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Hikes & tastes around Chania – part 1

June 23, 2023

Photo from www.gtp.gr

 

From beaches to swim and bays to snorkel to mountains to conquer and from olive groves to tour to gorges to hike, rivers to cross, and caves to discover, the highly diversified landscape of Chania on Crete beckons the explorer in you.

 

Do you feel the call of the great outdoors? Are you looking for authentic experiences peppered with inside stories, unique natural wonders, architectural miracles and the best of local gastronomy? Here are our suggestions for a day’s worth of an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Chania – all designed and delivered by our partner, Trekking Hellas.

 

Hikes and tastes around Chania: Day 1 Akrotiri

Get a unique insight into the religious and architectural heritage of Crete, hike through Indiana Jones-worthy landscapes, bathe in crystalline turquoise waters and cap off your experience with local wine and olive oil. This excursion will reveal the hidden beauties and the history of the Akrotiri peninsula while giving you the chance to immerse yourself in Crete’s spectacular nature.

 

The first stop on the itinerary is Gouverneto, one of the oldest Cretan monasteries dating from 1537. The structure looks like a Venetian fortress with Renaissance and Baroque influences. Inside there is a small museum with ecclesiastical artefacts and woodcrafts. Outside to the north, there is a paved footpath leading into the Avlaki Gorge that runs down to sea level. Walk for some 20 minutes to discover the famous Αrkoudospilios (Bear Cave). Legend has it that the great rock inside the cave is a petrified bear. Venture a bit further down to find Katholiko Monastery and the church of St John the Hermit. Dubbed Cretan Kappadokya, the area was one of the most important centres of asceticism in Crete in the 11th century. Follow the steps of the hermits for another 10-20 minutes to reach Katholiko Bay – a narrow rocky fjord with blue-green waters, which was used by monks (and raiding pirates!) as a docking port to access Katholiko Monastery from the sea. Cool off with a refreshing dip amid the stunning rocky scenery before retracing your steps back to Gouverneto.

 

Next on the agenda is the 17th Century Patriarchal Monastery of Agia Triada Zangarolon – one of the most important ecclesiastical centres at the end of the Venetian Empire in Crete that markedly contributed to the island’s history and education. Featuring Renaissance architectural influences, Zangarolon is not only postcard-worthy; it is also one of the wealthiest and most enterprising monasteries in Crete, as it has managed to find its way into the present with the production and distribution of organic olive oil, wine, honey, vinegar, and high-quality olive oil soap. Set amid extensive vineyards, Agia Triada- Zangarolon was one of the few wineries on the island that was making wine from Romeiko grapes long before this variety became popular among the connoisseurs: Until recently shunned by local sommeliers and producers, Romeiko is now one of the stars of Crete’s up and rising wine scene – and well worth the tasting. The same goes with the olive oil that’s produced on-site, which you are very welcome to try, and if you wish buy.

 

The last leg of this tour will take you to Stavros, some 10 km from the Monasteries on the northern tip of the Akrotiri Cape. This is a paradisiacal beach, where scenes from the legendary “Zorba The Greek” were filmed, with gin-clear, shallow blue waters. And if you want more, you can embark on a boat trip to explore some of the area’s other astounding beaches – including Seitan Limania, Marathi and Machairida, where you’ll swim, snorkel and play in gleaming waters surrounded by gorgeous scenery.

 

Hikes and tastes around Chania: Day 2 Gramvousa

Rich in history and striking nature, Gramvousa, Crete’s westernmost peninsula, makes for the perfect escape for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Chania town.

 

At its tip, there is the iconic Balos Lagoon – which, with its pink sands and turquoise waters, is systematically voted among the most beautiful beaches in the world. But the rugged landscape of the Gramvousa peninsula also holds some fascinating surprises for hikers. A small network of trails leading to the cape of Vouxa at the northern end has been waymarked as a suggestion for everyone who’s reasonably fit. Walk past the Balos Beach parking area for about 15-20 minutes to reach Agnion, a site with Roman ruins and a fairly impressive Temple of Apollo. If you’re feeling like having a longer walk, you can continue past Agnion all the way to Cape Vouxa at the far northern tip of the peninsula. The end is about 4 kilometres from the Balos Beach parking area and comes with outstanding views of Cape Tigani, the channel and both Gramvousa islands – Imeri and Agria, the latter uninhabited; the former featuring the still-standing ruins of a Venetian castle that once protected the whole of western Crete. The trail is well-marked, fairly flat and rarely crowded – most people come for beach time, not extended hikes, but those who do will be recompensed by stunning scenery and a viewpoint that extends all the way to the island of Antikythira in the distance.

 

With your appetite surely whetted after this exercise, we’ll head to Kaliviani for a hearty, wholesome lunch at a local taverna. Located at the beginning of the peninsula of Gramvoussa, this scenic village features traditional stone houses with flower-filled yards and distinctly friendly inhabitants. It was also home to the important Cretan revolutionary, Emmanuel Diktakis, who in 1840 organized the Cretan’s uprising in Apokoronas, but was, alas, slaughtered by the Turks. Local stories and relaxing scenery will perfectly complement your homemade food and cold beer – just what you need to revive yourself after a hot day in the sun.

 

Hikes and tastes around Chania: Day 3: White Mountains

Get acquainted with the splendour of Cretan nature with a hike through a spectacular gorge and a cypress tree-covered forest. Located on the slopes of the White Mountains, Meskla and Zourva villages are connected by a well-marked trail that is a hiker’s paradise. The starting point is Mescla, where you’ll enter the woods and arrive at the short but stunning gorge of Sarakina. After you cross its narrowest point, the trail starts to ascend through a paradisiacal forest towards the village of Zourva. It should not take more than a couple of hours to arrive there, even for beginner hikers – and it’s also doable by families with kids. The more adventuresome though, can try their hand at the Gorge of Tromarissa near the village of Zourva. According to the myth, Tromarissa – tromazo means to scare in Greek – is thus named on account of the fairies and goblins that are scaring passersby at the position where Tromarissa spring is – do you dare to take up the challenge?

 

For the required post-hiking sustenance, we’ll head to the tiny village of Drakona and the Dounias centre of Cretan gastronomy, where everything is homegrown and home-cooked over a wood fire. One of Chania’s best-kept secrets, Dounias serves mouthwatering slow food delicacies against the backdrop of the White Mountains’ snow-capped peaks. Surely an experience that’ll linger long in the memory.

 

Did you like this post? Stay tuned to our blog for more insights, tips and advice on what to see, shop, pack and do in Chania and the island of Crete!

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