Inn-to-inn sea kayaking in Crete, Greece
Outfitter: The Northwest Passage
Price: from $2,695 per person
First settled around 6,500 B.C., Crete has seen the birth of Western civilization with the Minoan culture, rule by the Mycenaean Greeks, the Romans, the Venetians, and then the Turks, and even occupation by the Nazis. There's so much history here, you can literally see the layers of it stacked on top of one another in archeological sites all over the island. If that weren't enough, Crete also has beautiful beaches, wild mountainous terrain, bustling cities and villages, and tasty Greek food. There's so much to see and do, planning a trip can be little overwhelming.
Thankfully, The Northwest Passage, a sea kayaking company that has operated for years on the island and forged a close relationship with the locals, offers a fine-tuned eight-day itinerary that combines many of Crete's highlights with the romance of sea kayaking from inn to inn on the Libyan Sea—allowing you to see Crete in a way that few tourists do.
After some sightseeing in north around Heraklion, you'll kayak along the south coast, paddling five to six hours daily and up to 24 miles per day. The kayaking is broken up with breaks for morning cappuccino and midday lunch. There's also time to explore beaches and sea caves and planned stops at archeological sites and other attractions inland. The tour includes some of Crete's most popular experiences: touring the restored Minoan palace of Knossos and the Venetian fortress of Frangokastello and hiking the Samarian Gorge, the Grand Canyon of Europe.
However, for many trip-goers, the real highlights are their interactions with the locals and the experience of Greek village life. "The cultural experience in Crete is especially unique," says Adam Walsh, director and guide for The Northwest Passage. "Because we've been leading trips there for so long, our relationships with the local Cretans are very personable. The inns and tavernas we frequent are all owned by families who welcome us with open arms, hugs, and kisses with every visit. They are some of the most hospitable people I've ever met and I always feel like part of their family when I visit."
Trips are scheduled in May, June, September, and October, months that avoid the peak crowding of tourist season but still promise good weather. Rates include accommodations, most meals, ground transportation and van support, kayaking equipment and instruction, entry fees, and guides. You do not need kayaking experience to go on this trip.
Transportation to Crete is extra. Round-trip fares from New York to Heraklion in May on Air France start at $676, excluding taxes and fees.