To keep costs down, we chose to pack with carry-on luggage only. It was the perfect way to road-test our new Storr backpack – and we decided to try wild camping on Crete as a bit of fun.
Now first off, I should point out that free camping in Greece is illegal. There are signs all over the place – but from experience, it seems that they’re largely ignored. We followed the basic rules of wild camping during our trip – tidying up after ourselves and taking our litter with us – and we had no problems at all.
Our flight arrived after dark, so we booked a proper campsite at Mithimna for our first night so that we didn’t have to find a spot in the dark. The next day, we rented a car and began exploring.
We began by heading to Elafonisi beach. It’s one of the must-see tourist destinations – white sands and glorious blue seas – and as you can imagine, it was packed with people. We spent the day on the beach, then walked up the hill to a local taverna for dinner.
As the sun began to set, and the beach emptied out, we set about finding a place to pitch our tent. We found a small nook at one end of the beach, sheltered by some shrubbery, and set up for the night. We didn’t see a soul all evening, and we woke with the sunrise – giving us the entire beach to ourselves until 10am!
The great thing about camping on beaches is that everything you need is right there. We used the facilities at the Taverna in the evening, and in the morning, we used the beach showers to wash and get ready for the day ahead.
From Elafonosi, we moved south to Sougia. It’s a real hidden gem, nestled on the ocean at the end of a long and winding mountain road. Apparently, it was taken over by hippies in the 60’s and 70’s, and that mellow beach vibe has remained ever since. Our guide book told us that there were often a few tents pitched at the far end of the beach – but when we arrived, there were over 50! It was almost like an unofficial camp-ground – the ideal place to wild camp. In some areas, stones had been used to mark good camping spots, while in others, people had pitched tents in a labyrinth of bushes, and seemed to be living there all summer. We spent three amazing nights there, and people came and went freely. One morning, we opened our tent to find a couple sleeping next door, out in the open with just a sleeping bag. Although we’d taken a tent, it was more for privacy – the weather was warm, and it didn’t rain, so we could have done without it if we had to.
From Sougia, we began to head north again, to the beach at Falassarna. After a day spent soaking up the sun, we had some drinks at a local taverna, and spotted a nice enclave of trees nearby. It was a balmy evening, so as the bar closed, we decided to leave the tent in the car and set up our hammocks for the night. We were super comfy, but we were quite exposed the wind on the beach, which caused the hammocks to ripple with the gusts. We didn’t sleep too well, but once again, we were first on the beach in the morning!
For our final night, we drove up to Chania – a beautiful city that’s home to an ancient venetian harbour. Out of consideration for our fellow travellers, we decided it would be best to rent an AirBnb for the final night, so we weren’t too crusty for the flight home, and we explored the winding alleys of the old town. As beautiful as it was, it was a major tourist trap – a world apart from our peaceful spot at Sougia.
So one week, five different locations, one backpack. We gave it a good road test, and frankly, we’ll never pack luggage in the hold again! It’s carry-on only from now on!