Jean's autumn visit to Sfakia, southwest Crete

Report from 3 October - 11 November, 2015
© Jean Hannah 2015 - used by kind permission
These reports previously have been posted on our old forum

Beginning of October report

03 October, 2015 16:37

We are back for the next month and then some, and will post occasional reports during our stay for those missing Sfakia. Yesterday there was light rain all the way from Chania to Imbros, but it was dry, sunny and warm in Sfakia. Today has been partly sunny again and very warm, but a good temperature for hiking. The sea feels a bit cooler to me than usual at this time of year, but that may be because of recent rain and wind, and it should improve with more sunshine. The rooms in the village are mostly full.

Yesterday afternoon a bride and groom sat on the harbour while friends took photos of them. We don't know where they were from (they were foreigners), or even where they got married, but it was a sweet scenario.

The sky has clouded over now, so there may not be a colourful sunset tonight. Yesterday's sunset bathed the west-facing walls with a golden glow.

Mid-week Sfakia report

08 October, 2015 15:01

The weather has been lovely this week so far – very warm and sunny, with a soft breeze the last few days. Today the wind is stronger, from the southeast, but the air temperature is still excellent, and the sea is warmer but rough. The kingfishers have been very active in the harbour and around Vrisi; it's a delight to see their turquoise backs glinting in the sun.

The sunsets on Tuesday and Wednesday were beautiful:

A few days ago a two-masted wooden ship passed by, and the past three days the wooden Loutro boat has called in on a private charter.

Finally, work is going on to widen the slipway for the Daskalogiannis. After a few noisy days, the machine has left, and it looks like the next phase will be to pour cement.

Friday Oct 9th report

09 October, 2015 17:05

Today has been beautiful - very warm, with a light breeze and calmer seas.

Today I drove down the coast a little way, stopping in Agios Nektarios at the Geronymakis stone kiosk on the road, where they sell a good variety of products from their own organic herbs and olives, including soap and essences. They were very friendly and spent a lot of time showing me their gardens and groves, and discussing their produce.

Then I continued on to Orthi Ammos ("upright sands" or sand dunes - the long beach just after the main one in Frangokastello). Down on the beach were several patches of delicate sea daffodils (Pancratium maritimum). I didn't have my camera with me, so this photo has been captured from the internet.

Yesterday evening I noticed when strolling along the old harbour that the large number of potholes have been filled in with cement (for the pita festival). So now anyone who is unsteady from old age, injuries, or too many rakis can walk there in the dark without fear of twisting an ankle, or worse.

And here is last night's sunset, reflected in the marble counter at the Faros cafe.

Sunday Oct 11th report

11 October, 2015 16:34

Today there were no ferries - the sea was running from the southwest, so in Loutro and Agia Roumeli it was too rough for boats to dock.

In Sfakia, it has been very warm and humid, with a few brief spells of light rain but little wind; the sea has been rough here, but ok for swimming at Vrisi.

Yesterday I drove again to the herb kiosk in Agios Nektarios (I had forgotten the soap I bought) and watched the owner distilling lavender essence. The still can also be used for making raki in an emergency!

Then again to Orthi Ammos, with more sea daffodils further down the beach.

We had been told that you can find lumps of grey-white clay on Orthi Ammo beach that have fallen out of the cliffs, and if you put this in the sea water to soften it into a paste, you can rub it on your skin, let it dry, then rinse it off for a skin treatment. And our skin did feel very soft afterwards! The photo shows the white clay strata in the distant cliffs.

And here is last night's sunset from the Neptune ferry on the way to Loutro.

Monday October 12th report

13 October, 2015 01:14

Today there was a strong westerly wind, so the sea was very rough, but the ferries went and swimming was possible.

We drove to Imbros and then up to the mitata above Asfendou.

We continued on to Kalikratis, where there were trees full of walnuts and ripe quince. The hillsides both in the mountains and down at the coast are covered in more heather than in previous years.

The sunset tonight was gorgeous.

Sfakia report, Tues-Wed Oct 13-14

16 October, 2015 18:48

We’ve been busy showing friends who are newcomers to Sfakia around the area the last 4 days. After the rains last month, everything is much greener than normal, and certain flowers are blooming earlier than I remember. The weather has been near- perfect this week, but with a cool northerly breeze in the early morning and around sunset, which dies down after an hour or so. Tuesday we walked down the Imbros Gorge, and you can see evidence of the heavy rains at the end of September. The path has many stones on it, which is unusual for this time of year after so many hikers have passed through, and the café owners at the bottom said that the flood was a meter high, carrying rocks, branches etc. We saw some autumn narcissus in the gorge.

