These walks are all situated close to Paleochora (N35 13.866 E23 40.862) [Παλαιόχορα] in Hania [Χανία] province of Crete. I have collected them while living in Paleochora and searching for interesting places to walk, and to run. They are mostly derived from explorations of routes devised from looking at a map. The walks have mostly been based on paths found on the1:100,000 Harms Verlag map of Crete. This isn’t very accurate when it comes to the footpaths that I have used so far, nor is it a very good guide to which roads are paved or not, but it provides one of the best maps for walking that I know of.
There is a book of “Ten walks in Paleochora” by Bob and Lynne Tait and, a 2003 sequel “More walks around Paleochora”, which I have not used in the creation of this guide, but which do overlap somewhat. For more detailed descriptions, and more local and historical knowledge, I recommend that you buy these books, which are available from “To Delfini” bookshop in Paleochora. I suspect that there are good walking books in other languages, but haven’t investigated. The Rough Guide has a few good walks.
One problem with walking in Crete without a guide book, and one that these pages are intended to in some way address, is that there are many tracks leading off into the hills, but even with a map, it is very difficult to know which ones lead somewhere and which peter out at a field. Even more difficult, is to know whether the substantial track that you’re following is going to be blocked after a mile or two by a locked fence. When trying to find a path, it is very easy to find a substantial path that has in fact been worn by goats, and which disappears after a few metres, or continues as a two foot high tunnel through otherwise impenetrable bushes. All over this region are “goat fences” usually made out of steel mesh intended for reinforcing concrete. Adjacent sections of this are usually held together with a few wire ties. Paths and tracks usually have gates secured with a piece of rope or a single loose tie, which you should of course close behind you, but in the event that there is no gate, or the gate is locked, crossing one of these fences is not to be undertaken lightly.
As I understand it (from “Ten walks in Paleochora”) there is no right of way law in Greece that protects public access to the unsurfaced paths and tracks that form the majority of the walk. Thus, there you may have no right to follow these walks- they are described for your information only and you must accept entire responsibility for all your actions while following them. Also, things change, and it is by no means evident that paths will remain open, or gates will be unlocked when you try to follow these walks. In one case, above Tsaliana, I found a gate locked that had been merely tied shut only three days before.
Frequently, while walking, one comes across splashes of paint on the rocks. While sometimes these do indicate footpaths (particularly when two-coloured, e.g. the red-and-white stripes and yellow/black targets found on the E4) I have come to the conclusion that they are mostly land boundary markings and are not to be trusted for route finding.
In the text I also refer to “dog gates”, which is my interpretation of the practice of chaining two unfortunate dogs on either side of a road. presumably the intention is to let cars pass unhindered, and prevent goats from crossing, but even passing one driving can be a frightening experience when you’ve not noticed the dogs before they leap in front of the car, barking. As a pedestrian, they can be intimidating, but usually allow a safe passage down the middle of the road.
For many the provision of GPS coordinates (in parentheses) will seem unnecessary and even too geeky, but with poor maps or only a verbal description to go on, having a waypoint can be very reassuring and makes for a more pleasant outing. I will provide the waypoints in a file so that they can be uploaded to a GPS receiver in advance, but also in the text whence they can be entered manually during a walk. They are all based on the WGS84 datum, in Hdd mm.mmm format. Altitudes given may be based on maps, barometric altimeter and on the GPS, all of which may prove fairly inaccurate. Distances are likewise estimated from maps, GPS, visual estimates and dead-reckoning, and may likewise prove rather inaccurate. I’ve tried to avoid giving times, since they might be too misleading because of the huge variation in both my walking pace and that of potential readers.
I have attempted to provide an estimate of difficulty and length for the walks, together with an estimate of the ascent or descent. This is for the “main” walk, and not for any of the variations that I have tried to describe.
My Greek is very poor, but I have tried to supply place names in Greek and English transcription where appropriate. The former aren’t always consistent and latter are poorly defined (e.g. I’ve seen Hania, Chania, Xania, Khania for Χανιά). Placenames are mostly taken from the map, which doesn’t necessarily conform to local usage. (FYI Garmin Mapsource Worldmap 2.20 is pretty sparse around here, has fictional roads marked – for instance Loutro to Agia Roumeli and Paleochora to Sougia- and mislabels Hora Sfakion as “Loutron”.)
I have tried to use the terms footpath or path for anything you couldn’t drive a four-wheeled vehicle along; track for something that is unpaved but intended for a car or four wheel drive vehicle. A road is paved.
Still to come: Gavdos circuit, Pelekaniotikos valley, Kayaking around Paleohora, and more.
All pages and photographs copyright © Andrew Senior 2005 Not to be reproduced or published without permission.