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Crete Questions

My husband and I are traveling to Crete in July.

  1. We are planning on heading from Crete to Santorini. We will be in Chaina. Can we take a ferry to Santorini? or would we have to go to Heraklion first?
    I thought I had read that ferries also leave from Chaina, but now every time I try to look at ferry schedules it looks like ones only go to Santorini from Heraklion. Also, we would be leaving on a Sunday. Does public transportation run normally on Sundays?

  2. My husband and I like to hike, but we aren't extreme hikers by any means. (We don't hang off the sides of mountains or rock climb)
    We have been reading about the Samaria Gorge and Imbros Gorge. Are they easy to get to from Chaina using public transportation? or Are there organized day trips with a guide?

    We are leaning more towards Imbros at the moment because it is a shorter hike and we don't want to over do anything in the summer heat. Is there a big difference in one over the other? or is it mainly length?

  3. We'd also like to spend a day or two exploring a beach. We keep reading about Elafonsi. Is this easily accessible using public transportation from Chaina? or are there similar beaches closer to Chaina?

Thank you in advance for any advice you are able to offer!

Posted by
971 posts

We visited Chania a few years back an based on that, here are my insights.

  1. Yes there are only ferries to Santorini from Heraklion.

  2. We went on a hike in the Samaria Gorge. It was not a particularly difficult hike, but I could definately feel it in my legs the next day. We took a public bus from Chania to get to the start of the gorge and a boat/bus combo back. We just bought the tickets at the bus station the day before. It was fairly straight forward, just follow the heard. Also go as early in the morning as you can to avoid the worst of the mid day heat.

Posted by
963 posts

Hi Victoria -

Can’t advise about the ferries or beaches and transport to, but hiking the Samaria Gorge, although steeply stepped on polished stones here and there, is a very straightforward, if long, descent from the plateau above. Getting to the plateau might be the really difficult bit.

You may also want to take your waterproof (or otherwise!) sandals with you as there is one point where the gorge is really narrow - if memory serves it’s called ‘The Iron Gates’ - (EDIT: I double checked - more correctly it's just 'The Gates') - and you may have to paddle in the accompanying stream to get through.

The gorge levels out and ends at a small settlement on the beach (or rather it was small last time we were there) called Agia Roumeli and the only way out was by ferry to Loutro And/or Chora Safkion I think. We were in an organised group and were held up there overnight because bad weather meant the ferry couldn’t sail. We managed to get emergency overnight accommodation and spent much of the following day in the beach bar. We became very familiar with Pink Floyd’s ‘Pulse’ album, which seemed to be the only one they had!

The walk down the gorge was not dangerous or difficult though!


Posted by
1016 posts

Actually for the past couple of years Seajets has been running a ferry from Rethymnon to Santorini on Sat and last year Tuesday as well. If one of these is your travel day then you don't have to travel through Heraklion. Rethymnon is half way between Heraklion and Chania so it saves a good chunk of time. If you choose to take that ferry from Santorini to Rethymnon it arrives around 7:30 and you will need to rent a car or better take the local KTEL bus. We had an issue because the taxi fare was only 7 euros and no driver wanted to take us. We offered him 15 and we got our ride and managed to catch the 8am bus. Have 15 euros in your hand when you look for the taxi.
The one ferry that goes to Chania is an overnight from Athens no stop in Santorini.

Samaria gorge is very popular and is easy to do wither with an organized tour or on the KTEL bus plus the ferry at the end of the trip. My knees are shot and I could never even contemplate the 16 KM hike down the gorge. Its fairly steep decline over the first 600 meters. Imbros is much shorter and is reasonably flat. You are not likely to find an organized tour to Imbros so you need to get there by car or bus. hike down however your have to go to a taverna at the end of the hike and ask them to call a taxi for you to either get back tot he top to pick up your car or to a bus stop most likely in Chora Sfakion. Chances are the taxi will be in the back of a pick up truck. This is Greece.

