Summer holidays in Crete: 3 common mistakes to avoid!

Your summer holidays on the island of Crete are for many a dream come true. Awarded beaches, untouched gorges, traditional Greek food, and Cretan hospitality are only a few of the things that can indulge travelers to our island. Is it your first time here? Despina Studios hotel in Chania will give you answers to the 3 most common mistakes that people make while on vacation in Greece!

Weather in Crete: Hot – Sometimes more than you might think!

During the summer months on the island, there are often very high temperatures and for several population groups, this can be a problem and may lead to undesirable side effects. Usually in Crete, the hottest months are between June and August when temperatures often exceed 40 degrees. Humidity is also a very crucial factor, as it makes the discomfort even more apparent. 

We suggest avoiding sunbathing during the hottest hours of the day on your vacation in Crete. These are from 11 a.m to 5 p.m while the sun rays are more harmful to the skin. We have found out that visitors with pale skin who stay in our hotel in Chania often get sunburns on hot days, so we advise you to take this piece of advice religiously.

beach in Chania

Beach in Chania- Hotel Despina Studios

 A useful tip is to always wear hats to protect you from the sun while it is equally necessary to wear sunglasses that provide protection to the eyes. Vulnerable people should also be provided with sunscreen that will have a high SPF number and apply it thoroughly every hour. A nice piece of advice is always to choose places with shade or air conditioning during your relaxing moments while of paramount importance is avoiding dehydration by always keeping with you an adequate amount of water.

 The most common consequence of heat is sunstroke which can easily be prevented with the above tips and also families should be provided with a small pharmacy kit that should be full of antihistamines and cortisone solutions for every eventuality (allergies-bites etc). At all costs, holidaymakers should consult the weather forecast to be properly prepared for the weather.

Summer season in Greece- Don’t listen to the media

A common misconception that many tourists have is that Crete and Greece in general only have tourism during the summer months. However, this is only half the truth. Although the busiest season to travel in Crete is during June- July, and August, there are plenty of holiday possibilities also in April- May, and September – October.

The climate during April-May is tamer as those are the times of the Spring season. Flower blossoms, nice weather, and fewer crowds make it a perfect side option for many. 

Chania harbor - Venetian harbour of Chania

Chania harbor – Venetian harbour of Chania

September and October is the gradual Autumn season for the island of Crete. The temperatures are also tame (maximum 28-30C) and you can still enjoy swimming in Crete as well as do some outdoor activities that require physical strength like hiking in unknown paths.

Those months are considered low season. However,  everything is still open for the summer season, and our hotel believes that there is the perfect option for the average tourist who wants to have vacation in Greece: There will be fewer crowds, you will get better food (and better service), and more importantly better prices and special offers on hotels and car rentals!

Exploring Crete: Don’t Skimp on guided tours and excursions.

There are many tourists who stay in our sea-view hotel in Chania that rent a car from our reception desk and explore Crete (and its beauties!) alone. However, we have found out that many travelers don’t fully realize or comprehend places and historic sites on their own.

Chania lighthouse- Old venetian lighthouse in Chania port

Chania lighthouse- Old Venetian lighthouse in Chania port

Instead, we recommend that you take at least one guided tour/ excursion with a professional guide in order to genuinely feel our culture, civilization, and the hidden places that otherwise you would have surely missed. 

There are many places that need professional knowledge in order to discover them, such as many peaks and places in the White Mountains, the biggest mountain range of Crete. Guided tours will make you feel safe, you will get to explore more -and even unknown places for you, and you will get to unravel real Crete which will give added value to your vacations!

Despina Studios Hotel in Chania: Add value to your holidays in Crete!

Despina Studios can give value to your holidays in Crete! With our central location in Chania, our sea view rooms,  and carefully selected excursion partners we can offer you unforgettable holidays of what we truly represent: Greek Hospitality!  

Chania Sightseeing

Chania Sightseeing – Sea view hotel Despina Studios: Agia Marina- Chania

Gramvousa and Balos : Essential Tourist Info

Our sea-view hotel in Chania has another perk. It is only 50 minutes away from the famous and awarded Balos lagoon. Ready for a swim? This blog will take you right where the action begins! 

Balos: A motive itself for vacations in Chania

The name of Balos and Gramvousa is for sure included in all travel guides, as they may be the most photographed destination in Crete. Balos lagoon is a shallow sandy beach, very close to Kissamos and it’s popular for the blue and green waters, the wild natural beauty, and the majestic exotic scenery. 

