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Wild Crete

The mountainous region Sfakia of in the south-east of the island of Crete in Greece., located in the Chania region. Known for its proud and fiercely independent people, this is a heartland of Crete, with a tremendous history. 

About Sfakia

The area is made up of rugged rocky mountains and gorges, steep hills and valleys and a steep, cragged coastline to the south. Away from mass tourism, the transport here is by ferry.

Samaria Gorge at startSamaria Gorge

Chora Sfakion or Sfakia CreteChora Sfakion

To get to Χώρα Σφακίων, travel from Chania town to the 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.

Statue of DaskalogiannisDaskalogiannis

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.

Hiking, Local Customs & Ghosts

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 beach side village, was once a strategic defense 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 Greece

Loutro Village, (above) is a tiny seaside village of Sfakia accessible only by hiking or by boat.

Sweetwater Beach (image by yatmandu)Sweetwater Beach - between Chora Sfakion and Loutro

Samaria Gorge

  • Samaria Gorge is within the Sfakia region; on the mountainous and gorge areas can be seen extraordinary wildlife such as vultures, eagles and the native Kri Kri goats, see more on our nature pages.
  • More on the Samaria Gorge Walk here.
  • The walk is open from May to October only and can be closed if there is heavy rain.
  • The gorge walk can end or start at the small village of Agia Roumeli.
  • Take an organised Samaria tour - more info here.
  • You can walk the gorge independently, if you have a bit more time. To take the bus to this region from Chania, you need to change at Vryses. At certain times of the year, there are only a few local buses to Chora Sfakion so check the timetable carefully.

More day trips to Samaria below - with all the transport and logistics taken care of:

Imbros Gorge

A shorter walk than Samaria, this lesser known canyon is just as beautiful. Take a hike downhill over rocks and between steep cliffs. Imbros Gorge walk is 8 km and runs from the village of Imbros, south of the Askifou Plateau, to the village of Komitades, near the south coast.

Make the trek independently or choose a local guided experience, below.

Experience Imbros Gorge with a local guide

Imbros Gorge and Libyan Sea Day Tour - this is a delightful day of contrasts exploring Sfakia in nature. Take the walk with an experienced guide, relax at tavernas for lunch, then swim in crystal clear waters. 9 hours.


Many visitors come to Sfakia to take the south coast ferry to the small inaccessible beaches and villages that dot the coastline, or to take the ferry to the island of Gavdos.

The south coast ferry is run by Anendyk SA - see timetable information below.


Below we suggest some accommodation in the Sfakia area:

  • Chora Sfakion
  • Frangokastello
  • Loutro
  • Agia Roumeli

The Livikon Hotel is handy to the centre of the village and the port, with its own taverna by the bay.
Livikon Hotel Chora Sfakion

In Chora Sfakion you can stay the night before or after your ferry ride to the southern beaches. Livikon by the Sea is handy to the centre of the village and the port, with its own taverna by the bay.

"The room was really nice. It was lovely to listen to the sea all day. Location is also good, and we really liked the town itself - peaceful and charming. Outdoor furniture could have been more comfortable, but it works. Staff were helpful!"

Mylos Seaside Experience Frangokastello
Mylos Seaside Experience Frangokastello

Mylos Seaside Experience - right on the water in Frangokastello with views to the castle. Enjoy your own little bit of history with the historic windmill and beautifully restored rooms. Budget prices and wide open spaces.

"What a wonderful place ! Quiet, clean & the ocean literally at your feet."

Villa Niki Loutro
Villa Niki Loutro Crete

In Loutro we suggest Villa Niki just a little back from the water with views from the balcony rooms, quiet with a garden, away from the tavernas, yet very close to wander around this magical village.

"Exceptional. A beautifully furnished studio, equipped with everything you need for your stay. Hosts are responsive and the view from the balcony is amazing!"

Gigilos Hotel by the beach, Agia Roumeli
Agia Roumeli Gigilos Hotel
This is the budget symbol on We Love Crete

In Agia Roumeli, Giannis and Andreas Tzatzimakis run the Gigilos Hotel and restaurant in the village. Great location right on the beach. Relax here before or after your Samaria hike or hikes along the coast.

"After a long and difficult hike from Sougia we arrived in Agia Roumeli, the Gigilos hotel was an oasis for us! the owners are friendly and welcoming! The room was clean with a balcony and sea view."

Local Food

Once you are in Sfakia, try the local 'pies', delicious thin pancakes, with local cheese and mountain honey.

Sfakian pies with local honeySfakian pies with local honey

At the Dourountakis Bakery in Chora Sfakion you will find these local specialties and those who are crazy about them. Warning they can be addictive.

Try 'Sfakiano lamb' local lamb, mizithra cheese, fresh caught seafood and 'Cretan salad' or dakos. Get ready to taste local olive oil. Try mezedes or little plates - of everything! Try the local wild greens - horta - including stamnagathi. Ask for 'dopio fagito' or local food.

A very proud local speciality for food lovers is the Sfakiano giahni Σφακιανό Γιαχνί - slow cooked kid.

Don't forget to try one of the local delicacies - Snails in Rosemary - here called Chochlious boubouristous Xοχλιούς μπουμπουριστούς.

Snails in Rosemary - here called Chochlious boubouristous Xοχλιούς μπουμπουριστούς.

Videos of Sfakia

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.

Here you will see the cooking of Snails in Rosemary

Eftikis the Happy Traveller shows us around Sfakia

Exploring Sfakia

Loutro - the quintessential Greek seaside hamlet (image by by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho)

Loutro Village

Agios Pavlos Chapel on the south coast (image by Anne Deckel of Aori Walks)

Chapel on Agios Pavlos beach

Samaria Gorge (image by by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho)

Samaria Gorge

Imbros Gorge entrance (image by Graeme Churchard)

Imbros Gorge

Askifou Plateau Crete

Askifou Plateau

Getting Here

Take a 1 hour flight from Athens to Heraklion with Aegean Airlines or Olympic Air, with many flights available per day.

Or take a 9.5 hour overnight ferry from Pireaus port of Athens to Heraklion port.

More on flights and ferries below.

Car hire in Crete is a really good idea as it is a large island 60 km by 260 km. There is so much to explore.

When you book with our car rental partners - Rental Centre Crete - you are supporting a local company with excellent service and easy online booking. We are sure you will be well looked after by the team. Choose from hybrid, electric or regular vehicles.

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We trust you have enjoyed these tips from the We Love Crete team. Evíva!

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