Family Crete Kayak Adventure: Matala to Loutro
Price: $3,395, $2,895 (Under 15) Minimum Age 7
8 Days, 7 Nights
Price: $3,395, $2,895 (Under 15) Minimum Age 7
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 One – Matala: No matter which route you take to get to Heraklion, the trip will officially begin at 10:00 a.m. at the Heraklion airport. We will meet you at the airport in the arrivals section. You then set off to tour the world famous archaeological site of Knossos, an ancient Minoan palace that predates the Trojan War. After the tour, the group sets off for Matala where you settle into your room and have lunch (be sure to ask the guides about the best gyros pita in town!). During the afternoon you can explore the waterfront, shopping scene and ancient ruins of this beautiful beach town. In the evening The Northwest Passage guides outfit you with paddling gear. The group then gets to know one another a little better over sunset cocktails. You round out the evening with a delicious seaside dinner, and an opportunity to sample Matala's nightlife. (D)
Day Two – Matala: After breakfast we hold an introductory kayak lesson, and then immediately put the new skills to use as we paddle to the world famous Red Beach. Along the way we explore the beautiful coastline and poke inside some cavernous sea caves. After lounging, swimming and maybe grabbing a drink on Red Beach, we paddle over to Kommos Beach to enjoy a seaside lunch. We then paddle back to Matala, capping off today’s kayak mileage at seven. After landing our kayaks, the afternoon is yours to lounge on the beach, explore the area trails or go cliff jumping in Matala Bay! This evening we hike up a seaside hill for an unparalleled view of the Mediterranean coast, and watch the sky blaze through the color spectrum as the sun slips beneath the horizon. (B, D)
Day Three – Matala: After breakfast you have the option to hike amongst the hills and beaches, or paddle along the headlands, bluffs and coves to the very beautiful Vathi Beach. We return to Matala for lunch, and spend the afternoon checking out the ancient Roman catacombs, swimming, cliff jumping, hiking and/or paddling. (B, D)
Day Four – Roumeli: After an early start we set off for Phaistos, another ancient Minoan palace that was home to mythical Minotaur's labyrinth. After touring the more than 4,000 year old palace, we get back on the road heading for the Samaria Gorge, Europe’s deepest gorge and one of the world’s most astounding natural wonders. After reaching the top of the Samaria Gorge we have lunch and stock up on hiking snacks. We hike the gorge through pine forests, across mountain streams and between towering canyon walls. Words cannot capture the majestic beauty of this incredible place. You simply have to hike it to believe it! We stay the night in Roumeli, the seaside town at the bottom of the gorge that is only accessible by trail and by boat. Tonight we enjoy well deserved cold drinks and maybe a dip in the sea before dinner. (B, D)
Day Five – Loutro: After breakfast our fleet of kayaks await us. We paddle first to Agios Pavlos, a 1,000 year old Byzantine chapel that marks the spot where St. Paul was shipwrecked. We linger on the beach at the nearby taverna to enjoy a cappuccino before setting off for our lunch stop, Marmara Beach. Again, we relax at Marmara, taking time to snorkel, lay out and do some more cliff jumping. We then paddle on to Loutro, our home for the next three nights. Loutro, like Roumeli, is another beautiful south coast town that is only accessible by hiking trail and by boat. We settle into our rooms at Loutro and then head off for dinner. We can even go for a starlight paddle in the stunning protected bay. (B, D)
Day Six – Loutro: Today we have the option to hike on the world famous E4 trail, hike the Ariadne Gorge or paddle to some of the area's beaches. Sweetwater Beach is a very popular beach approximately one hour away by kayak or trail. This smooth stone beach is known for the freshwater springs that gurgle up through the rocks onshore. Sweetwater is also a great place to grab a snack and a coffee before going on to the town of Chora Sfakia or back to Loutro for lunch. Dinner is on your own tonight, and options abound. (B)
Day Seven – Loutro: It's hard to believe but we've already come to our last full day of the trip. So we make sure to pack it full of adventure. If you fancy a challenge, and didn't hike the Ariadne Gorge the day before, we highly recommend this full-day hike down an awe inspiring natural wonder. Along the way you'll pass traditional Cretan villages and a bluff-top monastery with panoramic views of the sea and surrounding mountains. Of course the sea offers unlimited kayaking adventure possibilities as well if you choose to paddle instead. This evening we go for another sunset hike, stopping to admire the seascape from the ruins of a Venetian fortress. Afterwards we celebrate the memories we've made at our farewell dinner. (B, D)
Day Eight: After breakfast, we will make a short paddle from Loutro to the port town of Hora Sfakia and from there, shuttle back up to Heraklion. We may have a chance to visit the renowned Heraklion Archaeological Museum before heading to the airport to catch departing flights. The Northwest Passage plans to have you back to the departures terminal of the Heraklion airport by 4:00 PM on this final day of the program. When booking travel please allow enough time to comfortably navigate check-in and security.(B)
**This itinerary is subject to change.
"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.