Balos journey Chania Crete- Despina Studios Hotel in Chania

Balos journey Chania Crete- Despina Studios Hotel in Chania

Many say that its crystal clear waters reminisce a lake, as they are crystal clear and tame just like a peaceful lake. Most of the tourists that are having vacations in Crete know about Balos, and almost everyone that is having a vacation in our hotel in Chania chooses Balos for a daily journey and for a good reason. 

Balos Lagoon: How to get there!  

There are three ways in reaching Balos. The first one is to take an organized tour that includes a bus transfer and a boat trip that leads you into the crystal clear waters of Balos and Gramvousa.

The other way is to get a boat ticket that originates from Kissamos Port and gets you to the famous beach. Travel time is 1 hour and there are food and entertainment options onboard the ship. 

The latter is to take a car (NOT a rental one, as you may have extra surcharges for car damages)  or an organized transport to reach Balos via the shore. Huge caution needs to be paid here, as the road is in bad condition in order to preserve the untouched nature and wilderness of Balos and Gramvoysa.

balos by car- road - Journey in Balos Chania Crete

Balos by car- road – Journey in Balos Chania Crete

Although many tourists are going there with their rental cars as part of a road trip we heavily insist that you don’t take your rental car on this journey. As we said, the roads are rocky, there will be traffic and parking problems in the tight parking spots near Balos lagoon and you will have anguish to prevent any damages to your rental car. You will be better off arranging transport with a rugged vehicle to explore this part of Crete stress-free!

How much does it cost to go to Balos Beach?

Apart from the cost of the boat ticket and the transfer (if you choose this option), there is a standard fee by the municipality of Kissamos to protect, preserve and highlight this natural paradise. At this time the fee is 1 Euro and must be paid in cash upon arrival, either by car or to the boat ferry when purchasing your boat tickets. 

Balos beach- Special Remarks 

Although Balos beach is an ideal swimming location, we already stated that the environment is wild and untouched. Therefore, hiking on your vacation may also happen, as there is a long downhill cliff that needs to be surpassed to reach Balos, your destination Beach in Chania.  

Descending into this cliff may not be difficult, however, this is not the case with the ascending route you have to take on your way back after your journey. We suggest taking comfy shoes and clothes, as well as sunscreen, eyewear, and sun protection (hats and kaftans ) to stay protected from the sun. Expect uneven terrain in many cases and also carry sports shoes alongside your beach sandals just in case. 

Gramvousa island (s): Part of your Balos vacation experience!

You may have noticed two little islands when approaching Balos lagoon, facing North. Those are the two islands of Gramvoysa, Tame Gramvousa, and Wild Gramvousa. Their name attributes (wild and tame) have to do with their life status, as the Wild Gramvousa is uninhabited, and it is the slim long island on the very north of Balos Lagoon. It has only a lighthouse and it is a tedious process getting there, as rocks and cliffs are unwelcoming. 

Balos lagoon-Vacation in Chania- Despina Studios Agia Marina

Balos lagoon-Vacation in Chania- Despina Studios Agia Marina

On the other hand, Tame Gramvousa has been inhabited for many centuries, as there is a fortress, a mysterious shipwreck as well as preserved wildlife in the vicinity which is protected by Natura 2000 laws. There is also a rated beach called “ Gramvousa Beach” that you will get the chance of seeing with the Gramvousa Boat Journey, alongside the Balos lagoon experience. This island is located west and is easily recognizable, as it is bigger and almost square compared to Wild Gramvousa.

Swimming in Balos Beach: Final destination

After your boat trip, or your car journey you will eventually reach “Kheri Thganiou” or the rocky shore named “Tigani”. The pictures of impeccable beauty that you have already seen are probably taken in this region. There are plenty of sunbeds for sunbathing and relaxation, and some small shops and traditional products sellers that can supply you with the essentials. 

We suggest that you take your time on this beach, and especially if you get there early in the morning or late in the afternoon, grasp the chance and see the sun rising and also the sunset, while on vacation in Chania.

Balos Beach Chania Crete

Balos Beach Chania Crete

Balos and Gramvousa: Unkown Trivia 

The popular beaches we discussed, as well as other top-rated beaches in the vicinity of Chania, were well known from recent tourist years. Especially for Balos and Gramvousa, it is a common truth that prince Charles with Diana – Princess of Wales have visited Balos lagoon years ago in order to feel the untouched wilderness. 

Being part of their honeymoon on the Royal Yacht Brittania, Charles and Diana stepped foot on this treasured beach which is now fully open to the public having their vacations in Chania.

