Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Excursion Chania to Sfakia by car, boat trip to Loutro and small hiking tour along the E4 path to Marmara

The following is a description of the excursion we did to the beach of Marmara which is located at the end of the Aradena Gorge south of Crete. It includes a car trip from Chania to Sfakia, from there a small boat trip to Loutro, and from there a small hiking tour along the E4 hiking trail to Marmara. And of course the same route back. This excursion fits nicely for a one day trip from Chania. For the hiking you need plenty of water! You can see an image gallery of the trip with descriptions at http://www.crete-photos.gr/thumbnails.php?album=91
View Excursion Chania to Sfakia by car, boat trip to Loutro and small hiking tour along the E4 path to Marmara in a larger map

The first boat from Sfakia to Loutro leaves at 10:30am. To arrive in time for this boat, we started at about 8:30am from Chania by car. Arriving in Sfakia, we managed to find easily a parking place at the port. We probably wouldn't have been so lucky if we went in July or August, as there would have been a lot more people due to the tourism high season.

The boat trip is being served by ANENDYK company (www.anendyk.gr). The same company serves also the rest of the routes of this region (Sfakia to Paleochora and Gavdos, Sfakia to Loutro and Agia Roumeli, Paleochora to Sougia and Agia Roumeli). The ticket to Loutro costs 3,50 Euro one way. We bought the return ticket at the same time, and thus the ticket for both ways was reduced to 5,50 Euros. The tickets are sold in a small kiosk just before the pier.

The ferry we took was the Daskalogiannis. Beside transferring people, the ferry does also take cars. But I'm asking myself for what reason one would take a car on this trip. Loutro and Agia Roumeli don't have roads to get there, and why would someone take the ferry to get for example to Sougia if he could easily go there by car??

The ferry does also have a closed deck, but most of the people gathered on the upper deck where there are covered benches. So there is some sunlight protection. The duration of the trip to Loutro is very small. The whole procedure took less than 30 minutes . On the trip you can see the beach “Glyka Nera” (Sweet Waters) just after Sfakia. You can get there also by car and a walk of about 15 minutes.

After getting out of the ferry in Loutro, it is not clear where the E4 trail is located. The seaside of Loutro is full of shops and cafes. We asked and we pointed to some stairs between to buildings. After a short while, we did indeed get to the trail. We saw the markings which are along the trail on stones or special signs (at least these marking should be along the whole part of the trail, but more on this later).

At the beginning of the trail the way is pretty steep and uphill. But we were rewarded with a beautiful view over Loutro. After a short while the path becomes more smooth. Reaching over Loutro, there is a castle from the Othoman Period. At this point there are the last trees that can provide shade. The rest of the route has little trees, so it doesn't suit for stops.

Continuing on the path to Marmara, we found 2 small bays. The first one is called Phoenix, and the second Lykos. In each of those bays, there is a small tavern. But we didn't stop at any of them, so I don't have any opinion on the food or service they provide.

At the second bay (Lycos) we were faced to our first (and only) problem: we could not find the markings of the E4 trail in order to continue! We were either blind or the markings just don't exist! We lost about 1 hour trying out the various routes with no luck. To our luck, someone else passing through showed us the correct path. We had to go down to the bay, through the buildings, and continue along the shore. At the end of the shore, there are some rocks which we had to climb up. This was the most difficult part of the walk. After climbing up those rocks, we found again the e$ trail markings.

If we don't take into account the time we lost trying to find the E4 trail at the Lycos bay, the whole hiking trip took us between 45minutes to 1 hour to get from Loutro to Marmara. Marmara is a relative small bay, and unfortunately (or fortunately... it depends on the viewpoint) there were a lot of other people. At least there was no music or other destructing events. There were a lot of small private boats with which people are getting there from Sfakia or Loutro. Behind the bay, the exit of the Aradena Gorge is visible. On top of a rock, there is a small tavern with relative cheap and good food. It's a carefully built building that doesn't destroy the image of the bay. There are also some rooms for rent, but with no electricity! We also learnt that the tavern is operated by the same person who operates the Chrysostomos restaurant in Chania. He closes for the summer period in Chania and opens in Marmara

The water is very clear and relatively cold. This is to be expected for the southern beaches of Crete. Inside the water, and very few meters east of the beach, there are 3-4 caves that can be reached easily by swimming. The second cave is very impressive as it is connected through the water with the third. So you swim into the second cave, and get out through the third cave!

For the return trip, there are 2 possible choices: you can leave early and get to Loutro by foot from the same E4 trail, or you can take the taxi boat which leaves at about 17:30 and get to Loutro. The taxi boat costs about 4 Euros. We split and some of us took the hiking way back to Loutro and the others went with the taxi boat. The last boat from Loutro back to Chania leaves Loutro at 18:15.

You could also continue after Loutro by foot the E4 trail and reach Sfakia, so you wouldn't be restricted to be in time for the last ferry from Loutro. This would be another 2 hours of hiking.

As we lost quite some time when we got lost at the Lycos bay, we didn't really enjoy the beach at Marmara. There was not enough time as we also wanted to eat at the tavern. But if you follow the instructions I gave and don't get lost at Lycos, you will have one more our to enjoy the beach!

At the way back to Loutro, there was someone playing music at the tavern at Lycos, and there were some people drinking tsikoudia. Unfortunately we had no time to stay as we would have lost the ferry from Loutro.

The boat from Loutro to Sfakia had a lot more people than before, as there were all these tourists getting back from Agia Roumeli after wandering through the Samaria Gorge.

At the way back from Sfakia to Chania, we did stop at the Askifou village (you have to go into the village and not go around it). At the small square of the village we took a seat at the kafeneio located up the road and ordered some Sfakianes Pites (pies with cheese and honey) which were excellent! Of course we also tried their tsikoudia!

You can see an image gallery of the trip with descriptions at http://www.crete-photos.gr/thumbnails.php?album=91

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