Greek Island: Crete & Milos. Kayaking Adventures
Greek island is the best place to spend vacation and have amazing adventures. This article tells about the beauty of such Greek Islands as Crete and Milos. Take your time to read it. Keith Heger tells about the Crete.
Greek Island Crete
“I first learned of the southern coast of Greek island Crete from my boss, Rick Sweitzer,” Keith Heger began. “Rick had visited in the early seventies. He found himself in Matala, where a number of hippies and musicians were hanging out, including Joni Mitchell. [Matala was immortalized in the song “Carey” from Mitchell’s classic album, Blue.] He felt a connection with the Minoan people, and when he launched Northwest Passage in the early nineties, he returned.
Initially he led bike trips, but when kayaking began gaining in popularity, he started exploring the possibilities . . . and ended up assembling what’s become our most popular trip. In terms of history, scenery, hospitality, and overall paddling experience, I think the stretch of coast from Roumeli to Matala highlights some of the best that the Mediterranean has to offer. “Internally, we call it the ‘Magical Minoan Mystery Tour.” Greek island.
Greek island. A variety of sea caves punctuate the south coast of Crete.
Greek island Crete sits 100 miles southeast of the tip of mainland Greece. It’s the largest of the Greek Isles, stretching 160 miles from east to west, and was home to Europe’s earliest-known civilization, the Minoans. The tour that Keith loves to lead begins in Matala and explores some of the caves that the flower children once populated. “We run south from town toward a spot called Red Beach,” he detailed, “and en route, we come to the most amazing sea caves. They are like cathedrals within the rock, the sandstone bleached almost white. Many of the caves rest in little slots; you’d never notice them if you weren’t looking for them. There’s one cave that’s very large, a big arcing space. It’s completely dark, and you can hear the bats above.
If you poke farther back, there’s a narrow slot, no wider than your kayak. This leads to another cavern, large enough to hold eight kayaks and a little beach. If you turn off your headlamp, there’s not an inch of light, just the sound of the bats and water sloshing about. It’s like solving a Rubik’s Cube to get the boats all facing in the right direction to exit, but it’s worth it. If I’m with a group, we’ll head on to Red Beach and Kommos Beach (where there are some fine Minoan ruins) and then turn back. If I’m on my own, I might continue around the point and then east on to Lentas. You’re paddling against sheer rock walls, past little beaches, and even olive groves. It’s an unreal stretch of coast.”
Greek island. After exploring the caves near Matala, you’ll hop in a car and drive west to take in the Samaria Gorge, Europe’s longest gorge. “For many guests, the ten-mile hike into the gorge is a highlight of the trip,” Keith continued. “The gorge sees many visitors, but nearly all of them must catch the ferry from Agia Roumeli in the late afternoon. We stay in Roumeli, and thus we don’t have to deal with the mobs.” After waking in a seaside inn to the sound of bells from herds of goats on the hillside, you’ll begin the paddle back to Matala. “You get a 180-degree view of the Samaria Gorge from the water as you paddle by,” Keith said.
“The light in the early morning is wonderful. The green hillsides and the blue waters change as the day goes on. In a few miles we come to Agios Pavlos and stop in for a cappuccino. There’s a small chapel here built in the tenth century in honor of St. Paul. [Some believe he was shipwrecked along the coast here as he was being returned to Rome from Jerusalem to face trial.] Marmara Beach is the next stop, one of the nicest lunch spots on the trip. There are marble bluffs left and right, the kind of marble you could imagine in your bathroom.
We stay in Loutro that night. Entering the bay is enthralling. You come around a big point, and the first thing you see is a whitewashed house. A few more paddle strokes and the village of blue and white buildings appears. It’s a treat. Often, we’ll bob a few minutes, just taking in the view.” Greek island. After a layover in Loutro, where there’s the option to paddle back to Marmara Beach or to Sweetwater Beach (where freshwater springs trickle into the sea), comes a big day—twenty miles. It sounds daunting, but it’s split into several sessions. “The mountains pull back a bit here, and farmland is closer to the water,” Keith continued.
