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I hiked the Crete E4 trail, with some variants on the official trail, in May of 2007. May is probably the ideal month for hiking in Crete, since the weather is mostly nice, neither too rainy and cold nor too hot, and the tourist season is just beginning. Taverns and hotels will be open, but there will be few customers, and hence usually no need to make reservations to get a room. There will probably be snow-pack in some of the high passes of Levka Ori at the start of May, but this should be gone by the end of May. Thus you can hike the coastal route at the start of May, then go back and hike Levka Ori at the end of May, if you are really interested in that section.
I hiked from west to east (Kastelli of Kissamos to Kato Zakros) using the following maps: Anavasi 1:100,000 for Crete-Chania and Crete-Iraklio/Rethimno (both 2006 edition), Harms 1:100,000 for Eastern Crete (2004 edition) and Rough Guide 1:140,000 for all of Crete (2003 edition). I would have preferred to use the Anavasi 1:100,000 map for Crete-Lasithi rather than the Harms and Rough Guide maps, but this Anavasi map was not yet available at the time I started my walk (it was being printed). My impression is that the Anavasi maps are the best available for Crete at this time, though still far from perfect. In particular, none of the maps completely and/or correctly show the network of rural dirt roads, probably because this network is constantly being changed as farmers and shepherds bulldoze new roads. However, the Anavasi maps are vastly superior to the Harms and Rough Guide maps in this respect. I can assert this with confidence because I was able to compare maps in detail for one section of Crete, where the Harms map overlaps the eastern part of the Anavasi Crete-Iraklio/Rethimno map, and the Rough Guide map overlaps both the other maps. The Harms and Rough Guide maps appear to be equally inaccurate with regards to the road network. Perhaps they are based on the same faulty source. The Anavasi maps are printed on durable, tear and water resistant paper. The Rough Guide map is printed on very durable plasticized paper. The Harms map is printed on ordinary paper.
The topography for all of the maps I used is fairly accurate, but of limited value. This is because the contour lines are either 50m for the Harms map or 100m for the 1:100,000 Anavasi and Rough Guide maps, and this is far too coarse to show the complex terrain of Crete.
The Anavasi and Rough Guide maps have a superimposed UTM-style northing-easting grid, with 5km between gridlines for the 1:140,000 or 1:100,000 maps, and 500m between gridlines for the 1:25,000 maps, which makes it very easy to use GPS to find current location. The Harms maps have a superimposed latitude-longitude grid with distance between gridlines of about 15km, which makes it cumbersome to use GPS to find current location. Both Rough Guide and Harms use WGS84 map datum/ellipsoid. Anavasi uses the GGRS87 (Greek Geodetic Reference System 1987) rather than WGS84 ellipsoid. GGRS87 is also what I use for my GPS notes. Though I am not sure, I believe the accuracy stated on my GPS device was 10m or better and I had enough satellite reception to get 3-dimensional altitude information for all of my GPS recordings. GPS settings for GGRS87 are as follows (grid describes the transverse mercator projection from latitude-longitude to GGRS87 northing-easting coordinates, datum describes the Molodensky transformation from WGS84 ellipsoid to GGRS87 ellipsoid):
[Update as of 2013: refer to the main Hiking in Greece page for information about digital maps for use with a mapping GPS or GPS-enabled smartphone.]
For those who will be hiking the Levka Ori segment of the E4, the Anavasi 1:25,000 map for Lefka Ori-Pachnes (2006 edition) is absolutely necessary, unless you have a very good guide book for that section. Lefka Ori is notorious for being easy to get lost in and the waymarking is limited, so a good compass and GPS are also advisable. It is also important not to get injured during this Lefka Ori segment, especially if hiking earlier than July and/or if hiking alone. There are very few other hikers during the early season, nor many shepherds in this area, water is scarce, the heat can be intense, and the ground is so rough that crawling out is not a viable option. Thus if you injure yourself so you can't walk, you will most likely die of thirst and be eaten by vultures before anyone finds you. The 1:25,000 Anavasi maps have 20m contour lines and a GGRS87 GPS grid with 500m between gridlines. On the back side of this map are descriptions of the condition of each of the trail segments, such as whether it is overgrown, type and quality of waymarking, where there is reliable water, along with estimated walking times. Normally, it takes 2 to 3 days to walk from the head of the Samaria gorge to Askifou, passing by the Kallergi and Katsvelli huts along the way. At least during the walking season, there are daily buses from Hania to the head of the Samaria gorge, and to Hania from Askifou.
Two additional map possibilities are the Petrakis 1:100,000 Agios Nikolaos map (1996 edition), or the Road Editions 1:100,000 maps for West and East Crete (2007 edition). I examined the Petrakis map in some detail at the bookstore, and concluded that it was inferior to the Harms map that I went with, mainly because of less detailed topographic information (contours shown by color rather than lines) though quite similar otherwise, with the same errors in the road network. The Road Editions publisher claims that their maps show the Crete road network more accurately than any of their competitors. Regardless of whether this claim is true, I suspect it is limited to the network of roads navigable with ordinary cars, rather than the vast network of dirt farm roads, which is often only navigable with 4-wheel drive and high suspension. This network of farm roads is often so dense, such as in olive groves, that no 1:100,000 would be capable of showing it accurately. I did not have a chance to examine the Road Editions maps in detail, nor to use them in the field. I did notice that the only position information on the Road Editions maps is via a latitude-longitude grid with about 15km between gridlines, as with the Harms maps, which will make these maps cumbersome to use with GPS.
