8 Days, 7 Nights|
$2,295 (Under 16) Minimum Age 7
Guides, ground transportation, support vehicle, lodging, most meals (breakfasts and dinners), and entry fee into Samarian and other Gorges.|
Air or ferry to Heraklion, lunches, drinks and one dinner, personal clothing and accessories, full medical, baggage and trip cancellation insurance, airport taxes and gratuities.
Adventures abound for active families on this trip in Crete. Exhilarating cliff-jumping, snorkeling, hiking and paddling through crystal blue waters provide an amazing multi-sport experience that your family will never forget. At the end of each fun-filled day, you enjoy a delicious dinner of tasty local foods the whole family will love, and then the sound of the waves against the shore lull you to sleep. This is a trip your family will never forget!
Youngest participant: 7 yrs.
Day 1: The trip officially begins in the morning at the Heraklion airport where NWP staff 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 visit Knossos, then shuttle down to Matala on the south coast. There are many options for lunch tavernas in Matala. We’ll have some free time in the afternoon to explore Matala. We’ll get together to enjoy the incredible sunset, have a drink and begin to get to know one another. We will review the itinerary for the week and answer whatever questions you may have.
Day 2: After breakfast, we will outfit everyone with paddle, PFD and sprayskirt, then head across the street to the beach where we will offer basic kayaking instruction. The protected bay in Matala provides us with a perfect spot for instruction, surrounded by the famous caves (legendary homes to Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan and others in the 60’s). We will then paddle to 2 neighboring beaches, the Red Beach and Kommos Beach. After enjoying lunch and visiting the ruins at Kommos, we will return to Matala. You’ll have some free time, followed by an optional sunset hike. We’ll end the day with a great meal (as always) and a chance to experience the rousing night life of Matala.
Day 3: We’ll get an early start today in order to stop and visit the ruins of the Minoan Palace of Festos on our way to the trail head for the Samarian Gorge. We trade our paddles and swim wear for hiking boots and walking sticks (critical item of equipment!). The Samarian Gorge is a “must see” for every visitor to Crete and this incredible national park draws 1,000-2,000 visitors per day. We have designed our itinerary to be able to experience the Gorge after the vast majority of hikers have already headed down. Most visitors to the Gorge have to catch the ferry at the end of the Gorge. We, however, spend the night in Agia Roumeli, the town where the Gorge ends. We’ll celebrate our accomplishments with a wonderful dinner right at our hotel.
Day 4: We will depart from Roumeli in our kayaks, heading along the coastline to Agios Pavlos for our cappuccino stop. The small 11th Century chapel built in honor of St. Paul is a remarkable site and traditionally wonderful photo opportunity. From Ag. Pavlos, we’ll continue along the coastline to Marmara Beach, one of our prettiest lunch stops. We then paddle to the water-access-only town of Loutro. Rounding the point to catch your first glimpse of this idyllic town has been a highlight of the trip for all past participants. We won’t ruin the moment by saying any more now- you’ll just have to see for yourself!
Day 5: We will be spending two nights in Loutro, allowing for a day with multiple options. From Loutro, we may continue up the coastline to Sweetwater Beach where the freshwater springs bubbling out of the sand provide a unique experience. After stretching our legs, enjoying a refreshing swim and cup of cappuccino, we can paddle on to Hora Sfakia for our lunch stop. We paddle back to Loutro leaving us with some free time in the afternoon and a chance to relax before our sunset hike.
Day 6: You will have an option today to paddle to Hora Sfakia or hike the trail which follows the coastline. We will then continue paddling or shuttle by van along the coast to the Venetian fortress at Frangokastello for a brief tour. We continue paddling or shuttling to a put in spot at one of our favorite tavernas following our lunch break. From there, we will paddle into the bay at Ammoudi. We’ll have a chance to explore Plakias that evening- some great shopping opportunities as well as one of our favorite bakeries on the island (the “Cretan Specialty” is another highlight of the trip!). Dinner is on your own tonight to give you a choice of the numerous restaurant possibilities in town as well as a chance to set your own schedule for the evening.
