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Rethymnon - Ierapetra

 

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

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

Agia Galini

At the beginning of the century a few families from Melambes, among which the Mamalakis, came to the peaceful and empty bay of Agia Galini and built a coffee shop and a few huts to facilitate the Sfakian tradesmen who unloaded their lumber. (This was in turn loaded onto donkeys and carried to Iraklio). As the years passed, a few cottages sprang up, followed by a warehouse, then a tavern, then...

Map, Rethymnon to Agia Galini


Today the scenery is completely changed, and the place is full of all sorts of tourist businesses: about fifty luxury hotels one next to the other, many restaurants, car rental offices, tourist shops, jewellery shops, pubs, everything you can imagine. So dramatic was the change in fact that, to be accurate, the name of the place should change from Agia Galini (Holy Serenity) to Demonismeni Anastatossi (Demonical Madness...) The beach in front of the hotel-avalanche is very small and ugly, and there is a horrible wire fence on the slope behind it that’s meant to protect bathers from landslides. Of course, a little further to the east there is a better beach as well as a camping ground, but the truth is that in the high season the crowds and the noise can be very annoying.

After Agia Galini continue eastward on the main road that leads to Timbaki. You will drive on the lower part of a mountainside full of olive groves, and after a turn you will suddenly face the Messara valley that spreads out to the east as far as the eye can see.

The Messara valley covers a huge area of land along the south coast, and it is the most fertile valley of Crete. It is irrigated by two big rivers, Geropotamos and Anapodiaris, and numerous tributaries, and it is protected from the winds due to the mountains around all but the west side of it. (The latter stretches till the Gulf of Messara). The first thing that crossed people’s minds when they saw the valley was something like:

Agia Galini

“Oh, my God, this is the nicest place on earth; I want to live here!” It was this thought that led the first settlers to set up their Neolithic homes here, and it was this thought that led the Minoans to build the Faistos and Agia Triada palaces and the Romans to make Gortina the capital of Crete. But when you see the place from above, the first thought that will cross your mind will be: “Oh, my God, what a hellhole!” Unfortunately, a very large part of the Messara valley is buried under the plastic roofs of the Cretan greenhouses and polluted with countless yards of loose plastic lying around everywhere. It is impossible to describe the harm done to the landscape by the overexploitation that the land has suffered in the farmers’ hands.

You can visit the important archaeological sites of Faistos, Agia Triada and Gortina and then follow an impressive mountain route (A3), which starts from Apessokari and gives you a taste of the Asteroussia wilderness and the sandy beaches behind the mountains. The road winds up the mountain with spectacular and dangerous turns, passes through the villages of Miamou and Krotos, and eventually takes you to Lendas (to the east of which lie some nice beaches among which the gorgeous and sandy Loutra). To continue, you must first return to Apessokari from the same road, because to the east and west of Lendas there are only dirtroads. Once there, the best way to cross the Messara valley is the road (A2) that passes through the villages at the foot of the northern side of the Asteroussia. This will take you to Martha at the east end of the valley, where it meets the Iraklio - Ierapetra road. All you have to do now is turn right and go straight to Ierapetra.

This place is your paradise! The Asteroussia mountains offer a wonderful chance to enjoy some of the greatest mountain routes in Crete. A number of dirtroads will take you to empty beaches, out of the way monasteries, picturesque hamlets that seem untouched by Time,

Asteroussia

archaeological sites unknown to most, and breathtaking landscapes full of wild beauty and nooks ideal for camping. The routes we suggest are mapped out in Road Books 6a, 6b, 6c and 6d. But before you disappear on the mountains, go see the archaeological sites of Faistos, Agia Triada and Gortina, which are really worth visiting. If you start early in the morning, you will have visited all three by noon, and then you can take the first Asteroussia route and find a good camping site or a room for the night.

As mentioned, the first relatively large place you see as you come from Agia Galini and enter the Messara valley is Timbaki, a town without character but with many shops for the provisions you need before starting your mountain trip. The road passes outside a small military airport built by the Germans, which has long ceased to function as an airport and was until recently used for motorcycle races.

About a couple of kilometres after Timbaki you will see a Gr sign that says Agia Triada. Turn right on the narrow dirtroad at the intersection, go through a gorge... filled with heaps of trash, turn left after the gorge, climb the... burned hillside that follows it, and you will find yourself at the parking area outside the archaeological site of Agia Triada. If, however, you are not so crazy about the idea of travelling in the middle of junk - an unpleasant experience caused by the lack of sensitivity on the part of most Greeks and by their inability not only to create a new civilisation but even to respect their ancient monuments and keep the area around them clean - you can choose to ignore the sign directing you to Agia Triada and continue on the main road. About one kilometre later, turn right on the road (A3) that leads to the palace of Faistos. From here you can either follow the road (A4) that leads to Agia Triada in the west, or decide to see Faistos first (since you are already here). The latter option is preferable, but you should know that there is no safe parking area for your bike and that you will have to leave it at the unguarded outdoor parking lot about two hundred metres from the archaeological site. This is why you should take all valuables with you.


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

In the small but organized city museum you will see findings from excavations in ancient Kissamos and its surrounding areas. The museum’s collection includes floor mosaics of 2nd and 3rd century houses found in Kissamos city, as well as findings from the archeological sites of Polirrinia and Falasarna (mainly statues, reliefs and ceramics dating back to the Hellenistic and Roman times).
The present town is famous for its amazing wine which is produced here and is celebrated with “the Feast of Wine" at the beginning of August. During the feast local wine is offered in great quantities under the sound of lyre and lute and in a very enthusiastic atmosphere.
The beaches surrounding Kastelli that you can visit for swimming in the homonym gulf are Molos beach covered by thick pebbles, Ghipedo beach surrounded by trees and Telonio beach with view of the Venetian walls. It is better though to take the road to the famous Gramvousa peninsula.

 

 

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