The Anavasi maps are widely available at bookstores in Greece, but it would be adviseable to order in advance or at least call a bookstore and reserve the maps beforehand, to avoid a nasty surprise upon arrival due to maps being out-of-stock or out-of-print. Anavasi has their own bookstore in Athens: 21072 93541, Stoa Arsakiou 6A (corner of Panepistimiou and Arsaki near the University). Another good mailorder map source is Omnimap. In central Iraklion, Road Travel Bookstore has a full selection of Anavasi and other maps: 28103 44610, 29 Handakos Street.
It would be possible to hike the Crete E4 with just the Anavasi maps together with my notes below. However, I also used the German guide book Griechenland: Trans Kreta - E4 by Sven Deutschmann, 2005 edition. Deutschmann, in turn, walked the E4 west to east using a combination of a previous edition of that book (by other authors) and Harms maps for both West and East Crete, since Anavasi maps were not yet available then. I ordered this book from a bookstore in Germany, found via the German Amazon web site, since it isn't directly available from Amazon, either in the United States or Germany. Deutschmann was apparently carrying a much heavier pack than me, so his estimated times are sometimes excessive on the ascents. On the other hand, Deutschmann understates trail difficulty, in my opinion. What I would call a very difficult trail, Deutschmann calls merely difficult. Maybe the trails have becomes more overgrown since Deutschmann passed through, or maybe I have less tolerance for pushing through thorns and getting lost in a maze of goat trails due to a lack of waymarks. And Deutschmann doesn't seem too perturbed by the inaccuracies in the Harms maps with respect to the road network, which somewhat surprised me. Or maybe that is a telling comment on the quality of the alternatives to the Harms maps, at least before Anavasi entered the market. That is, the alternatives were bad enough to make the Harms maps look good.
RG2006 indicates accomodation information from the travel guide The Rough Guide to Greece 2006 edition. RG2004 indicates information from the 2004 edition of that same travel guide. Other accomodation information is either from the Deutschmann book or my own investigation.
The phone numbers from Deutschmann were old style (9 digits long, with the first digit a 0) which I transformed to new style by adding 2 as the first digit, moving the 0 to position 4 or 5, and always keeping the last 5 digits the same as before. That is, 081 228103 transforms to 28120 28103. This transformation works in most, but not all cases, so if a number shown below doesn't work, verify the first 5 digits (the first 5 digits are the same for all phone numbers in whatever town you are in). Incidentally, the country code for Greece is +30.
It helps greatly if you can speak basic Greek. Printed material, including road signs, is almost always bilingual Greek-English. However, English is not that widely spoken in the smaller towns of inland Crete.
Crete is currently experiencing a prolonged drought, and hikers should thus be cautious about relying on information about water availability from springs and streams, whether from my notes or from Deutschmann's book, since these water sources may be dried up in the future, especially when hiking later in the year than May. My normal carrying capacity was 3.5 liters (other than the Psiloritis section, where I carried 5 liters) and I filled this up whenever possible. This was sufficient that I usually had water to spare upon arriving at the next water source. For Levka Ori, I would probably carry 5 liters.
I seldom carried more than 1 kilo food and often carried no food at all. The food I did carry was in the form of a mix of petit-beurre biscuits, which are widely available, and dried fruit, especially dried figs. Sometimes I was forced to go a day without eating, because of carrying little food, however I am quite tolerant of such temporary fasting, especially if it means I can carry a lighter pack and/or more water.
Lots of asphalt. Possible to take short-cuts to cut this section short. I camped a few kilometers after Sfinari at an abandoned shepherd's hut with wonderful view of Sfinari below me. Other than this single spot, there are few really nice camping possibilities before Elafonissos, other than perhaps in olive groves or on the beach. Many good campsites after Elafonissos, after leaving the tourist area but before the trail heads away from the coastline. After the Elafonissus beach ends, no good and secluded campsites before Paleochora.
After the beach ends, walk on the plateau between the sea cliff and the inland mountains. Trail obscured by all the goat tracks, but it is impossible to get lost. Just press on through the scrub, making sure to stay far enough inland to avoid the cliffs. The trail becomes clear again towards the end, as you approach the white chapel of Agios Ioannis. From there to Paleochora is easy trail and/or road walking. In Paleochora, I stayed at Savas Rooms, (28230 41075/ 41742), where I paid 20 euro for 1 person for a nice studio with 2 beds, bath, small kitchen, balcony. Another place quoted me 30 euro/night and the manager of a grocery mentioned rooms for 25 euro/night. Given the number of establishments rooms for rent, I think it should be easy for find rooms for 20 or 25 euro/night for 1 person during May, which is before the tourist season begins in earnest. There is also a campground east of town, or it is possible to wild camp on the beach east of town. Internet at various places, starting at 2 euro/hour.
well marked except at the valley of Lissos. Descend to the beach, then find the chapel of Agios Antonios, which is about 50m from the beach. Due north of here is the trail down from the plateau, which sits about 100m above sea level. I couldn't find the trail from the chapel, but by simply heading due north, avoiding difficult obstacles along the way, you will eventually intersect the trail and from there the ascent to the plateau is easy. There are several taverns in Sougia, as well as rooms for rent and a well-stocked shop. Deutschmann lists rooms in Sougia at Santa Irene (28230 51342) and Pikilassos (28230 51242).
