Crete - A backpackers guide

We Last Visited Crete in 1999

Map of Amorgos in the Cyclades, Greece

We don`t like to sound overly harsh but if you are looking for anything authentically greek you will have trouble finding it on the northern coast of Crete. Mass tourism has almost completely over run any charm this coast must surely have once had. Where tourism doesn`t predominate, the industry required to support it does. Of course, the old towns of Agios Nikolaos, Rethymnon and especially Chania have attraction but not enough to make up for what has become a rather commercial whole in comparison to other islands. Viewing this coast is better done via the package deal route.

CHANIA Harbour We stayed in Chania Camping, an hours walk to the west of the town itself which is excellently specified but expensive (3900drs for 2 persons & tent a night, 09/99). Chania does, however, put you in a good position to make the highly recommended hike down the national park of the Samaria Gorge (1500drs,09/99). If you think by catching the first bus from Chania to the Omalos plateau you will get a jump start on everyone else, you will be sadly mistaken. The gorge is breathtakingly beautiful but incredibly popular. At a strolling pace it takes about 4.5 hours from top to bottom some 16km later, with clean drinking water available at various points along the way.

Photo of LOUTRO in Southern Crete The village of Agia Roumeli greets you at the coast with plenty of tavernas should the walk have given you an appetite. Unless you are lucky, you will probably have to wait for the ferry to Hora Sfakion to catch the bus home anyway. You can get rooms here but we jumped ship at the next port of call - Loutro. A land locked village with nothing to do but relax. A couple of hotels, tavernas and rooms places line the crescent shaped pebble beach. Take care when swimming though. The ferry sometimes dispenses with the quay in favour of unloading directly on the beach.

SAMARIA gorge Crete Next up, Hora Sfakion, or more commonly refered to Sfakia at first seems very busy during the day due to the gorge but in the evening a more sedate pace of life returns. The capital of this area, is larger than Loutro and Roumeli. It has a proper harbour with a tiny beach although there is a larger beach just to the west. It is also home to the twice weekly ferry to the most southerly point in Europe - Nissos Gavdos - if you want to impress your friends. Almost all the tavernas are situated along the harbour front or adjacent car park. A supermarket, bakery and post office are complemented by a tourist information come car hire office but no bank. The tourist information doesn`t extend to the ferry schedules of the northern ports so if you aren`t flying home from Crete make sure you know what days they sail before you come down here.

HORA SFAKION beach There appeared to be plenty of rooms for rent in Sfakia, above some of the tavernas as well as purpose built accomodation. We stayed above the tourist shop one row back from the harbour (5000drs,09/99). We can also heartily recommend sunset watching from the Embargo bar on the road high above Sfakia. The last stay in this area for us was Frangokastello . A strange place that never seemed populated, almost ghost-town like. The castle appears to be in perfect condition until this is dispelled by closer scrutiny. It is merely a shell but provides good photo opportunities at sunset. The near by marshes encourage moquitoes so if, like me, you are irresistable to these critters bring plenty of repellant. The taverna down the rough track to the left of the castle also has rooms with a view for a reasonable 5000drs (09/99) and the souvlaki comes recommended.

Embargo bar - SFAKION We didn`t go to the beach infront of the castle but can say the beach to the east has little shelter but is made up of clean gently shelving sand. If umbrella packed beaches and night life are your thing then Northern Crete is as good as anywhere else in the Med. But if you are looking to test your greek out in authentic surroundings or have done all the other islands then you should be heading south. More info ? We will try & help.

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Samaria Gorge Crete Loutro in Southern Crete Chania North Western Crete Rethymnon North Crete Hora Sfakion in Southern Crete