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Rethymnon - Ierapetra

 

13. RETHYMNON - IERAPETRA (Following the south coast) (see Map 1 - Map 2 - Map 3 )

13.1 Rethymnon to Agia Galini 13.2 Agia Galini 13.3 Palace of Faistos 13.4 Agia Triada
13.5 Gortyna or Gortina 13.6 Asterroussia route 13.7 Levin  

Rethymnon to Agia Galini

Between Rethimno and Spili (30 km) there is a nice open stretch of road with good asphalt (A2) that will certainly invite you to speed. About 9 km south of Rethimno, though, slow down a bit and look for the big Gr/E sign that says “Minoan Cemetery of Armeni.” Turn right following the sign, park your motorcycle next to the guard’s hut, take along a torch and a camera with a flash, and prepare yourself for a sight worth seeing: the most impressive Minoan cemetery of Crete.

Map, Rethymnon to Agia Galini

As you continue southward on the main road you can drive fast, because unlike so many other roads this one has been carefully designed. After 15 - 30 minutes (depending on how fast you go!) you will arrive at Spili. What you see from the main road does not do justice to this large, yet picturesque village. If you want to see it as it really is, follow the OTE sign and get off the main road,. take a walk through the cobbled streets of the upper neighbourhood. (These go uphill and are lined with aristocratic, stone-built houses that are fortunately still lived in). On the main street you will see a small square with seventeen lion-head fountains that make an impressive sight. If your walk has tired you and your stomach starts complaining, your best option is Mr. Tzourbakis’ restaurant at the north exit of the village. Right above it are some rooms for rent, air-conditioned and carefully looked after.

Between Spili and Agia Galini the road is also good (A2), with nice turns, good asphalt and clear views during the entire route. It goes through two bald mountains with grey rock, Kedros in the north (1780m) and Siderotas in the south (1660m). Behind Kedros lies the Amari valley surrounded by beautiful mountain villages,

Spili, venetian fountains

but obviously you’re not interested or you would have chosen Route 14! If, however, you change your mind, your last chance to switch routes is to turn on the road (A3) that starts a little before the north entrance of Spili. (There is a Gr/E sign at the intersection that says “Gerakari”). Once in Gerakari, turn to page 323 for the rest.

If you haven’t turned to page 323 it means you are a beach lover! Sure enough, behind Siderotas you will find the largest, cleanest, emptiest, nicest beaches in all of Crete (Road Book 5, page 280). The coastline between Agia Irini (the beach south of Kerames) and cape Melissa (at Agios Pavlos) is a true paradise. After Agios Pavlos, you can find good beaches - small, for the most part, but sandy and quiet - behind the Asteroussia mountain range, and more specifically on the coastline between Kali Limenes and Maridaki (the beach near Tsoutsouros). After that, there are still some clean beaches, but the landscape has been spoilt by the huge, plastic-covered greenhouses of the farmers’ villages that are in the area. To reach all these beaches you need an off-road bike, since you will be frequently driving on quite difficult dirtroads (gravel, steep inclination etc).

For the first beaches (the ones behind Siderotas) you need to get off the main road at Kambos Kissou. When you get there, turn right (in the direction of Aktounda) and follow the road as it climbs the north side of the mountain, goes through Vatos, Adraktos, Drimiskos and Kerames (all of which are rather indifferent villages without much character), and takes you to the picturesque - but almost completely deserted - Agalianos. Even before Kerames you have a view of the coast below with its truly wonderful beaches. After Agalianos you need to continue on a dirtroad (D3). Road Book 5 marks the basic route to help you distinguish the road you must take among the maze of dirtroads that end in the olive groves. However, what will really help you is a good sense of orientation, coupled with persistence and luck, and the knowledge that you should never lose sight of the

Triopetra

coast. The first beach to the west (at the end of an asphalt-paved road that goes south of Kerames) is Agia Irini, while the last beach to the east that can be reached by a path branching off the Kerames - Agia Paraskevi road (and the best beach of them all) is Triopetra, named after the characteristic three rocks at its east end that jut out into the sea. Needless to say, you can camp at any beach you like. Your water needs could very likely be covered by one of the wells in the area, and if not, you can certainly find water in Agia Paraskevi. Though the village has been abandoned, there are five or six wonderful stone houses under construction, and they will be available for renting from the summer of 1996.

Yet the most impressive beach of Crete, a real masterpiece of Nature, is the beach of Agios Pavlos further to the east. This is not accessible from Agia Paraskevi, since the coastal road connecting Agia Paraskevi and Agios Pavlos has been abandoned and is no longer serviceable. It can be reached if you get back on the Rethimno - Agia Galini road at Kambos Kissou, continue southward until Nea Kria Vrissi, and then turn right. The sand at Agios Pavlos is very rich. The beach is separated into three coves divided by large rocks, and of these the west and middle one are totally empty of buildings (and can be reached with a five to ten minute walk from the top of the hill where you will leave your bike). At the east cove you will see two or three Rooms to Let, which are quite nice and have balconies with gorgeous views. Their taverns are also nice, serving good meals at low prices. Your best choice is the tavern and Rooms to Let of Aris and Carol. Since there is no phone available, the only way to book a room is by mail, so write early at the following address: Carol and Aris, Taverna “To Koutali,” Poste Restante Agia Galini, Crete.

