Sfakia is a unique, wild and captivating place.
The imposing “Sfakianes Madares” are the reason why the residents are so proud and honest. After walking the paths of history, wandering around the rough mountains and gorges enjoying their wild natural beauty and after experiencing the unique hospitality of the residents, you will really feel like having travelled in the past.
The wildest natural landscape in whole Crete. A unique place, difficult to approach, full of gorges and mountain peaks, but also with hidden spotlessly clean beaches with crystal clear waters. The unique formation of the ground played an important role in the life of people of Sfakia. It had an effect on their temperament and as a result they created a unique civilization as we deduce from the ancient cities found in the area, such as Tarra, Foinikas, Aradena, Anopolis, Pikalissos etc. The remains of a golden era lie in the gorges, the tablelands and the marvelous caves.
The White Mountains (or Madares as the local call it) take up almost the whole region of Sfakia, on the southeast of Chania prefecture, with more than 100 peaks, 57 of which are more than 2000m in height (highest point: Pahnes 2452m in height). Many of them are barren and covered with snow from autumn to spring. Here, on mountain Gigilos (2080m in height), Zeus the Kritagenis was said to have built his throne before moving it to the top of Mountain Olympus.
The word “Sfakia”probalbly derives from the word “sfaka”, which is the local name for the evergreen oleander bush. Others believe that the word “Sfakia” means “the land of gorges” and that is because all these gorges with their unique and beautiful flora are typical of the area. In Chania prefecture there are almost 60 gorges, most of which are in Sfakia and are also the most imposing ones. Beginning form the west we find Tripiti gorge, which forms a natural boarder between Sfakia and Selino prefecture. Then there is Klados gorge. If you wish to walk throught either of them, you will surely need an experienced guide.
Then we meet Samaria Gorge, which is the longest gorge in Europe with a length of 18 km. and is one of the main attractions of Crete. The gorge starts from Xyloskalo at the plateau of Omalos and ends in the coastal village of Agia Roumeli on the south Crete. After the Samaria Gorge and going east we find the gorge Elygias and Aradena. The gorge of Aradena is very beautiful and interesting and has a length of 7 km. The entrance is at Aradena’s village and ends at the beautiful beach “Dialiskari” or “Marmara”. After the gorge of Aradena and before Chora Sfakion is the gorge of Illigas. After those we meet Sfakiano and that of Imbros. The gorge of Imbros is small and easy to cross with a length of 8 km. In several places of the gorge you will find imposing rocky volumes which rise to 300 meters. Eastern we meet in order Kapni’s gorge, Asfendou gorge and Kalikratis gorge. Eastern of all is the Argouliano Gorge.
During your hikes you will discover that there is a scenery full of hidden caves in the mountainous area, most of which still remain unexplored. Sfakia holds 260 caves out of 1400 existing in the whole prefecture of Chania. Many of them were used as hideouts during the Venetian domination, which lasted from the 13th to the 17th century, as well as during the Turkish domination. Isolated in this almost inaccessible area of the White Mountains, people in Sfakia villages managed to maintain a half-autonomous regime and although their houses were pillages and they were slaughtered, they never succumbed to enslavement.