Hiked up the Agia Irini gorge. Water was available at several piped springs along the way. After emerging from the gorge, crossing a bridge and reaching a paved main road, immediately turn right and cross another bridge. About 100m later, turn right, pass through a gate, and head up a mule path. If you don't take this right turn, you will reach some farm buildings about 50m later. Mule track eventually hits road. Road walking from here on, through Omalos plateau and on to the hut. Kallergi hut (28210 33199) is open daily starting May 1 and serves food and also sells a limited selection of supplies. It is possible to camp either in the valley below the Kallerghi hut or on the road leading into the Omalos plateau. The plateau itself is populated and offers little privacy, so be sure to stop in one of the pastures before you reach the plateau itself. I camped in the Agia Irini gorge under the trees and next to the stream, but this will not be possible once the park rangers begin patrolling, which is normally starting May 1, the day after I passed through. RG2006 mentions rooms in Omalos at Samaria Pension (28210 67168) in the 25 and under euro category. Deutschmann lists rooms in Omalos at Neos Omalos (28210 67269) and To Exari (28210 67180).
The guardian of the Kallerghi hut said it would be madness to attempt to cross the Levka Ori at the time I arrived, which was May 1. It would be okay to go on to Kassevelli hut, but after that would be a steep pass at more than 2000m altitude, which would likely to be covered with several feet of ice. Also, it would be extremely hard to find the trail due to the snow pack. April of 2007 was unusually cold, so perhaps there is not be so much snow on May 1 in other years. The guardian said the snow would likely be gone by the end of May—it melts very fast in the heat. I therefore decided to descend the Samaria gorge (5 euro entrance fee) to Agia Roumeli. Based on the description in the Deutschmann book of the coastal route from Soughia to Agia Roumeli, it may be that the roundabout way I took is longer but also much easier than the coastal route. From Deutschmann's description, this section of coastal trail is much worse than the worst sections along the coast from Elafonissus to the Agios Ioannis chapel. So if you didn't much care for that section of coastal walking, then I suggest you do what I did—ascend the Agia Irini gorge and descend the Samaria gorge. An alternative to the Agia Irini gorge is a trail shown on the maps which runs on the south side of Mount Psilafi and eventually reaches the top of the Samaria gorge. Not haven't hiked this trail nor having read about it in Deutschmann's book or elsewhere, I can't recommend this alternative, since the trail might be completely overgrown or wiped out by landslides. Anavasi publishes a 1:25000 map of the Samaria gorge which may shows this trail south of Mount Psilafi and also contain a description of the state of this trail. In Agia Roumeli, a tavern was advertising rooms for rent for 20 euro. Presumably this is the room rate, whether for 1 or 2 people. RG2006 lists rooms in Agia Roumeli at Livikon (28250 91363) in the 25 and under euro category. Deutschmann lists rooms in Agia Roumeli at Taverna Agia Roumeli (28250 91432) or Tara (28250 91231). It is also possible to wild camp on the beach near Agia Roumeli or in the forest on the way to Loutro.
Obvious and pleasant trail along beach and then through forest along cliffs overlooking the ocean. In Loutro, I paid, 20 euro for 1 person in a room with double bed and bath at Elios Restaurant/Rooms. I believe 40 euro is the double rate, at least in high season. Very good food there too. This was a very short day for me, but I was in a mood to go slow. I saw internet advertised for 5 euro/hour but didn't use it. Deutschmann lists rooms in Loutro at Porto Loutro (28250 91433) and Apartments Niki (28250 91259).
Another obvious and pleasant trail, and very short too. Again, I was in a mood to go slow and enjoy some village life instead of constantly hiking. Stayed at Rooms Omprosgialos (28250 91274/91263, 69444 77646, 69466 88626), which is first place on road into town if coming from Loutro. Paid 20 euro for a 1 person in a room with double bed, bath and balcony, but I believe this is also the rate for 2 people for that room, and there are two additional rooms, one for 25 euro and one for 30 euro. Many other rooms for rent places in the village. Internet at a bar for 3 euro/hour. Deutschmann lists rooms in Chora Sfakion at Xenia (28250 91238), Sofia (28250 91259), Panorama (28250 91296), Ea (28250 91259).
Road walking along roads shown clearly on Anavasi maps, other than the section through the Imbros gorge (2 euro entrance fee).
After Arghiroupoli, follow road signs to Kato Poros (the network of roads is dense at this point and the map is not particularly useful—better to rely on road signs or get directions from villagers). Just before Kato Poros is a fork, with the left fork going to Zouridhi and the right to Kato Poros. Take the left fork to Zouridhi, then turn right shortly afterwards onto a dirt road which runs south along the left bank of a stream. Follow this road to a bridge. (It is also possible to go through Kato Poros, then descend via footpath to this same stream, just before the bridge, and this is the true E4 trail. However, the footpath is blocked by thorny brush at the bottom. I managed to find a detour around this brush, but the trail appears abandoned at this point and future hikers may not be able to get through, so I can't recommend this footpath.) After crossing the bridge, the dirt road heads north and uphill along the right bank of the stream, curves around the north side of a hill, then heads south towards Moundros.
