A wonderful, relatively easy, walking experience greets the hiker, which ever direction one chooses to walk the Zakros gorge. There are at least three entry/exit points, at, or close to the village of Ano (Upper) Zakros, and the route down is spectacular in the extreme, depositing one at Kato (Lower) Zakros,replete with its own Minoan “palace”, lovely beaches, and accommodation aplenty. If one chooses to walk east to west, Ano Zakros has a nice, rather old-fashioned hotel, so there should be no problem with where to lay ones head for the evening, though in the height of summer, do book-up in advance. Interesting features along the gorge, include a Roman aqueduct, and if one looks up, caves where the bodies of humans dating back to Neolithic times were discovered.
This is a tough gorge to crack and should only be walked by experienced hikers, and never alone, as it can be dangerous in places. The waymarking is good, thankfully, but at one stage there’s a 10 metre climb, over practically sheer rock, to negotiate, with the aid of a piece of rope, which should be checked before use. Alternatively one can scramble across the scree which covers the hill surrounding the drop. An alternative name for the gorge is Perivolakia, as this is where it ends, some three to four hours after setting off.
There’s no doubt that this a lovely spot. During the 1970s a British advert featured Vai as the place where one could experience “the taste of paradise”, if one were to bite into a coconut sweet, covered in chocolate. Palm trees (phoenix theophrastii) can be found here, and they are endemic to Crete; it was rumoured that they grew as a result of Saracen occupation in the 9th and 10th centuries), but this is equally untrue! The beach and environs are owned by the monastery of Toplou, and one has to pay to get onto the beach. One can hire pedalos (pedal boats) and water-skiing is available if that floats your particular boat.
A lovely place is Pefki, and its gorge compliments it perfectly. A walk of about a kilometre on a path from the village, brings one into the pine-strewn (pefki is the Greek word for pine) gorge itself. It’s approximately six KMs from here to the coast, where the gorge deposits one at Makriyialos There are even a couple of stone benches en-route, for those who need a rest, or prefer just to savour the rarified atmosphere.
A straightforward enough hike this, from the village of Hametoulo, to Xerokambos, on the south east coast. A number of gates have to passed through en-route (make sure you close them, as they’re there to keep sheep in). When you arrive at Hametoulo, make sure you don’t stray to far north or west of the village or the gorge, as the hill behind you is a military base.
Definitely one in the category “do not try alone”, the Ha gorge is spectacularly set on the western side of Mt. Thripti, before depositing its walker east of the village of Vassiliki, Whilst only 1.5 Kms long, it is very narrow in places and has walls towering up to 300 metres above ones head.It is the perfect gorge for abseiling, but only the very experienced should try this, and even then, with a guide.