Best guide books
Probably the best two guide books in English are The Rough Guide to Crete and the Blue Guide Crete. This last one is getting a little old (8th edition came out in 2010) but as its strong point is history and major archaeological sites it is still very usable. Lonely Planet Crete
is also worth looking into.
If you can read German Kreta Reiseführer Michael Müller Verlag is by far the most complete and up-to-date Crete guide on the market.
If you don’t use a Kindle yet, at least for when you are travelling, you should really look into it. It saves so much carrying of books.
I got the new Kindle Oasis partly because it has a wider screen than the Kindle Paperwhite but also because I was missing my page turn buttons (from older Kindle days). The Kindle Oasis also has the advantage to be waterproof which is not a bad thing if you take it to the beach (waterproof also means sand-proof or at least washable).
Reading for Crete
Look into books by Nikos Kazantzakis, a Cretan author widely considered a giant of modern Greek literature.
Crete: The Battle and the Resistance is highly recommended if you have an interest in the history of Crete during WWII. Another must read, The Cretan Runner is the personal story written by a young Cretan shepherd who was a runner for the Cretan resistance during the war.
If you haven’t read it yet, The lsland is a nice easy historical fiction that made the former leper island of Spinalonga famous.
Nowadays the best maps are made by the Greek publisher Anavasi. A good 1:100.00 map splits the island into 3 sections: West, Central and East Crete. There are also several excellent 1:25.000 walking maps that cover East Selino and Samaria, Sfakia and the White Mountains, Frangokasello, Plakias and the eastern White Mountains, Psiloritis and Dikti.
If you’re a frequent Crete visitor you might also consider their Crete Atlas though right now it seems to be out of print.
Anavasi also publishes their maps in digital version if you want to use them with GPS or computers.
Since discovering the brand Maui Jim I haven’t looked back. I use Maui Jim Peahi (the dark grey version) when I want sturdy sunglasses with a a strong protection. When I drive or need less protection I prefer the lighter Ho’okipa with the warmer bronze High Contrast Lens.
Walking in Crete: my ultimate shopping guide
I’ve been walking in Crete in all seasons for over 25 years. Below is some of the gear I currently (2018) use and can fully recommend as what I believe is the best for my needs.
Rucksack: For day walks Osprey Stratos 34 is perfect: large enough for all the gear you might need for a day trip, reasonably light and with a well ventilated back. For multi-day walks Osprey Atmos AG 65 is great and comfortable for heavier loads. Whatever rucksack you use, having ventilation on your back is important if you are going to walk in Crete in warmer weather.
For water a Nalgene bottle with a wide neck can be really useful if you need to fill water from mountain springs where you might need to dip your bottle into a narrow hole where water collects. And these bottles are virtually unbreakable.
I find a GPS to be an essential tool, certainly on more remote walks, for safety but also to prepare walks and exchange route information with others. The rugged Garmin GPSMAP 64s is my favourite.
If you want a much larger screen the Garmin Montana 610 is worth considering but is heavier and more expensive. Note that I didn’t get the more expensive models with maps (of Europe or whatever) and instead buy my Crete maps for GPS at Anavasi.
For paper maps see my recommendations higher up in the page.
For my GPS I always use the best possible rechargeable batteries (and always take spares!) which are currently Eneloop Pro AA. A good charger is also essential to make the most of good batteries.
I hate wearing hats. But they also keep the midday sun away and are useful in very bright light. I finally found a hat that was light and comfortable enough that I could wear it and forget that I had it on. Highly recommended: Columbia Bora Bora
The rough terrain of Crete will wreck lesser shoes in no time, especially in the mountains. I’ve been using heavier Meindl boots for the past 20 years, been through probably 30 pairs of soles. My favourite model is the Meindl Island MFS Active which I find very comfortable and robust enough for anything that Crete can throw at them. They may seem to cost a lot of money but Meindl will resole them (and return them back to you looking almost new) for around 60 Euro, which reduces the cost of “two” pairs considerably. Note that I tried a second resoling once but the upper eventually starts falling apart so it’s not really worth it.
If you must walk in lower, lighter shoes go for something sturdy such as the Salomon XA Pro 3D GTX (I don’t use them personally but have heard lots of good things about them).
Waterproofs: I don’t walk much in rain but often need to carry waterproofs just in case. That’s why I like to have something extremely light and also very breathable. Unfortunately combining the two doesn’t come cheap if you also want something durable. This Arcteryx rain jacket is probably one of the best on the market. My current waterproof trousers are Rab Bergen pants, light and very breathable.
Head torch: an indispensable safety item. Petzl Tikka is great for general uses and light enough to always have in your bag. Don’t forget good batteries: Eneloop Pro AAA
Binoculars: Leica Ultravid 8×20 are probably the best you can buy in the ultra light class.
Sunglasses are essential, especially in the blinding mountain light. I’ve been using Maui Jim Peahi sunglasses for quite a few years. Dark glasses with very high protection, solid and very scratch resistant and they have a good side protection so that I can even wear them in snowy condtions and hardly ever need to use my glacier googles on snow in winter. The sunglasses feel a little heavy first time you put them on but I got used to that pretty quickly.
Satellite phone: This will be overkill for casual visitors to Crete but for me it’s a form of insurance. I spend a lot of time alone inside the White Mountains where mobile phones don’t work and where having an accident would have dramatic consequences. My Thuraya satellite phone (mine is an older model than the one you can currently buy) gives me peace of mind knowing that if I need to I will always be able to call someone.
Finally walking guide books: There are three books I can recommend depending on what you plan to do. For mountains, get the aptly named The High Mountains of Crete. If you are interested in following the E4 (or part of it) across Crete get The Cretan Way and if you are looking for a good mix of walks Crete: The finest coastal and mountain walks will be your best choice.
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