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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  

The Asteroussia Route

After visiting all those interesting archaeological sites the time has come for a good ride on the Asteroussia Mountains. If you want to take things from the start, it is best to return to Faistos from the main road, continue south (toward Matala), and then head eastward, following the routes shown in Road Books 6a, 6b, 6c and 6d.

Map, Rethymnon to Agia Galini

The beaches of Matala and Kalamaki and the villages near Faistos have suffered from the massive tourism in the area. Matala, in particular, has always been a crowded place thanks to its large sandy beach with the caves at its north end. These were inhabited by the primitive people of the Neolithic age, and they were also inhabited by the primitive hippies of the 60’s. But if you wish to stay in Matala forget about the caves; they have been closed by the archaeologists. Instead, look for a room (there are plenty around) or set up your tent in the camping ground.

At Sivas you will see a dirtroad (D3) heading south toward the picturesque Listaros. Unfortunately, most of the houses in this village are not lived in and they’ve been allowed to fall apart. At the centre of the village there is a Gr sign, which points you to the right and informs you that after four kilometres you will be at Moni Odigitrias, the Monastery of the Guiding Mary and after eleven at Kali Limenes. Follow the road (D3) as it goes up the east side of a small ravine, and soon you will see to your right a little chapel dedicated to Aghios Eftychianos the Cretan, a Christian man who was put to death here because he refused to convert to the religion of the Turks. (Outside the chapel you can still see the axe-mark on the rock where he was beheaded). As you continue southward you will pass through a desolate place and at some point you will see Moni Odigitrias by the roadside.

When you first lay eyes on the monastery from afar it will seem like an old fortress. Although it was far away from the pirate-infested coast, the place was as vulnerable in the 16th century as it is today,

Matala

and its only defences in the wilderness against those who threatened it (robbers, Turks etc) were its high walls and lion-hearted monks.

As the story goes, one of the monks who lived here was the legendary Xopateras or Xepapas, as Ioannis Markakis (or Father Ioasaph) was called after his unfrocking by the archbishop. (The name roughly translates as “he who is no longer priest”). The unfrocking was because he killed a Turk who spoke offensively about his sister, and it was only the start. From that time Xopateras began wandering around the monastery together with his wife and child, his sister, and a few loyal companions, killing every Turk he found in his way.

The Turks set a price on his head and began a raging manhunt that lasted for a long time. In February of 1829 they finally managed to corner him at the monastery. Xopateras and his companions barricaded themselves in the tower that still stands outside the church, and they put up a fierce fight against the hundreds of

Kali Limenes

Turks that besieged it. After three days their ammunition was exhausted and they finally fell into the hands of their enemies. Their death surpassed in cruelty anything the Turks had ever done before.

The monastery was plundered and laid waste on several occasions, but many of its treasures have survived in spite of everything. It has an impressive collection of 15th century icons and on the church walls there are several parts where you can see paintings dating from the same period.

Although abandonment has caused great damage to the monastery’s buildings, restoration works have recently begun.

Right next to the monastery you will see an intersection. A handwritten Gr/E sign points straight, toward Kali Limenes, while a second sign points right, sending you to Martsalo and Vathi (Road Book 6a). If you are in a hurry to get to the beach, follow the first sign and ride straight to Kali Limenes (you’ll be driving on a nice wide D1 road). But if you are in the mood for an interesting ride through desolate places get out of your way for a while and you won’t regret it. The route to Martsalo is full of intersections with smaller dirtroads leading to sheepfolds, but it is also strewn with countless small signs, so you won’t get lost. As you keep seeing those signs, you will probably wonder: What is Martsalo? Is it a beach? A mountain? A fortress? A village? When you get to the end of the dirtroad (D3), the only thing you’ll see is a new chapel dedicated to Efmenios and Parthenios,

Lendas

two monks that were ordained as priests. Then a new sign points you to the path that leads to the ravine and repeats again: Martsalo! Finally, after a fifteen-minute walk you will arrive at Martsalo, which is a truly impressive hermitage, an eagle nest carved into the soft rock on the ravine wall. This was home to two monks who once lived here, and today it lies there with its door unlocked, exciting the imagination. If you want to get a taste of how their life must have been, turn on your flashlight and go right in. After the hermitage, you can also explore the exotic ravine and enjoy the stillness and the palm trees, and after the ravine it is only 15 - 20 minutes till you get to the beach.

Now return to Moni Odigitrias from the same road and continue south. You’ll be driving on a smooth dirtroad that goes through a desolate place and takes you to Kali Limenes (“Good Harbours”), a small seaside settlement with some Rooms to Let. Unfortunately, the Good Harbours are often visited by Bad Ships (meaning “tankers”), since the islet two hundred metres off shore is an oil supply station...

After the Good (but Poor) Harbours, the road (D1) continues east following the coastline. It goes through Platia Peramata,

Lendas or Lendas

a large area entirely covered with tomato fields, and it takes you to Lendas, a well known settlement built next to the sea (Road Book 6b). Incidentally, a few kilometres before you get there you will see a large sandy beach, taken over by nudist campers and having three or four taverns whose owners rent rooms as well. This is a great place to be, but try not to come later than the middle of July, or you are bound to get crowded.

Lendas is a rather ugly village and the beach in front of it is not so great either. The main reason why the place is well known is because it is at the end of the popular route that starts from Apessokari. A second reason is that here you will find the ruins of the ancient town of Levin.


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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