8 Days, 7 Nights|
7 nights, 8 days accommodations, with breakfast; Gear: PFD, skirt, paddle, kayak; BCU 2-Star review/assessment*; BCU 3-Star Training and assessment*; Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning* certification; Guided adventure paddles to beaches, towns, and islands in southern Crete|
Travel cost to Heraklion, Crete; Lunches and dinners; Travel insurance; Entry fees into archaeological sites; Guide gratuity
The south coast of Crete is a paddler’s playground, and the perfect venue for BCU training and certification. The warm water invites rescue and rolling practice, and the mix of protected and exposed waters allows paddlers to learn new skills and then immediately put them to use in the appropriate conditions. Come improve your sea kayaking and have the time of your life while you’re at it.
With its warm water, diverse coastline, and accessibility to a variety of on-water environments, Crete provides a unique learning ground for the skills required of the British Canoe Union 3 Star paddler.
The week will focus on teaching BCU 3-Star skills, with the goal of identifying and addressing each individual’s specific needs. This trip will provide you the opportunity to refine your existing skill set and move forward in your paddling career.
To achieve this, our week will be divided into a series of half-day modules that focus on skills development and acquisition. These modules will take place on and off the water.
Modules will include:
- Boat, Body, Blade and Brain Awareness (a.k.a building a long term relationship with a kayak)
- Rescue Round Up (rescues in and out of the box)
- Beyond the Flat Water (thriving in moderate sea states)
- Trip Planning
- Tide and Navigation
- Incident Avoidance and Management
The week also includes several on-water journeys that will allow you to explore the breathtaking coastline and put your skills into practice. There will be plenty of individualized coaching, practice, and—of course—fun! For those wishing to assess at the BCU 3-Star level, we will offer an optional assessment opportunity at the end of the week.
Thank you for joining us on this British Canoe Union sea kayaking training and assessment opportunity to the Island’s of Crete, Greece. For over 25 years, The Northwest Passage has been exploring the farthest corners of our globe. We are overjoyed in your commitment to continue that journey. As adventurous souls you will find the opportunity rewarding on so many levels.
Day 1-7: The trip officially begins in the morning at the Heraklion airport where our guides will meet you. Exact meeting time will be determined once flight schedules from Athens to Heraklion have been finalized. From the airport, we will head to Knossos, the famous Minoan palace just outside Heraklion. We will have a tour of Knossos, then shuttle down to Matala on the south coast. There are many options for lunch at authentic Greek tavernas in Matala. An afternoon paddle session is optional and allows you to work off that jet lag. We will formally meet in the evening for our first sunset and to review the training itinerary for the week, introduce ourselves to fellow paddlers, and answer questions you may have.
The days following will include a mix of training and paddling excursions. Matala will serve as our base camp for daily paddling excursion and classroom sessions. Depending on weather conditions, our guides will lead you to paddling destinations along the magical coastline of southern Crete. We will also offer open-water crossings to explore little-traveled off-shore islands. With highly trained BCU instructors, you will train in the skills necessary to paddle waters anywhere. Daily itinerary will vary based on group needs and experiences, and also due to weather conditions as we seek out the neessary challenges.
Day 8: After breakfast, we’ll have a few hours to purchase any last minute keepsakes or gifts and take one last paddle. We will then transport you to the airport by 11:00am allowing you to make necessary connections.
* Note: This is our intended itinerary. As with any adventure travel, the forces of nature can be unpredictable, causing us to make adjustments and changes to the itinerary. Rest assured that our many years of exploring have provided us with numerous options if changes need to be made. If it is too windy to paddle, various hiking, cultural, and historical activity options will make you glad for the winds. Trip details: Our planned accommodations for the week may include inns and rent rooms. Our trip is partially supported by van and ferry. You should plan to all of your luggage in your kayak.
**This itinerary is subject to change.
These are all the personal items you will need - anything else is unnecessary baggage and will only be extra weight to carry.
- 3-7 t-shirts, some synthetic for paddling
- 1 shirt, long sleeved
- 2-3 pair shorts (some quick drying)
- Sun/rain hat
- Sneakers/cross trainers hiking; some prefer hiking in Tevas or other sandals with socks
- Rain gear just in case! (Paddling jacket works well as an alternative, or windbreaker jacket)
- 1 pair sport sandals; Tevas, water socks, etc. (Paddling booties are great!)
- Bathing suit(s)
- Underwear, socks
- Casual clothes for evenings (shorts/summer dresses are fine!)
