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Chania-Paleohora-Sfakia Itinerary Help, Please!

Raleigh, North...
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Chania-Paleohora-Sfakia Itinerary Help, Please!

Hi, again everyone!

I'm close to booking our (approximately) two week trip to Crete in mid-May, and I'd appreciate some more advice as I hammer out a rough itinerary.  

We've been around mainland Greece before, and have spent several wonderful days in Athens already.  We do want to linger in Athens long enough to visit the new Acropolis Museum (it was not yet open when we last visited!). 

We'll most likely fly to Athens from the States, spend a day/night there, and fly to Crete (hopefully to Chania).  I suppose we may decide to take the night ferry from Pireaus to Chania instead.   If connecting to Chania isn't easy, we'll go through Iraklion.  This could save us time later by along us to visit Knossos & the Arch. Museum early in the trip, I suppose, but for the sake of argument, let's assume Chania will be our port of call. 

We will have a rental car (I'm assuming we'll pick it up in Chania). 

Any feedback on the following very, very preliminary itinerary is encouraged!:

• Arrive in Athens (1 night)

• Arrive in Chania (?), drive via the Voukoliés route to Paleohora (3 or 4 nights).  Day trips by car, lots of hiking opportunities along the coast and towards Irini, etc.  

• Drive north via Fournés to Chania (5 nights).  More day trips to the pennensuilas & beaches, lots of strolling through Old Chania.  

• Drive south to Chora Sfakion, safely park the car, grab our backpacks and walk to Loutro (3 or 4 nights).  This is the part of the trip that I'm most excited about: all the trekking opportunities around the Aradena/Anopolis/Finix area.  

• Walk to Ag Roumeli from Loutro and take the ferry back to Chora Sfakion, pick up the car and drive back to Chania (or Iraklion if that's our airport) for our flight back to Athens and then the USA. 

Potential problems with this plan are: can we fit in all the leisurely day trips we'd like?  I really would rather be "bored" while staring out at the Libyan Sea than feeling rushed.  I suppose we should prioritize our touring opportunities & only then decide if Preveli, Archanes, Argyroupolis, or even Knossos can feature into our plans.   Also, it would be nice to take our car on the ferry from Paleohora through to Chora Sfakion, but I've read that this may not be feasible?  So that's why I figured on inserting 5 nights back in Chania between Paleochora & Chora Sfakion/Loutro.  

Is this schedule sensible?  Thanks in advance for your input!  

Raleigh, North...
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1. Re: Chania-Paleohora-Sfakia Itinerary Help, Please!

Whoops, looks like I can't edit my previous post on my iPhone... I should make it clear that we'll be STAYING IN each destination for 3, 4 or 5 nights, NOT taking 5 nights to drive there!

Washingon DC area
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2. Re: Chania-Paleohora-Sfakia Itinerary Help, Please!

There was a way to get cars from Paleochora to Chora Sfakia last summer, but the ferry was shut down due to some licensing problems - I think it had something to do with fraudulent documents.

Yours looks like a very sane itinerary. You should have plenty of time to hike or explore nearby beaches and towns and be back at your hotel balcony to enjoy the spectacular views of the sea.

Windsor, United...
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3. Re: Chania-Paleohora-Sfakia Itinerary Help, Please!

It looks good to me, you are not trying to pack too much in. The walk along the coast is beautiful but do take plenty of water with you. Please note there is little shade from the sun along the way. Even in mid May it can be hot.

London, United...
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4. Re: Chania-Paleohora-Sfakia Itinerary Help, Please!

I think your itinerary needs a little tweaking.

Since what you're most excited about (rightly) is your time in the area of Loutro, I think you should spend as much time there as possible, and cut down on your time in Paleochora and Chania. The hiking around Loutro is the most exciting and rewarding in Crete, but with only three or four nights (two or three days) you will only be able to get a taste of them. A full week would not be too long there, but I think you should plan for at least five days.

This area, right at the foot of the Lefka Ori, is the most rewarding for coastal and hill walks in the whole of Crete. Paleochora, although a very nice place with some good walks in the area, is well away from the high mountains and the walking, though nice, isn't nearly as exciting. And although I love Chania, the walking in the surrounding area and on the Akrotiri peninsula is not as as interesting as in the area around Loutro. The best beaches are on the south coast and the best swimming is in the Libyan Sea, especially the beaches and the sea in Sougia and Agia Roumeli.

Something else that strikes me is that you're going to be leaving your rental car parked for most of your two weeks. Most of what you describe could be done by bus. And without a car to tie you down, you would be able to make better use of the south coast ferries. The entire coast between Paleochora and Chora Sfakion - especially between Sougia and Agia Roumeli - is spectacular and unmissable, but unless you can take the car on the ferry (doubtful in May - the ferry situation may not be clear until later in the season) you will miss most of it.

If you were to switch your time in Chania to the beginning or end of the trip, you could, if you still wanted to, hire a car for the days you will be in Chania (and possibly Paleochora) and do the rest of your travelling by bus and ferry. This is worth considering, especially if you take my suggesting of spending more time in Loutro.

Just a couple of things to add to the mix, that you would enjoy and might be sorry to have missed. You're planning to walk the coast between Loutro and Agia Roumeli: a good decision, it's a great walk, one of my favourites. I think you should also consider spending a couple of nights in Agia Roumeli. When the hordes of gorge-walkers have left on the ferries, it is a quiet, traditional village, a wonderful place to walk and swim. The beach is, next to Sougia's the best, and the swimming is wonderful. But my main reason for suggesting this is that it would give you the opportunity to walk up the Samaria Gorge. The gorge is a very special place, with a great variety of nature, plant, bird, and animal life: it is deservedly one of Crete's two top tourist destinations. If you were to walk up in the early morning, you would have it to yourself until around 11 am when you'll start meeting a few people who are on their way down. With an early start, and if you are reasonably fit, you can get at least halfway up to the deserted village of Samaria, and if you're really fit probably even further, before returning to Agia Roumeli.

