From: Heraklion, Crete Greece
Price:$ 2,250
Duration: 8 days, 7 nights

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Duration:
8 days, 7 nights
Activities:
Sea Kayaking
Skill Rating:
4
Van Supported:
No
From:
Heraklion, Crete Greece
Price:
$ 2,250
Minimum Age 18
Included: Guides, ground transportation, support vehicle, night one and two lodging (based on double occupancy, single supplement applies $150), meals per itinerary (first night dinner, day 2 and 3 breakfast), all kayaking equipment, instruction and entry fees for the archaeological sites of Knossos and Phaestos and for the Samaria Gorge National Park.
Not Included: Most meals and drinks per itinerary, airfare to/from HER, tent, sleeping bags/mats, personal clothing and accessories, full medical, baggage and mandatory trip cancellation insurance, airport taxes, and gratuities not included. Single supplement: $150.

Incredible coastline, spectacular sunsets, warm waters in tremendously varied shades of blue and green, amazing sea caves, cliff jumping for all confidence levels, never-ending sunshine, phenomenal food, an opportunity to see the Crete that few tourists see. The Northwest Passage has been touring Crete by kayak, bicycle, and foot since 1992, and in the process, we have developed this world class expedition. 


Itinerary:
Day 1: Our trip officially begins 10:00am on the first day of the trip at the Heraklion Airport where The Northwest Passage staff will meet you. From the airport, we will head westward to the town of Falassarna, on the Northwest corner of the island. In the afternoon, we’ll get outfitted with paddling gear, review packing a kayak, buy some groceries, and have a chance to get out on the water. In the evening we’ll view the sunset from the cliffs before enjoying dinner together at an authentic Greek taverna, where we will review the itinerary for the week and answer whatever questions you may have. 

Day 2: After breakfast, we’ll get an early start on the water and make our South, paddling most of the length of the Western coast, before pulling up on a secluded beach to make our first home-cooked dinner of the trip. If all goes well, we’ll be sleeping under a clear sky packed with stars. 

Day 3: We’ll be doing a simple breakfast on the beach again, and taking off early to take full advantage of the generally calmer morning waters. It will be a short paddle to Elafonissi (one of Crete’s most iconic beaches) where we will spend a couple hours taking it in. Once leaving Elafonissi, we’ll round the corner of the island and begin our journey along the Southern coast. We’ll choose one of several secluded beaches to relax on for the night and gear up for a long hike tomorrow.

Day 4: We’ll get an early start today to make the short paddle to the town of Sougia. Where we’ll get a shuttle up to the trailhead of the Samaria Gorge, This is a “must see” for every visitor to Crete; this incredible national park draws thousands of visitors each day. We have designed our itinerary to be able to experience the Gorge after the vast majority of hikers have already headed down. While most visitors to the Gorge rush to catch the last ferry, we will spend the night in Agia Roumeli, a charming and traditional town on the sea where the Gorge ends. Your kayaks and gear will meet you there, where we’ll stay for the evening and enjoy dinner in a local taverna.

Day 5: As the ascending sun brightens the cliffs along the bay, we will depart from Roumeli in our kayaks. The small 10th Century chapel built in honor of St. Paul is a remarkable site and traditionally wonderful photo opportunity. From Agios Pavlos, we’ll continue along the coastline to Marmara Beach, one of our prettiest lunch stops offering additional cliff-jumping opportunities from the wind-carved marble rocks. We then paddle to the water-access-only town of Loutro where we will have a late lunch, before continuing on to our camping spot at the idyllic Sweetwater Beach, named after the freshwater springs that come up right at the base of the cliffs.  

Day 6: Today will be one of our longer paddling days, and there is a lot to see as we make our way more than 20km along the coast. We’ll have regular stops along the way, including the Venetian fortress of Frangokastello. Our beach camping spot for the night is nestled into a small canyon filled with palm trees, with a freshwater river coming down to the sea. It is aptly named Palm Beach. 

Day 7: Having a well established morning routine by now, we’ll have a simple breakfast and get on the water. Our destination will depend on the coming weather, but the total paddling distance will be shorter than yesterday. We’ll stop for lunch near Trio Petra beach, renowned for its beautiful rock formations, and after, paddle on to the beach at Agios Pavlos. At this point we’ll either continue along the coast to cmp for the night, or make an 6-mile crossing to the small islands of Paximadia to spend our last night.

Day 8: Regardless of where we camped the night before, our last leg of the adventure will be an open water crossing to the town of Matala, home base of The Northwest Passage on Crete, surrounded by the famous caves - legendary homes to Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan and others in the 1960s. Upon arriving in Matala, our adventure will come to an end. We’ll grab an early lunch and rinse off before departing for Heraklion between around noon, to catch late afternoon flights.
**This itinerary is subject to change. As with all adventure travel, some activities are dependent on appropriate wind and water conditions. But fear not -we have many alternative activities available in case the weather is not cooperative.

Clothing & Equipment:

Clothing & Equipment:

The Northwest Passage Paddle Pack has many of the items that you'll need to be prepared for your time in your boat and on the water. It's guide certified and approved. Order your paddle pack today! 

