If you take a look at Crete on a world map, you’ll immediately be fascinated by the enormous diversity of the Cretan landscape. As a hiker, you will find almost all conditions for a successful hiking holiday:
Several mountains ranging up to 2,450 meters in height, long seemingly endless sandy beaches, high plateaus that offer wide views and an east-west orientation of 254 km. The unique landscape of rocks, green meadows and forests, deserted paths and towering mountains can be explored and admired in a guided hiking group or individually on your own. Thereby the hospitality of the Cretans is one of the wonderful characteristics of this fun-loving people, which makes a hiking trip for families with children, couples, single travelers and seniors an insider tip for a diversified holiday.
We have selected the most beautiful hiking routes through the Greek island and will tell you what to look forward to on a hiking holiday in Crete.
Sunkissed landscape – what is so special on the Greek holiday island of Crete
The mountainous island of Crete is one of the sunniest in all of Greece and also one of the most beautiful thanks to its scenic contrasts. Therefore, it is not surprising that the rough wild Mediterranean island of Crete, crossed by deep gorges, rugged peaks and towering mountains, is a real paradise for hikers, climbers, mountaineers and all trekking fans. The Greek island of Crete can be perfectly explored during day trips, along circular trails and long-distance hikes. For experienced as well as inexperienced hikers and mountaineers, the island offers easy to difficult hiking trails and paths waiting to be discovered. These mostly stony, uneven hiking routes are often still unused or only walked by shepherds. You will have the opportunity to explore the area individually, join a group hike, take part in an organized one-week hiking tour or participate in a guided hike with a professional and trained guide.
Some of the most beautiful hiking trails on Crete
Hike through the gorge of Samaria
With its length of 13 kilometers, the Samaria Gorge is the longest gorge in Europe and one of the most popular all over the world. It is located in the Samaria National Park in the White Mountains of West Crete. Not for nothing numerous hikers, climbers and trekking fans annual dare through the mix of narrow valleys and steep mountain slopes, because of its breathtaking natural spectacle. Over a total of 16 kilometers the famous long route through the gorge of Samaria offers an exciting hiking trail on well-developed footpaths from a height of 1.230 meters down to the Lybian Sea to Agia Roumeli. However, due to the changing weather conditions the gorge is only open from the beginning of May to the end of October and can’t be walked after dark. Though the crossing of this route costs an entrance fee of 5 €, you will find toilets, bins and sources along the path where you can fill up your water supply. Guardians will wait at several positions helping you out during your stay, if you are hurt or have difficulties with the paths to be walked.
Hiking tour along the European hiking trail E4
A hike on the European hiking trail E4 amounts over 10,000 kilometers and leads to Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Crete. On the Greek island of Crete, the hiking trail E4 passes from Chrisoskalitias in Western Crete to Zakros in Eastern Europe and vice versa. Most of the scenic changing hiking trails can be reached by foot or by boat. On the hike you are awaited by easy to difficult stages, many climbs and descents, olive trees, coastal paths, cedar forests, screes, gravel roads, asphalt roads and small sandy beaches. The most popular short-day trips with about 55 kilometers of hike within four days, are from Sfakia via Glyka Nera, Loutro, Phoenix, the gorge of Aradena, Marmara Beach, Agios Pavlos, Agia Roumeli, Sfakia, Imbros Gorge to Kokkini Hani as well as the walking route starting from the gorge of Samaria to Agia Roumeli, Sougia, the gorge of Agia Irini, Sougia, the gorge of Lissos, the excavations of Lissos and to Paleochora. Thereby you will also pass by many places of interest such as chapels and churches, discover numerous wonderful coves and enjoy the beautiful view of the blue sea.
Archaeological hike at the gorge of Mesonas
On this adventurous hiking tour, you won’t only gather countless impressions of the many natural faces of the Greek island, but will also follow the historical tracks of Crete and discover ancient archaeological excavations and old resting places. This five- to seven-hour and ten-to-fourteen-kilometer day hike takes you along ancient places such as Kastro, Vrontas and Azoria, letting you dive deep into the history of the island. The trail begins in the Greek village of Kavoussi, leads through the gorge of Mesonas and ends at the beach of Tholos, which invites to a refreshing bath in the Mediterranean. On your hiking trail, you will meet various types of trees, wild sage, thyme, spurge and a great number of birds. The ruins of an ancient house, an ancient water system, waterfalls and water basins, the church of the Virgin Protoseptemvriani and the oldest olive tree on Crete are found along the partly well-developed trails, partly paths difficult to find above and below the gorge of Mesonas. At the height difference of 626 meters, the mountain landscape offers you a beautiful view to the wide sea and the Gulf of Mirabello.
Interesting attractions on Crete
Crete, however, doesn’t only offer fantastic hiking trails midst the flowering and fragrant nature with a view to the Ionian Sea, but also offers a wide range of attractions and historical sites worth a visit. Make the most of your trekking trip on Crete so that you won’t miss the most beautiful cultural and natural treasures of the island. You should definitely visit the former leper colony Spinalonga and the Holy Trinity Monastery, a well-preserved monastery complex based in the north of Chania watching monks work. A one-time experience is also a trip to the beach of the turquoise lagoon Elafonissi with its pink sand stones – a unique color play of nature. However, we recommend to visit this place out of the mass tourism period in midsummer to really calmly enjoy the beach. Another highlight during your hiking holiday on the Greek island of Crete is a visit to the beautiful bay of Balos Lagoon, which turns into a romantic place especially at sunset. At the Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Center as well as in Reptisland animal lovers have the opportunity to marvel at sea dweller and hold reptiles in their arms. Also interesting is the small chapel Agios Nikolaos Chapel, which is located in the sea and can only be reached by a dirt road. Even the two caves of Cave of Zeus and Melidoni Cave are worth a visit, because they offer a unique spectacle of nature of stalactites and stalagmites. Last but not least, we can recommend a hike through the gorge of St. Anthony Gorge, where to walk through deep forests, bridges and rock formations.
Good travel times for an island hike on Crete
Year-round the Greek island of Crete offers a pleasant warm Mediterranean climate with warm to hot summers and mild winters. The maximum temperatures in the summer months from June to September are around 28 degrees Celsius, while the winter months December to February only achieve mild 16 degrees and offer a fantastic view of the snowcapped mountains. The best time to travel for a hiking trip on Crete are the spring months of April and May, when the island awakens from its winter sleep, its floridity flourishes again and its green bed covers the wintery ground. But even the autumn months September and October are excellent for an active holiday, when the temperatures slowly drop to mild 20 degrees and even the midday hours are no longer unbearable for a longer hike. The summers on the Ionian island are just as little to recommend for a hiking holiday due to the extreme heat as well as the winter months in which most hotels and taverns remain closed due to the remaining tourism and the island turns into a barren desert and snowy hills and mountains. However, adventure seekers are willing to accept these weather conditions and dare to go on an exciting hiking trip even in the deepest Cretan winter.
Important entry requirements
In order to travel to the Greek Mediterranean island of Crete, you need a valid ID or passport, which can also be provisionally valid. Children’s entries in their parents’ travel documents are no longer sufficient since June 2012, which is why they must have their own ID card. Although Crete isn’t said to be a contaminated destination, we recommend to check and if necessary make up your current vaccinations before your arrival. Important standard vaccinations are vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, mumps measles rubella, pneumococci, influenza and hepatitis A. For long-term stays, it is also advisable to be vaccinated against hepatitis B.
To help you find your way without a professional guide, we have also collected the best guides for your hiking trip on Crete.