Crete – From Mountains to the Sea: Trail of the Gods

Samaria National Park

This package was coordinated by MEET project parnter  MedPAN and created by the managers and the people of the protected areas of Samaria National Park.

The tour is provided by the local tour operator  

This test tour is a result of the MEET project’s objective to develop an integrated strategy to settle an Eco-Tourism Development Model for the Mediterranean Protected Areas that boosts a better seasonal distribution of tourism flows. By participating in this tour you will be part of a small group contributing to the development of a new sustainable travel concept which aims to support conservation and benefit the local communities…

NOTE: Samaria is physically demanding, for very active travelers in good physical condition (2-6 hour hikes, boating, snorkeling). The program is not suitable for small children.

Welcome to Greece!

Greece is a country located in southern Europe, possessing an archipelago of about 2,000 islands with its biggest one, Crete, lying in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

Greece is a mingling of old and new, with a history of more than 5,000 years which provided the foundation of what we call today “western civilization”.  A fantastic country that’s easy to navigate.  It has the sea, the mountains and everything in-between. High mountains, long gorges, deep caves, endless coastlines and unspoiled beaches with crystal clear blue waters, unique species of flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world and remote villages with authentic people. All these mix together with culture and tradition in everyday life and the result is that, no matter what your expectations are, you can…live your myth in Greece!!

Samaria (White Mountains) National Park

The area of the PA covers approximately 58.000 ha, including mountainous, meadows and coastal areas as well as endangered and threatened species. The area is a NATURA 2000 site and a Bird’s Directive site and of course the Gorge of Samaria is the Core of the National Park, the largest gorge in the Balkans and with a mean total visitation rate of more than 200.000 per year.

The area is multi-designated (National Park, Wildlife Refuge, Biosphere Reserve through the MAB Programme of UNESCO, Biogenetic Reserve (CoE), Important Bird Area (IBA)), and the Gorge of Samaria has received the European Diploma of Protected Areas from the Council of Europe. The main goal of the PA’s management is to preserve the unique landscape and elements and adjust all human-induced activities to its conservation goals

LOCATION

How this trip manifests the MEET Brand & Values

The Samaria “From Mountain to the Sea: Trails of the Gods” trip is an amalgam of experiences dedicated to the understanding of the old Cretan way of life and how it was shaped by the unique landscape. The relationship between Cretans and the landscape of Crete is apparent in all expressions of cultural life. Crete’s landscape is harsh but also welcoming. Cretans are the same. Once one has grasped the meaning and significance of the landscape, then becomes a member of every Cretan family.

The trip is designed in a way to let visitors engage with each other, share experiences related to their own origins, learn about the PA of the White Mountains and create a common background experience that will follow them for the rest of their life. Since the trip is located within the boundaries of one of the oldest natural parks in Greece, conservation values are at the heart of the tour. And finally the local communities of the PA and their fully dedicated commitment to the conservation of the area are one of the central elements of the tour.

Biodiversity & Conservation in Samaria

The PA’s original declaration in 1962 was based on the fact that the area was the last remaining habitat of the Cretan Wild Goat, the largest mammal of the island and a species found only in the certain area. In time, the uniqueness of the PA was scientifically proven and now more than 650 plants have been recorded with almost half of Crete’s endemic species found in the White Mountains. The rich life of the PA is also apparent in the avifauna (more than 190 species recorded with the Bearded Vulture and the Griffon Vulture in the core of the interest) and fauna with 32 species of mammals.

Conservation Threats & Opportunities

The PA, as with all Protected areas in the world faces threats and pressures from illegal activities and unsustainable forms of development. Illegal hunting, landscape fragmentation, overuse of natural resources, mass tourism are some of the pressures identified. The PA’s Management Body is solely dedicated to confront and minimize these issues and educate locals and visitors about the importance of the area’s preservation.

Contribution of MEET to the Protected Area 

The main and originally designed contribution from the tour to the PA is the creation and increase of awareness about the values of the area to both visitors and local communities. Creating a new way of understanding of how tourism can benefit both local-visitors and landscape is a central feature. This will allow in time to shift from the mass tourism model to a sustainable one. Moreover, certain activities during the tour, such as monitoring of wild life will also directly contribute to the preservation goals and increase understanding of the PA’s biodiversity for improved conservation planning by the Management Body.

Who will you MEET during your trip?

Meet the Cretans!! Most of them are interesting and inspiring in a pure, authentic way that they, themselves, do not realize. Especially locals engaged in small communities, living outside big cities, carry the true spirit of Cretan culture and tradition as well as the sense of their ancient roots and will transfer it to you through simple acts, such as letting you help them prepare the food, share with you little secrets of Cretan nutrition and other aspects of their life deriving from the ancient times, or by simply prompting you to sing and dance with them.

PRE DEPARTURE GUIDE

Before you depart, please consider the following:

Visa requirements

European Citizens whose country is under the authority of the Schengen Treaty may enter Greece with nothing more than a valid identity card or passport.

Citizens from all other countries must show their passport on the border; where a visa is required, this must also be presented to the border authorities and must indicate the length of the holder’s stay and his or her destination. Visa applications – specifying the reason for the trip – must be made to the Italian Consulate in the applicant’s country of residence, and are generally issued 90 days after the application is made.

Passport must be valid for at least three months beyond your planned date of departure from the Schengen area (Six months recommended).

Currency

Currency in Greece is EuroGoogle Currency Converter

Weather Conditions

In early October temperature is usually between 16 – 25 C, but on higher altitude it can be much colder and after sunset temperature can fall as low as 8 C!! Generally, sunny weather with some cloudy days but there is always the possibility of rain.

