Kayaking Between Crete’s Ancient Wonders and Beachfront Cafés
Even from a distance, you can make out the dark pockets in the sandstone cliffs next to the seaside village of Matala on Crete’s southern shore. The cliff is riddled with ancient caves, some of which are large enough to shelter sleeping nooks. Nowadays, these caves are famous for being the 1960s refuge of wandering hippies such as Joni Mitchell, who sang about "scratchy rock and roll beneath the Matala moon" in her song "Carey." Rick Sweitzer, the executive director of the adventure-tours company The Northwest Passage, fell in love with Crete during the same era as Mitchell and began designing tours to share the island's splendors.
An eight-day kayaking trip explores Matala Bay and other hidden treasures along the Cretan coast. After five to six hours of paddling per day—which always includes a cappuccino break—you’ll feast on Greek specialties such as moussaka, beef stew, and stuffed grape leaves before settling into a cozy, family-run inn.
Days 1–2: After catching your own flight to Heraklion International Airport on Crete's northern coast, look for a sign labeled "NWP" to meet up with staff. The trip starts with a tour of the nearby Palace of Knossos, an ancient Minoan palace that predates the Trojan War. Afterward, head on to Matala, where guides outfit you with a paddle, a life vest, and a spray skirt for basic sea-kayaking lessons in Matala Bay.
Days 3–6: Each day, the group of 6–17 kayakers paddles between seaside inns and small restaurants known as tavernas, leaving plenty of free time for swimming and sunbathing. You’ll visit historic sites along the way, including Minoan ruins and Agios Pavlos, an 11th-century Byzantine chapel where St. Paul is said to have shipwrecked. Head inland to hike the Samariá Gorge, a national park filled with rare kri-kri goats. Other stops includes the coastal town of Chora Sfakia and an optional trek on the E4 European Long Distance trail, which runs west all the way to Spain.
Days 7–8: The trip winds down in Loutro, a cluster of whitewashed houses accessible only via sea. On the final evening, guides will lead a sunset hike to the ruins of a Venetian fortress on top of a nearby ridge. The next morning, hop on a shuttle or hitch a lift with a passing dolphin back to Heraklion. If time allows, you can pop into the city's archeological museum before boarding your plane ride home.
See the full itinerary for more information.
Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.