Chora (pronounced "Hora") Sfakion or Sfakia (click here to locate on map), the capital of the municipality of Sfakia, is located on the south-west coast of Crete. The landscape of the region is particularly dramatic. The mountains in this part of Crete meet the sea, with steep slopes towering over the beaches. The road from the north of the island threads through breathtaking mountains and small villages to reach the port village of Sfakia. A sense of peacefulness radiates from the dry mountains and the sunset skies.
With its quiet, picturesque alleys, the beaches just walking distance away, and a few restaurants and cafes with tasty local dishes on offer lining the old harbour, Sfakia can become the little haven for anyone who wants to step out of the modern city fast-paced lifestyle for a while. If you are up for a short hike after the sun has gone down, just above the last house of the village is the little church of Agios Georgios, hidden away in a cave. Previously a neighbourhood of the village, but nowadays abandoned, Georgitsi is also a ten minute hike up the mountain.
The history of the place can almost be sensed in the air of Sfakia. The locals’ continuous battles for their independence against numerous rulers over the centuries, has been engraved in the proud Cretan souls. The Sfakians, together with the people of Mani in the Peloponese, are actually considered as the bravest people in Greece. It can be seen in the deep signs of aging and hardship on an old lady’s face and in the austere look of a man sitting at the coffee shop first thing in the morning drinking raki (a strong alcoholic beverage made from grapes). And then a smile breaks, and you know that these people are only too happy to welcome you.
The region has also a lot to offer culturally. The lira (a traditional string instrument) can be heard on any occasion for celebration, accompanied by mantinades (rhyming poems that speak of pride, love and death). The annual festivals, the ''Sfakian pie festival'' (a tasty honey cheese pie) in Chora Sfakion and "Graviera (a hard goat’s cheese) festival" in Anopoli, the next village up the mountain, both of them in August, give a chance for everyone to enjoy the local specialities, with live Cretan music, dance and have a good time.
Most beaches of the region are pebbly, the white of the beach and the turquoise of the water creating a beautiful scene for relaxed swimming and sunbathing. The waters in most beaches actually come from springs high up in the White Mountains, so they are literaly crystal clear!
The village beach, Vrisi (Spring), is just 10 minutes walk away from the house.
Illigas (Vertigo), 1.5 km out of the village has been awarded a Blue Beach Award for its pristine waters.
Filaki (Prison), approximately 2 km away offers a nudist choice.
Amoudi (Sandy Beach - the name is misleading as the beach is actually also pebbly), 1.5 km away is the quietest beach around.
Glika Nera (Sweet Water), is our favourite pick. Its name refers to the fresh water springs that are found under the sand and that give the sea its magical clear colour. It can be accessed on foot (30 minutes walk along the coastal path) or by kaiki (small boat – 10 minutes from Sfakia).
Lastly, Frangokastelo (Frankish fort) and Orthi Ammos (Vertical Sand – literally!), are two adjacent sandy beaches 15 km away from Sfakia. Frangokastelo takes its name from the very well preserved Frankish (Venetian) castle built by the shore. There is actually a legend that just as dawn is breaking in late May-early June, the image of men on horseback, exiting the castle and riding into the sea, can be witnessed in the early morning mist – these are the mysterious Drosoulites (mist-men).