There’s more to Crete than just great swimming, so we’ve put together some of our top tips for making the most of a visit to Greece’s largest island.
Take a hike
While the swimming off the coast of Crete is excellent, the coastal walks you’ll find here offer a great experience too. Crete is on the E4 hiking route, a continent-wide walking route that stretches the length of Europe and you’ll find some of its best parts on Crete’s southwestern coast. Some of the walks match up perfectly with our swims, so take the time to hike from the higher elevation and enjoy a completely different view of an area that you’ve also swum in! SwimTrek guide Lucia loved taking the chance to explore the route in between guiding on our Crete Discovery trip.
‘I loved exploring the E4 on my summer working in Crete. The route can easily be done in chunks, so perfect if you decide to take a few days extra to take in the views slowly.’ - Lucia
Another great hike is the full length of the Samaria Gorge. We visit the foot of the gorge on our Crete Discovery trip, but it is worth a separate return to take on the full hike. At 16km, it’s a full day trip, but the chance to enjoy the imposing cliffs alongside trickling streams and the forested stretches in the hills is well worth the effort.
Hop around the island
Chania Old Town
There’s plenty to see across the island of Crete. Why not head over to Paleochora in the southwestern corner of the island before your trip? Here you’ll find small sandy beaches underneath mountains that are dotted with lots of greenery. Or before heading south, spend some time wandering around the winding cobbled streets of Chania’s Old Town, where you’ll find a classic Mediterranean vibe and plenty of tiny restaurants and cafes to enjoy a glass of wine in warmth. And once you do reach the southern coast, ferries run to lots of tiny mountain villages, making beach hopping a breeze!
Being a curious explorer is part of being a SwimTrekker, so we know you love to hear about unusual places that worth visiting before or after your SwimTrek trips. If you can’t get enough of the beach and being by the water, take a trip to the remarkable Elafonisi beach. Situated on the southwest coast, the sand is tinged a light pink due to lots of tiny pink shells along the shore. The beach also provides shelter for loggerhead sea turtles, and though they’re often difficult to spot, it’s a very special sight if you do.
Closer to Chania, (and a good activity for the very beginning or end of your trip) is the wonderful natural site of Seitan Limania. Another remote sandy beach, this perfect sliver of turquoise water flows up to the high reaches of the rocky cliffs, and views from the top of the hill down juxtapose the colour of the water marvellously against the reddish cliffs. Take the hike down the beach and you’ll also find lots of great places to jump into the flat waters.
Become king of the castle
If history and forts are more your thing, you’ll find plenty to spark your interest all across the island. Chania’s Venetian-built Firka Fortress is a great place to start your exploring, with walls stretching along the coast and giving great views out over the Mediterranean. Closer to our Crete Discovery trip, the Frangokastello castle is visible from our swims, but take the chance to marvel at its size on land, a favourite non-swimming site for our Senior Guide Ricky!
The Frangokastello castle on land is a must see. It's incredible to take in the true size of the castle having swum alongside it. Seeing it from the water's edge, it feels as though it could fit in the palm of your hand. - Ricky
Set your taste buds alight
Being based in the fishing village of Loutro puts us in a fantastic position to try a huge range of fresh seafood, as well as other local delicacies. SwimTrek team favourites in Loutro have been the fresh fish and lamb. Head over to the nearby town of Chora Sfakion and you have to try one of the famous Sfakia pies. Almost pancake-like in their appearance, these unusual treats are made with raki alongside olive oil and flour. Try this with local honey and you’ve got yourself a classic Cretian dish!