I used to ride my bicycle many times in Crete. I thought to myself, perhaps my practice and routes I have tried might be worth sharing with someone who has intentions to visit this incredible island and try out riding a bike out there.
The routes I have ridden are split into two types. In this article, I will overview short ones – with a duration of up to 3 hours. Such type will most probably fit someone who has limited time for riding or is willing to check out sightseeings from the bicycle and get back home before the sunset. For instance, if you are on workation and need fresh air after a hard day working. Or you are on vacation with family and don’t want to leave other members alone for a long time.
For those with more than 3 hours for exploration, I will cover longer routes in a separate article.
1. Rethymno – around Vrysinas mountain
This route starts on the coastal part of Rethymno town, where are most hotels and apartments. After leaving the city and crossing the national road, you will instantly face an incline, which will last until the 18th kilometre. The highest point of this route is in Selli village – 490 m. After the whole following distance, you will go down until reaching Fortress of Rethymno next to the harbour.
The traffic is pretty low on most of the distance, except segment from Armeni to Rethymno. Here you will face more vehicles. However, the road wide and drivers have immense respect for cyclists. So it should not be a problem. Also, be careful riding in Rethymno centre.
2. Rethymno – Ag. Andreas
Firstly this route will take you to Gerani beach, which I found a perfect place to swim. Be sure to have a delightful swim and proper rest because afterwards, you will have a steep climb that will last for 4 kilometres. The road quality is not the best, so It will require some extra manoeuvring skills as well.
After reaching Ag. Andreas, you will ride a quiet suburb road back again to Rethymno. I found this direction quite popular among local cyclists.
3. Rethymno – Roustika
This is my favourite route in the Rethymno region. Until Ag. Andreas you will go the same road as on Route #2. Afterwards, you will see the quiet life of Cretan villages in the hills. There are much fewer tourists and traffic. Therefore you can enjoy your surroundings and your cycling experience.
There are a 5 kilometres climb after Ag. Andreas to Ano Valsamonero that should not be a problem. Be sure you have enough water with you because I found it difficult to find any open shops on the way.
4. Chania – Theriso
If you are in Chania, you must go to Theriso first. It is a small village in the mountains. After 14 kilometres climb through the spectacular Theriso gorge, you will reach a historic village that is very popular among Chania residents. Due to cooler temperatures and many grill restaurants, people love to spend time there.
Continuing to cycle further, you can enjoy a panorama of the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) until you reach the route’s highest point. On the descent, you will pass the smaller historical village – Meskla that is also worth a quick stop.
The last 10 kilometres will be on a busier road and take you back to Chania centre.
5. Chania – Theriso (via Drakona)
It is an alternative route to Theriso that is more challenging than the previous one. I recommend trying this if you feel well prepared because this route has steep climbs. Segment from Drakona to Theriso will be the toughest. However, the spectacular panorama views pay back every piece of your sweat.
Lastly, I’m sure you are going to love it down the back road through Theriso gorge to Chania.
6. Chania – Stylos – Kampoi
The last quick loop would cycle east from Chania, passing by Souda bay. Be aware that this route includes 3 kilometres section on the National road that could be stressful to ride. Nevertheless, it should be fine if you are cycling early in the morning (that is how I did). Next, you will cycle on small and peaceful roads that connect the villages until finally, you will see the beautiful panorama of Chania.
7. Paleochora – Azogyres
You can have several great exploration rides on the southern part of the island – around Paleochora. My favourite from short ones starts in the centre of the town and goes up towards Andri, Prodromi villages. The roads here are very quiet, and you can enjoy the surroundings without a hassle. From time to time, the way can be blocked by sheep that still do not get used to cyclists and run away once they see someone coming.
On the highest point (~770 m), a small chapel has an incredible view of the White Mountains and the green valley below. It is highly recommended to stop for a minute and look around.
In the last leg, you will turn back to Paleochora. If you need water, there is a water spring next to the road in Strati. If you want other beverages, there is a bar in Azogyres. It is owned by a great guy called Lucky, who has a small art gallery, craft shop and other interesting stuff out there. Worth swinging by before getting back to Paleochora.
8. Paleochora – Sklavopoula
The route goes along the lovely beaches at the beginning. After passing by tomato greenhouses in Gialos, you will climb to Sklavopoula for 11 kilometres. The incline is not very steep, but if it is windy, it might be challenging. The territory barely developed, therefore be sure to have a snack and enough water with you. After Sklavoupola, there is a very technical and steep downhill to Voutas village. The surface of the road is poor, so stay vigilant all the time.
The last part from Voutas to Paleochora goes on a newly built road with little traffic. If you still have energy, it would be an excellent time to make a sprint and give all your best. Just don’t miss the great viewpoint to Paleochora 3 kilometres before the finish.
Thanks for reading!