Jorgos the mountain guide
After two days on the beach, Guido had enough and wanted to experience something different. We drove inland and visited the Wild Nature Eco Camp. Jorgos, the operator, is a very experienced hiking guide. He has hiked through all 107 gorges of Crete and among other things creates official hiking routes for municipalities. Around his camp there are 47 elaborated routes with different levels of difficulty. We were the only guests at this time and experienced Jorgos very privately.
We spontaneously cooked together and the next day he took us to the Patsos Gorge. He was there with various officials to check safety and identify and eliminate risk factors. This also allowed us to explore the very difficult part of the gorge where climbing was required almost continuously. Unfortunately, there are no photos of this part because we left our clothes and smartphones behind. We needed both hands to climb and had to wade through deep water.
The full tourism drone
To get all the way to the southwest, you have to go northwest first and then south again from there. A connection from south to west is not possible because of an impassable mountain range. So we drove from Wild Nature Camp first via Chania to Kissamos, where we spent two days relaxing on a simple campsite. Following the advice of the campground operator, we set off the next morning before 7 a.m. to get to Balos beach. This bay is a tourist stronghold. It is offered by boats as a day trip and offers – about 20 minutes walk away – a parking lot for visitors who prefer to arrive by car.
Since the approx. 10 km long access road along the steeply sloping rocky coast is not suitable for normal cars, the approach with rental cars seems to be prohibited by the rental companies. We drove this road and reached the parking lot as the second vehicle. To get to the bay, you have to climb many meters and follow a very long staircase that winds through the steep rock. We enjoyed the turquoise water, bathed and sunbathed, and as the crowds grew, we left the beach shortly before 10 am.
Like an ant trail, the crowds made their way down the stairs. When we reached the parking lot, we couldn’t believe our eyes: Several hundred vehicles were parked there and the eye couldn’t see any free space. The fact that most of them were rental cars doesn’t need to be mentioned, does it? On the access road, we drove past queues of other cars that were still on their way. We were glad to have gone against the tide.
Off to the south
Our next destination was Paleochora. One of the two campsites there, Grammeno Camping, was highly praised on the Internet and the distance to Elafonissi, the tourist beach par excellence in Crete, seemed attractive to us. Grammeno is located about 4 km outside the town of Paleochora, while the second campsite is more attractively located if you want to visit the town. The size of the site and the overall impression prompted us to drive the 4 km to Grammeno.
We did not regret it and stayed three nights on this beautiful place. The site is located right on a varied bay and there were two or three smaller bars and tavernas in the area that you could visit if you wanted to. After our experience at Balos beach, we decided not to visit Elafonissi and instead drove along the coast back to Kissamos. At Falassarna Beach we stopped and spent the night in the parking lot next to the taverna. The bay was also very nice, but totally overcrowded. The next day we drove via Kissamos to Chania and from there to Rhetymno, where we stayed at the campsite Elizabeth. We were in the most touristy part of the island – the northwest to east is the main destination for international tourists.
A day trip to Vai
After an overnight stay in Rhetymno, we followed the main road eastward and wanted to take an early morning hike along the Richtis Gorge. Arriving near the gorge, we were surprised to find that the parking lot was completely full. Since there was actually no parking lot within a few kilometers, we decided at short notice to continue in the direction of Sitia. There, we visited the beach of Vai and the surrounding bays with their old cultural assets. We could swim there very nicely and we noticed the sign camping forbidden at the beach. In the east there is a strong wind. This is the territory of the windsurfers. We decided spontaneously to drive the approx. 90 minutes to Koutsounari and stay there until the end of our Crete round trip.
In total we spent eleven nights at the campsite in Koutsounari. Ariane got a visit from some friends from Switzerland and we spent a funny evening in the tavern Koyros. The total of six women came from Basel or the surrounding area. Guido was the cock of the walk, surrounded by 8 (in words: eight!) women 🙂
We spent the next few days relaxing on the beach and mainly took care of the local cats. Like everywhere in Southern Europe, animal welfare in Greece is written rather small and so there are many dramas to observe. In total we distributed more than 12 kg of fresh food and gave the hard cases medicine against mites and worms. For Western Europeans this is just hard to bear, no question. Two little kittens, the cat was about 12 weeks and the tomcat about 6-7 weeks young, would have been lucky if we had a home. Then we would have taken them for sure. Since this was not the case, we had to be tough and break their hearts. Life can be unfair, can’t it?
The round trip on Crete ended quietly and we got to know Hans-Peter and Gisela – a very nice couple from the Black Forest. With them we could talk a little personally on the last evening and had a wine together, before we took the ferry back to the mainland the next day. We enjoyed the last Cretan sunset and photographed the neighboring ferry, shortly before departure. What we experienced afterwards, we will tell next time.