It’s early in the morning when passengers disembark from the ferry in Souda Port. Chania still retain its charm through years. A few hours later, the crowd has been dissolved, roads full of cars, humidity and heat made the atmosphere stifling.
We seek our way to our retreat, 75km away, at the southwestern tip of Crete. Very close to “always crowded” Elafonisi beach, Kedrodasos. We see the same turquoise water, light-colored sand and a protected cedar-forest along the coast, which so far has been spared from uncontrolled development. The marks of the E4 hiking path in Loutro, which starts from the Pyrenees and ends in South Crete, run parallel the south coastline of Crete. We will keep this path to our side for almost our whole trip from Chania to Zakros, reminding to ourselves thatwe have chosen the easy way of travelling with a rental car.
In Autumn, despite the obvious signs of human presence, the local residents gather up to clean the forest of garbage and trash. The beach is still a paradise and any attempt to describe what we see, will remind you a brochure of a travel agency.
Camping in Crete’s Paradises
After a few peaceful nights in Kedrodasos, we struggle to adjust our lifestyle living in Sougia. Dozens of campers co-exist in harmony with the tenants of nearby hotels. We get our reward with a morning swim in the crystal clear waters of the beach in Sougia. After a while, we leave the region of Rethymno. We choose the long route, through Omalos Mountains, Lefka Ori and spend the night on the beach in Agia Marina, among other campers -mostly Cretan families-. As we drive east, the vegetation reduce and the landscape become wilder. So do the people, judged by their driving habits. In a county road, pick-up vehicles taking sharp turns at top speed and the road signs are full of bullet holes. – BUT, nowhere locals treated us with rudeness or aggression-. Before we continue our trip, we explore the sandy beaches with crystal clear waters, Triopetra (with the 3 rocks), the secluded Ligres and the small creek of Agios Pavlos
Crossing the borders of Heraklion region, we decide to visit Matala, biased and completely unprepared for what we would face. Once the meeting point of Hippies from all over the world, the legendary beach is currently full of sun beds managed by a local company. Neither a visit to the Caves of Matala is free anymore.
Next stop, Agiofarago close to Odigitria Monastery. Rough cliffs next to the small beach at the end of the gorge, right after the small medieval church of Agios Antonios with the old well of drinking water. A sign informs the visitors that nudity is not allowed, since hermits still live in the area. During the night, we woke up by the sound of Cretan Lyre and the voices of young people dancing around the fire.
Xerokambos is the “Wild West” of Crete
After a brief tour in Ierapetra, we head to our final destination – Xerokampos, on the eastern part of Crete. In Xerokambos, the landscape reminds a steppe. A few cars cruise the winding roads, hawks flying over the steep slopes and tracks of snakes crawling in the sand. More than 1000kms away from the “exotic” Kedrodasos, we discover a different kind of calm. A “wild peace” of the desert, looks silent but alive.