Intended Driving Route On Crete
With my upcoming trip to Crete I set about doing some planning for places I might want to see while I’m there and it will be useful for anyone else thinking of visiting. We’ll be picking a hire car up at the airport and exploring as much of the island as we can in the time we have. The above map is a map of our intended route and as with all planning I do for trips this is just a guideline, if something attracts our attention on the way round, this could change. As usual we will be staying in small family run bed and breakfasts along the way, getting off the beaten track and trying as many local foods as we can. I can’t wait to get there, the scenery looks stunning.
Here are some of the places I came across during my research:
Lefka Ori or White Mountains
The White Mountains are the largest mountain range of Crete, there are numerous peaks that are higher than 2000m, the highest being Pachnes at 2453m (the second highest peak on Crete). The mountains are often covered in snow until late spring and have very few roads leading into them, one access point is the village of Anopoli, via Chora Sfakion on the south coast, although it seems like you would need a 4 x 4 vehicle to get in using this route, the other more accessible route is via the road to Omalos. Omalos is the gateway to the Samaria Gorge, the walk through the gorge is 13km long, but there are an additional 3km to walk at the end to get to Agia Roumeli, where you can pick up transport services to get back.
Fossil hunting or guided herb-gathering walk in Amari valley
Overlooked by the summit of Mount Ida (the highest mountain on Crete), the Amari Valley is said to be one of the most beautiful regions in Crete. The valley is full of olive groves, cherry and apple trees and is scattered with small villages. Fossil hunting or guided herb gathering walks around the Amari Valley can be arranged by Lamvros Papoutsakis in Thronos village – 28330 22760
The Melidoni caves are situated around 3km away from the village of Melidoni. The caves are of historical interest due to the archaeological findings there, some of which are currently displayed in the Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon. The cave comprises stalagmites, stalactites and columns. As well as it’s early Neolithic age use as a place of worship, where inscriptions indicate that Hermes was worshipped here, it also has a tragic history from the 1800’s when several hundred people died inside the cave, besieged by the occupying Turkish army. There is a memorial inside the cave where their bones are preserved.
Up in the village of Agios Stefanos is where you’ll find Sasteria. Sasteria is a small private observatory owned by a Belgium couple Filip and Chantal. Here you get an opportunity to observe the night sky through their giant telescopes. In addition to this they also organise art workshops and various trekking routes. I have contacted them regarding my own trip to Crete as we definitely want to experience the observatory and can say that they respond to their emails in a prompt and friendly manner. A further report will come in my travel blog once I’ve actually been.
Here is a link to their website: http://www.sasteria.com/home.html
After parking your car near the monastery of Gouverneto on the Akrotiri peninsular, follow the footpath through the Avlaki gorge. After a ten minute walk you will come across Bear Cave, so named because of a large stalagmite inside which is said to resemble a bear. A further 15-20 minute walk (approx) will bring you to the deserted old monastery of Katholiko. Next to the monastery you will also find the cave of St John the Hermit which is over 100 metres long.The monastery building spans a gorge and there is a large stone bridge, if you continue following the path for around another ten minutes from here you will come to the sea.
Aptera (Megala Chorafia), which can be reached via Souda Bay, is often overshadowed by the more visited ruins of Knossos. Substantial ruins remain here from Minoan and Hellenistic times and include a large three vaulted Roman cistern, a chapel and a block of monks cells.
Kournas Lake is the only fresh water lake on the island and is in a picturesque setting in a valley amongst hills. To walk a full circuit of the lake takes around an hour and it looks like a great place for a picnic. You can swim in the lake, take a pedalo out or just relax in one of the many tavernas or cafes. The nearby village of Kournas, (a ten minute drive from the lake), is also said to be worth a visit.
Villages & Small Towns
I have noted some villages and small towns where I have read that you can go to soak up local life in Crete: Stilos, Lerapetra, Mirtos, Neapoli, Komitades, Spili, Falassarna, Zaros and Gavalohori.
The best way to discover places though is to simply go roaming, so we will come across many small towns and villages as we drive around and may visit some of the ones listed above. Photos and thoughts about them will be detailed after I’ve actually visited them.