A walk to Nóxia starting from Marathokefála

Exploring Crete on foot is a great way to discover it. There are plenty of good books with excellent walk descriptions. For me however, still the adventurous way is to take a map, find a place and see if there are any paths in that specific area. If I do not see them on a map, I simply ask the people in the kafeneion. Usually the elderly people still know where the “monopatia” (trails) can be found. If they know a trail, they will explain it to me in several ways, but always tell my that it is easier by car.

This time I started my walk at the church of St. John the Hermit, located in a cave near the village of Marathokefála. I take my time to enjoy the marvelous view. It is a clear day and I can even see Chaniá. A nice path leads me initially downhill. Suddenly the path becomes invisible and it involves some climbing to get back on a proper trail. Something I like, one never knows if a trails leads to somewhere and I love finding new paths.

My plan is to walk to the village of Nóxia. In the prefecture of Chaniá, Nóxia is the only village where traditional potters are still at work. It is well worth a visit.

It only takes an hour to get to Nóxia and I take my time to visit the pottery. Then I find my way to the kafeneion for a Greek coffee. I can’t leave without drinking a raki that a farmer offers me.

Since I like to make detours, I decide to take a different route on my way back. A short walk brings me to the hamlet of Gerakanía. Surprisingly no kafeneion here. As I leave the village walking uphill , I can even see Rócca , which are the ruins of a Byzantine fortress. They are on a steep hill, called Troúli, next to the village of Rócca.

An unpaved road passing through olive groves, offers fantastic views at the lush green landscape and the sea. Before I realize, I am back at the parking place where I left my car.

I feel happy and full of energy after this pleasant 3 hours walk.Cave of St. John the HermitPath with a view

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Gorge of Deliana or Mesavlia

Just 20 minutes drive from the village of Kolymbari is Deliana. Here you will find the well-preserved frescoes in the beautiful Byzantine church of Agios Ioannis. A “must see” before you start your walk through the gorge.

An unpaved road will take you in about 10 minutes to enter the gorge. The gorge of Deliana is one of the most easiest gorges to walk. It is more a wide track that gradually ascends. You might be lucky and spot some vultures. On the day that I passed the gorge, I counted twelve!

If you want to make a circular walk, you continue the path that goes up at the end of the gorge. At some places it is even marked, although not very clear. What I loved about the circular walk is the small detour that you can make on your way back. There is a sign to a Byzantine castle. It is more a hike than a walk when you walk along this trail, but it is definitely worth it since from this point you will have the most amazing views over the island of Crete. On a clear day you can even see Roka and the Polyrrinia. Imagine living in Byzantine times…. they must have been able to communicate with each other from these castles! Take the same trail back from were you came from and continue the road. It is partly paved, mainly downhill and a small steep part uphill before the road takes you back to the village of Deliana.Image

My walk from Vryses to Agios Georgios

A few kilometers behind the bustling tourist resort of Platanias on the Western part of Crete, you can find the small village of Vryses. This is where my first and easy walk after a hot summer starts. Unfortunately I have not been able to walk and enjoy nature during the busy tourist season. But on this lovely day I had a spare two hours which was just enough for me to make me feel good and recharge my batteries. Image

The signpost to Agios Georgios on the road to Vryses indicates the Katsounas Gorge as well. Yet unknown to me, but it makes me curious and for sure I will explore this gorge during one of my next walks. The path slowly ascends, a Cretan couple passes me with their pick-up truck, nodding friendly to me. I greet them back and say kalimera. They must wonder why I go, all by myself, on foot.

It takes me less than an hour to reach my destination: the small church of Agios Georgios. It is built on the top of a hill overlooking the impressive White Mountains on one side, the peninsula of Rodopou, the island of Theodorou and the peninsula of Akrotiri, Chania on the seaside. I decide to have a small picnic here and to sit down for a while, just to admire the breathtaking views.

When it is time to go, I take a path that takes me right back to the center of the village. Opposite the main church there is a small kafeneion. A nice frappe and a chat with the owner of the kafeneion make this little outing complete.

Alkionides Days and Kefalas, Apokoronas on Crete

Only 5 km from Vamos, you will find the lovely village of Kefalas. It is located at a height of approximately 350 meters and therefore the highest village of the area Apokoronas. That might be the reason why the Cretans named the village Kefalas, which means “head”. If you take a stroll through the village with its narrow alleys, you can still see the strong impact that the Venetians had on this village: many wells, Venetian walls and buildings still exist. The church of the Holy Cross also dates back to the Venetian times.

Kefalas has several other beautiful churches, like the church of Agios Georgios with its stunning views to the White Mountains of Crete. From this church you can take a track downhill and walk through the amazing countryside towards the nearby village of Paleloni, another name that can be translated. Paleloni means “old threshing circle”. It comes from two Greek words: “palio” = old and “aloni” = threshing circle. In this area, a few “koumos” can be seen too. A “koumos” is an old stone-structure that was used as a place where the shepherds could take shelter during wintertime.

In January, on a sunny day, you can already smell the earliest flowers in blossom. I always feel happy when I see those colorful flowers, the blue sky and the magnificent White Mountains.

Why are there so many sunny days in January? It is wintertime but it sometimes feels like springtime. I have to think of the Greek mythology telling us about the “Alkionides” or Halcyon days. The myth says that Alcyone, daughter of the god of the wind, Aeolus, did not marry the son of a god, but the son of the earthly king Ceyx. The man drowned during a storm and Alcyone felt so much grief that she threw herself from the rocks and drowned as well. The gods showed compassion and transformed the love couple into kingfishers. The god Aeolus ensured that in January warm and sunny days were given to the kingfisher so they could lay their eggs on the rocks.

I love stories like this. It makes me enjoy my walks in the sun even more!Image

Walking from Vamos to Douliana

November is a lovely month in Crete. The tourist season has ended, the weather is still great and ideal for walkers. I found a nice walk in the book “Discover Vamos on Foot” (http://www.discoveronfoot.com/), 3,5 hours from Vamos to the village of Douliana. Vamos is a very pretty village in the area of Apokoronas, West Crete with a lot of history. Just wander around the old streets, you will find beautifully restored Venetian Houses. Also, it is an ideal base for walkers. The walk starts in the square of the village and takes you through a beautiful landscape to the traditional village of Douliana. The track is easy and after passing the church of Agios Antonios (loved the sign “Rock Church”, it is actually a small church build in a cave) the road goes uphill to the village Douliana. Douliana has a second name “Xiliandros” which means “village of a thousand men”. Well, I did not spot any, but I really enjoyed this walk!Image