You mentioned "Irini" in connection with your stay in Paleochora. If you mean the Agia Irini gorge, it is definitely worth a day of your time. You can take the bus from Paleochora, walk down the gorge to Sougia, and take the ferry back to Paleochora (or on to Agia Roumeli). A car would be a handicap - you would have to drive to the head of the gorge and take a taxi back up to collect it.

But my main point is: spend more time in Loutro. If you decide to do this, I can give you some ideas about walks, but this is already long enough.

Edited: 27 February 2012, 02:55
London, United...
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5. Re: Chania-Paleohora-Sfakia Itinerary Help, Please!

I've just read your post again, and looked back at your profile to discover that we've already talked about your trip - last week with regard to car parking and last September when you were just starting to plan. Hello again.

You've only got two weeks, not the three you originally hoped you'd have, and that being the case, I can't see where or when or how you're going to fit in Archanes, Argyroupolis, Preveli, or Knossos: what you've already planned adds up to two weeks.

I can understand the temptation to pack in as much as possible when you're coming all the way from NC, but I would really urge you to let go of the above, and concentrate on the coast and hills between Chora Sfakion and Paleochora, especially the area around Loutro. If you try to squeeze anything else in you'll cut too deeply into your time for doing what you say you are most excited about. Best to save everything west of Chora Sfakion for another trip, and resolve to come back to Crete as soon as you can.

Be warned, though: I can almost guarantee that once you've been bitten by the southwest coast, it will be hard to tear yourself away. I've been trying for the past 20 years - but fortunately I had explored a good deal of the rest of Crete before I settled down in Sfakia.

Having re-read everything now, I am fairly sure that you don't need a rental car for most of your journey: it will be a handicap at times, and an unnecessary expense. The public bus system is excellent, and if you follow my suggestion of spending your time in Chania at the beginning or the end of the trip, you'll save yourself a lot of unnecessary backtracking when you could be walking in the hills or swimming in the sea.

Edited: 27 February 2012, 03:52
Raleigh, North...
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6. Re: Chania-Paleohora-Sfakia Itinerary Help, Please!

Thanks for the wonderful feedback, Alabastron (and everyone else). There's plenty of decisions to make, and you've given me much to think about. Regarding the car, my wife is not as keen to "backpack" our way around SW Crete as I am. So I'm trying to strike a balance between easy going (where she can totally relax) and more adventurous outdoor activities. I do hear what you're saying about the car as a handicap, Alabastron. That's been my ongoing concern. Your thoughts about spending time in (I do hate the term "doing," don't you?) Chania first or last are very sensible. We'll have to consider the rental car issue a bit more. Thanks again!

London, United...
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7. Re: Chania-Paleohora-Sfakia Itinerary Help, Please!

You're very welcome, relayer.

When you've had a chance to think about it do come back and I'll be glad to help further.

I understand your wife's concerns. I wouldn't care to carry all my things on my back for two weeks either. But for the walks you'll be doing you need only a small day pack: everything else can stay in your hotel room. The way you've planned it, in two or at most three south coast centres, that is perfectly do-able. My own trips to Crete are usually spend moving down the coast by ferry, from Loutro to Agia Roumeli to Sougia, spending several days in each and doing walks from them.

Yes, I do very much dislike the term "doing". Apart from when applied to walks. :-) You can't "do" places.

Illinois City...
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8. Re: Chania-Paleohora-Sfakia Itinerary Help, Please!

Dear Sir, i visited Chania and Paleochora February 19th 2012, i arrived and planned to go there, i stayed for 3 nights in Paleochora and after i drove all possible roads leading to Loutro, Sfakia region villages and all far southern beaches, i didnot have the chance to swim to all of them but swam in Loutro the day i passed.

It is important to know an ordinary car will not make it! the route is steep and the roads are with many curves, danger is infront of every turn, local drivers are driving uncarefully! you can hire a car type 4wd, just like the one i hired from a local agency, athenscars.gr, a Suzuki jimny 4wd, hard top with new tires.

Alabastron explained briefly a car is useless, unless you really need this vehicle for an emergency! iam sure there are chauffer services as well one way rentals to the places you will be visiting. Iam glad i tell my opinion about a place i loved and surely will visit in future! Terence, Il, USA

London, United...
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9. Re: Chania-Paleohora-Sfakia Itinerary Help, Please!

I'm sorry, but I have to correct the information in Terry C's post.

There is no road to Loutro. There is a road from Anopolis to Livaniana, Finix and Likkos, which began life about 15 years ago as an unsurfaced track but has been tarmacked in the last few years as far as Livaniana. It does not go to Loutro (unless local opposition to it has been overcome since last summer - not something of which I am aware).

That particular road is mainly for local use, and has been a boon to the people of the Sfakian villages, especially in winter, enabling them to get to Chania via Anopolis to shop, go to the doctor, hospital, etc, without having to depend on the almost non-existent ferry service. It is NOT a road for tourists to drive on. So if you do hire a car, relayer, don't think you can use that road: even in a 4x4 it would be difficult and slow-going.

All the other roads that you might use during your trip if you had a car are well surfaced and perfectly all right as long as you exercise normal care, so don't be frightened off driving in that part of Crete if you do hire a car.

London, United...
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10. Re: Chania-Paleohora-Sfakia Itinerary Help, Please!

Relayer - here are a few links to help in your planning:

http://loutro.gr/

www.agiaroumeli.com/

www.sougia.info/

http://thepaleochorasite.com/

...and this one, which is a terrific source of information for all things west Crete. Just follow the links:

http://www.west-crete.com/