Family Crete Kayaking & Hiking
$2,295 (Under 18) Minimum Age 7
8 Days, 7 Nights
$2,295 (Under 18) Minimum Age 7
Adventures abound for active families on this trip in Crete. Exhilarating cliff-jumping, snorkeling, hiking and paddling through crystal blue waters provide an amazing multi-sport experience that your family will never forget. At the end of each fun-filled day, you enjoy a delicious dinner of tasty local foods the whole family will love, and then the sound of the waves against the shore lull you to sleep. This is a trip your family will never forget!
Youngest participant: 7 yrs.
Day 1: Our trip officially begins 10:00am on the first day of the trip at the Heraklion Airport where The Northwest Passage staff will meet you. From the airport, we will head to Knossos, the mysterious ancient Minoan palace just outside Heraklion. We will then enjoy a scenic drive acoss Crete down to the beach town of Matala on the south coast. There will be an optional kayak instruction session, and we'll enjoy welcome drinks while viewing the incredible sunset and make our introductions. Over our first delightful dinner together at an authentic Greek taverna, we will review the itinerary for the week and answer whatever questions you may have.
Day 2: After breakfast, we will outfit everyone with paddle, PFD and sprayskirt, then head across the street to the beach where we will offer basic kayaking instruction. The protected bay in Matala provides us with a perfect spot for instruction, surrounded by the famous caves - legendary homes to Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan and others in the 1960s. We will then paddle to two neighboring beaches, the Red Beach and Kommos Beach. After enjoying lunch and visiting the Minoan-era ruins at Kommos, we will paddle back to Matala for cliff-jumping into the bay and our highly recommended Sunset HIke. We’ll end the day with a great meal (as always) and a chance to experience the rousing night life of Matala.
Day 3: We’ll get an early start today in order to stop and visit the breathtaking site of the Minoan Palace of Phaistos on our way to the trailhead for the Samaria Gorge. The Samaria Gorge is a “must see” for every visitor to Crete; this incredible national park draws thousands of visitors each day. We have designed our itinerary to be able to experience the Gorge after the vast majority of hikers have already headed down. While most visitors to the Gorge rush to catch the last ferry, we will spend the night in Agia Roumeli, a charming and traditional town where the Gorge ends. We’ll celebrate our accomplishments with a wonderful dinner on the seaside terrace of our hotel on the beach, and we will fall asleep to the soothing sound of the sea. In the morning, we'll awaken to the gentle dinging of goat bells from the herds on the hillside.
Day 4: As the ascending sun brightens the cliffs along the bay, we will depart from Roumeli in our kayaks, heading along the coastline to Agios Pavlos for our cappuccino stop. The small 10th Century chapel built in honor of St. Paul is a remarkable site and traditionally wonderful photo opportunity. From Agios Pavlos, we’ll continue along the coastline to Marmara Beach, one of our prettiest lunch stops offering additional cliff-jumping opportunities from the wind-carved marble rocks. We then paddle to the water-access-only town of Loutro where we will spend two nights. Rounding the point to catch your first glimpse of this idyllic town has been a highlight of the trip for all past participants. We won’t ruin the moment by saying any more now- you’ll just have to see for yourself!
Day 5: Today is a day with multiple options. From Loutro, we may continue up the coastline to Sweetwater Beach where the freshwater springs bubbling out of the sand provide a unique experience. After stretching our legs, enjoying a refreshing swim and a cup of cappuccino, we can paddle on to Hora Sfakia for our lunch stop before paddling back to Loutro. There is also the option of a challenging all-day hike up into the traditional villages in the hills and descending through the beautiful Aradena Gorge before walking back to Loutro through ancient olive groves. Then we join up for another Sunset Hike to a uniquely beautiful spot on the coast, followed by dinner at one of the excellent bayside tavernas.
Day 6: You will have an option today to paddle to Hora Sfakia or to hike the trail which follows the coastline. We will then continue paddling or shuttle by van along the coast to the Venetian-era fortress at Frangokastello for a brief tour before continuing our journey along the coast to the town of Plakias. While not large by any standard, Plakias provides some upbeat nightlife and great shopping opportunities as well as the chance to visit one of our favorite bakeries on the island (the “Cretan Specialty” is another highlight of the trip!). Dinner is on your own tonight to give you a choice of the numerous restaurant possibilities in town as well as a chance to set your own schedule for the evening, including the chance to dance at local nightclubs. But remember it's an early paddling morning tomorrow!