Swimming in Chania: Just Before you go

 Don’t forget to bring with you a hat, as well as plenty of water and also be prepared that Balos area is not organized to preserve the natural habitat, but the view and the swim in the turquoise waters will sure be an experience you will remember for years to come. A small snack will always come in handy and an exploration attitude is crucial as you may come across some goats, sheep, Caretta Caretta turtles, and other wildlife on our island.

Cretan Goats- Balos- Despina Studios Chania Crete

Cretan Goats- Balos- Despina Studios Chania Crete

Explore Balos and other beaches from our sea view hotel in Chania

Our beachfront hotel is located in one of the most central and touristically advanced locations. This gives you an opportunity to stay with us and enjoy the ultimate beach vacation in Crete. 

Organized trips are being made every day from Agia Marina area as well as other special tailor-made and private excursions that will make your vacations in Chania an unforgettable experience. Check our Availability and plan ahead for your vacation in Chania! 

 

Samaria Gorge Comprehensive Guide (+4 Hiking Tips)

This comprehensive guide is about travelling in Chania and is to be considered as a comprehensive guide for Samaria Gorge. Many of our visitors in our beachfront Hotel in Chania are coming for vacations in Crete solely to pass Samaria Gorge. There are lots of people who love hiking in Chania, and Samaria Gorge is for sure at the top of their list as it is the biggest gorge of Greece, and the second biggest in Europe , second only after the gorge of verdon in France . This comprehensive guide will guide you through much needed information, tips, hints and everything in between for a successful full-day journey to the Gorge.

Samaria Gorge Comprehensive Guide: First things First.

Samaria Gorge is situated in Omalos Plateau, which is in the heart of the White Mountains of Crete. Most visitors of the Samaria Gorge are staying in beachfront hotels in Chania area or in tourist areas such as Platanias and Agia Marina, or in luxury Villas in the vicinity. Samaria Gorge is a good hour drive from the north beach shores of Chania, thus you have to get there either by hiring a car, by going there by bus, or by taking an organized tour with a bus or tour guide. 

We recommend the 2 latter options, as it’s preferred not to go to the gorge with your car because it’s harder to reach it afterwards. It is much more convenient to get a safe transfer with a bus, travel agency, or taxi and then take another bus on your way back to your hotel in Chania.

The entrance of Samaria Gorge is situated in “Xiloskalo” ( Greek Denomination: Ξυλόσκαλο) which is has an altitude of 1300 m. There are some local shops that can serve you your breakfast, some Cretan traditional products, and the necessary for the long hike. The area is called Xiloskalo because the first kilometers of the gorge have a big descent and there are many wooden steps that help with the gradual descent. Those wooden steps are called “Ξύλινα Σκαλιά “ in Greek, and this is why the entrance of the Samaria Gorge is named after this. 

Samaria Gorge Ksiloskalo/ Xyloskalo wooden step- Samaria Gorge Entrance at Xyloskalo -Omalos

Samaria Gorge Ksiloskalo/ Xyloskalo wooden step- Samaria Gorge Entrance at Xyloskalo -Omalos

Samaria Gorge Hiking: The Basics.

The entrance costs 5 euros per person and you can access the Gorge as early as 7 A.M. We say as early because we definitely insist on going to the Samaria Gorge as early as possible. You will avoid the tourist crowds, especially in July – August, you will have plenty of time for taking photographs and sightseeing and you will have plenty of time to rest on the various stops that are available through the Samaria Gorge. Furthermore, you may need more time for passing the gorge, and starting early gives you an advantage in case you need to take your time.

Samaria Gorge has a length of 16 kilometers. Technically the length of the gorge is 13 kilometers and there are another 3 kilometers after the long hike which is a paved road that leads you to the North coast and Agia Roumeli Village which is a fishermen’s village only accessible by boat. 

Passing the Gorge is a strenuous and tedious process. Traveling in Crete may be a nice experience but many times the weather is unforgiving and this is why Samaria Gorge is open only through the mild seasons of spring and summer. Normally the Gorge is open from May till October, with some mild changes every year depending on the presence of water and snow inside the gorge that alternates its difficulty. 

Samaria Gorge Ticket Price.

Samaria Gorge Ticket Information and Price.

Hiking in Crete: What to be careful of.

As a general rule of thumb, hiking in Crete is an activity that many tourists are doing as Crete and especially Chania area has many gorges, hiking paths, and trails. However, you have to know that especially Hiking in the Samaria Gorge is a difficult task, and is advised that people with health problems, obese people, or pregnant women have to be extremely careful with this task. 

Especially on hot summer days, you need to have protective clothing (hats, sunglasses, sunscreen e.t.c.) and be careful of your condition as well as your environment as it is easy for you to get disoriented or have a mild heatstroke. Although in the Samaria Gorge there is an organized footpath you have to be careful and concentrated in order to avoid any problems.

