Sfakia, Crete: Mountains, beaches and people of great uniqueness
Sfakia, Crete, is a unique place all over Greece. It is a location that combines high mountains and great beaches, and until some decades ago, when there weren’t paved roads connecting the North to the South of the island, it has also been a place isolated from the big cities on the north of Crete.
Sfakia is the biggest municipality in Chania prefecture, and also the least densely populated municipality in Crete Island, with less than 2.500 people living in a total area of 468 square kilometres.
Sfakia, Crete – a history full of uprisings and rebellions
The strong will and independent spirit of the people of Sfakia, together with the isolation of the area and the lack of considerable natural resources, are the main reasons that the region of Sfakia was wholly or partly independent during the centuries Crete was conquered by the Venetians or the Ottomans.
Sfakia, Crete, is renowned in the history of Crete for its rebellions and uprisings, which most of the time started here and were then spread to West Crete and to the whole island. One of the most known revolutionaries in Greek history, Daskalogiannis, was born here.
Many historians have said that the rocky, rugged terrain of Sfakia has left its mark in the local peoples’ tough attitude. The Sfakian people were historically intolerant of any foreign conqueror, and made every attempt to be independent and free, no matter the cost. This was true even in recent Greek history, when during the German occupation of Crete in World War II, Sfakia was the main base of the local Greek resistance.
Sfakia – a location unique in the Mediterranean Sea
The region of Sfakia combines the high White Mountains of Crete, or Lefka Ori, on the north, with superb beaches on the south. Among the mountains and the sea, numerous gorges have been formed during the centuries, like the famous Samaria Gorge, the longest gorge in Europe.
To the north of Sfakia region, we find the beautiful plateaus of Omalos, where Samaria Gorge starts its path, and Askyfou. Going South, following the direction of the gorges of the White Mountains, we descend towards the South Cretan Sea, or Liviko Pelagos, where the capital of Sfakia, the coastal village of Hora Sfakion is found. Hora Sfakion and the nearby coastal village of Frangokastelo are accessible by paved road, but some of the most well-known coastal villages, like the very picturesque Loutro and Agia Roumeli, are only accessible by boat or on foot after long walks.
Most of the beaches in Sfakia, Crete, are pristine and beautiful. There are both sandy beaches and beaches with pebbles in the region, and the waters are crystal-clear.
For the visitors that like walking, the region of Sfakia has excellent hiking paths. Apart from the hiking paths near the sea, there is also the European hiking footpath E4 that passes through the White Mountains.
Sfakia, Crete, is an especial place, which has managed to retain its traditions and natural environment unchanged through the centuries. When visiting West Crete, a visit to Sfakia, and to its picturesque, authentic villages, is an experience that shouldn’t be missed.