8 Days, 7 Nights|
Guides, ground transportation, support vehicle, lodging, meals per itinerary (B, D) all kayaking equipment and instruction.|
Air or ferry to Heraklion on the island of Crete, lunches, drinks, and one dinner, personal clothing and accessories, full medical, baggage and trip cancellation insurance, airport taxes and gratuities.
Remote and unspoiled, Gavdos is located about 25 miles off of the southern coast of Crete, long one of our favorite haunts. This remote paradise is easy to get to yet ignored by most travelers and tourists, and its little neighbor, Gavdoupoula, is even more so. Veterans of our other Greek island trips who are ready to return again to Greece will find this trip an easy excuse to get away from it all and get in some great paddling at the same time. Based on weather conditions and the experience level of the group, we may be able to completely circumnavigate the island, and make an open-sea crossing over to explore Gavdopoula.
Day 1: The trip will officially begin in the morning at the Heraklion airport. We have found that the flight schedules from Athens to Heraklion vary year to year so we will determine the exact meeting time once the schedules are fully set, generally between 09:00 and 10:30 a.m. We will meet you at the airport in or just outside the arrivals section. Look for staff wearing Northwest Passage shirts and carrying “Welcome Kayakers” signs. From the airport we will head to Knossos, the mysterious Minoan palace ruins just outside of Heraklion. We will have self-guided stroll through Knossos, then cross the heart of the island of Crete on our way to Matala on the south coast. Depending on timing, we may pause for lunch at Knossos or continue on to enjoy the many options for lunch in Matala. You’ll have some free time in the afternoon to settle in and explore the town. In the early evening, we’ll join to enjoy an incredible sunset, have a welcome drink, and begin to get to know one another. We will review the itinerary for the week and answer whatever questions you may have. (D)
Day 2: After breakfast, we will outfit all 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 two neighboring beaches, 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. (B,D)
Day 3: We’ll get an early start today in order to stop and visit the ruins of the Minoan Palace of Phaistos. We will enjoy a scenic drive through the Cretan countryside to catch our ferry for Gavdos. The ferry to Gavdos is approximately 2.5 hours across 25 miles of open water. Along the way dolphins and sea turtles may be spotted. Following lunch on shore, the group will paddle the north coast to our evening accommodations. We plan to spend time getting acquainted with our evening accommodations and many will take the opportunity to refining there paddling skills. (B,D)
Day 4: Starting our circumnavigation of Gavdos by kayak we head west from our inn skirting the western shoreline of Gavdos turning south then east exploring the remote reaches of Europe and the alleged location of Calypso's Sea Cave from "The Odyssey". We may also be able to clamber up volcanic rock to the unexpected giant chair which marks the southernmost point of Europe. A picnic lunch allows the group to set its own pace and enjoy the southern coastline with its towering arches, sea caves and secluded beaches. Our circumnavigation complete, we'll head back to our evening accommodations and you will have some down time before our evening sunset hike and a wonderful beach BBQ. (B,D)
Day 5: With our ferry departure set for the afternoon many in the group will opt to return to the wonderful waters surrounding Gavdos for a morning paddle to the ferry dock. Once back to the main island of Crete, depending on the ferry port schedule, the group may have the option to paddle or hike to the seaside village of Loutro. We will be spending our night in Loutro. B,D
Day 6: From Loutro, 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 Plakias. 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. (B)
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. (B,D)
Day 8: Those wishing to can launch early in the morning from Agia Galini and paddle across the bay into Matala (approximately 8 miles in a sometimes-challenging open water crossing). Others will choose to take the 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 some to visit the renowned Heraklion Archaeological Museum before catching late afternoon flights back to Athens. (B)
*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 Crete have provided us with numerous options if changes need to be made. If it is too windy to paddle, various hiking, cultural and historical options will make you glad for the winds.
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
- 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
- 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?
If a world class sea kayaking trip to a beautiful and remote location well off the radar is your idea of a perfect vacation, this journey will delight you. Set out from serene south Crete for the southernmost point in Europe, Gavdos. This island sits removed from the tourist traffic, which helps you set your clocks to “island time” as you paddle along the magnificent coastline. This trip refreshes and recharges your mind, body and soul. Speaking of recharging, electricity is at a premium on the island and some illumination on Gavdos may be by lantern, depending on the power situation. At night, the local dark nights assure incredible stargazing.
How do I get there?
Upon arrival in Athens, you can fly or take a ferry to Heraklion, Crete, where Northwest Passage guides will transfer you to the south coast where the adventure begins.
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 have a copy of your travel itinerary, and meet you in Heraklion, Crete. A Northwest Passage guide holding a Northwest Passage sign will be there to greet you.
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. Once in Athens, you can either fly on to Heraklion directly or take an overnight ferry to Crete.
Where should I stay overnight around there?
If you plan on arriving early or staying late, be sure to call the office for a recommendation on a great place to stay.
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 12-20 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?
Greece is on the Euro and while some are concerned that situation may change, we expect that Greece will remain on the Euro for the foreseeable future. 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 ATMs at the airports which can be handy as there is not a commission, just the ATM service charge. There are also ATMs 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?"
Many of the larger shops and tavernas on Crete will accept major credit cards, but smaller shops as well as most places on Gavdos only accept cash. There are ATMs in most of the populated places on Crete, but is best to have enough cash in Euros on you for your stay on Gavdos.
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.All of the hotels are clean and rooms have private baths.
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. 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! 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 just about everywhere we go, and bottled water is available at all of our stops.
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 include dolmades (grape leaves), eggplant, zucchini, tzatziki (yogurt/cucumber/garlic dip), saganaki (fried feta), Greek salads, etc. Gluten-free diets can also be accommodated in many places.
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, 9 hours ahead of Mountain Time, and 10 hours ahead of Pacific Time during most of the period that we travel.
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.
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. On self-supported trips, like this one, there is no support van so paddlers must generally commit for the entire day of paddling, though there are sometimes other options available depending on ferry schedules and other factors.
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.
History of Gavdos
The location of Gavdos just south of the "big island" of Crete assured its importance as a port in ancient times. Ships plying the route to Egypt are believed to have made regular stops on the island. Archaeological remains date to Neolithic and Minoan times. But its relative remoteness kept it from ever being overdeveloped. At many moments in the history of Crete and of Greece, Gavdos has been used as a place of exile, either official or self-imposed. Even today, wind and weather can cut off the island, especially in winter.
Its location put its sister island of Gavdopoula under consideration for conversion into a container ship port, but environmenal concerns stopped the project. This was fortunate as the two islands play host to many rare species, including some found nowhere else on earth. The local waters also draw dolphins, sea turtles, and even the occasional pilot whale.
While almost every remote island in the Mediterranean has probably claimed to be the island of Calypso, who enticed Odysseus into a long holiday with her in her sea cave, Gavdos seems to have claimed it more vigorously than some. A sea cave was pointed out as her home for centuries, but the collapse of the original resulted in the honor being accorded to another, smaller cave nearby.