Wild orchids in Crete

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A guided walk

There are plenty of well-known routes that you can find in guidebooks so it is quite easy to find some enjoyable walks or hikes in Crete.

Although I am quite happy walking on my own or with a friend, I do like going on a guided walk as well. Some days ago I could join as a participant in a walking program and I must say that I enjoyed it very much.

So I definitely recommend you to book some guided walks in Crete for the following reasons:

  • When you walk with a guide, you will discover the unknown Crete and some off-the-beaten tracks that you never would have found on your own.
  • A guide can answer all sorts of questions about Crete and makes sure you will see the most interesting trails of Crete.
  • You will see much more than you would on your own as a guide has certainly an excellent knowledge of the area.
  • You do not need to wonder if the trail you are walking is the right one. You will not get lost and waste time by finding the right trail
  • Should an accident happen, it is safer to be in a group.
  • Last but not least: it is so much more fun to walk in a small group, there are different people to talk to and you can share experiences

What more can I say? Enjoy your walks!

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Escape for a walk

The tourist season has started which limits my time for walking since I am back at work. However, I am so lucky that a part of my job involves checking some walks that tourists can do on their own so I can inform them correctly.

So off I went today for a short and easy walk in the area of Tavronitis. This walk involves mainly unpaved roads or agrotiko as the Cretans say.

view during my walk

view during my walk

As it is early in the morning, it is still a bit damp and there are plenty of snails. I imagine Cretan women collecting them, just after a good rain. They are a delicacy and Cretans say they are good for the stomach. For sure they would pick maratho (fennel) too, which grows in large quantities here. It is a herb that I like to use in salads but it is also used for making marathopita, a delicious pita filled with fennel.

many butterflies

many butterflies

I walk along olive groves, fields dotted with yellow flowers. The only sound I hear is the singing of the birds. The scent of wild lavender.
Suddenly I spot a buzzard catching a mouse. Some hawks are searching for prey, high in the sky. Colorful butterflies flying from one fragrant flower to another. The view on the peninsula of Rodopou is impressive. The majestic Lefka Ori (White Mountains) which can be seen from here, have still a bit of snow on its peaks. I think how fortunate I am for living on this beautiful island.

scent of wild lavender

scent of wild lavender

After this lovely 2 hour walk I need to head back to my office. But I decided to leave my walking boots in the trunk of my car. Just in case that I have a spare hour to escape for a nice walk…

peninsula of Rodopou

peninsula of Rodopou

Out for a walk in Crete

Lately I have made many beautiful walks with great enthusiasm and I did not have the patience to sit down and write about them. So the dilemma: shall I tell you about Karanou, a place widely known for its excellent taverns and where I found a gorge of extreme natural beauty? It attracted me so much that I went already four times! It is not a very easy walk since it involves a bit of climbing but hey, that is also part of the adventure. At some places you feel like walking in a jungle. Every now and then you have to cross a stream and small waterfalls make the scenery amazing. Here I spotted the first Barlia orchid, also called Giant orchid which has a delicious scent.

beautiful nature

beautiful nature

Or shall I tell you about the circular walk near the monastery of Gouverneto where I found (thanks to a friend) a great “off the beaten track” trail that leads into the wild gorge of Avlaki? Actually, this walk was one with many highlights. First of all the weather was great. One of the reasons why I will keep on telling you to come to Crete during winter, there are great sunny days for walks.

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Another highlight was finding wild stamnagathi which grows mainly on Crete. Stamnagathi is a green leaf that has a slightly bitter taste. It is very hard to pick since it grows around a thorny bush. Fortunately it is today widely available since it is cultivated all year round. So if you want to try stamnagathi, just go to the Agora in Chania or ask a local tavern. It is delicious and very healthy. Last but not least, spotting some rare Cretan tulips and a butterfly orchid that just started to bloom made my day. It means spring is in the air!!!

wild tulips growing on rocks

wild tulips growing on rocks

Agios Apostoloi

 

Just 4 km west of Chania there is the area of Agios Apostoloi, well-known for its beautiful sandy beaches. Many locals swim here all year round. Apart from the beaches, there are many possibilities for outdoor activities like mountain biking, jogging, beach volleyball and of course, walking.

