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Hidden Gems
Crete East Coast and Sitia Natural Park 37

The Zakros Way: Walking in East Crete

Overview

The Zakros Way is one of our newest itineraries in the ancient and remote region of Lasithi, characterised by kilometres of pristine beaches, archaeological sites and fascinating natural landscapes. On this tour, you will discover a true hidden gem and probably one of the last places on the popular island where you can get a genuine Cretan experience.

The entire tour takes place in the Sitìa Geopark, part of the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network, going from north to south along the eastern coast of Crete. This itinerary is suitable for pioneers and independent walkers seeking unbeaten paths and remote landscapes of wild beauty. Moving and exploring this region on foot will immerse you in the slow and peaceful rhythms of nature.

  • The famous beach of Vai and its palm forest
  • The Gorge of the Dead in Zakros
  • The Zakros’ Minoan Palace
  • The beaches in Xeròkambos
  • The simple, tasty and abundant Cretan cuisine
  • The warm and friendly welcome and hospitality of the locals

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Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Palèkastro

Arrive at Heraklion airport where you will meet our representative who will transfer you by car to the hotel in Palèkastro (included, 2h 30min). Our representative will also give you the route notes and brief you on each day of the tour. You will enjoy the end of the day with a dinner in a nice taverna in Palèkastro.

  • Included meals: dinner (no bevareges included)
  • Accommodation: a family-run hotel in Palèkastro (Hotel Ostria or similar)

Day 2: Ìtanos to Palèkastro | 5 hrs

After breakfast, a short transfer by car (included, 15min) will take you to the starting point of the route in Ìtanos. It’s a wonderful walk along the coast on which you will discover ancient archaeological sites, marvellous beaches, palm forests and much more. Don’t forget to bring the swimsuit with you. Ovenight in Palèkastro.

  • Walking for the day: 5 hours (elevation gain 500 m)
  • Included meals: breakfast
  • Accommodation: a family-run hotel in Palèkastro (Hotel Ostria or similar)

Day 3: Palèkastro to Kato Zakros | 6 hrs

The first part of today’s walk is in a country area and reaches the coastline at the Skiniàs beaches. From there on the path follows the coast among strange rock formations and a Minoan cave and takes you to the idyllic village of Kato Zakros.

  • Walking for the day: 6 hours (elevation gain 650 m)
  • Included meals: breakfast, dinner (no bevareges included)
  • Accommodation: the cozy and seafront Coral Rooms in Kato Zakros

Day 4: The Gorge of the Dead and Zakros | 5 hrs

Today’s ring-shaped walk goes up the famous Gorge of the Dead and takes you to the village of Zakros. The name of the gorge is related to the numerous burials that have been discovered in the cavities of its impressive walls. From Zakros, you walk back to Kato Zakros following a track on a deserted mount that gives nice views of the gorge and the Zakros’ bay.

  • Walking for the day: approx 5 hours (elevation gain 650 m)
  • Included meals: breakfast, dinner (no bevareges included)
  • Accommodation: the cozy and seafront Coral Rooms in Kato Zakros

Day 5: Zakros to Xeròkambos | 3 hrs

Today you will enjoy an easy and short walk following the coastline that takes you to Xeròkambos with a wild landscape and fantastic beaches. Before starting to walk you will have the possibility to visit the archaeological site of the Zakros’ Minoan palace.

  • Walking for the day: 3 hrs (elevation gain 250 m)
  • Included meals: breakfast, dinner (no bevareges included)
  • Accommodation: a family-run hotel in Xeròkambos (Livikò View or similar)

Day 6: Xeròkambos walks | 3 to 7 hrs

Depending on how much would you like to walk today you can choose between three routes: walking on the cliff to the Agìa Irini beach and back, going up the Xeròkambos Gorge and back, or a longer walk going up the Xeròkambos Gorge to the abandoned village of Hamètoulo, then down to the Agìa Irini beach and back to Xeròkambos. In case you would just like to relax and enjoy the place, there is a great number of nice beaches where you can lay under the sun and dive in crystal waters for the whole day.

  • Walking for the day (option 1): 3.5 hours (elevation gain 200 m)
  • Walking for the day (option 2): 5 hours (elevation gain 800 m)
  • Walking for the day (option 3): 7 hours (elevatioin gain 1000 m)
  • Included meals: breakfast
  • Accommodation: a family-run hotel in Xeròkambos (Livikò View or similar)

Day 7: Departure

After breakfast, you will be transferred by car to the airport or bus station of Heraklion (included, 3 h). We would also recommend you to consider an extra day in the city to explore its cultural riches such as the Archaeological Museum, the Palace of Knossòs, the walk on the Venetian walls, the Koules fortress and the city centre.

What to Expect

Accommodation

Family-run 2 and 3-star hotels and guesthouses. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.

Click to view default hotels

*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

A hearty breakfast is included on all days, with coffee/tea, bread, butter, marmalade, yoghurt, honey, eggs and juice. Upon request the night before, hotels can also prepare lunch packets. Dinners are included on 4 days in selected tavernas with a wide choice of typical dishes prepared with home-grown products.

Difficulty & terrain

The routes can be classified as easy to moderate, and are appropriate for all walkers in good physical shape and some previous experience (read more about difficulty grades). There are no steep ascents or long distances, just a few sections requiring a bit of attention and sure-footedness (no scrambling sections). You mostly follow rocky paths and dirt roads, sometimes with rough and uneven ground that slows down the pace.

We will provide you with detailed road notes, maps and GPS tracks, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to go

The trip is available from April to June and in October. The flexibility of self guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date in the season – so please indicate the desired beginning date when booking.

The climate is generally dry and the short rains are rather a rare event. In the spring the landscape is green and the flowers are blooming, while in the autumn the environment is drier but the seawater has a perfect temperature for swimming. The Summer is not so recommendable, as it is too hot to tackle a trek in a land where there is no shade.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options

By plane

Our recommended airport for this tour is Heraklion (HER). An alternative airport is Chania (CHQ). Please note that the arrival airport transfer is included only if you arrive in Heraklion.

By train or bus
  • If you use Chania airport, you can either book a private transfer with us, or take the local bus to Heraklion. For more information, use the Omio planner above.

Inclusions

Included

  • Welcome meeting with our local representative
  • 6 nights in small hotels and guesthouses (private rooms with en-suite facilities)
  • 6 breakfasts
  • 4 dinners
  • All transfers as described in the itinerary
  • All luggage transportation during the walking days
  • Detailed holiday information pack including GPS-checked and regularly updated route descriptions, route notes and maps
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers other than from/to Heraklion airport
  • Lunches, 2 dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
  • Any items not explicitly listed as included

Options, extras & supplements

  • A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Extra nights along the trail are bookable upon request

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