Supposedly, there is a path which runs east from Moundros, then ascends a stream bed, but Deutschmann describes this trail as overgrown and often difficult. At this point, I had come to respect Deutschmann tendency towards understatement regarding overgrown and otherwise difficult trails, and so decided to stick to the roads indicated on the Anavasi maps. These are dirt roads for the most part with very little traffic and quite pleasant to walk, through very pretty countryside. I camped along the way in a pasture. The network of small dirt roads is much larger than what is shown on the Anavasi maps, but if you stick to the main roads and head generally in the correct direction (south east), you will eventually find your way to Agouseliana. Or if not, you will find your way to some main road and can then follow that the rest of the way. GPS can be useful in navigating in this sort of terrain.
The network of dirt roads continues to be difficult from Agouseliana to Koxare, but I managed to get through after a few wrong turns. After reaching Koxarea, I stayed on the main paved road to Spili. Spili is something of a tourist attraction and has many hotels and cafes, plus a bar with internet access for 2 euro/hour. I stayed at Rooms Vangelis (28320 22266/22671) and paid 20 euro for one person in a two bed room, very nice view, bath. Rooms Herakles (28320 22411), quoted me a regular rate of 35 euro for a somewhat nicer 2 bed room than the room at Vangelis, but discounted to 27 euro since I was alone (so presumably the rate for 2 people is 35). Costas Inn quoted me 35 euro for 1 person, including breakfast, but I didn't see the room. RG2006 mentions rooms in Spili at Green Hotel (28320 22225) in the 25 and under euro category.
Follow road south, passing a chapel on the right after about 2km, then another chapel on the left about 100 meter later, then turn left up a concrete road about 100 meter after the second chapel, which is marked by a sign for Agios Apostelos chapel. Turn right about 50 meter later, the continue parallel to the main road. Later, fork right, again following the sign for Agios Apostelos, which is about 50 m past the fork. Continue on the road to Kisos, then keep straight on, past the main church, past the plaza, then left on a concrete road just after the plaza, then right about 50m later. Should start seeing waymarks at this point (E4 signs and/or yellow, green, red or yellow/black paint marks). The road turns into a footpath which runs through thorns and numerous fences. At a big rock (GPS: E 0552524, N 3893927) with a large yellow/black mark on the side, trail starts zigzag uphill and west-north-west towards the saddle, and is much less overgrown and better waymarked from this point on. If I recall correctly, there were also no more fences to cross after this rock. At the saddle, I either lost the trail or there are no further waymarkings. But the way is obvious. Just head due east along the side of the mountain towards the saddle in the distance. It may be necessary to ascend or descend at various point to avoid large rock formations. There is a road shortly after this second saddle, which descends to Gheraki. Deutschmann indicates that it would have been a simple matter to climb the mountain from near the first saddle, but I didn't do this. I camped in an olive grove shortly after Gherkari. Deutschmann lists rooms in Gherkari at the tavern (????? 22313)
Deutschmann describes the initial part of this segment as being a footpath which is overgrown with thorns. My respect for Deutschmann's warnings is getting stronger by the day, so I stuck to the roads. Specifically, the route I followed, which is obvious from the Anavasi maps, passed through or near the following towns: Gherkari, Kardhaki, Amari, Opsighias, Lambiotes, Afrates, Vizari, Fourfouras. Between Opsighias and Lambiotes, I took a small road, and thus bypassed Monastiraki. In Fourfouras, I stayed at the Windy Place Tavern/Rooms (28330 41366/41000), and paid 25 euro for one person in a nice room with 2 beds, bath and very nice view.
I initially followed Deutschmann's instructions for the trail leading to the Toubotos Prinos refuge. But parts of the trail have apparently been obliterated by road construction since Deutschmann passed through. Also, Deutschmann indicated that the trail was difficult even before this road construction. These two facts were enough to convince me to descend and take an alternative route. Namely, I walked along the road from Fourfouras to Kouroutes, then walked up the road from Kouroutes to the refuge, which is clearly indicated by a road sign and also shown on the Anavasi maps. If I were doing this walk again, I would spend the night Kouroutes rather than Fourfouras, in order to shorten what would otherwise be a very long day. I saw a sign for Kourites Hostel (28330 41305) in Kouroutes. Another possibility is to camp at the Agios Titos chapel about halfway up from Kouroutes to the refuge, since there is some flat ground near there. Or camp at the refuge itself, which has a large porch as well as flat spots of ground nearby. From the refuge, the path to the peak is either obvious or well waymarked, and the path down to Analipsi on the other side is even clearer. There is a spring at Analipsi chapel, but this was weak when I passed through and may dry up in summer. There is also supposedly a tavern there, but it looked closed when I passed. Deutschmann indicates that, when open, this tavern has two rooms available for rent. The Nida plateau is covered by flat and soft turf and makes for a fine campsite, though exposed to the wind.