An easy walk, which is suitable for families with children as well, starts and the end of the Chrissi Akti beach. A short climb will take you up through a beautiful trail. On the top you can see the city of Chania on your right. Follow the coastline towards the west. There are many trails to choose from and when you walk with your children, let them choose the trails. It is an adventure for them and you can not get lost here anyway. The area is relatively small and all trails will lead you back to the beach road.

 

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It is very nice to walk the trail along the coastline, there is always a pleasant breeze. On a warm day there is plenty of shaded trails to choose from since more inland there are lots of pine trees. All trails will take you eventually to the lovely bay of Agios Apostoloi. For sure it is time for a swim or have a refreshing drink at one of the canteens on the beach before you head back to the starting point.

 

 

A walk with kids in Crete

Walking is a fantastic activity for kids. Choose carefully a terrain that offers lots to look at and things to clamber over: rocks, trees, streams, beaches. Kids love going to places linked to things that fascinate them, such as a cave. They love drama. Give it to them and for sure you enjoy a great walk without moaning.

A nice place to go with kids is the Arkoudospilio Cave or the Bear Cave near the monastery of Gouvernetto on the Akrotiri Peninsula. From ancient times, the Arkoudospilio Cave has been a place of worship. Excavations revealed that it had been an important Minoan Shrine dedicated to Artemis. According to archaeologists, thousands of years ago the goddess Artemis was worshiped in the cave in the form of a bear, so a cave with a bear-shaped stalagmite would easily be considered a sacred place.

According to the local legend, a bear once lived near the cave and came to drink the water dripping from the stalactites into the cistern that the local villagers had made in the rock. When they came to collect the water from the cistern, it was empty. The villagers accused each other of taking the water but one day they found out that the bear drank all the water. They did not know what to do. One of the villagers screamed in despair “Virgin Mary, help us!” and a miracle happened: the bear was immediately turned into stone.

My kids enjoyed listening to this story and still remember it. In the cave they can use their imagination and they might discover some other dangerous animals in the stalagmites and the stalactites.

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After the cave, you can walk the paved path down to the Katholiko monastery. My kids were delighted when spotting some goats and sheep. You can cross the stone bridge at the Katholiko monastery and descend very carefully from the left side. A dry riverbed full of rocks and stones is another little adventure for your kids and will lead you to the sea. Keep in mind it is not really for swimming here, so if your kids are fed up I would recommend you to soak up the sun on the beach of Stavros. There is interesting walk for kids in Stavros along the rocky coast. I will tell about that walk in another post.

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The perfect walk

What is actually the perfect walk?

  • The perfect walk should not be too tiring and should last up to 3 hours, so you have enough time after your walk to enjoy the rest of the day on the beach, have a cold beer or visit other places of interest.
  • The perfect walk means having good company: some nice fellow walkers that can make you laugh until you cry. In the end, we walk to have fun!
  • The perfect walk should be in an area of natural beauty with the scent of herbs, flowers and plants surrounding you.
  • The perfect walk should be on tracks or land roads.
  • The perfect walk brings you beautiful views towards the sea or the mountains.
  • The icing on the cake during the perfect walk can simply be a beautiful orchid that you spot or an unknown trail that you discover while walking.

And where can you make the perfect walk? No need to say that for me this is on the island of Crete. Crete’s magnificent and varied landscape makes some excellent walking opportunities and it is one of the best opportunities of appreciating and exploring the island.

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Around the monastery of Agia Kyriaki

It is a beautiful day to explore the area of Varipetro, near Chania where the monastery of Agia Kyriaki is located in a tranquil environment.Image

 

The monastery was a set of ruins back in 1992 but has been restored and being taken care of by several nuns. It is a dependency of the Chrysopigi Monastery in Chania. The nuns are very friendly and some of them do speak a little English. They will tell you about the history of the monastery and the work they do. A scenic stone paved trail leads along a beautiful forest up to several cave churches. Even though they are fairly new, it is interesting to take a look at them. Enjoy the silence here and clear your head. Listen to the singing of the birds and admire the wonderful views.The walk continues, not via the stone path but a dirt track that leads you up to the mountains which gives you a fantastic view towards Chania. It is a bit of a strenuous walk but after the top is reached you sit on a rock and just appreciate the marvelous views. This area is a protected ecosystem so it is needless to say to keep the environment clean. Looking back, I must say that this was a more than pleasant walk less than 15 minutes drive from Chania.Image