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 shoes; 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
  • Tent
  • Sleeping pad/mat
  • Sleeping bag
  • Cookset/utensiles
  • Small camping stove
  • Various drybags for storage of gear. We find that several small(5liter) to medium (10liter) dry bags work best to fit in the kayak hatch areas. 

Miscellaneous

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, 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

Optional Equipment

  • Guidebooks
  • 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)

 

 


Recommended Reading:

Nikos Kazantzakis - Zorba the Greek, Report to Greco, and other works

J.Lesley Fitton - The Minoans


What’s 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 confidence levels, never-ending sunshine, phenomenal food, an opportunity to see the Crete that few tourists see. Rick Sweitzer, founder and Adventurer-in-Chief 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 destination.

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 as familiar with Aegean. The airport code is HER and the airport is also known by the name "Nikos Kazantzakis Airport", sometimes abbreviated "N.Kazantzakis Airport". 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; info@pacifictravel.gr). 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. 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, reserved airplane-type seats, open seating, etc). It's a good idea to have sufficient Euros in cash to pay for your ticket if you have not purchased it already, as not all 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. Your passport expiration date should be at least 6 months after your intended departure date from 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 at 10:00 AM the first day of the trip at the Heraklion Airport; the airport is a quick taxi or bus ride from both central Heraklion hotels and from the ferry port. 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 most meals, drinks, personal purchases, and gratuities. Breakfasts and lunches generally range 7-10 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?

The Euro is the currency of Greece, and while some predict they will return to the drachma, this is unlikely and, in any case, Euros would continue to be accepted. 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. Some of the hotels where we stay will also exchange. Some shops do exchange money but their rates are often high. In the main towns there will be ATMs, but it's always a good idea to have a couple of days' worth of cash on hand.

Do they take plastic there? Are there cash stations?

Most of the larger restaurants and shops accept major credit cards, but some do not. You often can negotiate a better price using cash. 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. There is a cash station at the Heraklion Airport. There are also ATMs 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.

How much should I tip my guides?

Within the adventure travel industry, "tipping" is a standard practice, and it is welcomed by our guides. Our highly-trained and competent guides are on duty 24/7 for your safety and convenience, and recognizing their efforts is encouraged. Though it is not required and varies substantially, many participants tip approximately 10%-15% of their trip price.

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?

The Crete Kayaking and Camping Adventure bases most of it's nights on the sandy, clean beaches of the south coast. You will be responsible for bringing your own camping gear (see 'Planning' for a list of what to bring). It is important that you supply your own tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad/mat, although many a times, our guides have chose to sleep under the stars in no tent at all! For the first two nights, you will be staying at a family-owned inn in Matala. 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 is a Single Supplement ?

A Single Supplement is a charge paid by a solo traveler to compensate the inns or hotels for losses incurred because only one person is using a room. The Northwest Passage partnerships with local inn owners are based on double occupancy. The room will sleep two individuals. If you are a solo traveler and would like your own room for the trip duration, the Single Supplement fee is applied. If you are a solo traveler looking to share a room, The Northwest Passage will make every effort to pair solo travelers of the same gender together. We pair solo travelers together based on registration date. If you request to share a room and The Northwest Passage cannot pair you with another traveler, the forced Single Supplement fee is applied.

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 or trekking pole can be extremely helpful on your hike through the Samaria Gorge. Full hiking boots are definitely not necessary and can be much too warm. Many find that cross trainers/sneakers work well. Keep in mind that the Samaria Gorge is all downhill, which takes its toll on knees and ankles. While paddling, your needs in the boat will be minimal. All of your camping gear will need to fit into your kayak cockpits, which range in size but are generally no more than one foot wide (30cm). Dry bags are essential to keep your personal gear dry while in the sea kayak. We recommend several smaller sized dry bags as these will fit nicely inside the kayak hatch areas. Clear bags are helpful to be able to find what you need. In lieu of Dry bags you can line stuff sacks with a plactic bag to help achieve waterproof storage.  During the day, you will want to have sunscreen, some Euros for meals and cappuccino stops, 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 headlamp is essential for camping and handy for exploring the sea caves you may encounter along the way. 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 realize 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. 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 safely 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. Most tech-dependent travelers bring two adapter plugs so that they can charge or use more than one device at a time.

Can I drink the water?

The tap water is safe to drink in all the areas we visit. However, in Loutro, the water is safe to drink but has a slightly salty taste. 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, tzatziki (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, 9 hours ahead of Mountain Time, and 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. Greek cell phones can be purchased with some minutes for local calls for about $50. Please check with your cell phone company in the U.S. if you intend to use your usual phone in Europe - rates can be unexpectedly high if you don't have an international calling/data plan.

How much time do we spend traveling each day? How many miles? Do I have free time?

You 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. You should generally plan on beginning paddling at 8:30 each morning, then take a cappuccino break at a seaside taverna after an hour or so. You can stop again for lunch after another hour or so and generally reach your destination for the night between 3:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon. Distance traveled varies each day, ranging from 6-24 miles. 

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 PFDs (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. The Northwest Passage staff members 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. 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. It is essential 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. Read what others have written about this trip: New York Times: In Crete, Mobility with a Guide and a Glide About.com Greece - Trip Review - Crete Inn to Inn Sea Kayaking