Though aimed in particular at those taking on the E4 routes across the island, these remarks are just as appropriate for ANY walks and trails on Crete.
On mountain routes, pure and simple, within the E4, you will need full mountaineering gear, though at lower altitudes and amongst the hills, lighter equipment will suffice. On winter walks, and in gorges with permanently standing water, it is useful to carry an extra pair of footwear – you will need to change them at the end of the walk.
On all routes, natural sources of drinkable water are scarce. Given that the time to complete a walk with vary with the nature of the terrain crossed, be sure to calculate very carefully the amount of water you need to carry. Avoid drinking from rivers, wells and springs, that are not marked with a sign that says they are safe.
Do not underestimate the nature of the Cretan mountains – frequently you will encounter on a walk loose and unstable soils underfoot, and watch out for slippery conditions after any sort of rains or mists. Take great care in foggy conditions – the more so in the barren and mountainous parts where the path itself is far from obvious! On areas used for grazing, you are likely to encounter fences: be careful to shut gates behind you. Keep well clear of the country-side dogs (trained to guard), and avoid making moves that might startle or antagonize them. They could bite!
Over all Crete is fine for walking in all year round, due to its basically mild climate and decent weather conditions. Spring and autumn are best for mountaineering proper – and definitely avoid periods of snowfall in the winter months (which on the mountains extends into April). But equally give excessively hot summer days a miss too.
A good amount of detailed information region by region can be found on the Internet.
The required ‘walking-time’ indicated for each route is but an estimate – based on what the average walker can be expected to achieve. Caution: sight-seeing and breaks are NOT included.
In the lowlands and hills, the pace is estimated at 4 km an hour: brisk. On true mountains and steep slopes, the rates are calculated at some 300 m ascent in an hour, descents at 400-500 m an hour. Remember, again, that the figures will in practice vary: according to your own pace and physical condition, the weather, the weight of your rucksack and so on...
Changes in routes
Though the information contained here is accurate at the time of writing .. it is not likely to remain so for ever, Changes may come about from human intervention (agriculture, shepherding, public works) or from the climate (local torrential downpours can rip trails apart). Please do inform us of major alterations, so we can keep this section up-to-date and so safer for all.
Generally the E4 in Crete is ‘do-able’ – without overmuch difficulty or technical requirements. But it must always be kept in mind that over 2000m snow may linger even in the summer months and that in such spots fatal drops are often present. Furthermore at those sorts of altitudes, winds from the north and west are potentially dangerous.
Please understand that anyone taking these routes does so at their own risk. They are responsible not only for their own safety against accidents, but also for any damage they may cause – fires, pollution, environmental degradation etc. Safety on the mountain depends solely on personal judgment, the training and experience of the walker and a correct comprehension of what is and is not possible for that individual.
The information in Destination Crete should be combined with a full appreciation on the part of the walker of the risks that are attendant on walking in unfamiliar areas – and a mature assessment and acceptance of a personal responsibility for one’s own actions.