Even though the mountainous area of Sfakia was very difficult to approach, it had been strongly connected with the history and civilization of the first-Minoan period (3500 2025 BC), especially the cities of Anopolis, Aradena and Askifou.
Prehistoric residents seem to have preferred the coastline (Tarra, Phoenix, Pikilassos).
Since the end of the Neolithic period there has been evidence of ancient habitation on Madares, near some mitata (small buildings where the shepherds used to rest and produce their delicious cheese).
During the Hellenistic and Classical period the people of Sfakia got away from the coast and built strong walls to protect themselves from the enemies. This was probably due to an increase in piracy and the political insecurity due to the war in the area.
During the Roman domination, coastal cities gradually started existing again, till the end of this period when there were much more.
Samaria Gorge. It is the largest, the most impressive and the most beautiful gorge in whole Europe (the nature reserve extends for 48.500 sq.m.). Hiking begins from Xilaskalo (at an altitude of 1.250m - 43km far from Chania) and lasts for 5-8 hours depending on your pace. You can visit it from May to October. The landscape is wonderful and there are 450 species of flora as well as unique and unusual geological formations.
Imbros Gorge. Small and easy to cross, with imposing rocks up to 300m in some spots where it is only 2m wide. Its entrance is shortly after Imbros village (at and altitude of 780m, 55km far from Chania), and its length is 8km. After two hours walking you reach the exit in Komitades village.
Aradena Gorge. Beautiful, interesting and 'adventurous'. Its entrance is from the ruined Aradena village (at an altitude of 520m, 87.5km far from Chania). After 3.5 hours walking you reach Marmara beach. There you can take a boat to Loutro or keep walking to the east for about 3 hours until you reach Sfakia while passing through Likos, Phinikas, Loutro, Glika Nera and Iligas.
Eligia Gorge. Wild, small and impressive. Its entrance is in Agios Ioannis village in Sfakia (780m altitude, 92km from Chania). After hiking for 3.5 hours you reach Agios Pavlos beach, which is full of pine trees, and then you need 1 more hour to the west to reach Agia Roumeli. This covers only the 1 third of the total distance inside the gorge. So if you wish to cross the whole gorge, you need an experienced guide and two days time. (route: Omalos tableland - Kallergis refuge - Melidaou Peak (2.133m altitude) - Potami of the White Mountains - Agios Pavlos). Omalos - Potami: 6 hours. Potami - Agios Pavlos: 6hours.
Sfakiano or Bartholomas gorge. As far as flora is concerned, it's a very interesting gorge. Its entrance is from Imbros village and it's 2 hours walking in a rural road of 10km (you can also use a suitable car) till you reach the ruined Kali Lakki village and then you need 2.5 more hours to reach its exit and the road. You do most of the hiking along the dry bottom of the river which is really easy to walk.
Tripiti gorge. Very beautiful and rich in flora and fauna (the Cretan Wild Goat lives here) but one of the most 'difficult to cross' gorges in west Crete. You need an experienced guide and 2 days time. You start waking from Omalos tableland, climb mountain Gigilos and 3 hours later you reach Tzazimos' sheepfold (2.080m altitude). Then it takes you 3 more hours to reach Tripiti beach and if there is not a boat waiting for you, you will need another 3 hours walking to the west until you reach Sougia.
Klados gorge. It is the wildest and the most difficult gorge to cross. You need an experienced guide and 2 days time. You start walking from Omalos tableland, climb mountain Gigilos to its top and then you go down to the west until you reach the marvellous beach of Domata, in the Libyan Sea, after about 8 hours. You need 3 more hours to the east to reach Agia Roumeli.
Iliggas or Kavis gorge. Full of plants, wonderful and easy to cross. You start walking from Anopolis village in Sfakia (520m altitude, 84km from Chania) and two hours later you reach the Byzantine church of The Holy Cross (this part can also be crossed in a suitable car). From this point you start going down for 3 hours until you reach the beautiful beach of Iliggas, located 2km on the west of Sfakia.
