Natural, Wild and Rugged Beauty in Sfakia, Crete.

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In Chora Sfakion, the harbor village and capitol of the very wild and rugged area of Crete known as Sfakia, time passes slowly and is marked by the arrivals and departures of a majestic ferry boat named Daskalogiannis.  Located South of Chania, Sfakia is one of the most barren and rugged areas of Crete. It is a mountainous area famous for the Lefka Ori or “White Mountains,” so named for the white limestone peaks that shine in the summer and are covered with snow in the winter.

Sfakia port and village at Crete island in Greece.

It appeals to visitors who like natural beauty and a craggy topography; it appeals to those who like to hike gorges, go deep sea diving or snorkeling, and swim in “sweet” water. If you like the challenge of hiking gorges and if you treasure peace, quiet, and solitude in an unspoiled setting of natural beauty where “the mountains meet the sea,” this is the place for you.   This very descriptive phrase was written by Xan Fielding in his book, The Stronghold, describing the four seasons of Crete; it is frequently quoted in guidebooks to describe Sfakia.

The unique character of Sfakia has been immortalized by an artful photographer named Wolfgang Kistler who has been taking pictures here for more than thirty years.  For Mr. Kistler, Sfakia is “the hub of the world.”  When he began his photographic odyssey of Greece, he saw and took pictures of most of the inhabited Greek islands, (estimates on how many are inhabited vary according to the source) which he found  “marvelous, archaic, beautiful, fascinating,” but every trip ended in Sfakia.  Please visit his web site at http://www.wkistler.de/

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On Mr. Kistler’s web site, you will find thousands of photographs.  Exciting additions are those taken in Sfakia during World War II of the German occupation and the fabled Cretan resistance.  He and a friend discovered the archival material in Germany in Bundesarchiv Koblenz.  A web cam that records the daily arrivals and departures of the Daskalogiannis ferry can be found at www.webcam-crete.com.

Locals call the White Mountains “Madares,” sometimes translated as “nude, or “without coverage,” or “a barren place.”   There are many tall peaks and the largest is said to be Pachnes, rising to 2,453 meters.

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Chora Sfakion makes an outstanding base for hikers and, according to two different web sites, approximately twenty different hiking routes start from here.  One guidebook on display on a table outside the Lefka Ori Hotel in the village describes nine magnificent hikes of varying degrees of difficulty; the text is interspersed with very attractive color photographs.

The most famous hike in Sfakia, however, is the incomparable and world-renowned Gorge of Samaria, which some say is the largest in Europe.  Located in the National Park of Samaria, the gorge is 16 km in length, more or less, and is one the longest in Europe.  It begins on the plain of Omalos and ends at the Libyan sea in Agia Roumeli.

The "Hora Sfakion" area at Crete island in GreeceHikers use Chora Sfakion as a base.  Its bay is small and horseshoe shaped and there are only 400 full-time residents.  Although it is relatively small and compact, there is a nice selection of places to stay, ranging from one modern hotel that has a lift to very basic and simple “rooms.”   The food served by the various tavernas is excellent and the chefs excel in preparing vegetarian dishes with fresh produce grown locally; the fish comes from the boats of the local fishermen.

You will also find a potent drink made from the skin of the grapes called raki (also called tsikoudia) served at the tavernas; it is a complimentary drink offered with desert.   You can buy gift bottles of this in the shops to take back to friends, but be aware of what size bottle the airline will permit you to carry on board.  My large bottle purchased as a gift was confiscated at customs, and I almost wept as I saw it being looked at with desire by the attendant and then reluctantly thrown into the round cylinder. I wondered if he would retrieve it later and I hope he did!!

It is very peaceful and serene and you will never hear music coming from any of the shops or tavernas.  This is because a number of years ago business owners voted to ban music so quests would hear only the sound of gently splashing waves, and in the very warm months, a chorus of cicadas.  The cicadas make their distinctive trilling sounds as the waves splash gently on the harbor.  Your senses will be soothed by this gentle lullaby.

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Aurelia lives on one of the Greek islands for two months of every year. Read more about Aurelia on our About Us page!

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