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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.