Day 7: Heading out from Ammoudi Bay, our next stop is Palm Beach, an idyllic setting crowded with tourists by mid-day. We always manage to arrive before the crowds, giving us an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of our semi-private beach. An optional paddle up the inland fresh water creek provides some varied scenery. Our lunch stop today is near Trio Petra beach. After lunch, we will paddle on to the beach at Agios Pavlos. At this point, you can opt to shuttle the last section or paddle the final 7-mile stretch (making total mileage for the day 18!). We will celebrate with a final dinner overlooking the harbor at Agia Galini.
Day 8: Those wishing to complete the paddling circle can launch early in the morning from Agia Galini and paddle across the bay into Matala (approximately 8 miles in an open water crossing). Others will van to Matala where we will have a brief stop to pick up any luggage you may have chosen to leave at the hotel, unload boats and do any last minute shopping. The van will depart for Heraklion between 11 a.m. and noon, giving time for a visit the renowned Heraklion Archaeological Museum before catching late afternoon flights back to Athens. **This itinerary is subject to change.
This is all 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
- 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
- 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, 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 Paddle/personal PFD- we will supply paddles and PFD’s for group but if you prefer your own paddle and PFD, feel free to bring them along
- 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 email@example.com) 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.
"What a magical week- exploring the glorious island of Crete, hiking, sea kayaking, swimming, eating...and more eating wonderful meals and making new friends. The 4 guides worked so hard to make this an even more amazing week for everyone. Our entire family had such a memorable week. Thanks to you all!
-Karen & Nick L.
"What a fabulous week! The time went by too quickly- it was wonderful watching our children take on new challenges and adventures. We especially enjoyed the opportunity to visit the lovely Cretan villages away from the tourist crowds- the best way to experience Greece. Thank you for a remarkable trip that we will never forget." -Keith E.
"Beautiful places, great water to paddle and excellent staff. They know how to make you feel good.”
"Lucky to have run into NWPassage at Canoecopia- best impulse buy ever! The guides were probably the most helpful people ever- hard to do anything for yourself! Always a choice of activities, as challenging or relaxing (or both) as you want. There is no better way to travel than with Northwest Passage.” -Theresa T.
"Had a great time. The fun meter was really spinning! Great new friends and a great vacation!” -Susan S.
"Had a great time- in fact, just not long enough so staying another week. The guides were excellent- attentive, fun, helpful, safety conscious. Great location, great scenery. A superior adventure travel company. Right balance of fun, organization and safety. Thanks!! Will see you again soon!” -Connie E
"The best organized, friendliest, most accommodating trip I have ever taken. Rick gets the exceptional hospitality and service from tavernas and hotels. Nancy solves every problem and shares her wealth of experience. Mike encourages, soothes, calms, and instructs paddlers to new experiences and growth-a wealth of talents, always friendly, always smiling! George shared his love of homeland and deep respect for humanity with us all. Thank you for giving us insight into your long history. Variety, options, individual tastes were all met. You make an intricately planned tour look easy-always smiling and offering assistance. We'll travel with you again!" -Linda A
“It was a wonderful experience- ‘cool’ and ‘cute’ no longer describe it well. Thanks for creating a week to remember and share with friends and family. Must think of a new word to capture this. The guides were completely without exception of the highest quality- Mike, Mike, Mike! I was completely happy with the diversity and flexibility of the itinerary- could not have been more accommodating. The challenge makes you feel good about yourself.” -Maureen M.
“This was a very special vacation with folks of all ages that were up for challenges of a lifetime. The mix of hiking, kayaking and the history of this beautiful island was perfect. The staff were the best!! Always available, knowledgeable, helpful, talented- excellent skills. Nancy, Rick and Mike are great leaders and George connected us to his wonderful island in a very special way. Many thanks for fulfilling another dream.” -Marilyn A.
"As the tour busses go by with large crowds, I am so grateful for our personal, delightful, challenging yet nurturing kayaking and hiking group. This brings the Crete people and land and heritage to very personal level. I couldn’t imagine any other way to go. Thanks.” -Linda D.
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.