Wednesday we hiked down the Aradena Gorge and on to Loutro. There were lots of yellow flowers which I can't identify all along the kaldirimi. We watched goats carefully descending nearly vertical walls with their cloven hoofs spread out to stop them slipping. After a swim at Marmara Beach, we continued on to Loutro, passing sea squills on the path and pomegranate trees in Phoenix.

In Loutro we were very surprised first to see people exercising on a roof terrace of a hotel, and then to see 4 Dutch men who had just cycled along the coast to Loutro from Agia Roumeli (!) on special off-road bikes that have wide soft tires. (They took the ferry to Sfakia, however.)

Thursday Oct 15th report

16 October, 2015 19:15

Yesterday we drove to Anopolis (beware of large potholes in the road on the way up), where we stopped to look at the fields of purple Colchicum flowers, then on to Aradena for a quick look around.

Our goal was Agios Ioannis, where there is a new-ish walk, starting from Alonis rooms at the very end of the village down to Kakos Poros, where there is a spectacular view of the coast just above the 10th C Agios Pavlos church. The path starts at the fence above the rooms, and there is a map and frequent way-marking; the path (with mushrooms and yellow crocus-like flowers along it!) descends partly through pine forests, but there are many open views, and the steeper slope at the end leads after an hour to a picnic table. The silence and stunning views are worth the walk.

Last night's sunset was gorgeous, and the sliver of moon set off the final colours.

This morning while swimming around the rocks I saw a large sea turtle through the crystal-clear water.

Sfakia report, Monday Oct 19th

19 October, 2015 16:32

Another glorious day today, with the sea calm and the and air still, and very warm temperatures.

Today we drove to Agia Marina beach (after Frangocastello, below Skaloti). The views toward Plakias in the east and to the mountais over Skaloti are gorgeous.

The carob trees on the road down are full of blossom, and the bees love it. There is still water in the stream before the beach.

The beach has many colourful rocks, which someone made into a design. And next to where we sat were dried stems of sea squills covered with small snails.

The sea was warmer than at Vrisi beach and crystal clear.

Sfakia report, Tues Oct 20

21 October, 2015 13:51

Tuesday morning it was very warm and humid. Wiltrud and I decided to do the walk from Selouda to Agia Roumeli. The air was much fresher up in the mountains, but it was heartbreaking to see even more dead pines trees killed by the honey fungus and empty spaces where forests used to stand.

On the path to Selouda we spotted some of the strange little Biarum flowers – the plant book says they are rare, but we’ve now seen them in 4 locations in the Sfakia area.

We had the path all to ourselves on the way down to the coast.

After coming out the the pine trees on the coast path, we stopped to look at Agios Pavlos church, which still has some lovely but faded frescos.

The sea was too rough for swimming there, so we sat at the edge of the beach and let the waves wash over us to cool us down. The taverna next to the church was completely full with hikers.

When we left Agios Pavlos it was cloudy, and we were glad because the long slog along the rocky beach and raised sand banks can be very hot. But soon the sun came out, and although there was a welcome breeze, we stopped wherever we found some shade. At one point we shared the E4 with some goats.

At Agia Roumeli, the sea was quite rough but ok for swimming. The castle above the beach was lit by the afternoon sun.

At least one man who had hiked down the gorge will need to buy new boots.

Back in Sfakia, we had a little light rain in the evening, and it was still very warm. This morning (Wed) it has been warm, humid and cloudy, but not windy. The sea is still fine for swimming. The forecast is for rain over the next few days, but you never know if that includes Sfakia.

Sfakia report, Sat Oct 24

25 October, 2015 07:02

Saturday the weather was better than expected in Sfakia during the day – most forecasts had said it would rain in the afternoon. It was sunny much of the morning and early afternoon.

I took a trip with friends down the coast, stopping first at Orthi Ammo, where we enjoyed warm sunshine down on the beach, although the sky was very dark to the west and out to sea.

While walking down to Agia Marina beach further down the coast, we were surrounded by hundreds of butterflies around the carob trees, which are in full blossom. On the beach near the stream I spotted a colourful lizard.

We then lost the sunshine, but it was warm enough for a long swim. However, we got worried about being caught in a storm after seeing rain over Gavdos, so headed back.

rain over Gavdos

The sun came out again about 6pm, but just before sunset it started raining. So we had a rainbow as well as a glorious sunset with interesting clouds. Then it started raining hard and didn’t stop all evening!

