The mountainous region Sfakia of in the south-east of the island of Crete in Greece., located in the Chania region.
The area is made up of rugged rocky mountains and gorges, steep hills and valleys and a steep, cragged coastline to the south.
Known for its proud and fiercely independent people, this is a heartland of Crete, with a tremendous history.
To get to Χώρα Σφακίων (right), travel from Chania town to the small leafy village of Vryses, then to the high Plateau of Askifou ringed by the White Mountains, then on through spectacular mountain and gorge landscapes as the road travels along the Imbros Gorge, then south to the town. The total journey is 70 km but it can take as long as you like, with plenty of stops to admire the views and take in the fresh mountain air.
This region is for sure-footed sheep, mountain goats and shepherds, it is very rugged, inhospitable and sparsely populated, the beaches in the south are inaccessible, the steep mountains plunge straight down into the sea.
Because of its fierce and impenetrable landscape, throughout history the region has been the sanctuary for rebel fighters and allied armies alike.
For four hundred years Crete was occupied by the Ottomans, however if you speak to a local they will remind you, that these people never capitulated to either the Venetian or Ottoman rulers, and mounted many rebel armies to fight for their independence during countless campaigns against them.
The most notorious rebel leader was Ioannis Vlachos, known as Daskalogiannis, born in the village of Anopolis, who mobilised the locals against the Turks in 1770. Without the promised outside help, the local forces were driven to surrender.
Daskalogiannis was skinned and hanged in proud silence in Heraklion in 1771, becoming a most remembered son of Crete. A memorial statue to the hero can be seen in his village of Anopolis, in the mountains.
During the second world war, many British and Australian troops owed their lives to the Sfakians, who helped them through the mountains, away from the fighting and to the southern beaches where they were evacuated by ship to Egypt.
In today's more peaceful times, the fierce independence still lingers, however visitors will be safe to visit the Σφακιά region, and especially enjoy the peace and quiet of the mountains and the remoteness of the beaches. Just don't insult anybody's mother in a hurry! Keep your respect for these mountain people and they will keep theirs for you.
Hikers love the vast and expansive scenery, whilst enjoying the many different ecosystems in the island of Crete, perhaps taking the 320 km trek along the European Walking Path E4, which passes through the White Mountains and this region.
Peter Trudgill is a long time visitor and lover of Sfakia who has written a book about his experiences, named In Σφακιά – Passing Time in the Wilds of Crete
Frangokastello, now a sleepy beachside village, was once a strategic defence location for the Venetians, who constructed a fort on its low lying peninsula. The fort was taken into many hands throughout the history of Crete, and now lies in ruins; a fascinating reminder of times past.
The intrigue of the castle at Frangokastello is deepened by the local stories of ghost sightings at a certain time of year.
Loutro Crete, is a tiny seaside village of Sfakia accessible only by boat...
To take the bus to this region from Chania, you need to change at Vrisses, buy a ticket in the kafenion, there are only a few buses to Chora Sfakion so check the timetable carefully.
Once you are in Sfakia, try the local 'pies', delicious thin pancakes, with local cheese and mountain honey.
Below is a beautiful video of the region...including the Lefka Ori, much of the beautiful scenery and wildlife of the region, such as the gorges, caves, wildflowers, the Omalos Plateau and more...