This is only a reminder in order to enjoy your vacations in Crete to the fullest. There is trained staff inside the gorge in various places ready to assist you and also mules if anything happens and you can’t walk further. There is also a medical station in the middle of Samaria Gorge’s path, right where the old Samaria Settlement was before the gorge was nominated as a national park back in 1962.

Samaria Gorge- Mountain Gigilos in Chania

Mountain Gigilos in Chania, seen inside of Samaria Gorge.

 

Samaria Gorge Hiking tips: What to bring.

After you have organized your transfer to the gorge and you have bought tickets at the Samaria Gorge entrance you start your hike. We recommend that you always carry a backpack through the gorge with all the essentials. Experienced hikers always carry with them: Sunscreen, a hat, socks,  some medicine for bees and wasps bites, some extra pairs of comfy clothing, dry food and fruits and water. Loads of water.

There are many natural sources throughout Samaria Gorge where you can drink water but carrying some extra liters in your backpack is surely a must as you may need it in any case of emergency. Hydration is key, this is why Despina Studios is insisting on keeping your water reserves full and drinking water from the sources when needed. 

The crucial element is comfy anatomic hiking boots. We strongly recommend that you avoid sporty running shoes on this long hike in Chania. It may sound like a good idea but we definitely believe that the extra cushioning, extra comfort, and excellent ankle protection of hiking boots are really paramount here. 

Charged cell phones and photo cameras are also a must in order to take unforgettable pictures of the gorge and in order to contact someone if needed. You also need to take with you the best mood for the hike. The duration of the hike is between 4 to 7 hours depending on your pace.

Samaria Gorge White Mountains in Chania Crete- Pine Trees

Samaria Gorge White Mountains in Chania Crete- Pine Trees

Samaria Gorge: What not to bring.

Those 6-7 hours that you normally need for passing the Samaria Gorge is for sure a difficult task and you definitely don’t need to bring heavy and unwanted items with you. Large amounts of food is not necessary, as there are plenty of taverns and shops with local specialties on the Village of Agia Roumeli on your way out of the gorge. Big backpacks and camping gear is also unwanted, as camping is prohibited, and large bags will put extra stress on your body which is unwanted. You need to pack light and if you have  company 

it’s better to split between groups of 2-3 persons in order to be more focused, enjoy nature better and protect yourselves if something happens.

Samaria Gorge Hiking: Navigating yourself.

As we said you start your hike from a point of 1300m. You will descend for 16 kilometers until you reach the sea which has an altitude of 0m. This is the route that almost everyone gets to hike, and especially tourists that are on vacation in Chania.

However, if you are an extreme sports enthusiast you can take it the other way around. Reach Agia Roumeli Village and enter the gorge from the opposite direction, thus ascending from 0 to 1300 meters. You will see some athletes or trained soldiers doing this but it is an activity not for the faint-hearted, and 99 % of the visitors in Chania are not capable of doing. We will focus on the normal route through the Samaria Gorge.

During those 13 kilometers of the path there are plenty of stops offering you the much-needed shade from the sun and water. Typically there are spaced 1-2 kilometers between each other, so by the time you feel exhausted you will have the opportunity to relax and take your time. There are 8 stopping points on the gorge. We recommend that you eat some of your snacks during those stops and stay hydrated. You may also consider changing socks in order to avoid any blisters or funghi on your feet.

Goats of Crete

Goats of Crete- Take a close look at the gorge’s mountains. Goats, Sheep, and Kri – Kri’s might be nearby!

By the time you have reached the end of Samaria gorge, you will be congratulated by a sign and a guard that will take your ticket for safety purposes. Every day the number of tickets has to be counted in order to make sure that the entrance and the exit have the same number. Otherwise, someone might be in danger or lost inside the gorge. There are some shops right after the gorge’s exit offering you refreshing orange juice, traditional Sfakian Pie (sweet pastry with Cretan Cheese and Honey).

The exit of the Gorge is on the place where the old village of Agia Roumeli was established. Because of the severe rainfalls and water streams that passed through the Samaria Gorge in winter this village was constantly affected by damages because of the weather and this is why it was relocated on the beach shore, 3 kilometers south. However, there are many relics of the past, some old churches, and sheepfolds that bond you with the local folklore tradition and way of living.