The path to the Rouvas gorge is either obvious from the Anavisi maps or well-waymarked, with one tricky spot, as follows. When the road off the Nida plateau ends and the path begins descending a dry stream bed, be on the lookout for marks indicating an exit from this stream bed, towards the right/south and uphill. If you miss this exit, then you will soon thereafter pass a vertical rock face on your right, which indicates you went too far. If you want to continue on the official E4 trail to Ghiristi, rather than taking the detour down the Rouvas gorge, then the way should be obvious or well-waymarked. Otherwise, the trail down the Rouvas gorge to Zaros is also obvious. There was water running in the Rouvas gorge when I passed, at the point where the E4 crosses the gorge, but the water had disappeared underground by the bottom of the gorge. There were signs at the bottom of the gorge indicating that the gorge was closed due to the trail being washed out, but the difficulties I encountered getting past these washed out sections were minimal. In Zaros, I stayed at Keramos Hostel (28940 31352) and paid 25 euro for one person in a nice studio with bath, balcony, double bed, and elaborate breakfast. Cost for 2 people would be 40 euro for one night or 35 euro/night for more than one night. This Hostel is mentioned in all the guide books as a "must" due to the breakfast and is thus filled with German, English and French tourists, including quite a few hikers. I enjoyed this bit of fellowship after much solitude (I met very few other thru-hikers along the E4 in Crete). There is also an Idi Hotel (28940 31301) and another place offering rooms for rent at the east end of town, along the main road.
I took the road from Zaros to Ghergheri, then ascended by road into the mountains and eventually intercepted the E4 trail coming from the Rouvas gorge. The E4 leaves this road after passing two large concrete water cisterns (one square, one round), one of which has a yellow/black waymark on the side. There didn't seem to be many waymarks from here to the saddle. Nevermind, the way is obvious. Just direct yourself through the open forest towards the saddle and eventually you will intersect the trail (or trails, since there may be several ways up). Deutschmann indiactes that the ascent of Gheristi from the saddle takes about 15 minutes, but I didn't bother. The way down from the saddle is waymarked with poles every 100 m or so with E4 signs on top. Remarkably for Greece, these signs were intact rather than blown to bits by hunters using them for target practice. If you can't see the trail at first, just head northeast. Eventually, the trail reaches a dry stream bed, which has some trees growing in it due to the availability of underground water. The trail follows this stream bed down to the Prinos Hut and from there most of the way to Ano Ascites. There was water flowing from the spring about 50 m north of Prinos Hut when I was there. The terrace of Prinos Hut offers flat spot for camping. If you must pitch a tent, then there is a flat spot near the spring. The stream bed becomes quite steep after Prinos Hut. When it hits a road, you can either follow the road down to Anos Ascites or cross the road and continue down the stream bed, which eventually leads to a gate into an olive grove, and then out the other side of this olive grove, through another gate, back onto the road, and from there the trail stays on the road into Ano Ascites.
Via roads, mostly shown clearly on the Anavasi maps, though the maps are imperfect once you leave the pavement for dirt roads. Rooms in Ano Arhanes at Orestis (28107 51619) and Neraidospilios Apartments and Villas (28107 52965, 69456 07274, 69727 20879, www.neraidospilios.gr). I stayed at Neraidospilios and paid 40 euro for 1 person in a huge and beautifully decorated luxury suite with double bed, sofa and chairs, breakfast table, television, air conditioning (which I didn't need), swimming pool out front, kitchenette, bath, bottle of ouzo in the room for use by guests, super quiet at night. Really a first class place and highly recommended, especially for anyone who has been mostly camping in pastures full of goat turds and rocks and/or staying in cheap hotels—experience a little luxury now and then!
All road path, as follows: Arhanes, Katalaghari, Zaghouriani, Mirtia, Voni, Thrapsano, Evangelismos, Archangelos, Kastelli. These roads are clear from the Anavasi map, except for the stretch from Zaghouriani to Mirtia. Starting at the Zaghouriani church, head east on an asphalt road. When this road ends in a T-junction with another asphalt road, turn left. Mirtia should be visible at this point. The detour through Voni, etc is to avoid traffic on the main road to Kastelli, though even this main road is fairly quiet. Paid 25 euro for 1 person in a nice 2 bed room with bath in Kastelli at Kalliopi (28910 32685). The E4 is shown on both Anavasi and Harms maps as going north to Kato Arhanes before turning to Mirtia, then passing through Sghourekefali, Agarathou Monastery and Apostoli before finally reaching Kastelli. But Deutschmann couldn't find the path after Mirtia and so came up with his own route, which is complicated, involves bushwhacking and is almost certainly obsolete by now due to continued changes in the rural road network.
