Hiking in Southwest Crete
It's hard to know where to look when you're in full hiking
gear, following a path, and find yourself crossing a nudist beach. The path we
were following was part of the E4 European long-distance footpath, where it
goes along the coast of southern Crete. The landscape of this part of Crete is
incredibly varied, but we'd gone from stony scrub to bare bums in just a few
It may have been October but the temperatures on Crete were
still in the 80-90F (26-32C) range, making for hot hiking, even before our
unexpected encounter. Averting our gaze, we plodded on along the E4, following
the signs up and over another headland or two, where we found deserted beaches
and private coves, the perfect place for a picnic lunch and cooling swim. For
those who still had energy left it was only a little further to the beach at
Elafonissi, one of the biggest and most stunning on Crete.
Elafonissi Beach in Southwest Crete
This southern coast of Crete is far more rugged than the
north. In some places the mountains come so close to the Libyan Sea that
there's no room for a road inbetween, and a few villages are only accessible by
boat or footpath, or by one road in and out. From Elafonissi we could have
returned on foot but there was also a convenient boat to take us back to our
base at the Hotel Pal Beach, right on the seafront in Paleohora. Another day we
hiked the Samaria Gorge, where a boat also took us back to Paleohora, providing an
end-of-day bonus of great views of those coastal cliffs.
The Samaria Gorge on Crete
On the first day our guide, Samzie, who leads walking groups
all over the world, was on virtually home territory as she broke us in gently
with a walk from Paleohora to the village of Anidri, where her father has a
house and which she's been visiting since she was a child. We walked through
olive groves and past horse pastures, then along goat tracks that zig-zagged us
up to a little white chapel, Agios Giorgios, overlooking Anidri on one side and
the Libyan Sea on the other.
Lunch at Sto Scholeio Taverna in Anidri, Crete
There were views of the sea from the amazing Sto Scholeio
taverna, where we had lunch. We were early and had to patiently wait for food,
as every dish is prepared fresh each morning and they don't start till
everything's ready. Inside the chefs were chopping, outside our stomachs were
rumbling as we gazed longingly at the menu's treats: bacon, date and almond
rolls, fennel pie, octopus with walnut and garlic dip, baked sea bream, pork
with leek and orange... peach tart, cheesecake, orange pie and chocolate
brownies. Thankfully it was downhill all the way after lunch, as we picked our
path down through the Anidri Gorge to the local beach, then eventually back
along the coast road to Paleohora.
On our final day we got Lucky, literally, as Lucky's the
owner of a taverna in the mountain village of Azogires. After serving us a
tasty lunch of Greek salad, chips, souvlaki, tzatziki, dolmades, pork chops,
assorted pies and more wine than it's safe for a walking group to drink before
a walk, Lucky turned to another of his jobs and became a walking guide as he
took us on a ramble round Azogires, with tales of its history that were
alternately hilarious and moving, and always fascinating.
Lucky Brings the Food
As Lucky led us down to the gorge that would take us back to
Anidri, he took us into a church that had been carved out of the rock face
alongside the path. There, after regaling us with more stories, he blessed us
all with holy water. It was one of those simple gestures you can only get away
with by being absolutely sincere. We did indeed feel blessed to have met Lucky,
and lucky to have spent a week walking in this part of Crete.
Meet Lucky on our YouTube Channel
Other Crete pages
Driving central Crete in three days gives you time to see the highlights including the Minoan palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, the beaches and the Diktean Cave.
Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Central Crete including hotels in Matala, Ayia Galini, and Zaros.
Greece Travel Secrets eats at Vegera in Zaros and finds a cheap but wonderful feast of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes cooked daily with fresh local food.
This Rouvas Gorge walk starts and ends in Zaros in southern Crete and should take three to four hours with a distance of eight kilometres or five miles.
Keramos Studios in Zaros on Crete is an inexpensive two-star hotel/guesthouse with one of the best breakfasts on the island using food from the family’s farm.
The Greece Travel Secrets guide to Zaros in Central Crete, including what to do, where to stay, and where to eat.
Crete (Kriti) is the largest Greek island and its main attractions include the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Samarian Gorge, Chania and Rethymnon.
The largest of the Greek islands, Crete has four ENUESCO sites, which are Sitia, Psiloritis, Asterousia, and the Gorge of Samaria.
The Dalabelos Estate offers luxury eco-tourism accommodation on Crete in the hills near Rethymnon with its own farm, vineyard and olive groves.
Crete’s wildlife and landscape are two of the island’s attractions, including gorges for hiking, rare raptors like the lammergeier, wildcats and ancient trees.
Ancient Gournia is a Minoan archaeological site between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia in Eastern Crete where the visitor can see evidence of a maze of back streets.
The best things to do on Crete and top things to see include the Samaria Gorge, the Minoan Palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, the towns of Chania and Rethymnon.
Crete festivals and events include Carnival Easter, Whitsun, Christmas, many other religious feast days and public holidays.
Greece Travel Secrets suggests where to stay in Eastern Crete with our favourite hotels in Zakros, Elounds, Sitia, Agios Nikolaos, Istron Bay, Myrtos, Neapolis.
Greece Travel Secrets’ potted guide to Eastern Crete and why you should consider it for a holiday, including seeing Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Vai Beach and Zakros.
How to see eastern Crete in five days, with its beaches, Minoan palaces, timeless villages, unique churches and mountain and coastal scenery.
Greece Travel Secrets discovers Sitia, the main town in eastern Crete, with its relaxing waterfront, inexpensive hotels, good food, and nearby ancient sites.
Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Eastern Crete including restaurants and tavernas in Elounda, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, and Kato Zakros.
Greece Travel Secrets visits Visual Arts Crete who offer accommodation and run art courses at their home and studio in the village of Kastellos near Rethymnon.
Chania is the main city in Western Crete with a lovely setting and a beautiful harbour as well as several museums.
Greece Travel Secrets visits the Crete Botanical Gardens near Chania and finds a wonderland of colourful plants, trees, and flowers filling a lovely valley.
Crete's capital and largest city is Irakleio, also called Iraklion or Heraklion, a large and busy place with good restaurants, museums and historical buildings.
Driving on Crete is the best way to see Greece’s biggest island and here is our driving advice and some information about Greek driving regulations.
These shopping tips for Crete include advice on buying souvenirs like ceramics, icons, jewellery, leather, weavings, wood carvings, and food and drink.
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