- Clean change of clothing for the trip home
Many of these items are included in our convenient Paddle Pack -Northwest Passage Paddle Pack (optional, yet highly recommended)**
- Passport (be sure to check expiration date)
- Toiletry kit- toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, sunscreen, face cream, nail clippers, moleskin, baby powder, soap, washcloth (most hotels don’t provide them) etc.
- Personal medication kit- ibuprofen, aspirin, vitamins, band-aids, Dramamine®, cold/sinus meds if prone to colds
- Daypack/fanny pack for hiking options
- Collapsible walking stick for optional hikes
- Sunglasses Chums/Croakies® to keep glasses on your head are imperative
- Water bottle (optional- bottled water is plentiful and cheap)
- Small dry bag with carabiner clip (clear ones are very useful)
- Headlamp for sea caves
- Camera, film, waterproof container
- Paddling gloves (for the tender of palm- not neoprene but any open fingered glove can help e.g. biking gloves etc)
- Small towel (e.g. PackTowel® works well)
- Small travel alarm clock
- Mask and snorkel (can be purchased inexpensively)
- Field glasses – binoculars
- Your own Paddle/PFD- we will supply standard paddles and PFDs forthe group but, if you prefer your own paddle and PFD, feel free to bring them along. We also offer an upgraded high-performance paddle option for a small extra fee.
- Ziploc® storage bags (to keep stuff extra dry in dry bag)
What is special about this trip?
Incredible coastline, spectacular sunsets, the friendliest innkeepers and taverna owners you’ll ever meet, warm waters in tremendously varied shades of blue and green, amazing sea caves, cliff jumping for all levels of risk-takers, never-ending sunshine, phenomenal food, an opportunity to see the Crete that few tourists see. Rick Sweitzer, Executive Director of The Northwest Passage, fell in love with Crete in the late 60’s and has been exploring the backroads and coastline of this incredible island ever since. The Northwest Passage has been touring Crete by kayak, bicycle and foot for many years and in the process, we have developed great friendships with our local hosts. You’ll feel like part of the family as we share with you our most popular international trip.
How do I get there?
Our adventure begins in Heraklion, the capital of Crete. To reach Heraklion, most participants fly into Athens. From there, you have a choice of flying to Heraklion (a one hour flight offered by several carriers including Aegean and Olympic Air or taking an overnight ferry. If you choose to fly, most U.S. travel agents can book Olympic Air but are not familiar with Aegean. You can book flights online for either Olympic (www.olympic-airways.gr) or Aegean (www.aegeanair.com). You can also make reservations through Pacific Travel (www.pacifictravel.gr firstname.lastname@example.org) We have been working with Pacific Travel for many years and they are quite helpful. They have an office at the Athens Airport that is staffed 24 hours a day. There is also a website at www.cretetravel.com which is quite helpful. You can also call our office to get more details regarding the travel options. It is important to confirm your return flights, both the flight to Athens and the flight from Athens to the US, 48-72 hours prior to the flight. If you choose to take the ferry, you can purchase tickets right at the port or in advance through a travel agent. The port (Piraeus) can be reached by taxi or bus from the airport. The cost for the ferry will vary depending on level of accommodation (private cabin with bath, semi-private, etc). Most of the ticket agents at the port will take credit cards.
What papers do I need for travel?
All US citizens require a valid passport to enter Greece. A visa is not required for citizens of the United States, Canada, and the European Union. If you are a citizen of another country, please check with your nearest Greek embassy for visa requirements.
Do I need to get any shots before traveling?
No inoculations are required when entering or leaving Greece.
How and where will you meet me?
We will ask for a copy of your travel itinerary prior to your departure. We will meet the morning of the first day of the trip at the Heraklion Airport, or otherwise by arrangement. Exact meeting time will be determined once flight schedules from Athens to Heraklion are finalized for that season. We have found over the years that the schedules vary somewhat year to year. The airport is quite small and we will be wearing Northwest Passage shirts and carrying an NWP sign. We will meet in the arrivals area of the Heraklion airport.
How long will it take me to get there?
The flight to Athens is usually an overnight flight, leaving the U.S. in the late afternoon and arriving mid-day to late afternoon in Athens. Depending on the carrier and connection, you may overnight in another city en-route. There are flights out of Athens to Heraklion starting at 6 a.m. and continuing throughout the day and evening until 11:45 p.m. Returning from Athens, most flights back to the U.S. are in the early morning, requiring an overnight in Athens the last day of the trip. Generally, participants will book flights out of Heraklion late afternoon on the last day. If you want to visit the Archaelogical Museum in Heraklion, you should not book a flight before 4:00 p.m. on the last day of the trip.
Where should I stay overnight around there?
