Crete - island of gorges! Instead of the roughly 80 mountains, which exceed 2000m, the island is mainly known for its many gorges, most of which you find along the south coast and which snake their way between high encompassing walls. The best known ones are the Samaria and Aradena Gorges in the Levka Ori mountain range but there are even more (though shorter) canyons to the east in the Oros Angathes Range. The Imbros Ravine is the most popular one (thanks to its proximity to the Chora Skafion Road but as you go eastward you come across more of them, some passable, some clogged by giant rocks or - more likely - by dense undergrowth.
The Asfendou Gorge is a mixture of these. It is the third of the gorges as you come eastward from Chora Skkafion. While it has been used for ages as the most logical connection between the mountain village of Asfendos and the coastal village Agios Nektarios in the south, its entry points nowadays are very hard to find and it might take a severe bushwhack to reach it, especially if you plan to hike it from the south. The bottom of the gorge (which doesn't deserve the name at this point yet) is overgrown with all kinds of thorny bushes and the best idea is to leave the canyon floor and enter it from the west across a steep shoulder.
Once inside the gorge the path widens to become a regular hiking trail, leading through the winding canyon between the Dafnolakiki and Perissinaki mountains to the east and west. On good days you have good views of the Gavdos Island through the mouth of the gorge. The gorge is steep and scales some 500m between Agios Nektarios and Asfendos. The upper part gets more shallow as the walls draw backwards and the gorge opens out onto a wide valley around Asfendos.
The Asfendou and Kallikratiano Gorges can be combined in a long loop. However, cartoggraphy in the area is quite murky and it takes long hikes across hot asphalt roads to get from one to the other. Traffic is one issue (especially on the southern leg), heat is the more serious one, however. Large amounts of water should be mandatory if you want to venture out in any of the gorges of Crete.
Asfendou Gorge can be hiked from either north or south - the trailheads are Asfendos in the north or Agios Nektarios in the south.
From Chania follow the coastal motorway E75 eastward to the exit of Vrysses. Here drive into town and from the town centre follow the signs for Chora Skafion.
- For Asfendos leave the road right after Askifou and before you reach Imbros. Road signs direct you to Asfendos, Kallikratiano and Asigonia.
- for the Agios Nektarios trailhead in the south follow the road almost to Chora Skafion. Leave it eastward in direction of Frangokastello. The road runs through several villages before reaching Agios Nektarios.
There is no red tape here. Both entries to the gorge are quite hard to find. You will have to hike across private property or struggle your way through the dense undergrowth at the bottom of the gorge. Locals are helpful to point out the best way.
AccommodationYou can quite easily find hotel rooms and apartments everywhere on the coasts. All European travel companies offer accommodation so a visit to your nearest travel office will find you some. Most hotels and apartments can be found on the north coast but Chora Skafion and Frangokastello also offer their share of accommodation. The mountain villages have one or two small inns and one can ask for rooms there. Apart from this you can always pitch a tent along the coasts.
Weather ConditionsCrete is already located very close to northern Africa, thus temperatures can get very high. March, April and early May are the best months, winter can be wet, the summer scorchingly hot. Here are a few weatherunderground links to the tourist towns on the island. Be aware that those links direct to locations on the north coast, where temperatures are generally several degrees lower than in the south. The gorge focuses the heat, especially at noon and can be a real pain to hike through.
Maps & BooksThere are quite a number of maps and books out there, which deal with the island of Crete and naturally I don’t know them all. This is the list of maps and books which I used and I appreciate it very much if you can add to it
Unfortunately there are no topographic maps of Crete. The best maps I could find are scaled 1:100000 and contain the main hiking routes on the island. In one case the map showed wrong paths and roads (exchanged them) but in general they were quite useful.
- Kreta / Crete / ΚΡΗΤΗ Western Part
Since there are no good topographical maps of Crete you should take care to get a good guidebook. The ones I used have good tour suggestions though the descriptions often are somewhat shortish. When trying to hike both the Asfendou and Kallikratiano Gorges, don't rely on the book! The path from Asfendou to Kallikratiano does NOT exist, you have to take the road. The problem is with the Cartography for the area: there are no maps indicating the real life situation up there.
- Kreta West / Crete West
Gert Hirner / Jakob Murböck (translation: Gill Round)