Overnight there has been a strong northerly wind, but at least this morning the sky is clear.

Sfakia report, Sunday Oct 25th

25 October, 2015 18:57

It was very windy this morning, less so this afternoon, but the wind got stronger again this evening. If you could find a spot out of the wind, the sun was very hot, and many people were swimming. We heard that it was raining and very windy in Imbros late morning, but sunny and calm in Loutro.

Tonight’s sunset was gorgeous.

Sfakia report, Monday Oct 26th

26 October, 2015 18:50

This morning we had very strong winds again, and it was supposed to be blowing all day, but the wind stopped mid-morning and the day was glorious, sunny and calm.

Tonight's sunset was beautiful again - and there was a guest appearance during the sunset photo-shoot.

cat blocking sunset

The sun seems to melt into the sea and then cast up so many vibrant colours.

melting sun and taxi boats

Tomorrow will be the full moon, and the sky should be clear.

Sfakia report, Tues Oct 27

27 October, 2015 18:57

Another beautiful calm day here, although it was windy from Imbros over to Vrisses, and partly cloudy in Chania.

Tonight's sunset had the added interest of the Daskalogiannis crossing the setting sun as it came back from Gavdos, and two people paddle-boarding to Sfakia in the afterglow.

The full moon just rose - magnificent.

full moon behind 12 apostles church
full moon over Sfakia

Sfakia report, Wed Oct 28

29 October, 2015 09:10

Yesterday after the Oxi Day celebrations, the wind started blowing very hard, with violently gusts at times. I had wanted to take a close-up photo of the wreathes that had been laid at the memorial, but they had all been blown over and ripped apart by the wind.

All the beaches - in front of the tavernas, Vrisi, Illingas, and probably Sweetwater - were out of the wind and were packed full, not just with Sfakia tourists but with others who had driven here from further east to escape the even stronger winds down the coast. The cafes and restaurants did good business.

This morning a group of kayakers arrived. Someone told me they had started from Paleohora and were heading for Matala, but the winds were too strong, so they spent the night iat Illingas.

This morning it is sunny and is warming up after a cool night.

Sfakia report, Thurs Oct 29th

29 October, 2015 15:12

Today has had an end-of-season feel to it, and it seems especially quiet after the crowds that were here yesterday. The Three Brothers restaurant over the beach has closed, and trucks are picking up ice cream freezers and draft beer stands from other restaurants. After Saturday, things will really wind down.

After a brief sunny spell this morning, it has been mainly cloudy and cool, but with no wind. I made a small hike around upper parts of the village (Georgitsi and Tholos). It looks so green already after the recent rains, and I even found a caper flower in bloom.

early grass
caper flower

Two mules were being secured on a truck in order to be transported somewhere north.

2 mules samaria gorge

And in the Lefka Ori seafood display (designed by Georgos), we spotted a fish that had drunk too much ouzo last night!

drunken fish

Sfakia Report, Friday Oct 30th

31 October, 2015 08:44

Friday was cloudy and a bit cool most of the day. In the morning, several businesses were taking down their cane sunshades, to the sound of men walking on the support frames overhead, with dust and leaves gently raining down as they rolled up the mats.

The Livikon/Samaria staff spent the day thoroughly cleaning their kitchen, tables and chairs in preparation for winter storage.

Wiltrud and I drove up to Agios Ioannis and enjoyed the lovely walk to Kakos Poros. This time there were masses of yellow Stenbergia along the path, as well as sprinklings of delicate Colchicum pusillum, some Crocus laevigatus, and a few Friar’s Cowl (Arisarum vulgare).

Colchicum pusillum
Crocus laevigatus
Friars Cowl

Again we were shocked by how many dead pine trees there are above the higher villages. The only bonus is that there is a lot of easy firewood available, and men were busy in Anopolis sawing up tree trunks for the winter.

Just outside Anopolis, on the road towards Mori, we came across a large enclosure with about 70 sheep with new lambs – delightful! In the next field, about 8 goats were up on their hind legs feeding on olive tree leaves. (Photos by Wiltrud – my camera battery died at this point.)

When leaving Anopolis, we spotted some Clematis cirrhosa entwined in a Kermes oak tree.

clematis cirrhosa

Down in Sfakia, there was good lunch at dinner business and the restaurants that are still open. But after today, things will probably get very quiet.

Sfakia report, November 1st

01 November, 2015 17:57

Today has been very windy and cloudy, but dry. A cat was sleeping in the sheltered dip of a rolled-up awning under our balcony this morning.