The way to Tichos is via roads and obvious. Continue on the road east of Tichos for about 1km to a small chapel. Turn right after the chapel onto a dirt road and continue east. The road forks. I was somewhat unnerved at this point due to being sent on several wild goose chases after asking directions from a series of village fools and hence ignored my intuition, which said take the lower and left fork, which is on an obviously older road. Instead, I took the right fork, which is clearly a newer road, probably constructed after Deutschmann passed through, which is why he doesn't mention this fork. My misgivings grew as I ascended, but two sets of locals in pickup trucks assured me that the road I was on went to the Lassithi plateau, so I continued. All's well that ends well and I ended up being invited to lunch by a shepherd when I finally reached a pass. The way down the other side involved some bushwhacking through heavy brush—there is a reason these shepherds wear leather knee-boots. Anyway, the correct E4 obviously requires taking the lower left fork. I can't describe the correct trail after the fork, since I didn't hike it, but it appears straightforward, based on Deutschmann's description. Namely, follow the road about a kilometer past the fork, until it turns right (towards the southeast) and begins a steep ascent up a trail. Once you reach the Lassithi plateau, the way is obvious, either on the paved main ring road or via dirt roads which shortcut this main road. These dirt roads are shown clearly on the Harms map and waymarked by signs. Rooms in Psichro at Zeus (28440 31284) and Dictaeon Andron (28440 31504), both of which were closed when I called to inquire. In Agios Georgios, I paid 10 euro for 1 person in a small but clean 2 bed room with shared bath at Hotel Dias (28440 31207). Also in Agios Georgios, Hotel Rea (28440 31209) quoted me 31 or 37 euro (depending on the room) for 1 person. There is also a Hotel Maria offering rooms-for-rent just down the road from Hotels Rea and Dias.
Take main road in direction of Psichro, heading south-southeast. Pass gas station just before curve, then pass Lassithi Eco Zoo at curve, then proceed west for about 50m, until just before first houses of Koudoumaliai. You will see the remains of an old E4 pole (sign has disappeared) to your left, and also a faint footpath. Climb up to this footpath and proceed south about 50m, reaching a road which comes up from the Eco Zoo. Continue south about 50m on this road. When road turns left, continue straight onto a dirt road. About 20m later is a concrete water cistern on the left. Before reaching the cistern, climb up to the footpath which runs behind the cistern. E4 pole with sign soon after cistern. Follow a fence on the left for about 50m. About 100m past the cistern, merge with a dirt road which turns right before a farm building. Continue west about 50m until another road. Turn left and follow this road south and uphill about 50m. Just after this road turns right (to the west), you will see an E4 pole on the left, which marks the start of the footpath into the mountains, heading due south. Footpath is marked by E4 poles and crosses dirt/concrete road twice on the way up to a ridge. From the ridge, the way is obvious—across a high plateau to a scree-filled gulley. The path up the gully and beyond is marked clearly by E4 poles, cairns and/or yellow paint marks. At the final saddle, a large cairn to the left marks the way to the peak, which is also waymarked by yellow and red paint marks, according to Deutschmann. Another cairn, to the right, marks the way down, which is waymarked by yellow paint marks. As you approach Selakano, begin following E4 signs and red paint marks. The marks will take you along a road, which turns into a footpath, then finally reaches the chapel and Kafenio of Selakano. Supposedly, the Kafenio has the keys to a nearby refugio with bunk beds, but the Kafenio was closed when I passed. Turn left on the road at the chapel and follow this road for about 300m, to a cluster of signs (Panagia Selakanotissa, Gra Kara, Xristos). Take a hairpin left onto the dirt road towards Mathokotsana, which is also the road signed for Gra Kara. If you don't make this hairpin left turn, then you will descend to Xristos. About 50m past the hairpin left, the road curves right and about 20m later there is a rough trail down to some hills covered by oak trees and short grass, with many secluded flat spots suitable for camping.
Follow the dirt road heading towards Mathokotsana, ignoring smaller roads to right and left. About 3km past Selankano, at (828m, E 642773, N 3883918), road makes a hairpin right. Continue straight, along the path signposted Oropedio Katharou. Fork at (887m, E 643417, N 3884309). Sign indicates that left fork goes to Oropedio Katharou. I took right fork, following telephone/electricity poles. At (824m, E 644045, N 3884048) turn left. Fork right at (869m, E 644472, N 3884269). Fork left at (844m, E 645202, N 3884080). Ignore various smaller roads at the main road zigzags uphill. At a junction at (941m, E 645940, N 3884352), there is an E4 pole/sign on a road which arrives from the left, and another E4 pole/sign on the main road which continues to the right, so the path I took evidently intersects the true E4 here. Perhaps I should have taken the left fork earlier, which was signposted as going to Oropedio Katharou. In any case, the trail I took is quite direct, along the contour between 800m and 900m. Deutschmann also lost the trail after Selakano and ended up descending to Males and then later ascending. From here on there are occasional E4 signs. At (991m, E 647523, N 3884723) proceed straight, ignoring road to right. At (956m, E 647626, N 3885384) proceed straight again, ignoring road to left. Red marks on a rock soon thereafter. Begin zigzag descent soon after. Amidst vineyards, fork left at (699m, E 650131, N 3884964). Turn left at T-junction soon after, at (666m, E 650443, N 3884880). 100m later, fork right. After another 100m, fork right again, continuing uphill. The road now runs close to a ridge, and at several points, while crossing the ridge, it is possible to see both coasts of Crete at once. T-junction at (613m, E 651883, N 3884953). I went left, following a blue arrow, but my conclusion later was that I should have gone right, which would have brought me down to the main road to the west of Prina, passing south of the mountain of Giannoukorifi. As it was, the road I followed brought me down slightly to the east of Prina, after a long roundabout to the north of the mountain of Giannoukorifi. There were both blue and red arrows along the way I took, but many of these had been painted over with grey paint, as if someone where trying to modify the waymarking. There is a taverna in Prina, about 200m west of town on the main road. So if you come in from the east, like me, then you will need to hike west a way if you want to visit this taverna.