Kapnis gorge. Wild and rough with a great inclination of the ground. Its entrance is 4km on the east of the road from Imbros to Asfendou, at an altitude of 900m. It's an interesting 'adventurous' 3.5-hour hike between the villages of Bouvas and Komitades, 5km far from Sfakia and 8km far from Fragokastelo.
Asfendou gorge. Its starts from Asfendou village (770m altitude, 8km from Imbros, 63km from Chania). It is small, beautiful and rough. After 4 hours of walking you reach Agios Nektarios village, on the main road to Fragokastelo, only 7km far from its magnificent golden beach.
Kalikratis gorge. It's in the far east of Sfakia municipality. Hiking begins from the mountain village of Kalikratis (750m altitude, 14km from Imbros). The landscape is really impressive for such a small gorge like that, which ends in Kapsodados village (5km from Fragokastelo) after 3.5 hours of walking.
On a hill in Askifou Tableland stand the remains of a fortress that was built by the Turkish to fight against the Cretan Revolution (1866 1869).
Hora Sfakion is a small settlement built by the sea. It probably took its name by the Venetians who built a small fortress near the sea, on a low hill called Kasteli, in the end of the 15th century. The fortress was built to protect the area mainly from the pirates' attacks.
It is one of the latest castles built by the Venetians along with that of Hora Sfakion in order to control the rebellious people of Sfakia and face the pirates who ruled over the Mediterranean Sea. Its construction began in 1371, near the small church of Agios Nikitas and that is why it was originally named “the castle of Agios Nikitas”.
The locals, however, have called it Fragokastelo ever since. The building of the castle took a long time because the people of Sfakia, who had six brothers from Patsianos village as leaders, destroyed at night what was built during the day. These six brothers were captured after betrayal and were hanged. The four of them were hanged from the four corner keeps of the castle while the other two were hanged from the central gate. Building materials from a neighbouring ancient city were probably used for the castle's construction but this hasn't been verified yet.
Situated in Agia Roumeli, near the exit of Samaria Gorge.
There are 4 churches with frescoes inside Samaria Gorge.
(1) St. Nikolaos, 5km after Xiloskalo. They have recently found a small rural sanctuary in the same spot.
(2) Byzantine of St. Maria the Egyptian, after Samaria village. The templon (1740) represents the Saint while receiving Holy Communion by St. Zosimas.
(3) Virgin Mary of Agia Roumeli, in Agia Roumeli village. It was built during the Venetian domination on the ruins of the ancient Temple of Apollo, who was the protector of the city. They used stones from the ancient temple (about 1500 BC).
(4) St. Georgios, where a plate with the crown of Kallergis family is inside the wall.
• St. Pavlos (on the east of Agia Roumeli). A church of Byzantine style of architecture, located on the beach near a spring with fresh water. It was built by St. Kir Giannis the Hermit in the honour of Apostle Pavlos, who according to tradition, baptized many pagans when he came back from the island of Gavdos and lived in Crete.
• St. Antonios (Pikilassos). It was totally destroyed by Mustafa Pasha.
• St. Ioannis (Agios Ioannis)
• Virgin Mary (Agios Ioannis). With wonderful frescoes.
• Archangel Michael (Aradena). A small, old church of Byzantine architecture, built with stones from the ancient ruins of the city, with very important frescoes and a high dome (14th 15th century AC). It was built on the ruins of a three-aisle basilica church of the 5th 6th century.
• St. Georgios, (Komitades). An old Byzantine church with very important frescoes and an inscription dating back in 1314, which was build after the victory of the residents over the pirates. Its frescoes were made by Ioannis Pagomenos and there are quite enough tombs around it.
• Virgin Mary the Thimiani (Komitades). A historical church where the autonomous people of Sfakia had held their conventions before 1821 (today, it is a graveyard).
• St. Georgios (Kallikratis). Very old, with a number of local traditions, such as that of the well with the 'immortal' water.
• St. Nikitas (Fragokastelo). It was built in 1371 AC and it has wonderful unique frescoes.
• St. Haralambos (Fragokastelo). Ruined, near the fortress to the sea.
• Agios Georgios (Anopoli).
• Agios Manolis (Askyfou).
• Ag. Apostoli (Hora Sfakion).