Places to Walk, Crete Island
If you go walking in Crete you are sure to come across some of these shaggy creatures scrambling up a cliff or along the side of a gorge.
This picture was taken on a coast walk below Rodakino : they belong to Nikos from the 'Anna and Nikos Taverna (see my accommodation tip) . Try some of their delicious goat milk yoghurt for breakfast.
Spring is a great time to walk in Crete, not too hot and there are lots of wonderful wild flowers out. Don't restrict your plans to the Samaria Gorge, which herds of tourists head for. There are lots of other gorge walks - a favourite of mine is the Gorge of the Dead at Kato Zakro, which is a couple of hours walk, and is somewhat less demanding.
Probably the best general map for walkers - and for drivers - is 'Western Crete' and the separate 'Eastern Crete' maps published by 'Road Editions'. I have seen them listed on Amazon and they are on sale in bookshops in Crete. I wouldn't say they are perfect - the problem is the choice is somewhat limited.
(since writing this 8 to 10 years back the idea of a printed map has become rather quaint, but I still like following a good map)
I'm listing a website below which gives info on walks around the Plakias, Rethymnon, Yeoryeopouli and Elounda areas.
8 km of awesome landscape. Park the car in Imbros and there you see the signs to the beginning of the Gorge. Wear comfortable shoes because of the many loose rocks. At the end you can get a taxi for about 5 euros pp. You can have a wonderful lunch in Imbros.
Note: The gorge is about 2 kms from Kritsa off the Lato road; there is a sign.
So we found the sign again to Kritsa Gorge and turned up an unlikely path, going only about 200 metres before Lorraine’s nerves decided that was it for motorized transport. We alighted and discovered that the track entry, scribbled on a bit of board, was only about 100 metres further uphill.
It looked like the gorge was only a short walk before it closed off as we stepped out down a narrow track beside the 7,000th olive grove we’d encountered. Then we reached the gorge. The further you went the more impressive it became. The jagged sharp rocks betrayed their volcanic origin, the browns and greys reaching staggering heights above our heads as we plunged along the dry riverbed and its large rounded rocks. It wasn’t an easy walk and after about 20 minutes it got a whole lot harder as we had to negotiate an impregnated ladder to reach the next level, though level was something this gorge definitely was not.
Not long after you had to traverse on another set of rungs then haul yourself through a gap to get into the next slot. Lorraine soldiered on where I thought she might have quit; but it was exhilarating stuff at the same time. There were times when you were sure the end was nigh but another gap would appear.
It was around then we met the Germans and they informed us that it was about another half hour to the best spot where the gorge divided but the whole walk was 5 hours. Since we’d programmed ourselves to only go for 45 minutes we realised the best spot was unobtainable for us but it wasn’t long after when nature played its hand. Suddenly the bells of the goats that we continually heard on high were superseded by thunder and a rapidly darkening sky immediately had Lorraine thinking of masses of water flooding the canyon and us with nowhere to go; up was not an option in this place. We retreated to an overhang we’d recently passed as the droplets, some quite large, commenced tumbling from the sky.
We took shelter and hoped it wouldn’t last for too long. Our brief experiences with Cretan weather indicated that it would only be a shower. The minutes dragged by, little rivulets formed here and there; anxiety levels were held in check as we conversed about many things and then, as if by providence, the clouds lit up, signalling the end of the rain. The claustrophobic of the canyon somehow seemed reassuring in one way yet causing anxiety in another.
We retreated, backtracking and easing our way back down the slippery rocks, even getting our feet momentarily wet in a pool. It was just after that when the French couple came past; they were drenched from head to foot whilst we had nary a drop upon us and now the sun was returning.
It was only 10 minutes later that we re-passed them, he apparently naked behind a large rock as we noted all his clothes lying elsewhere. I restrained Lorraine from going to have a look and we continued on, getting back out in good time to travel to Agios Nicolas for a wonderful afternoon tea by the sea. Kritsa was a name we will not forget in a hurry.
The surrounding area of Melame is very rural, peaceful and quiet and great for wandering around. Watch out for the cats - although greek islands are famous for their catlife I've never seen so many in one place as here!
Samaria is a beautiful and impressive gorge. It is a must see if you are nearby. It is a fairly long hike so don't forget walking shoes, water and lots of film!