Discovering the Sfakia on Crete’s Southern Coast


If you’re looking for a destination that will take your breath away with its natural beauty and rugged landscapes, then the region of Sfakia on the southern coast of Crete should definitely be on your list. This is a place that has earned its reputation as the Mani of the Peloponessos, a remote and wild region where invaders thought it was easier to leave alone than to try and conquer. Sfakia’s inhabitants have always been fiercely independent, strong-willed, and willing to fight to the death if they have to, earning them the notoriety of being the site of the famous Cretan vendettas.
The region is not only steeped in history and legend but also offers an experience that is very different from the rest of Crete. To get there, take the National Road east from Chania, passing through Vrisses with its river that splits the town in half. While it’s a great place to stop for a coffee, it’s worth skipping breakfast to ensure that you have enough time to explore the area thoroughly. The road climbs into the mountains, passing by goats and sheep, before revealing a giant green high plain with farms, sheep, a village, and the War Museum of Askifou.
The War Museum is a must-see destination and a testament to the late Mr. George A Hatzidakis, who collected and labeled every single item he could find that had everything to do with the German invasion, occupation, and the Cretan resistance during the Second World War. The museum displays German and British helmets, machine guns, pistols, uniforms, canteens, vintage guns the Cretan’s used to fight the Germans, an anti-aircraft gun, a motorcycle like the one Steve McQueen rode in The Great Escape, medals, radios, and other artifacts related to the war. Hatzidakis, who witnessed the invasion and occupation as a child, was wounded himself, saw several family members killed, and his museum is a tribute to those who died during the invasion and occupation. Though he has requested support from the Greek government for his museum, he has received none, and it survives entirely on donations.
Beyond Askifou is the entrance to the Imbros Gorge near the village of Imbros, one of the amazing cracks in the mountains that lead to the sea. It is 7 kilometers long and one of the tallest and narrowest, with many caves and lots of interesting vegetation and rock formations. From Imbros to the coast is only a three-hour walk that passes through some Venetian ruins before ending at the village of Komitades, where you can find the popular Porofarango Taverna.
Walking trails lead all the way to Agia Roumeli and the entrance of the Samarian Gorge, going through the village of Annapolis, the site of Ancient Annapolis with its Cyclopian walls and remnants of the Romans and the Byzantines who lived here. It was a center of resistance against the Venetians and was destroyed in 1365, remaining empty until the Ottoman occupation. You can drive here and walk to the fishing village of Loutro, the site of the ancient city of Phoenix, which has several hotels and tavernas on one of the only natural harbors in southern Crete and is connected to Agia Roumeli and Hora Sfakion by boat.
The ancient city of Araden, built on the edge of the Ardenas Gorge, is reached by crossing the metal Varinoyannis Bridge, the highest bungee jumping bridge in Greece. The village, which is said to have been founded by the Ph


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