There are many hotel options in Athens in varying price ranges. The Plaka area of Athens (near the Acropolis, etc.) is the most popular area and not too far from the airport (45+ min. cab ride depending on traffic; buses are also an option). Please feel free to contact our office for hotel suggestions. If you choose to overnight in Heraklion either at the beginning or the end of the trip, there are hotel options downtown as well as just outside of town, again in varying price ranges. We can give you suggestions based on your preferences and budget.
What money should I take?
The trip fee covers most of your costs. The only things you will be responsible for are lunches, drinks, one dinner, personal purchases, and gratuities. Lunches generally range 5-10 Euro. Dinner ranges 10-20 Euro. Personal purchases again vary- one can buy unique souvenirs made of olive wood for 5 Euro or get fine jewelry for significantly more… it’s up to you.
What's the currency? Exchange rate? Where can I exchange money?
The Drachma was the Greek currency. However, Greece converted to the Euro in January, 2002. For the most current exchange rate, there are several helpful websites. Oanda (www.oanda.com) will give you a handy conversion cheat sheet to take with you. You can exchange money at the airport (either Athens or Heraklion). Exchange rates at the airport may not be the most favorable and they often have higher commission rates and/or minimum commissions. There are ATM’s at the airports which can be handy as there is not a commission, just the ATM service charge. There are also ATM’s in Matala, Plakias and Agia Galini. Some of the hotels where we stay will also exchange. Some shops do exchange money but their rates are often high.
Do they take plastic there? Are there cash stations?"
There is a Cash Station at the Heraklion Airport. There are also ATM’s in Matala where we spend the first two nights and again in Plakias and Agia Galini. Many of the more upscale shops will take credit cards. You can sometimes negotiate a better price on goods if you pay cash. Many smaller shops do not accept credit cards.
What's the weather like?
The weather in fall and spring is generally around 80° with lots of sunshine. Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen, including lip protection. A broad-brimmed hat that secures on your head can also be very helpful. Water temperatures in fall tend to be in the mid to upper 70’s. Spring water temperatures are significantly cooler (high 60’s). Air temperatures cool off at night to the point you may want a light jacket. Rain is unusual but does sometimes occur. A light rain jacket can be handy.
What are the accommodations like?
We choose the nicest inns/hotels in each of the towns where we stay. That said, we are avoiding the major touristy towns of Crete so options are somewhat limited. All of the hotels are clean and rooms have private baths. Bathtubs are a rarity in Crete but all rooms have showers.
What do I need to bring?
Upon registering, we will provide you with a detailed clothing and equipment list to guide you in your packing. Casual clothes are the order of the day- no need for anything fancy. A walking stick can be extremely helpful on your hike through the Samarian Gorge. Full hiking boots are definitely not necessary and can be much too warm. Many find that cross trainers/sneakers work well. We have also found that many prefer sandals (e.g. Tevas) with socks. Having your feet get overheated is the most common source of blisters. Keep in mind that the Samarian Gorge is all downhill which takes its toll on knees and ankles. While paddling, your needs in the boat will be minimal. A small dry bag with a carabiner clip to keep it attached to the boat is very handy. Clear bags are helpful to be able to find what you need. During the day, you will want to have sunscreen, some Euros for lunch and the cappuccino stop, sunglasses with something to keep them tied on with (Croakies®, Chums®, etc.), water bottle (most folks will buy cold bottled water in the morning, eliminating the need to bring a water bottle), camera, mask and snorkel (if you enjoy snorkeling), small binoculars if you already have some, and a small pack towel. A pair of gloves can be helpful to prevent blisters. You do not need neoprene paddling gloves- these can be too warm. Any open fingered glove (including bike gloves, sailing gloves, golfing gloves) can work well (just figure that they will get quite wet). The key is to protect your palm between your thumb and index finger as that tends to receive the most friction. The rest of your gear can be loaded in the van in the morning. Packing your gear in flexible bags (e.g. duffle bags vs. hard suitcases) is preferable. A common comment from participants at the end of the trip is that they brought much more than they needed- added extra clothing to what was on the clothing/equipment checklist and regretted it in the end. Simplicity is the order of the day- less is more! You will have an option to leave a bag at the hotel in Matala where we stay provided you have a flight out of Heraklion in the afternoon of the last day or are overnighting in Heraklion after the trip. On the final morning, we will be returning to Matala before heading into Heraklion, giving you a chance to pick up any bags left in Matala. This has been a popular option as folks often have more than they need for the week of paddling. If you bring any items requiring electricity, be sure to bring both a converter and adapter plugs. These can be purchased at Radio Shack®, other electronics stores, travel stores etc. Let the salesperson know you are traveling to Greece and they can help you select the appropriate converter and adapter plugs for your equipment. Note that hair dryers, irons, and any other heat producing devices require a stronger converter than other devices. It is helpful to know the wattage of your particular equipment when purchasing the appropriate converter.
