Day 1: Hania, Crete.
Welcome to Crete! We’ll rendezvous in the old section of Hania, the island’s most captivating city. Vestiges of the prior conquerors (Venetians and Turks) enliven the scenery, from the Mosque of the Janissaries on the harbor to the 17th century Venetian homes lining colorful Zambeliou Street (the old Jewish Quarter). Hania is also a place to buy souvenirs, particularly jewellery or handcrafted Cretan knives, all available in the bustling arcade market. We’ll have our welcome dinner harbor-side at a fresh fish taverna.
Day 2: Falassarna.
We head west to bike glorious Gramvousa Peninsula. From here you have a commanding panoramic view of the deep blue sea. There’s a cantina atop the point, a perfect place to gaze at the western sea horizon before taking a 20-30 minute hike down to Balos Lagoon on a stone-laid path. The blinding turquoise waters, pinkish-white sand and an accessible deserted island easily makes Balos one of the most beautiful seascapes in Crete. Our evening destination is Falassarna, once a mighty Roman naval center, and today consistently rated among Greece’s top ten beaches. 20 km, 13 miles.
Day 3: Kolymbari.
Today we hug the coast, then divert inland and up a mountainous route headed to Kissamos-Kasteli where we are treated to extraordinary views of Crete’s fork shaped twin peninsulas, Rodopou and Gramvoussa. We picnic en route, passing through plain, chestnut and oak trees with gorgeous unobscured vistas of the Cretan Sea. We finish the day by cruising straight to our sea front hotel and take a refreshing dip before dinner. 30 km, 18 miles.
Day 4: Kolymbari.
The Rodopou Peninsula aptly lives up to all that the name Rugged Crete implies. This thick finger jutting into the sea is uninhabited, majestic and pure dirt track. We’ll climb 1300-1500 feet (about 450 meters), hugging the eastern flank of this wondrous piece of land. The views of the sea are to die for. Our goal is the Diktynna Santuary, named for a hunting goddess revered by the Romans. The temple’s foundation, sacrificial alter and cisterns are still visible. There’s no food, water, or provisions en route, just pristine scenery. 40 km, 25 miles
Day 5: Omalos Plateau.
A strenuous, but short climb today as we approach the high peaks of the wild Lefka Ori (“White Mountains”). We bike through one of the few tracks that exist in this mountain massif. We rest and lunch in Kalergi Refuge in the northern ridge of Samaria Gorge. In the balcony of the refuge, we can catch a glimpse of Cretan wild goats (kri-kri), a unique subspecies of wild goat which exist only in Lefka Ori, with its stronghold in Samaria. Look out for big raptors also (golden eagles, bearded and griffon vultures) as this area is one of their breeding grounds. 26 km, 16 miles
Day 6: Agia Roumeli.
Our trek down the Samaria Gorge just might prove to be the highlight of your Crete experience. Reputed to be Europe’s longest gorge, Samaria is perhaps Greece’s finest national park. You’ll encounter rare wildlife, cold fresh water springs, narrow cliff walls only 3 meters (10 feet) wide in places and the abandoned Samaria village are a few of the marvels that make this 18 km (11 miles) ravine Crete’s most beloved hiking trail. We end up in the small isolated village of Agia Roumeli where we overnight. Agia Roumeli is one of the two settlements in Crete (and most probably Southern Europe) where there is no connection of any kind to a road.
Day 7: Hania.
We follow the E4 footpath (Europe hiking system) along a dramatic route sandwiched between the incandescent Libyan Sea and mountain cliffs. The trail is pure nature with no villages between Agia Roumeli and Loutro. Watch for the falcons above! Shortly into the hike is lovely Agio Pavlos Byzantine church sitting smack on the beach as if it fell from the heavens. Loutro is another settlement inaccessible to motor vehicles. Nearby are Roman and Byzantine ruins and Sweet Water Beach, so named from the fresh water springs seeping from the rocks. We transfer to Hania for our farewell dinner.
Day 8: Departure.
Also see tour packages in:
Europe Greece Outdoor: Land Rambler Bicycle Touring Cultural Journey