Whatever your maps show, there is no coastal road between Agios Pavlos and Agia Galini. The two dirtroads that seem to lead to Agia Galini, one starting south of Sachtouria and another intersecting the Sachtouria - Agios Pavlos road and heading east, are in fact misleading, and they end in olive groves and steep cliffs above the shore. To continue Route 13 and head east again, you must first go back to Nea Kria Vrissi. From there you can either go down the main road to Agia Galini or take the road that takes you there through Melambes. The latter is very slippery, though, so it is best to avoid it.

The Minoan Cemetery of Armeni

In the spring of 1965 a teacher at the elementary school of Somatas saw a little fellow who was playing with a rather unusual object. He took a closer look and to his surprise he saw it was a Minoan vase!

The minoan cemetery  of Armeni

The kid told him where he had found it and the teacher notified the authorities. When the archaeologists came, the kid led them to an oak-covered slope where his father usually took his flock.

The excavation that started immediately revealed over three hundred graves, carved into the soft rock and dating from the Late Minoan III period (1450 - 1100 BC). Most of them had not been looted and gave us many treasures: numerous vases, weapons, decorated clay coffins, jewellery and miniature artefacts. (Some of these findings are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Rethimno).

The graves were family-owned and had a square room and a long passage carved into the rock, and a few of them were of “royal size.”

Certainly, a cemetery as large and as well designed as that must have belonged to a big town, but to this day this town hasn’t been found. In spite of the many excavations that have taken place in the surrounding area in an effort to discover the lost town, the only findings so far are a stone-paved street near Kastelos and an ancient copper mine four kilometres to the west of it. Even the largest and most renowned cities can desapear fromthe face of the earth, and under the weight of the centuries their names and easily forgotten...


THE ROUTES THE ROUTES

Routes starting from Hania

Hania
1. Hania - Akrotiri
2. Hania - Paleochora
3. Hania - Sameria
4. Hania - Hora Sfakion (Sfakia)
5. Hania - Kissamos (Kasteli)

Routes starting from Kissamos
Kissamos (Kasteli)
6. Kissamos - Gramvoussa
7. Kissamos - Elafonissos
8. Kissamos - Paleochora (through the Topolian Gorge)
9. Kissamos - Paleochora (through Episkopi)
10. Kissamos - Sirikari

Routes starting from Hora Sfakion (Sfakia)
11. Hora Sfakion - Rethimno (Rethymnon) (travelling inland)
12. Hora Sfakion - Rethimno (Rethymnon) (following the coast)

Routes starting from Rethimno (Rethymnon)
Rethimno (Rethymnon)
13. Rethimno - Ierapetra (following the south coast)
14. Rethimno - Ierapetra (travelling inland)

Routes starting from Ierapetra
Ierapetra
15. Ierapetra - Zakros (coastal road)
16. Ierapetra - Zakros (inland route)

Routes starting from Iraklio (Heraklion)
Iraklio (Heraklion)
17. Heraklion - Rethymnon (coastal road)
18. Heraklion - Rethymnon (travelling inland)
19.Heraklioon - Agios Nikolaos (coastal road)
20. Heraklioon - Agios Nikolaos (travelling inland)

Routes starting from Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos
21. Agios Nikolaos - Zakros


Source of the information on this page : “Unexplored Crete”, Road Editions. For more guidebooks and maps of Greece, click here.

 

Tip of the day

Numerous thematic museums show Crete’s glorious past and modern cultural life:
Heráklion Archaeological Museum exhibits significant findings of the Minoan Civilisation and is considered to be one of the most important museums of its kind in the world. Thousands excavation finds, from the Disc of Phaestos to the gold pendant of Mália and the clay dancers from Kamilári reveal an ancient-old illustrious past.
• Heráklion Historical Museum presents the evolution of the city during the centuries; among the exhibits stand out three paintings by El Greco and manuscripts of the famous author Nikos Kazantzakis.
• Cretan Ethnology Museum at Vóri reveals the island’s folk life.
• Natural History Museum at Dermatás Bay promotes the unique habitats in Crete and the Mediterranean.
Traditional settlements and historic villages built on mountain slopes and valleys are often surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Discover the local architecture and spirit of Crete at Arhánes, where neoclassic nobility coexists with rural simplicity, or visit Episkopí with its Byzantine churches. Áno Hersónissos is a picturesque hamlet with Byzantine churches, old wells and stone ovens.

 

 

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