MOUNTAIN HIKING

There ARE FEW PLACES IN THE WORLD WHERE HIGH MOUNTAINS SO CLOSE TO THE Sea combine with a perfect climate. This is a paradise for climbers, birdwatchers, botanists and nature lovers, but above all for walkers-whether on a brief stroll or a week-long hike.

A network of ancient footpaths and shepherd’s trails allows you to walk all day and barely see a soul. Yet, should you want to, you can always find a village and Cretan hospitality ensure that almost wherever you end up you will eat well and spend the night in comfort.

The daddy of Crete’s treks is the E4, the long-distance European footpath that traverses the island, taking in many of the highest peaks en route. To walk the entire length takes weeks, but there are plenty of sections that are easily accessible and you can hike for a few hours. Some of the best of these are in the southwest, where the path splits: one branch following the coast and another winding through the heights of the Lefka Ori; the magnificent Samaria gorge links two.

One striking feature of Crete’s topography is the sheer number of spectacular gorges that slash their way through the mountains. In addition to the Samaria, there are at least fifty more gorges in the Lefka Ori alone, many barely visited at all. On a hot summer’s day heading down a gorge is the ideal hike: you’re shaded from the sun’s ferocity, with an empty beach and a welcome swim to reward you at the end. Take your walk in to Cretan gorges with us and you have the makings of a perfect day.

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