruins can still be seen. Around 17:15 we will take a boat from Loutró to Sfakiá and continue by road to Chaniá.
Distance (ascent to the Pachnes): 8 km, Altitude difference: +/- 520 m, Hours: 3 h
Distance (Anopolis – Loutro): 3.5 km, Difference in altitude: -660 m, Hours: 1h30
Hotel accommodation, Chaniá.
DAY 8. CHANIÁ – TRANSFER TO CHANIÁ / HERAKLIÓN AIRPORT. FLIGHT BACK HOME
Free time to discover the city of Chaniá, considered by many to be the most beautiful on the island. You can visit the port with the Venetian shipyards, the Jewish quarter, the Janissary mosque, the market, etc. At the agreed time, transfer to the Chaniá or Heraklio airport to take the flight back home.
- 5 nights hotel accommodation.
- 2 nights accommodation in guesthouse.
- Diet according to program.
- Local English-speaking X-plore guide
- All transfers and transfers mentioned.
o With a group of less than 12 people, transfers airport-city-airport and Sfakiá-Chaniá will be made by bus, the rest by mini bus.
o With a group of 12 or more people, all transfers and transfers will be by mini bus.
- Boat Loutro-Sfakia
- Transfer in 4×4 to base Pachnes
- Transfer backpacks on the trek
- Local taxes
- Food not mentioned as included;
- Tickets (Samaria: € 5, Arkadi: € 3)
- Hotel taxes (paid locally, between € 0.5 and € 1.5 per day / room)
- Single room supplement
- Travel and mountain insurance
- Anything not specified in the “INCLUDED” section.
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