“There’s some great water to paddle in this stretch. There are rock gardens that you can weave around; you’ll often find sea turtles in this area. Our destination is Plakias, one of the larger towns in the region. You can see it in the distance, and it seems far away. On this final stretch of the day, the west wind will sometimes come up. It creates six- to eight-foot swells, and the waves will take you right into town. You’re flying along without any paddle strokes, just steering. It’s a chance to develop some new paddling skills. Everyone is pretty salty and tired after this day. A shower feels great!”
Your last full day is another big one—eighteen miles if you forego the optional shuttle at the end. “You can shave off a little at the beginning,” Keith offered, “by cutting through a beautiful sunlit cave. It’s Greek island Crete’s own Grotta Azzurra—like the one on Capri without the crowds or an entry fee. We pass Palm Beach, a freshwater estuary lined with palm trees at the base of Preveli Monastery. We continue on to Triopetra Beach, where we’ll take a lunch break. After Triopetra, the shoreline takes a turn. There’s a lot of exposure here. It’s an exciting place to paddle, even on the calmest day.
In the distance, you can make out some of the landmarks around Matala from the first day. People have to dig deep to make the last five miles to Agia Galini, our stop for the night. We have dinner on the third floor of a tavern, with the lights of Timbaki and Matala flickering before us. You can sleep in and drive to Matala the next morning or do an eight-mile open-water paddle. Doing the paddle gives people a great sense of accomplishment.” Greek island.
Keith Heger is program director, guide, and instructor with Northwest Passage. A Chicago-area native, his adventures have taken him around the world—to North, South, and Central America; Western Europe; the Mediterranean; Antarctica; and the Arctic. Keith is well versed in the skills of wilderness travel and group leadership. Outdoor interests include sea kayaking, white-water kayaking, rafting, canoeing, skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, mountaineering, and sailing. Greek island.
If you go to Greek island Crete:
Getting to Greek island Crete: Trips stage in Heraklion, the capital of Greek island Crete, which can be reached from Athens via Olympic Air or Aegean Airlines.
Best Time to Visit Greek island Crete: Mid-May through September is the prime time for kayaking.
Guides/Outfitters at Greek island Crete: Several outfitters serve Greek island Crete, including Northwest Passage and Enjoy Greek island Crete.
Level of Difficulty at Greek island Crete: Visitors don’t need prior kayaking experience, though they should be in good physical shape, as there are a few long paddling days.
Accommodations at Greek island Crete: The Hellenic Chamber of Hotels lists many options for both Athens and Heraklion.
Greek island Milos
Rod Feldtmann tells about Greek island Milos. “I first came to Milos as a geologist, to work on a gold mining project,” Rod Feldtmann began. “I fell in love with a local girl, got married, and fell in love with the island. As the geology project began to wind down, I realized that I had to either make something up to sustain my existence or go elsewhere to find work. Earlier, I’d bought a kayak and paddled around the island. I saw Greek island Milos’s great potential as a kayaking destination and ended up buying a few more boats and starting a business. As a geologist, I could really appreciate the island’s incredibly varied coastline, the product of a million years of volcanic eruptions. You have a tremendous variety of different rock types here; every headland and bay is different in that sense. It’s not just long stretches of spectacular cliffs or extensive beaches. There’s a mix, all united by turquoise blue waters.”
Greek island Milos rests in the Aegean Sea, between the southern tip of mainland Greece and the island of Crete; it’s the southwesternmost island in the Cyclades group, home of two better-known vacation retreats, Santorini and Mykonos. The island was an important source of obsidian for the region in the time before bronze supplanted it as a weapons material, and it was here that a statue of the goddess Aphrodite was discovered, better known as the Venus de Milo. “Milos is perfect as a base for kayakers,” Rod continued. “It’s big enough to offer over twelve different day trips, but small enough that I can drive from one side of the island to the other in less than half an hour so we can always be sheltered from the wind. The day is spent paddling, not driving.” Greek island.
Greek island. . A typical day on the azure waters off Greek island Milos is taken at a leisurely pace, entailing three hours of paddling and plenty of stops for snorkeling, sunning at isolated beaches, and even some cliff jumping. Rod discussed a few of his favorite outings. “There are sea caves all around the island, but there’s a concentration of them along the southwestern coast, at a place called Kleftiko, a spectacular complex of high cliffs, sea passages, tunnels, and arches. The name is taken from the Greek word kleftes, meaning thief, as local legend says Kleftiko was a popular haven for pirates in the Middle Ages. [Kleftiko’s freestanding arch is frequently featured in Greece’s promotional literature.]