Can I drink the water?
The water is safe to drink in all the areas we visit except the town of Loutro. In Loutro, the water will not make you ill but has a salty taste. However, bottled water is readily available everywhere and quite inexpensive so most folks choose to drink bottled water.
What's the food like?
Breakfast generally consists of fresh Greek yogurt with honey, bread, cheese, juice, coffee or tea, with eggs as an occasional option. Lunches and dinners are ordered off the menu which typically consists of Greek specialties such as moussaka, pastitsio, grilled meats and fish, spaghetti (doesn’t sound Greek but very popular), stifada (generally beef stew), etc. Selections for vegetarians are more limited but previous vegetarian clients have not gone hungry, enjoying dolmades (grape leaves), eggplant, zucchini, tzatzki (yogurt/cucumber/garlic dip), saganaki (fried feta), Greek salads etc.
What time zone will I be in?
Greece is two hours ahead of Greenwich Time, which makes it 7 hours ahead of US Eastern Time, 8 hours ahead of Central Time, 10 hours ahead of Pacific Time.
How can people reach me in an emergency? Can I call home?
We will provide you with a list of our hotels including phone and fax numbers. You should also provide family/friends with The Northwest Passage number (800-RECREATE, 732-7328) as NWP staff will always be notified of any changes in the itinerary. You can call home using a calling card. Many of the hotels will have phones in the rooms. Keep in mind the time difference listed above. It can be helpful to remind family and friends about this also. MCI access code for calls from Crete is 00-800-1211. AT&T access code is 00-800-1311, Sprint access code is 00-800-1411.
How much time do we spend traveling each day? How many miles? Do I have free time?
We will generally kayak 5-6 hours per day. The paddling is broken into multiple sections with plenty of time to explore the coastline, paddle in and out of sea caves and jump in and out of the water to cool off. We generally begin paddling at 8:30 each morning, then take a cappuccino break at a seaside taverna after an hour or so. We stop again for lunch after another hour or so and generally reach our next hotel between 3:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon. Distance traveled varies each day, ranging from 6-24 miles. Once we reach our destination, you will have some free time to shower, relax, and/or explore the town. We will generally offer some additional skill training for folks who are interested at the end of the day. Some participants have wanted to work on Eskimo rolling, paddling techniques, etc. Each day, the van will be following our route, meeting us at the cappuccino stops and lunch stops, offering multiple options. You can paddle to the cappuccino break, then hop in the van to the lunch stop, then paddle again in the afternoon. Or start with a van ride and paddle later in the day. The choices are endless!
What kind of equipment do you use?
We have a combination of hard shell plastic doubles, singles and folding doubles. Some participants prefer to paddle in the doubles the whole time (paddling is a bit easier with two people powering the boat and the doubles tend to be more stable) and some prefer to trade on and off with the singles. We will provide kayaks, paddles, spray skirts and PFD’s (personal flotation devices) for all participants. If you prefer to bring your own paddle and/or PFD, you are most welcome to. Please let us know in advance so that we can pack the appropriate gear, especially if you have a particular need or unusual size.
How many people are on this trip? How many guides? Who are the guides / what are their qualifications?
Our group sizes for this trip range from 6 to 16 participants. We generally have two guides on the water and one or two additional staff members as van drivers. One of our van drivers is George, a local Cretan with a wealth of knowledge about and love for his native land. Your other guides will be knowledgeable Northwest Passage staff members who are highly skilled in all aspects of sea kayaking and wilderness travel and have years of experience leading groups. They all have training and/or certification in Wilderness First Aid.
How can I prepare physically for the trip? How much prior experience is needed?
We have had participants on this trip who have never been in a kayak before and others who have been paddling for years. We have found that all levels of kayakers have enjoyed this adventure. A good level of personal fitness makes the journey more enjoyable. For kayaking, upper body exercises that strengthen your shoulders, back and arms are recommended. Strengthening exercises with free weights can be very beneficial. Upper body stretches and exercises such as rowing are also useful. Keep in mind that we have had folks at all different levels of physical conditioning thoroughly enjoy this trip and the van is always an option! It is extremely important that you know how to swim and are comfortable in the water. Please don’t hesitate to contact our office if you have any questions or concerns about your physical capabilities for this trip.