Clothing tips

To ensure you enjoy your trip, please bring with you:

  • Clothes for Hiking (trousers + long sleeve t-shirt or isothermic)
  • Fleece or warm wind proof jacket
  • a light raincoat in case of rain
  • Hiking shoes
  • a backpack (20 -30 liters is sufficient)
  • a water flask and hat for the sun.
    bathing suit, sunscreen and towel for the swim day.
  • Extra pairs of hiking socks always have this extra pair with you during hiking days
  • Some warm clothes +winter hat (for after sunset when temperature in the mountain at night could go down to 10 degrees Celsius or less)
  • Walking sticks – baton (optional)

Insurance, Health & Safety

An insurance covering each participant during transportation and all activities which are part of the program, is provided. Participants are also advised to take out their own personal travel insurance.

For Greece and Crete there are no special health or safety requirements and instructions. However, when moving with the rest of the group on mountain or sea areas you must always have in mind that nature is unpredictable and you have to be careful. Try not to isolate yourself and always stay all together as a group. When moving alone, try to avoid anything that looks suspicious or dangerous (places, people or situations) like you would do everywhere else in the world.

The Rescue phone number for Greece is 112 (have it in your mobile).

If you have any allergies or you are under special medical treatment, we have to know this in advance and please make sure you bring all necessary medicines you might need, with you.

The tap water is drinkable but we strongly suggest that you avoid it and drink only bottled water. However, when on the mountains, whenever we come across a natural water spring drink as much as you want and also fill your bottles. It is a good idea to bring your own reusable water bottle to avoid unnecessary use of plastic.

Electricity/adaptors

The electrical current is 220 volts AC (50 Hz).

ON ARRIVAL

Download the tour itinerary here.

Map of the route

MAP

Transportation & Transfers

Pick-up on 2/10 (1st day of the Tour) from Chania International Airport upon your flight arrival. Drop-off on 7/10 (last day of the Tour) at Chania airport around 16:00.

All participants must inform us about their arrival and departure times, at least 10 days before the tour so we can arrange all transfers.

Accommodation

First night (2/10) in Single Rooms in a 3* city hotel. Second night (3/10) in Single Rooms in a small local hotel in the mountain area of Omalos. Third night (4/10) in Single Rooms in a small local hotel in the coastal village of Agia Roumeli. Last 2 nights (5/10 & 6/10) in Twin or Single Rooms in a traditional local hotel in the mountain village of Agios Ioannis.

Food

Cretan cuisine is based on Mediterranean nutrition and olive oil, including many kind of local herbs, many kind of vegetables, local milk products and meet (a lot of it!!).

Please make sure to inform us at least one week before arrival for any food allergies or any special nutrition and dietary requirements (eg. Vegetarian)

Shopping & Local Products

You will have the opportunity to purchase all kind of tourist souvenirs but also the famous natural local nutritional products like herbs, cheese, honey and the local drink “raki” (which is served everywhere…even for breakfast!!). Hand made local products like Cretan knives, etc. Spending responsibly allows you to give back to the local communities.

Important Cultural & Religious Considerations

Cretans are famous for their hospitality. They are open hearted and happy people and they will appreciate the same attitude from your side. Do not be afraid to speak to them!   They are very helpful and like it when one tries to speak their language.  A simple “efharisto” (thank you) or “parakalo” (please), together with a smile, go a long way when dealing with Greeks.

They are also very proud and you have to be careful not to insult them. Watch them and try to do things the way they do them and when they invite you for something (especially to drink or eat), accept the invitation.   Main religion in Greece is Christian Orthodox and most Cretans love and respect their tradition.

Tipping

Although tipping is a tradition in many countries, try to avoid doing this in Crete. People can be very insulted and upset if you offer them money as a way of saying thank you. It is much better and appreciated if, instead of giving money, you offer them a gift. It can be something small and of no money value but it will be more personal than money and thus more important.

Your MEET Tour Leader

Your MEET tour leader will meet you upon your arrival and be with you until your departure. They will be the connection between you – the traveller – and the local people & territory, sharing their local knowledge and advice on how best to enjoy your unique experience. Their role is to ensure that all aspects of your trip run smoothly. It sometimes happens that unexpected situations may occur, in which case your leader will keep you well informed and may require your cooperation and understanding. If you have any questions or concerns at any point, they are there to assist you, so don’t hesitate to ask!

USEFUL PHRASES IN GREEK

Basic greetings:

English Greek
Hello Gia (Γειά)
Good evening Kalispera (Καλησπέρα)
Goodbye Antio (Αντίο)
See you tomorrow Ta leme avrio  (Τα λέμε αύριο)
Please Parakalo (Παρακαλώ)
Excuse me / sorry Signomi (Συγγνώμη)
Thank you Efharisto   (Ευχαριστώ)
You’re welcome Parakalo (Παρακαλώ)
Have a good day Kali synehia (Καλή συνέχεια)
Enjoy your meal Kali orexi   (Καλή όρεξη)
Cheers Is Igia  (Εις Υγεία)

 

Introducing yourself:

English Greek
Hello, my name is… Gia, me lene….   (Γειά, με λένε….)
What is your name? Pos se lene? (Πως σε λένε?)
How are you? Pos isai?   (Πως είσαι?)
Nice to meet you Harika (Χάρηκα)
I come from Italy, Spain, Germany.. Imai Italos, Ispanos, Germanos… (Είμαι…)