In early October 2016 we travelled to Crete, the largest island in Greece, for a swimming holiday.
For six days my husband and I swam in the open water in the south of the island, based in the seaside village of Sfakia, on a guided swim tour. Swimming in supervised groups, we explored crystal clear waters, swam into limestone caves, admired the dramatic, ancient coastline and lunched daily on traditional Greek food at tavernas accessible only from the water. Fabulous in every way!
This was the second swim we did in Greece with the swim tour group The Big Blue Swim—we loved it so much last year we went back. Last year’s swim was based in the northern Greek island of Lefkada. That was our first-ever trip to Greece and we loved everything about it. We couldn’t wait to go back for a second visit. Now we’re hoping for a third before too long!
Crete is the largest island in Greece and home to the earliest recorded ancient civilization in Europe, the Minoans, dating back to around 2700BC. It’s a fascinating place to visit.
We started our Crete adventure with four nights in the city of Chania. What a beautiful place! On foot, we explored the ancient Venetian port along the waterfront and in the small winding streets jammed with cafes, tavernas and enticing shops. But we chose to eat at waterfront tavernas—the sea is so beautiful we always wanted to keep it in sight. We stayed at two small, friendly hotels for two nights, one in the old embassy district and another right on the beach.
The only problem with our visit to Chania? It wasn’t long enough!
From Chania, we went south, right down to the bottom of Crete (by private car, although there is a bus) across the rugged White Mountains (scattering herds of mountain goats) to the small, waterfront village of Sfakia (a.k.a Chora Sfakion) where we met our tour group in our family-run waterfront hotel.
We were divided into three small groups, according to swimming ability. I was in the slowest group but that suited me fine! The Big Blue Swim are all about enjoying yourself and not competing to be fastest. The guides and other swimmers were incredibly supportive.
We then spent each day going out to sea in a beautiful old wooden converted fishing boat, jumping in when we got to our start point, and then swimming along the coastline. The Minoan Trail swim was 5km a day, divided into two swims before and after lunch. The sea is unbelievably beautiful—ranging from pale turquoise to deep navy blue. The water was a delightful 25 degrees Celsius, salty and buoyant and heaven to swim in. (And no sharks or other scary creatures!)
Our fellow swimmers were wonderful people to swim with—and socialize with too. We had a ball in such exceptionally good company. Each evening we sampled delicious Cretan food in the tavernas that line the waterfront of Sfakia. I could never tire of that Mediterranean diet!
Other experiences? As a romance writer, being surrounded by gorgeous Greek men was a huge plus! I can quite see the enduring appeal of the Greek hero and got lots of inspiration. On the tour I was in the company of the most charming Greek gentlemen—and they were incredibly helpful with details of the novel I was finishing while away. Yes, I had a deadline to meet and had to write every day. Not really a great idea but I’m very pleased at the way the story turned out with all that local input! (Conveniently Wed to the Greek will be a May 2017 release from Harlequin Romance.)
During this trip I fell more in love with Greece and its glorious waters. There is so much more to see!
Some tips and tricks:
- As with any trip to a different country be prepared but be open to all the new experiences that face you!
- For a swim holiday, look up the Big Blue Swim site to see what they suggest in the way of swimming skills required. I am a competent swimmer and love being in the water but am far from competition level. With this particular tour group I felt totally safe, looked after and encouraged. They do suggest a training regime before an open water swim but if you love swimming I don’t think that’s a hardship.
- Learn some phrases in the language. I wish I had more than a few scattered words of Greek. It seems so impolite to expect people to speak our language (though we found English was very widely spoken.) We’re going to do a “Greek for Travellers” course before we visit Greece again.
Kandy Shepherd is a multi-published, award-winning author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction. She lives on a small farm in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, with her family and a menagerie of four-legged friends. She likes to travel whenever she can!
Visit Kandy at her Website.
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