Day 7: Heading out from Plakias, our next stop is Palm Beach, where native Cretan palms line a picturesque stream which joins with the sea. An optional short paddle up the inland freshwater creek provides a glimpse of river turtles, local birds, and dragonflies. Our lunch stop today is near Trio Petra beach, renowned for its beautiful rock formations. After lunch, we will paddle on to the beach at Agios Pavlos. At this point, you can opt to shuttle the last section or paddle the final 7-mile stretch (making total mileage for the day 18 miles!). In the evening, we will celebrate with a final dinner overlooking the harbor at Agia Galini.
Day 8: Those wishing to complete the paddling circle may choose to launch early in the morning and paddle across the bay from Agia Galini into Matala (approximately 8 miles in an open water crossing). Others will sleep a little later and van to Matala where we will have a brief stop to pick up any luggage you may have chosen to leave at the hotel, unload boats, and do any last minute shopping. The van will depart for Heraklion between 11 a.m. and noon, giving time for a visit the renowned Heraklion Archaeological Museum before catching late afternoon flights back to Athens. **This itinerary is subject to change. As with all adventure travel, some activities are dependent on appropriate wind and water conditions. But fear not -we have many alternative activities available in case the weather is not cooperative.
"What a magical week- exploring the glorious island of Crete, hiking, sea kayaking, swimming, eating...and more eating wonderful meals and making new friends. The 4 guides worked so hard to make this an even more amazing week for everyone. Our entire family had such a memorable week. Thanks to you all!
-Karen & Nick L.
"What a fabulous week! The time went by too quickly- it was wonderful watching our children take on new challenges and adventures. We especially enjoyed the opportunity to visit the lovely Cretan villages away from the tourist crowds- the best way to experience Greece. Thank you for a remarkable trip that we will never forget." -Keith E.
"Beautiful places, great water to paddle and excellent staff. They know how to make you feel good.”
"Lucky to have run into NWPassage at Canoecopia- best impulse buy ever! The guides were probably the most helpful people ever- hard to do anything for yourself! Always a choice of activities, as challenging or relaxing (or both) as you want. There is no better way to travel than with Northwest Passage.” -Theresa T.
"Had a great time. The fun meter was really spinning! Great new friends and a great vacation!” -Susan S.
"Had a great time- in fact, just not long enough so staying another week. The guides were excellent- attentive, fun, helpful, safety conscious. Great location, great scenery. A superior adventure travel company. Right balance of fun, organization and safety. Thanks!! Will see you again soon!” -Connie E
"The best organized, friendliest, most accommodating trip I have ever taken. Rick gets the exceptional hospitality and service from tavernas and hotels. Nancy solves every problem and shares her wealth of experience. Mike encourages, soothes, calms, and instructs paddlers to new experiences and growth-a wealth of talents, always friendly, always smiling! George shared his love of homeland and deep respect for humanity with us all. Thank you for giving us insight into your long history. Variety, options, individual tastes were all met. You make an intricately planned tour look easy-always smiling and offering assistance. We'll travel with you again!" -Linda A
“It was a wonderful experience- ‘cool’ and ‘cute’ no longer describe it well. Thanks for creating a week to remember and share with friends and family. Must think of a new word to capture this. The guides were completely without exception of the highest quality- Mike, Mike, Mike! I was completely happy with the diversity and flexibility of the itinerary- could not have been more accommodating. The challenge makes you feel good about yourself.” -Maureen M.
“This was a very special vacation with folks of all ages that were up for challenges of a lifetime. The mix of hiking, kayaking and the history of this beautiful island was perfect. The staff were the best!! Always available, knowledgeable, helpful, talented- excellent skills. Nancy, Rick and Mike are great leaders and George connected us to his wonderful island in a very special way. Many thanks for fulfilling another dream.” -Marilyn A.
"As the tour busses go by with large crowds, I am so grateful for our personal, delightful, challenging yet nurturing kayaking and hiking group. This brings the Crete people and land and heritage to very personal level. I couldn’t imagine any other way to go. Thanks.” -Linda D.
THE HISTORY OF CRETE
Crete lies at the crossroads of three continents, Europe, Africa and Asia. The largest Greek Island, Crete is the home of Europe’s earliest known civilization, the Minoans. The strategic position of Crete in the middle of the Mediterranean has led to an almost constant battle to control the Island from ancient times until the present century.