Elafonisi can be reached by KTEL bus from Chania. Its about a 1.5 hour drive and the bus waits the day before making the return trip. Elafonissi will be very crowded in July. Another option would be to take the KTEL bus (or a charter tour that picks you up at your hotel. The tour is to Gramovossa and Balos. There are two good beaches on that excursion plus a 14th century pirate fortress you can climb up to.
Gramovossa, Balos and Elafonissi

If you want a unique experience take the bus to Sougia. Its a small village on the south coast of the Libyan Sea. It has a lovely (although pebbly beach) If you want to do that you need to book a hotel now as it is popular and there are not a great number of hotels so they can get full quickly. From Sougia you can take the coastal ferry to Agia Roumeli where the Samaria gorge terminates. You can do the hike up the gorge from there. Its fairly flat and you can easily make it to the Iron gates. Keep going and you will get to the final resting spot at Christos its quite peaceful until the crowds coming from the top arrive. You can take the ferry along the coast to Loutro and Chora Sfakion or just return to Sougia.
Ferry trip Libyan Sea
Crete Libyan Sea villages

For fun this is what you can expect in Chania.

Posted by
1199 posts

I think Imbros is appealing bc its less crowded but also harder to manage without a car. You would want to get to Hora Sfakion and take a cab or hitch to the trailhead, or drive to the trailhead and then hitch/cab back to your car. Hora Sfakion is very charming, so youcould spend a night there if you wanted to do that gorge. Otherwise the KTEL bus + ferry to/from Samaria trailhead. We went to Elafonissi in July and yes, very very crowded, and I wasn't a big fan. I wonder, esp. w/out a car, if Falasarna wouldn't be a better choice bc closer
We loved the Archeology museum in Heraklion where we only stayed for one night before ferry departure to Santorini...

Posted by
2897 posts

Stanbr and others have given very good advice ... I've experienced all these, but with limited use of a rental car:

• FERRY - That ferry from Heraklion is the least hassle, and I agree on the strategy of taking an afternoon bus there on Saturday - the wonderful museum's open late in July -- and enjoying a dinner near the causeway to the giant Fortress. A seafront room at a harborside hotel like Kronos is very handy.

• GORGE-WALK -- I did Imbros in mid-May and we almost had it to ourselves, maybe saw a dozen people; July of course would be different. Worth renting a car for the day especially in such hot weather, get car delivery the night before, to the free car park below Theotokopoulu street in Chania. .. then u can get early start, reach Imbros gate to begin your walk at 8:30 or 9 ... we didn't hustle, stopped for a picnic lunch midway, it still on ly took 4 hours, then a 1/2mile along a roadway to a taverna, where we paid some guy with a pickup €20 to take us back to our car. Imbros gorge is beautiful, I kept thinking of roast lamb, and realized it was the perfume of thyme bushes everywhere(!), near the end it narrows dramatically, with one spot where a long-armed basketball star might touch both sides. To me it resonated especially since i"d read how Cretans led British soldiers down this gorge to escape via sea, n Battle of Crete (and then sharpshooters picked off the Nazi pursuers). During the short walk at end, we were entertained by watching goats scale a completely vertical! cliff at the road's edge.

• BEACH -- Haven't been to Elafonissi, but have heard similar reactions to the midsummer crowding due to dozens of bus-tours. If you wanted a beach just to go to, and return to your Chania hotel, just to the West of Chania, there's a nice beach Chryssi Akti ... don't know how crowded it would be in July, due to hotels, but at least it's not as jammed with package-tourism hotels as some others. 2 friends & I had a wonderful experience at Falassarna beach in Late May, just a 50 minute drive from Chania. Two things to check in advance (1) this beach has an annual Festival sometime later in July (check later in spring for exact date) which attracts crowds; otherwise this very long beach never gets that crowded even july-August, according to TA reviews (2) check weather forecast, because a windy day can create large waves; also, for no waves, choose sheltered coves at N. end. One interesting option might be, cut Chania stay a bit short, rent that car & go stay 1 night in Falassarna .... Hotel Petalida at top of bluff overlooking beach has AMAZING sunset... and its owners also have fishingboat, serve their daily catch in their restaurant which is considered best seafood place in entire area. Then the next day u could spend driving North highway -- short stop in REhtymnon just for its FOrtezza then scram, also en route, the Memorable poignant Melidoni cave... then on to Bypass Heraklion to Knossos if u wish, and back to Heraklion for final Crete evening (see above).