The Gorge of Kallikratiano - Καλλικρατιανο Φαραγγι in Greek - is one of the canyons in the south of the island of Crete, which in past times have served as connection routes from the Lybian Sea to the mountain villages in the centre of the island. It is located in the south of the Angathes Range which stretches between Cretes two highest mountain ranges, The Levka Ori
and the Ida Range with Crete's highest mountain, Psiloritis
. Unlike the more famous gorges in the Levka Ori - Agia Irini, Samaria and Aradena - the ones in the Angathes Range are shorter and less profound.
However, they still are excellent hiking destinations and by connecting two into a loop you will be busy as long as with the longer gorges in the west. In the case of the Kallikratiano Gorge the loop can be closed through the neighbouring Asfendou gorge, another gem which is located in its west. The KAllikratiano Gorge follows a profound creek, which still carries water in the upper northern part. But once the first cascades have dropped into the gorge all water vanishes. The gorge connects the mountain village of Kallikratiano with the old fortress (and now resort town) of Frangocastello. The gorge-like part is some 7km long, starting and ending several km from the respective villages.
Thanks to its usage as connecting route between the villages in the past, the gorge has well kept trails at its bottom. The narrowest and steepest parts in some places even are paved - in others you can find long ramps. The main part, however is regular rocky hiking terrain, which in the lower part gets sometimes a bit tricky to orientate in. Everywher - like in all the Cretan canyons and gorges you find towers, overhangs and caves in the enclosing walls, which reach a height of some 200m at the maximum. May is a good time for visiting the gorge as everywhere you find Oleander bushes with their pink blossoms. Hike the gorge from north to south, descending to the sea, or start very early. At noon the hot Cretan sun dries up everything within and ascending is certainly not a good idea in these conditions.
Kallikratiano Gorge can be hiked from either north or south - the trailheads are Kallikratiano in the north or Patsianos 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 Kallikratiano leave the road right after Askifou and before you reach Imbros. Road signs direct you to Asfendou, Kallikratiano and Asigonia.
- for the Patsianos 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 Patsianos.
There is no red tape here. The plains around Kallikratiano are used by farmers to try to grow something out of the harsh soil. The whole plain is divided into lots. Therefore better follow the road from Kallikratiano through the hamlet Kataporia, which descends a bit into the gorge before heading onwards on its eastern flanks. At the lowest point of the road a narrow path turns off to the right, heading into the gorge.
You 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.
Crete 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 focusses the heat, especially at noon and can be a real pain to hike through.
Maps & Books
There 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)