THE STONE AGE- 6000-2600 B.C.
Crete’s first inhabitants probably came from Anatolia in Asia Minor or possibly Africa. They were cave dwellers who eventually began to build simple huts from burnt clay bricks.
THE MINOANS (BRONZE AGE)- 2000-1400 B.C.
From about 2000 B.C. onwards the new immigrants with their higher degree of civilization join with the indigenous population to become the “Minoans”. A sophisticated society develops. Skilled craftsmen such as stonemasons, potters, metalworkers, jewelers and weavers are at work. Agriculture thrives. Metal tools replace stone. The society acquires a structure and hierarchy and palaces are built at Knossos, Festos, Malia and Zakros. The Minoans have a merchant fleet selling their wares throughout the Mediterranean with trading posts and colonies in places such as the Cyclades, Rhodes and as far afield as Asia Minor, Egypt and the East. Trade and not military power extends their Empire. Around the time of 1700 B.C. the palaces were destroyed, the most likely cause being an earthquake although some historians believe it may have been a tidal wave. The palaces were rebuilt even more splendidly and the society and culture continued to prosper. They were decorated with frescoes and were often on several stories with courtyards, wide staircases and complex plumbing and drainage systems. Art flourished with the rebuilding of the palaces, not just frescoes but sculpture including naturalistic human figures and animals have been excavated. As the craftsmen became more skilled so their wares changed. Beautiful pottery and stone vessels in many different shapes and designs and often decorated with local scenes dating from this period have been found. This flourishing, peaceful and wealthy society with its influence felt throughout the Mediterranean and beyond was not to last. A minor earthquake in about 1600 BC was the beginning of the decline. Complete destruction followed. Knossos survived but soon the Mycenean Greeks invade from the mainland and take over what is left of the Minoan society.
THE MYCENAENS- 1400-1100 B.C.
The Mycenaens dominate the Minoans and a hybrid of the two cultures develops. Crete is no longer the trading power it was and the Minoan dominance of the Mediterranean is at an end. The Mycenaens use weapons to defend themselves against the waves of Dorians who are coming to Crete after the Trojan Wars. DORIAN CRETE (IRON AGE)- 1100-480 B.C. The Dorians drive out the Mycenaens and form their own Class orientated society. The original Cretans tried to preserve their identity and formed settlements apart from the Dorians. They have become known as Eteo-Cretans (real Cretans). Crete became an Island of small independent states with no unified culture.
CLASSICAL AND HELLENISTIC CRETE- 480-67 B.C.
Crete becomes a shadow of its former Minoan glory. Used as a base for pirates the sea trade in the Mediterranean is disrupted. This, combined with the Island’s strategic position drew the Romans to Crete.
THE ROMAN AND BYZANTINE CRETE- 67 B.C.-1204 A.D.
After a couple of earlier abortive attempts, in 69 B.C. a successful Roman invasion took place. After two and a half years of fierce fighting, the Cretans surrendered to their fate. The Romans brought prosperity and a level of organization not seen since the Minoans. Large settlements with roads, irrigation systems and aqueducts developed. Agriculture flourished and Crete once again assumed an important position albeit within the Roman Empire.
St. Paul is thought to have brought Christianity to Crete in about 50 A.D. and there is a chapel on the beach at Agios Pavlos to commemorate his visit. Christianity spread rapidly across the Island but the early Christians were persecuted for their beliefs. At the end of the fourth century the roman Empire was split in two with Crete belonging to the eastern part belonging to Byzantium (Constantinople, Istanbul today). Although the many Churches built during this period with their elaborate frescoes testify to the prosperity of these times, the Island held an insignificant position in the scheme of things. There is soon a new threat to Crete. The rapidly developing Arab world is casting their eye in her direction. In 824 A.D. an Arab Saracen force invades the Island and meets little resistance. They use the Island as a base for attacks on shipping and are little more than pirates. For over a century they control the Island. The Byzantine rulers do little to help their colony until I 961 they drive out the Arabs ina huge and bloody battle which decimated the Cretan population and wipes out the Saracens. The island reverts to Byzantine rule and its flagging population is boosted by immigrants from the mainland and Byzantium. The Crusades were the first that brought the next of Crete’s rulers. Turning their might on Byzantium the Crusaders sack and burn Constantinople and the Empire is divided up. Crete is sold to the Venetian Republic for a small sum.