“Another paddle that we enjoy is across to the island of Kimolos, the next island north. It’s only a one-kilometer crossing from our starting point at Apollonia Bay, which takes about fifteen minutes. Kimolos is very rugged, and there’s no road access to the west coast. Here, there are numerous fascinating rock formations fashioned from volcanic lavas, including sea stacks stuck up like pinnacles and caves so deep that torch lights are required for exploration. The hillsides are covered with stone terraces, which were originally built in ancient times to retain soil and water for farming. There’s a nice hike from the lunch-stop beach along some of the terraces to see abandoned stone farmhouses with stunning vistas of the Aegean Sea. Kimolos has some nice spots to snorkel, and there are several great rock-jumping locations.” Greek island.
Greek island. As Rod previously mentioned, the north wind can come up at times. When conditions for the outer coastline are less favorable, he likes to head to the harbor of Greek island Milos, which is essentially the crater of the volcano that formed the island. “I like to paddle along the eastern entrance of the bay,” Rod continued. “There are four fishing villages here, each with a small number of houses—a dozen to twenty. The dwellings have boathouses dug into the cliffside with brightly colored doorways. The setting is very picturesque. At the entrance of the harbor there’s a distinctive rock formation called the Bears. If I feel that the group I’m with is up for a challenge, I’ll take them around this headland. Suddenly you’re exposed. Less seasoned paddlers aren’t used to the open, rougher water, but most do fine. When we’ve had enough of the bigger water, we can duck back into the bay for lunch.”
If it’s windy enough, Rod can put the breezes to his advantage. “I sometimes carry the fly of an old three-man tent with me,” he explained. “If the wind is heavy, we raft our kayaks together and tie the fly off the paddles, prop the paddles up, and use the whole setup like a sail. If it’s working well, we’ll travel faster than I can paddle.” (Note: If you’d prefer an expedition-style trip, a circumnavigation of Greek island Milos is possible. It’s a paddle of approximately fifty-five miles over five days. Paddlers camp on pristine beaches, with meals prepared by their guide.) Greek island.
Greek island. It’s no secret that Greece has had its share of economic woes; spend a week in Athens and you have a decent chance of experiencing the inconvenience of a strike of some sort. But in a rural, off-the-vacation spot like Greek island Milos, the vicissitudes of austerity are mostly far removed. Plus, you have an opportunity to see the lives of real Greek islanders on display. “Our base is in the village of Triovasalos, where my wife has a guesthouse and café,” Rod said. “It’s not a touristy place, though there are over a dozen restaurants within walking distance. Our kayaking program leaves plenty of time to explore them.” If you find yourself in the family café in the evening, you may find Rod’s father-in-law serving grilled octopus and ouzo. “It’s just locals and kayakers,” Rod added.
Rod Feldrmann grew up on a farm in Victoria, Australia. After graduating with a degree in geology from the University of Wollongong, he worked for ten years as an exploration geologist in Australia, South America, and finally in Greek island Milos. In 2000, when his contract as a geologist came to an end, Rod established Sea Kayak Greek island Milos as a means to remain on the island, support his family, and enjoy the great outdoors. With fourteen years’ experience leading trips on Milos and to other places in Greece, he is one of the most experienced and qualified guides in Greece. He regularly travels to the U.K. to attend British Canoe Union (BCU) training courses. He holds his five-star sea kayak proficiency certificate and is a BCU Level 4 sea kayak coach. Greek island.
If you go to Greek island Milos:
Getting to Greek island Milos: Visitors can reach Milos on Olympic Air from Athens, which is served by many carriers.
Best Time to Visit Greek island Milos: April to October is prime time for kayaking trips around Greek island Milos. Guided circumnavigation trips are generally led in June and October.
Guides/Outfitters at Greek island Milos: Sea Kayak Milos leads day trips and seasonal circumnavigations. Northwest Passage also leads circumnavigations.
Level of Difficulty at Greek island Milos: Visitors to Milos do not need advanced kayaking skills.
Accommodations at Greek island Milos: Sea Kayak Milos offers Stay and Paddle packages through Petrinella’s Guesthouse in the village of Triovasalos.
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