We intended to drive up to Kalikratis for a walk, but we encountered rain before Imbros and the weather looked even worse higher up. Back down in the village, swimming was possible if you found a spot out of the wind (and several of us did!).

Ombrosgialos restaurant decided to close this morning after seeing the weather conditions, and the Lefka Ori serves its last meals tonight. That leaves Nikos, the Delfini, and Mesohori open for the tourists that are left (there are at least 15 rooms occupied at the moment). And of course Despina is still open for coffee and cakes, and the Faros cafe for breakfast and beverages. Groups of locals have been enjoying their freedom from work by sitting and chatting over coffee or raki, and eating meals together with their staff, families and friends.

Early this afternoon a yacht pulled into the new harbour – signs on the boat mention Rhodes, but I don’t know where it arrived from.

Finally, this evening the sun appeared briefly, casting a beam of light on the sea for a short time and creating a pool of light in front of Loutro.

The wind is still blowing and gusting, so most of us will be eating indoors tonight.

Sfakia report, November 2nd am

02 November, 2015 11:27

This morning, the yacht Boreas left early, heading, we heard, for Italy. The Daskalogiannis, however, did not leave this morning – it was supposed to go to Gavdos (via Loutro-Roumeli on Mondays, and to Loutro-Gavdos on Tuesdays), but were were told that since the wind is too strong out there today, the boat was cancelled. So the taxi boats will get some business today.

As you can see on the harbour webcam, work has restarted on widening the slipway now that it is November. We have to thank all the businesses who pressured the workmen to wait until the end of the season to do this noisy but necessary work (they wanted start in June, and then again at the beginning of October!).

Sfakia report, November 2nd pm

02 November, 2015 22:03

It was unpleasantly windy this morning, as well as noisy from the work on the slipway, so we decided to drive up above Anopolis and have a walk. There was no wind up there and no building work, thank goodness.

First we stopped to look at the pen full of ewes and lambs again. The crab apple trees nearby are heavy with fruit.

Our walk started below the picnic tables near the top of the Aradena gorge, with distant views of Anopolis. Unfortunately most of the pine trees there seem to be infected with honey fungus, and there was a loud buzzing of bees feeding on them.

We followed a rough path marked (sometimes) with cairns, down to the road leading out of Anopolis to Aradena. There were lots of Colchicum pussilum along the path, and a few autumn crocus and narcissi. We also found several patches of large white mushrooms, but we don't know if they are edible.

On the way back down to Sfakia, the sun tried to shine through holes in the clouds, creating a spot-light effect.

Along the road before Illingas, we met Wiltrud, who was walking back from Phoenix. She said that all the tavernas in Loutro are closed, although it’s still possible to get a room in a few hotels, and that there was no wind in Loutro or on Sweetwater beach. The sea is warmer than the air now, so swimming is good as long as you don’t have to emerge from the sea into the wind. But what we’re really hoping for tomorrow is less wind and more sunshine!

It's VERY quiet in the village tonight, except for tourists eating at the two restaurants on the front. There is a progamos (pre-wedding) party in Patsianos tonight, and another at the Vritomaris tomorrow, with the wedding taking place on Saturday in Vrisses - the bride is the younger daughter (Sophia) of the Livikon owners.

Sfakia report, Tues Nov 3rd

03 November, 2015 18:48

Today the weather was perfect! It was sunny and still and very warm. Several people went for morning swims. I spotted a hedgehog snuffling around in a garden on the way back from the beach.

The Daskalogiannis did the run to Loutro-Roumeli-Gavdos today, arriving back a bit late. It seems it will go again tomorrow to make up for missing Monday’s scheduled run.

End of season cleaning work continued today at the Lefka Ori – a 75 litre olive oil container was being washed out. And the Xenia received a delivery of a new dryer – a bit late in the season!

We drove up to Kalikratis after morning coffee since it was the first day in a long time that the sky was clear over the mountains. On the way up we could see that the north coast was still covered in cloud, and there were signs of a lot of rain recently in Asfendou. In Kalikratis we passed through a gathering that was the celebration of St. George the Drunkard (appropriate for many Georgoses we know)! However, no raki stills were working – we heard that the grape crop was spoiled by the rain in mid August. After having a lovely salad and a hot carob drink sitting outside at Janina’s café, we returned via the road directly down to the coast, with wonderful sunlit views. There was probably an 8°C difference in temperature between Kalikratis and Patsianos!