THE HISTORY OF CRETE
Crete lies at the crossroads of three continents, Europe, Africa and Asia. The largest Greek Island, Crete is the home of Europe’s earliest known civilization, the Minoans. The strategic position of Crete in the middle of the Mediterranean has led to an almost constant battle to control the Island from ancient times until the present century.
THE STONE AGE- 6000-2600 B.C.
Crete’s first inhabitants probably came from Anatolia in Asia Minor or possibly Africa. They were cave dwellers who eventually began to build simple huts from burnt clay bricks.
THE MINOANS (BRONZE AGE)- 2000-1400 B.C.
From about 2000 B.C. onwards the new immigrants with their higher degree of civilization join with the indigenous population to become the “Minoans”. A sophisticated society develops. Skilled craftsmen such as stonemasons, potters, metalworkers, jewelers and weavers are at work. Agriculture thrives. Metal tools replace stone. The society acquires a structure and hierarchy and palaces are built at Knossos, Festos, Malia and Zakros. The Minoans have a merchant fleet selling their wares throughout the Mediterranean with trading posts and colonies in places such as the Cyclades, Rhodes and as far afield as Asia Minor, Egypt and the East. Trade and not military power extends their Empire. Around the time of 1700 B.C. the palaces were destroyed, the most likely cause being an earthquake although some historians believe it may have been a tidal wave. The palaces were rebuilt even more splendidly and the society and culture continued to prosper. They were decorated with frescoes and were often on several stories with courtyards, wide staircases and complex plumbing and drainage systems. Art flourished with the rebuilding of the palaces, not just frescoes but sculpture including naturalistic human figures and animals have been excavated. As the craftsmen became more skilled so their wares changed. Beautiful pottery and stone vessels in many different shapes and designs and often decorated with local scenes dating from this period have been found. This flourishing, peaceful and wealthy society with its influence felt throughout the Mediterranean and beyond was not to last. A minor earthquake in about 1600 BC was the beginning of the decline. Complete destruction followed. Knossos survived but soon the Mycenean Greeks invade from the mainland and take over what is left of the Minoan society.
THE MYCENAENS- 1400-1100 B.C.
The Mycenaens dominate the Minoans and a hybrid of the two cultures develops. Crete is no longer the trading power it was and the Minoan dominance of the Mediterranean is at an end. The Mycenaens use weapons to defend themselves against the waves of Dorians who are coming to Crete after the Trojan Wars.
DORIAN CRETE (IRON AGE)- 1100-480 B.C.
The Dorians drive out the Mycenaens and form their own Class orientated society. The original Cretans tried to preserve their identity and formed settlements apart from the Dorians. They have become known as Eteo-Cretans (real Cretans). Crete became an Island of small independent states with no unified culture.
CLASSICAL AND HELLENISTIC CRETE- 480-67 B.C.
Crete becomes a shadow of its former Minoan glory. Used as a base for pirates the sea trade in the Mediterranean is disrupted. This, combined with the Island’s strategic position drew the Romans to Crete. THE ROMAN AND BYZANTINE CRETE- 67 B.C.-1204 A.D. After a couple of earlier abortive attempts, in 69 B.C. a successful Roman invasion took place. After two and a half years of fierce fighting, the Cretans surrendered to their fate. The Romans brought prosperity and a level of organization not seen since the Minoans. Large settlements with roads, irrigation systems and aqueducts developed. Agriculture flourished and Crete once again assumed an important position albeit within the Roman Empire.
St. Paul is thought to have brought Christianity to Crete in about 50 A.D. and there is a chapel on the beach at Agios Pavlos to commemorate his visit. Christianity spread rapidly across the Island but the early Christians were persecuted for their beliefs. At the end of the fourth century the roman Empire was split in two with Crete belonging to the eastern part belonging to Byzantium (Constantinople, Istanbul today). Although the many Churches built during this period with their elaborate frescoes testify to the prosperity of these times, the Island held an insignificant position in the scheme of things. There is soon a new threat to Crete. The rapidly developing Arab world is casting their eye in her direction. In 824 A.D. an Arab Saracen force invades the Island and meets little resistance. They use the Island as a base for attacks on shipping and are little more than pirates. For over a century they control the Island. The Byzantine rulers do little to help their colony until I 961 they drive out the Arabs ina huge and bloody battle which decimated the Cretan population and wipes out the Saracens. The island reverts to Byzantine rule and its flagging population is boosted by immigrants from the mainland and Byzantium. The Crusades were the first that brought the next of Crete’s rulers. Turning their might on Byzantium the Crusaders sack and burn Constantinople and the Empire is divided up. Crete is sold to the Venetian Republic for a small sum.