Gavdos Island, Crete - a campers' paradise
Gavdos, Crete is a tiny island in the middle of the Libyan Sea, located 26 nautical miles south from Chora Sfakion. With a permanent population of approximately 60 inhabitants, Gavdos, a stunning combination of rocks, dunes and pristine beaches, becomes the place myth for the traveler.
Far from what is considered a technologically advanced world, with a rich and exciting history, landscape and culture, the island attracts more and more visitors who seek authenticity, spontaneity and a contact with nature and people.
Belonging to the prefecture of Chania, it forms a community with surrounding islets and is part of the province of Selino.
It is of triangular shape, with an area of 27 km². Its terrain is plain and semi-rocky and the climate subtropical, with few rain showers.
Gavdos is Greece’s southernmost island and the southernmost point in Europe is the headland Tripiti (north 34°48'07" east 24°07'35"), which presents a beautiful composition of arcades diving into the sea.
Gavdos island video
The island has supported a permanent population since Neolithic times. The place has seen many uses in the different times it has inspired interest. Gavdos has sometimes been identified as the site of the mythical Ogygia where Kalypso held Odysseus prisoner.
There is archaeological evidence that the Roman Empire was active on the island. During this time the flora of the island was overexploited which started a process of erosion continuing to this very day.
Later, at the time of the Byzantine Empire, the island had some 8,000 inhabitants (900-1000 AD) and supported 3 bishops and an archbishop.
During the Turkish Empire's reign on the island, which lasted from 1665 up until 1895, Gavdos was known as Gondzo. During this period the population decreased considerably to only 500 inhabitants by 1882. A reference to Saracens on the island survives - a beach is named Sarakiniko (Greek = of the Saracens).
In the 30's the island was used as a place of exile of communists; more than 250 people were exiled including leading figures of the Greek movement, such as Markos Vafiadis. Later on, the general phase of urbanization that started in other parts of Greece in the 60's, took place in the 50's on Gavdos. During that period the islanders exchanged their land on Gavdos with ex-Turkish land on Crete, which had now become exchangeable via the state. Upon settling in Crete they created a community known as Gavdiotika.
Following years of isolation, in 1996 the island came to media prominence. In a NATO exercise Gavdos was the focal point of a contestation between Greece and Turkey.
Nowadays there are only a small number of year-round residents and services for tourists are still pretty basic. As in 2001, the total population of Gavdos was measured as 98 people. The truth is that fewer than 60 people live on the island permanently, but during the census period which lasted 2 days, 98 people were on the island. In the summer the number may reach over 3500, most of which are campers.
The harbor for irregular ferries is Karave and the island's capital is Kastri. The southernmost populated village is Vatsiana with a total permanent population of 2 people.
Today, apart from the harbor Karave, there are three villages on the islet: Kastri (the capital), Vatsiana and Ambelos.
Gavdos is a low, sandy island wooded with pine trees and cedars. The island is filled with superb sandy beaches such as Sarakiniko, Agios Ioannis, Potamos, Lavrakas, Tripiti and the pebble beach of Korfos, all of which have recently been awarded with the "Golden Starfish".
Gavdos has more then 3000 sunny hours a year. The temperatures may reach over 40 degrees Celsius in the summer and there are not many possibilities to escape the powerful sun. So don’t forget to take sunglasses, a hat and a strong sun screen.
Bear in mind that tourist facilities and bus connections are quite basic. Gavdos is a very popular place for camping and hiking. So make sure to take a good pair of walking shoes along. Also useful for a stay of some days would be a pocket lamp, knife and fork, solar recharging system if you are using electronic equipment, first aid (your medicine), and a compass.
If you plan on visiting Gavdos only on a day trip (arriving at lunch and leaving in the afternoon), you could see either Sarakiniko or Korfos Beach for a swim. Of course you can also stay on the small beach close to Karave.
If you are staying overnight you can plan a very nice trip to the southern point of Europe: Cape Tripiti. You will have to leave Korfos early in the morning around 8:00 - 8:30 and walk directly from the beach in southern direction. Starting from Sarakiniko or Karave you will have to start 45 minutes earlier.
Another interesting trip for an overnight stay is Agios Ioannis Beach. You can reach this beautiful beach from Sarakiniko or from Lavrakas. It takes about 1 hour from Sarakiniko. This large and deep beach is quite impressing and has a view to the islet of Gavdopoula with Crete in the background.
Karave to Korfos = 60 min
Karave to Sarakiniko = 30 min
Karave to Kastri = 45 - 60 min
Korfos to Tripiti = 60 - 120 min
Korfos to Vatsiana = 60 min
Korfos to Kastri = 60 min
Sarakiniko to Agia Ioannis Beach = 60 min
Sarakiniko to Lavrakas = 90 min
Kastri to Ambelos = 90 min
Kastri to Vatsiana = 90 min
Ambelos to Potamos = 90 - 120 min
Ambelos to Pirgos = 120 - 150 min
Gavdos Map Crete
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How to get there:
There are two ways to get to Gavdos by boat; either from Paleohora or from Chora Sfakion. For ferry connections check with ANENDYK Ferries in Chora Sfakion: +30-28250-91101 You can take a bus from the central bus station in Chania to Chora Sfakion or Paleochora and stay overnight. Depending on the weather conditions you will arrive more or less happy in Karave and if the water is calm, you might even see dolphins following the boat.