Take the main road to Meseleri, continue into town, past the plaza and little church, then turn left down a small lane which continues to the edge of town and past a cemetery. Follow this same road all the way to the old monastery of Agia Panagia Vyromeni. Signs and red waymarkings along the way. Soon after the monastery is a crossing. Go straight, continuing uphill towards antennas. Further on, take the main road right and downhill, rather than ascending to the antennas. About 200m later, continue straight on, as indicated by an E4 pole, rather than taking hairpin left. Another 100m is another hairpin turn, this time to the right and another E4 pole. Again, continue straight on. A mess of farm roads follows, but the way is obvious. Namely, you want to pass south and then east of the peak with the antennas. At (429m, E 660459, N 3882513) continue straight on, east and slightly uphill, rather than making a hairpin turn right, south and downhill. The same blue markings appear which misled me yesterday, and which Deutschmann never mentions, so I assume these blue markings are new and do NOT indicate the E4. At (430m, E 661419, N 3883126), just before a hill, turn left and north towards Asari, rather than continuing straight and east, as the Harms map seems to indicate. There is an E4 pole on the road arriving at this junction (the road we are on), but no poles on the road after the junction. However, there is a faint red arrow on a rock on the left road, which has been painted over with a blue arrow pointing in the other direction. About 500m later, pass another E4 pole, then more E4 poles further on. At (361m, E 661425, N 3883462) turn right. If you miss this turn, you will reach a spring surrounded by stone benches and trees about 100m later. At (357m, E 663348, N 3883835) continue straight rather than turning left. 50m later is a superb view of the north coast of Crete to the left and the Monastiraki gorge straight ahead. About 1km further on, after heading downhill and south, fork left. E4 poles before and after this fork. The remainder of the way to Vasiliki is now obvious. I asked two locals about taverns, stores and other facilities in Vasiliki, and they responded that there was nothing but a kafenio, which was only open in the evening (I arrived near noon). So I decided to detour 3km north on the dirt road to Pachia Ammos, where there are numerous stores and tavernas. Hotel Zey on the main road quoted me 25 euro for 1 person in a dingy room with double bed and horrible traffice noise (the main road is also the main highway from Agios Nikolaos to Ierapetra). When I made a face at the noise, the gloomy owner offered to discount to 20 euro, then expressed disgust when I rejected this offer—the room was so noisy that I was resolved to camp if I couldn't find something better, even though it was drizzling outside. I ended up paying 30 euro at Golden Beach Hotel (28420 93278) for 1 person in a very nice and very quiet 2 bed room with bath and balcony overlooking the sea, with a friendly and cheerful owner and employees. There is supposedly a campground about 2km west of town on the main road.
Leave Vasiliki by the main road heading south then east towards the highway. Pass archaeological site on the way. Cross the highway at a diagonal towards the left/north, towards a dirt road. Follow this road (marked with E4 poles) to Monastiraki. Ascend through the village, passing a kafenio (closed when I passed) and small chapel and fountain. Above the village, turn right along a dirt road which ascends the mountain towards the south. Later, fork left, continuing to ascend. Upon reaching the paved road from Kato Horio, turn left and follow this road all the way to Thripti, where there is a tavern and fountain. Continue on road to Orino, pass the cemetery there, then descend into the village, cross the stream bed, pass kafenio (closed when I passed), and ascend the hill to the east. At the top of the hill, the true E4 takes the dirt road straight ahead, rather than turning right and following the paved road down to Stavrohori. About 400m later, the dirt road reaches a crossroads with two other dirt roads on the left. Continue straight ahead onto an overgrown road for about 20m, then pass a gate in a fence, then continue on a rocky trail from there, heading northeast towards some E4 poles in the distance. The gate didn't appear well used (it took me about 10 minutes to get the wire loose enough to open it) and Deutschmann describes the trail as being difficult to follow, so I opted to turn back at this point and take the road down to Stavorhori, and another road from there to Chrisopigi. When I finally arrived in Chrisopigi and looked back, it appeared that there is a dirt road which goes most of the way up the mountain, and so perhaps the true E4 trail is not as difficult as I had thought, unless there are more fences to cross. Deutschmann instructions are to proceed northeast from where I turned back, following E4 poles. Later, the trail becomes overgrown and there are no further E4 poles. Instead, navigate by compass, direction northeast, until you eventually reach the dirt road which leads down to Chrisopigi.