After half an hour of your exit from Samaria Gorge, you will eventually reach Agia Roumeli village and the north shore of Crete with views over Libyan Sea. We recommend that you take your time, enjoy a nice swim on the crystal blue waters and then take the boat that will get you to the nearest village which has a bus in order to get back to Chania centre or your hotel- if you have an organized tour already booked.  The boat usually departs early in the afternoon (5-6 p.m), so if you enter Samaria Gorge early, most probably you will have plenty of time in order to pass the Samaria Gorge and Relax in Agia Roumeli village afterward.

Agia Roumeli Village-sea view

Agia Roumeli Village Sea View – Where Samaria Gorge is ending and meets the sea.

 

Samaria Gorge Journey: Travel Tips 

In case you didn’t know, Samaria Gorge is a place where endangered species live. Both flora and Fauna. This means that you don’t take anything with you (including rocks as souvenirs)  and you need to preserve the natural beauty of our homeland. The most famous species of animal that lives in the Samaria Gorge is the Cretan Wild Goat- Best known as Kri- Kri. They are protected by law and are prohibited to hunt them as they are nearly extinct.

There is a big chance that you see some Kri – Kri on the old Settlement of Samaria, where the biggest stop of the route and the doctor’s office are. We recommend you pass some time there and look carefully at the mountains and the nearby river. You might be lucky and spot some wildlife. 

Portes- the most famous spot of Samaria Gorge in Chania

Doors (Portes): The most famous spot of Samaria Gorge in Chania

Leave Samaria Gorge last!

We believe that everyone has to pass through our nation’s biggest gorge at least one, and especially people who are on vacation in Chania. However, because many of us are not well trained, we may be exhausted and have swollen muscles and feet. This may continue for a few days which means that you will not be 100 % active for the next few days. We recommend that you visit Samaria Gorge on the very last days of your holidays and just rest on your way back home. By doing this you will have more time exploring Crete rather than resting in your hotel room.

Pay a tribute to the Helipad in Agia Roumeli

Just before you reach Agia Roumeli village center you will see a helipad, used for emergencies (medical, fires etc) for the locals that live in the village which has no roads. In the helipad, there is also a monument for a tragic event that happened to a soldier around 20 years ago. During a military exercise hike, he had a severe health condition that needed medical attention. Because of the desolation of the place and the wilderness he, unfortunately, died on his way to the hospital.

We insist that you pay a tribute to the memorial inside the helipad. This is a way of respecting his memory and understanding how tough the climate is on the White Mountains, and how demanding is daily life in this impeccably beautiful but desolate part of Crete.

Visit Samaria Gorge through our Beachfront Hotel in Chania.

Despina Studios is a beachfront hotel in Chania and is only an hour’s drive from Samaria Gorge entrance.  We cooperate with reputable travel agencies that are organizing daily trips (private or group) to the Samaria gorge offering you impeccable views and the essence of wilderness that pure wild Crete has to offer you. For more information about Samaria Gorge Hiking Tours please contact us,  or search for hotel availability online! 

Leaving Samaria Gorge from the port of Agia Roumeli.

Leaving Samaria Gorge from the port of Agia Roumeli- Despina Studios Beachfront Hotel in Chania/ Agia Marina

Did you know? Samaria Gorge alternative Routes!

Although this comprehensive guide is full of information about passing the Samaria Gorge that suits 99 % of the hikers in Crete, there are also some alternative routes that can be combined with passing from the gorge. They are indicative of people that have already passed the gorge many times or want a more adventurous and competitive journey. Skilled hikers with years of experience are amongst the people who are most likely to take the following routes.

Loukoumades- Traditional Cretan pastry- Deep fried dough with honey and sesame

A nice rewarding dessert after passing the gorge is a must. Traditional “Loukoumades” Greek pastry- Deep fried dough with honey and sesame seeds

You can reach Samaria Gorge from Paleochora, Sougia Or Sfakia by car, taxi or bus. After you have to take the boat that leads you to Agia Roumeli Village and afterward you can take the “reverse” Samaria gorge way, which leads you to the ascending route from 0 altitude all the way up to 1300 meters. For those who want a smaller hiking experience, you can reach the famous “Doors-Portes” point in an hour of hiking and then return back to Agia Roumeli. If you decide to ascend all the way up to Xyloskalo you need to start very early in the morning and be heavily trained, as the last kilometers have a serious incline.

There is also another route close to the entrance of the Gorge from Ksiloskalo which leads to the neighboring mountain called “Gigilos” (i.e. Rotten, in Greek) which is also very famous amongst experienced hikers with the necessary hiking equipment. Another popular route and part of the E4 European Long Distance Path is to take the route to Kallergi Mountain Shelter and see Samaria Gorge from above. Whatever you decide to do, it is certain that the experience will be remembered for a lifetime!