Discovering Southwest Crete
It’s by far the largest but also one of the Greek islands that never really appealed to me – mainly because of its party reputation. I needed to prove myself wrong and discover the best that Crete has to offer. And that is exactly what I found.
I was planning to take the boat from Santorini which takes about 2,5 hours but my boyfriend thought it would be a better plan to fly over there with a small propeller plane. History was repeating itself because last year a swore I would never step into a propellor plane again…Yes, I cried. Again. The good thing is that it only takes about 20 minutes to fly and it cost about the same, if not cheaper than the boat would. The boat from Santorini only leaves in the evening which means you lose a whole day in Crete. I had no time to lose as I only had 4,5 days left.
Once arrived, we rented a car. Needless to say, this is a must in crete if you want to visit the best parts. From the airport (Heraklion) we drove past the coast towards Rethimno and continued our way towards the southwest. One of the main reasons that I wanted to see this part of Crete, is because of it’s amazing scenery, a lack of tourist and lot’s to tell you guys about! When you drive towards the southwest, you will be surprised about how green Crete can be!
I always get hungry when I travel so after about 2 hours, we stopped along the coast and found a taverna next to a very nice and quiet beach. Looking at the menu, I immediately noticed that the food on there was very authentic. Everything was home cooked like; Briam, Moussaka or fresh Calamaris.
After this nice stop, we kept on driving until we descended all the way across crete towards the south coast. Passing a lot of small villages and even a huge clove, we arrived in Chora Sfakion. This town was perfect for what I was looking for. I had no accommodation booked, so we looked around and after only 10 minutes I made a deal for a suite (including a shared swimming pool) for 40 euro’s per night for 2 people. Wow, this was a huge difference compared to Mykonos, Santorini and even Folegandros. With this thought, I walked down to the village where you will find 2 small beaches, a harbour and a street full of lovely restaurants. Greece has a thing for bakery’s and Chora Sfakion had the cutest I had seen so far. Definitely buy your bread here. A Must try in Chora Sfakion » Sfakion Cheese & Honey Pie. It’s a speciality that every restaurant in town serves. I had mine for breakfast and the nice thing is, that they use local honey that taste so goooood.
My favourite restaurant in Hora Sfakion: Lefka Ori
Around Chora Sfakion:
15 km east of Chora Sfakion lays a 14th-century Venetian fortress, but there’s also a wide, white-sand beach beneath the fortress that gradually into shallow warm water, making it ideal for kids. Development has been kept to a minimum with most accommodation set back from the shore, leaving the natural beauty largely untouched. In summer, occasional concerts and folk dance performances are held. I was lucky to get an invitation from a local (we keep encouraging this kind of contact!) and enjoyed a traditional Cretan dance performance inside the castle.
On the western side of Sfakion lays the cute bay village Loutro. The only way to get here, is by boat or by foot. You have a few options; taxi boat, a small ferry, rent a small boat or hike the 7km trail. I chose the small ferry which departs daily from Sfakion’s small harbour. A return ticket cost about 10 euro’s per person and takes 15 min. The absence of cars and bikes on Loutro makes it quiet and peaceful. You will find taverna’s and a few shops. You can rent boats, waterbikes or opt for a canoe like I did. This way you can explore nearby beaches like sweetwater beach and enjoy the turquoise sea.
Tip » Bring some sunscreen and a plastic bag to put your belongings in.
Europe’s longest clove (16km) is very near to Chora Sfakion and if you’re a enthusiastic hiker, you must have heard of it. More than 170,000 hikers, walk the Gorge each year and it’s one of the most populair things to do in Crete. At wander-lust we always try to discover the area’s that are a little less crowded so I hiked her little brother, the Imbros Gorge. This one is only 11km long and after about 5km you will reach its most narrow part at only 1.60 meters wide. Most people leave their car at the top and walk down, but I did it the other way round. Once you reach the top, you can walk down again or you can take a taxi or bus. It’s an easy walk but it’s always best to wear trainers and bring plenty of water.
Chania (old town)
Driving up north west, you will find Chania. Ok, it’s not next door to Sfakion (about 1 hour), but it’s a great place to visit when you make your way back up the mountain and that’s exactly what we did. The old town lays next to the old harbour and looks amazing. Don’t be tricked by the seaside restaurants as they overcharge you but walk inside the walls and you will be able to find cute coffeehouses, restaurants and shops.
Off the Beaten Track Crete
Crete is so big, that it’s impossible to see everything. I wish I could have visited a lot more places such as a very special island called: Gavdos. This island is about a 1,5 hours boat trip from Chora Sfakion and it has been said that it’s a true hippie experience. If you liked the book or the movie The Beach, you will love Gavdos. People walk around naked, have campfires, sing songs and stay there for weeks. But I guess I have to wait a little longer before I can cross that one of my bucketlist. Until then I hope you find these tips useful and experience the best of Crete. Just like I did.
In total, I visited 5 islands and I did it in 14 days and I spent 1200 euro’s. To find out which islands I visited and what I did, read all the articles below.