It was still sunny and very warm back in Sfakia in the afternoon, and the beach attracted quite a few tourists (and a sunbathing cat). The noise from the slipway work wasn’t too bad, but you couldn’t hear it at all on Vrisi beach.

Tonight’s sunset threw out amazing colours, a real treat after so many grey and windy days. It was hard to decide which of the dozens of photos I took to post!

Sfakia report, Wed Nov 4th

04 November, 2015 18:24

Another beautiful day – hot in the sun, with a slight breeze. There are still tourists staying in the village, and a good number passing through at lunchtime. Lots of people have been swimming at Vrisi today.

The Daska left for Loutro and Gavdos this morning and has now gone off to Paleohora for the rest of the week, we assume. This morning I also watched two people in a single kayak making slow progress to Gavdos – hope they got there ok! (Stavros just told us that they came back.)

No work on the slipway today – the heavy job of breaking up the concrete is finished, so we’ll see what and when the next phase brings.

The early afternoon sun lit up the new blue and white flagpole by the ruined fort. (We noticed it for the first time several weeks ago but don’t know when it was erected, and there hasn't been a flag put up yet while we've been here).

Sunset was cloudless tonight. The locals have been going out fishing for calamari in the dusk now that they have free time.

Sfakia report, Thurs Nov 5th

05 November, 2015 23:10

Yet another beautiful day – sunny, very warm, and still. Wiltrud, Paul and I drove to Livaniana (the last 2 km of the road is rough), then walked on the footpath to the north west into the Aradena gorge via Agios Athenasios church. The sky was crystal clear all day, and the colours of the mountains, cliffs and terraces were vivid. We swam at Marmara, where they were removing the last items from the restaurant and beach to close for the season.

Just as we returned to Sfakia, Georgos Likogiannis had brought in a 22kg litsa that he had caught on a handline!

The sunset colours were beautiful, and we can see so many stars tonight because the moon is waning.

Sfakia report, Nov. 9th

09 November, 2015 22:09

The weather continues to be fantastic. There aren’t very many tourists staying here now, but some pass through at lunchtime. It was so quiet during the day that at times all you could hear was the rustling of dry leaves on the streets, or the gentle sound of the waves over the stones, or the call of the kingfishers. I had Vrisi beach to myself all day.

This morning the Daskalogiannis started it’s engines after 3 days rest, and it’s obvious that the ship needs a visit to Souda Bay for a tune up!

Many families have started picking olives now, mostly using the mechanised olive tree shaker that is gentler on the trees than beating them with a large stick.

olive picking machines

The locals are now also spending more time fishing, and it’s a joy to see them going out to sea after sunset, putting out nets or using lamps to fish for calamari.

It continues to be warm enough after dark to eat outside.

Sfakia final report, Nov 10th

10 November, 2015 23:06

Thank you all for your lovely comments. We know how much we ourselves enjoy seeing and hearing about what’s going on in Sfakia when we are away.

Today again the weather has been fantastic – it’s the best long stretch of warm and sunny weather during the whole six weeks we’ve been here. And the forecast is for more of the same! Swimming was wonderful today, and the temperature remains warm at night.

There are still some tourists staying here and passing through, but the front street feels empty, except for Despina’s and the Faros café at the end of the harbour. Nikos and the Delfini are still serving meals, as is Mesohori up the hill. The bakery is open all day and so is Geotgia's cantina and Damoulis' bar at the top of the plateia, which is the place to be in the evenings. The back supermarket has gone onto its winter schedule, closing at 2:30 and all day Sunday.

The view this afternoon from the top of Tholos (the upper village) was stunning.

Quiet work has been going on over the last two days at the slipway – they have built wooden retaining structures, and this afternoon they started pouring cement.

Our last sunset here this year was beautiful, and we enjoyed seeing all the small boats out after dusk. The cats were very vocal during the day, but tonight the only sound is the sea gently lulling us to sleep.

Kalo xeimona.

Sfakia, Nov 11th

11 November, 2015 07:15

A beautiful farewell sunrise.

Hospitality Sfakia

Hospitality in Sfakia

The Sfakians are famous for their hospitality. The locals welcome their guests like friends. Many visitors come back to Crete to visit Sfakia year after year. Enjoy their generosity!

Impressive nature

Impressive nature

Rough white topped mountains up to 2453 metres high, split by 25+ gorges, fertile plains, forests, and the blue sea, and inbetween them small whitewashed villages with many coves and unspoilt beaches.

History and tradition

History and tradition

Brave people that have stood up against their many invaders, preserving their tradition of independence, celebrating their victories with music, poetry and dance, together with friends!