Sfakia, Chania, is one of the best places in Crete to hire a car to get to. It is a special place, known all over Greece, that combines high mountains with great beaches. About 3.000 inhabitants are scattered throughout this big region, having their own unique culture and temperament.
Sfakia for centuries used to be isolated from the urban centers in northern Crete, due to the high mountains that geographically separated the region from the rest of West Crete. This came to an end in the middle of the 20th century, when new paved roads were constructed connecting the north to the south of the Chania region.
It more than worth it to hire a car to explore the superb Sfakia region. Here, the landscape changes all the time, and combines imposing mountains with dramatic gorges and stunning beaches. One of the signature sights of Crete, the world-famous Samaria Gorge, the longest gorge in Europe, is located in Sfakia.
The mountainous landscape of Sfakia had certain disadvantages, like the difficulty of accessing the rest of West Crete, but also advantages, as the place was notoriously difficult to conquer throughout history, due to its extremely uneven terrain, and the sheer determination of its inhabitants to resist every foreign conqueror, until the very end.
This independent spirit of the local Sfakian people, together with the isolation of the area and the lack of considerable natural resources, are the main reasons that the region of Sfakia was partly independent during the many centuries that Crete was under the Venetian or the Ottoman rule. It is not a coincidence that even in recent Greek history, during the short-lived German occupation of Crete in World War II, Sfakia was the main base of the local Greek resistance.