Female & Solo Hiking on Crete: Day 6 & 7 Paleochora - Lissos - Sougia
The trek from Paleochora to Sougia through Lissos was just one of many on my long-term hiking trip but it is also the perfect destination for a lovely day hike. If you have the time, I highly recommend wild camping in Lissos and going back (or on) the next day – either by walking to Sougia or catching the boat/ferry (if you happen to be there in the season).
I truly believe this was the most beautiful hike I've done on Crete.
This day was just perfect. The trail is well signed (black and yellow blazes of the E-4 trail) and has no major difficulties. It is never boring and the landscapes you cross are mind-blowing beautiful. From all the 230 km of hiking I’ve done on Crete, I consider the ones done between Paleochora and Lissos/Sougia as absolutely the best.
Even being sick while hiking it didn’t take away anything from it!
I spent the day before resting in Paleochora. I caught some nasty bug and felt pretty bad. I was able to buy some medicine and felt much better when I walk up the next day. I was weak, though, so I was really glad that the hike proved pretty easy to do.
Leaving Paleochora on E4
I started in the town on a paved road but pretty soon switched to a dirt wide path leading to a very popular beach. I was lucky the weather was just perfect – it was probably around 15*C to 17*C, sunny with a light breeze. At some moments I felt it was a bit too warm – but it could be my feverish body acting out.
The trail took me along the sea, next to rocks, tiny sandy beaches, rougher stony shores, up and down on light inclines – to make the walking interesting without being hard.
Walking by the sea I just couldn’t believe the beauty and serenity that surrounded me! I was completely alone and had all that glory to myself. Many times I was repeating in my head how lucky I felt and how incredible it was.
Happiness is lunch break at a secluded rocky bay
I took my lunch at a tiny bay with a sandy beach surrounded by fantastic rock formations. I could take my boots off and enjoy the moment with no stress whatsoever – I knew I had plenty of time to get to Lissos even on a short January day.
I can imagine that if you were here on a warmer day, you could take the lunch break to take a swim in the sea. Wouldn’t that be just the perfect hike break?
I just absolutely loved every minute of this hike. The only downside was the infection I was battling. Even though I felt better than the day before, I was plagued by strong coughing attacks. The fresh and sharp air, filled with sea salt and iodine was surely helpful to the condition.
Each step - new breath-taking vistas
At one point there is a bit of an uphill hiking involved, after which I reached the Arkales Saddle. The soil was of a wonderful reddish color and I could see snow-covered mountains ahead of me. Quite the crowd of sheep and some goats looked surprised to see me there.
I felt bad that the trail lead directly through what seemed to be their main resting area. When I was getting closer, they started lazily to get up. The perfect opportunity for baby lambs to aggressively attack their mothers' tits - now freely available to them.
My original plan was to walk to Sougia. But when I reached Lissos I decided to stay for the night.
The magic and glory of ancient Lissos
Lissos was an ancient port and is a very well sheltered area. It is surrounded by hills on three sides and nowadays we can still see reminds of its ancient glory. There is a bit of climbing to get over the protective hills and when you climb down towards the bay, you see fantastic view.
There are ruins of many houses with ancient olive trees and overgrown thorn bushes everywhere. When we get to the bottom, there is an old, tiny chapel and a spring with some picnic tables. There is another chapel close to the shore as well - that's where I decided to make my camp.
The trail takes one right away up again to Sougia but it would be a huge mistake to do it right away. Even if you plan on getting there, make sure you spent some time exploring Lissos. Everywhere there are terraces with ruins of houses, remnants of olive groves and temples.
There are many places suitable to pitch a tent but I chose a lovely spot next to a tiny chapel. I loved its quiet presence and admired how pieces of old marble and stone decorative pieces were incorporated into its structure.
Don't skip exploring the ancient Lissos!
After I had the tent all set up, I left my stuff and went exploring. I felt like a little kid in an entertainment park. And I had it all to myself.
I climbed rocks and jumped between stones, finding my way through thick growth and branches to see more of the ruins and discover all I could about this place. Multiple times I had turn back and around and find my way as I was hitting impassable rocky walls or bushes.
I felt like Lara Croft running through jungle, just you know - without anyone chasing me or trying to kill me. It was truly magical.
Watching the sun set over Lissos
I couldn’t see the sunset properly as I was surrounded by high hills, yet it was still lovely to watch the golden light covering rocks, skies getting darker and to wait for short moments of reddish rays reflecting onto clouds.
Sunrise over Lissos
I woke up the next day before the sunrise to watch a truly beautiful spectacle. That’s probably the best part of hiking in winter – getting up before sunrise is actually not that hard. This time I could catch some changing colors as East was visibly ahead of me.
I know it might seem obvious or base but I really felt privileged to have all that to myself, to be able to see such scenes.
When it got properly light, I ate breakfast, had a nice cup of coffee and packed. Soon, I was on my way to Sougia, checking out the sanctuary of Asklepios on my way out of Lissos.
The trail takes you up right away across the eastern hill. It was particularly hard with my coughing spells; at times I thought my lungs wanted to escape my body. But the views… my goodness, the views!
Looking back at the bay of Lissos I felt almost sad to leave it behind. I was fully aware I've just experienced something truly spectacular, a one-in-a-lifetime adventure. I was filled with beauty, gratitude but also anxiety - that nothing could ever live up to such glorious landscapes.
Pretty soon I reached the dramatic gorge and climbed down to its dry bottom. It's wild and filled with oleanders and obviously frequented by many goats.
Sougia is a little bigger town with accommodation and variety of restaurants, especially in full season. There is also a ferry connecting back to Paleochora and other towns on Crete, and a bus running to Chania.
A few practical notes:
- Make sure you are prepared for the terrain. Although the hike is not particularly hard, the surface is not easy. You need proper hiking shoes or boots - you will constantly walk on rocks and stones, over boulders and slippery gravel. Trying to hike this trail in sandals or flipflops could be dangerous. Check what essentials you need for a day hike to be safe.
- Take enough water with you - especially if you do the hike in warmer months. I walked in January and it was just wonderful.Walking this path for hours in July could be dangerous if you are not prepared. There is a spring in Lissos and you walk through a beach near Paleochora with cafes and snack shops open in season. Other than that - there is no shade and no water.
- I highly advise taking hiking poles with you - they help with the rough surface and add balance.
- If you want to wild camp in Lissos - come prepared with all you need. I have no idea how busy it is in summer months but I think most people are gone to their accommodations by sunset.
- If you have never hiked alone but are now inspired to try - check this handy list of tips for your first solo hike and hit the trail!
Paleochoroa to Lissos: 12,5 km, 593 m of height gain and 593 m of height loss.
Lissos to Sougia: 2, 5 km, about 150 m of height gain and loss.