Follow main road heading east from Chrisopigi. About 500m out of town, at a bend in the main road, turn right onto a dirt road. E4 pole on the main road just before the turn, and E4 signs on trees on the dirt road just after the turn. Additional E4 poles further on. Later, fork right and continue uphill. Upon reaching a dirt road at the top of ridge, hairpin turn left. 100m later, fork left towards the top of the hill, which is about 200m away. Follow the road into Dafni, then follow the road which leaves Dafni heading east. Descend to the stream bed via this road, cross the stream bed, then continue south along the left/east bank of the stream bed. Shortly before the stream bed passes between some rock formations, the trail crosses to the right/west bank. A while later, at (337m, E 684466, N 3885698), with a jagged ridge of rocks to the south, fork left, cross the stream bed again, to the left/east bank, then ascend the hill on the other side via a red dirt road. At the top of the hill, pass a gate, then descend in an east-southeast direction via rocky trail, with an E4 pole at the top of the hill indicating where the trail begins. The trail is hard to follow, but you will eventually reach a dirt road. Turn right and follow this road as it slowly descends into the valley, with E4 signs along the way. After a large rock flat, fork right and continue to slowly descend. After another rock flat, at an intersection with telephone/electric poles and concrete cube about 50 away to the right, go straight towards the stream bed, which you cross. Ascend the other side of the stream bed. I apparently lost the trail here, because I saw no further E4 signs, but the way is obvious. Just head generally east and uphill along the many roads through the olive groves, until finally reaching the hillside town of Vori and/or the main road. From Vori to Ziros is via roads shown clearly on the Harms map, passing the towns of Etia, Armeni and Handras on the way. According to Deutschmann, the path shown on the Harms map from Papagiandas to Ziros no longer exists, due to recent construction. I made no attempt to find this old path myself. Outside of Armeni, I spotted an E4 sign on a dirt road coming in from the west, so evidently the E4 trail has been rerouted from what is shown on the Harms map. The road is a quiet one, in any case. In Handras, Lemon Tree Tavern and Rooms (28430 31066) quoted me 30 euro for 1 person. Deutschmann lists rooms in Ziros at Ziros restaurant.
Follow the main street to the plaza, where there is an EKO gas station across the street. Turn left, following the sign for the Agios Nikolaos church. Fork right about 20m later. About 50m later, turn right and immediately pass a small chapel on the left, then fork left at Odos Hatzantonaki. Follow this road to the outskirts of the town, where it turns first into a dirt road and soon thereafter into a rocky path, ascending northeast. E4 signs and poles along this path. Shortly after passing a gate in a fence and an E4 pole, at (702m, E 695568, N 3883788), fork right and northeast along what appears to be a collapsed stone wall, as opposed to forking left and north away from this wall. Cross a dirt road soon thereafter and continue northeast on the other side, following E4 poles. Reach some farm buildings eventually, where you will follow the dirt road east about 100m, then continue east on a rocky trail towards some E4 poles. About 10 minutes later, pass a small chapel, which is surrounded by flat, grass-covered terraces—potential campsite if you have water available. (There is a spring at this chapel, but I have my doubts about the purity of the water.) Continue to follow E4 poles on a trail which heads north towards a dirt road in the distance. Eventually reach this road shortly after it forks. If, by chance, you reach the road before the fork, then take the right fork. Pass a gate in a fence, cross a grassy plain, pass another gate on the other side of the plain, then follow a rocky trail, waymarked by E4 poles, which leads down to Zakros. At the town square, take the street heading east. Remainder of way to gorge is very well waymarked. There is a Hotel Zakros in Zakros itself (28430 93379). In Kato Zakros, I paid 20 euro for 1 person in a 2 bed room with shared bath, at Poseidon Rooms for rent (28430 26896), which also quoted me 35 euro for a room with private bath. All these Poseidon rooms have either a private balcony or access to a shared terrace out front overlooking the sea. Poseidon as well as several other rooms-for-rent places are managed by the owner of Taverna Akrogiali (28430 26893), which serves excellent souvlaki. Other possibilities: Melina Rooms (69733 22915); George Villas (28430 26883), which quoted me 35 euro for 1 person; Stella Apts (28430 23739, www.stelapts.com); Kato Zakros Palace Apts (69748 88269). Deutschmann say the villagers at Kato Zakros are open to wild camping, but RG2006, which was written a few years later, says villagers are now hostile to wild camping due to abuses in the past few years. There is a daily (or sometimes twice-daily) bus from Kato Zakros to Sitia, making stops at Zakros and Palekastro on the way.
Not officially part of the E4, which ends in Kato Zakros, but a nice beach walk. Follow the road which runs north, behind the tavernas, to the end of town, then pass through a gate and proceed along a rocky trail along the coast. The trail is clear and well-waymarked by cairns and red paint spots. Reach a large cave after about 45 minutes. After the cave, the trail becomes much fainter, but the red paint and cairn waymarkings continue. About an hour's walk past the cave, the path ascends, waymarked by red paint spots, to get around a cliff. Descend on the other side of the cliff and continue down the coast to a line of rocks which extends into the water. I lost the red paint marks here, but there are many ways over this line of rocks. On the other side is the beach of Karoumbes and the outlet of the Hohlakies gorge. On the north side of the beach, a clear path resumes, well-waymarked with blue paint marks (there are also occasional comments, in German, written on rock surfaces with the same blue paint as the waymarks). Follow the trail to Skinias cove, then take a dirt road inland from there. The waymarks end several kilometers down this road, and the network of dirt roads becomes complex upon reaching olive groves, but if you continue inland far enough, you will eventually hit the paved road which runs from from Zakros to Palekastro. Many hotels and rooms for rent in Palekastro, a daily bus runs from there to Sitia and supposedly there is a trail along the coast from there to the famous palm forest beach at Vai—I didn't walk this trail or visit the beach there myself.