Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sfakia: The authentic region of Crete

Sfakia, in the southwest of Crete, is the famous and most authentic region of Crete. Here you can find the last pieces of the old Cretan culture and nature, far away from mass tourism. Whether you are looking for the nice and quiet, on the natural beaches, or want to be active, with mountain hiking, swimming, diving and fishing: this is THE place! By the way, did you know Sfakia is Europe's southernmost part?

Nowadays Crete's main businesses are olive oil, wine and tourism. The latter is mainly centered along the North coast. The South West is sheltered from the masses by huge mountain ranges of over 2500 metres high. Only a few roads go south. There you arrive in a better climate region, even better than the Mediterranean climate! Since the mountains appear to sink directly in the sea, only small locations are suitable for villages. This scales down the possibilities for holiday resorts. Since Sfakia is quite remote, also the culture of their inhabitants is less business focused. Hospitality is still an art over here, with good tavernas, fresh fish and meat and very fair prices. The drinking water is mineral water from wells deep into the mountains. The natural beaches are wells of mountain rivers, with sweet water mixing with the sea. The best and most clear swimming water is here.

The hills and mountains are crossed by huge gorges; Sfakia's Samaria gorge is the biggest of Europe, but there are many more and all can be walked fairly easily. A ferry is connecting the villages along the South West coast; there is no noisy ongoing road. Directly from your hotel in Chora Sfakion, the small capital of Sfakia, you can start your daily programme: the beaches are only 25 meters away, more than 20 hiking routes start from here, all ferries come to Chora Sfakion and there is a good bus connection to the East and the North, by renovated 2 lane streets. You can also rent a car to explore the region, with its many small traditional villages.

In the evenings you have a choice of fine restaurants and tavernas, with local dishes of fresh fish, lobster, lam and goat or more international dishes. The Cretan wine is excellent and so is the olive oil and the Raki or Tsikoudia, as they call it: a tasty spirit made from the remains of the wine production. The Sfakians like to join you at your table and tell their stories or listen to yours. For disco and night clubs you have chosen the wrong place.

When you arrive by plane on Crete, you have the choice of 2 airports: Heraklion and Chania. If you have the chance, take Chania. This one is far more close to Sfakia, but even more important: it's small and quiet: check out is very quick and outside you can take the local bus, a pre-ordered taxi from Sfakia or rent a car. A one-and-a half hour's drive through the impressive White Mountains range down south brings you to paradise!