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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 Asteroussia route 13.7 Levin  

Levin - Lendas

A water spring with healing water (which continues to run to this day) was the reason why one of the most famous Asclepieia of Crete was built here in the 4th century BC. In the beginning it apparently served only the needs of the Gortinians, who came here after their pirate raids, exhausted, wave-beaten and bleeding all over, and were in need of therapeutic treatment. Soon, however, its fame grew, and people started coming from every corner of Crete, from the Greek mainland, and even from the shores of North Africa!

Map, Rethymnon to Agia Galini

In the Roman times it reached the peak of its glory and it was completely renovated and decorated with marble statues and a wonderful floor mosaic with sea themes. It was also expanded to include guest houses and other secondary buildings.

Apart from a set fee, the cured visitors offered Asclepius - the healing god - valuable presents in order to express their gratitude. These were stashed away in the Thesaurus, a two-metre deep, square-shaped well, which was hidden in the northeast corner of the temple under the floor and was sealed with a specially carved stone that opened with some kind of key. The Italian archaeologists who dug here in 1884 and 1913 found a hole in the floor, a broken cover, and an empty well. Whoever the looters were, they got here before the archaeologists (maybe even a thousand years earlier), and they probably became rich enough to treat themselves to a lifetime vacation at the most luxurious ancient “health club”!

At the east end of the bay of Lendas you’ll see a beautiful sandy beach called Loutra. Three hundred metres behind it is a tavern with a few rooms above it which are rented out to tourists.

Loutra beach

At the end of the beach a level tree-shaded area invites you to camp, while five hundred metres behind is a beautiful gorge with high steep walls that tempt you to walk through it. Incidentally, this is quite feasible.

The next stop is at the beach of Tripiti. To get there, you can take the dirtroad that heads toward Krotos in the north and then turn right at the intersection that you’ll see about two kilometres later. (Marks: a stone hut and a Gr/E sign that says “Tripiti, 3 km”). However, these two kilometres until the intersection are very rough as the road has a steep inclination and some very difficult parts (D4); the earth has been washed away by the water, leaving some deep ditches, and as the road winds uphill there are several hairpins with gravel! This is why, if your bike is heavily loaded, it might be best not to take this road at all. Instead, return from Loutra to Lendas, take the asphalt road (A3) to Krotos, and from Krotos take the dirtroad (D3) that goes south. After 2.5 km you will find the intersection for Tripiti and turn.

The road (D2) to the beach of Tripiti is carved on the west side of a ravine. The ravine gets narrower toward its end and turns into a beautiful small gorge. The road turns before the gorge - though you can always leave your bike somewhere and visit the gorge on foot -

Tripiti gorge

and then it follows the rocky shore and takes you to the wonderful beach of Tripiti (3 km after the intersection). The beach is not empty (in fact, there are four or five huts there), but you can still camp without any problem.

Behind the beach you will see a huge rocky wall that seems impenetrable. And yet this rock seems to have been cut in the middle with a knife to allow the road to pass (D4, attention: the road follows the river bed, large stones). If your motorcycle is not heavily loaded, and if you have some experience with difficult roads, you will enjoy a unique experience: crossing a gorge by bike!

After the gorge the road climbs the east side of the ravine that opens up behind it, and it offers a wonderful view of the west side of it with its almost vertical wall and its many caves. When you are out of the ravine you will see a small “stockbreeding unit,” opposite of which is a dirtroad (D3) heading east. Turn right on this road, and a little before you get to Koumassia turn right again on the dirtroad that goes up the mountain (Road Book 6c). It is here that the best part of the mountain route starts. The road goes through barren, rough-looking places that are home to many vultures and other large birds of prey. As you ride on the mountain, you will see them above your head, proudly weighing themselves in the air. All around, the landscape seems to be untouched by time and civilisation, and it has a wild, intoxicating beauty that will take your breath away. The one village that is perched high up on the mountain, Kapetaniana, also seems to cling to the past. Many of its houses have been deserted, but already there are two or three German and British families that have chosen to live here for the biggest part of the year, and they have bought and restored a few houses. The village suddenly appears before your eyes, as you come out of a mountain pass, set against Kofinas, the highest peak of the Asteroussia Mountains (1230m).

South of Kofinas lies the beautiful beach of Aghios Ioannis with the country homes of the people of Kapetaniana. There are no Rooms to Let in the area, but tourists can camp at the beach. The road that goes there starts at Kapetaniana and heads east. However, instead of going to Aghios Ioannis,

Tris ekklissies

it is best to continue straight toward Kofinas and then turn right in order to get to the Koudouma Monastery (Moni Koudouma). More than the monastery itself, it is the route there that is really worth the trip: sixteen kilometres on a winding road, without ever losing sight of the Libyan sea and of the south shore of Crete that fades away in the distance. At the highest point of the route, and very close to the peak of Kofinas (before you start going downhill), there is a spot with an amazing panoramic view, where you can turn your head and see, at one and the same time, the peaks of the White Mountains and Psiloritis and Dikti! At the end of the route, you will find a pebbly beach (even better than Aghios Ioannis), an old monastery with three or four aged monks, and a fountain, next to the monastery, that will refresh you with its cool water. Keep in mind that the monks will certainly offer you food and shelter; the food is very tasty (so take them up on their offer), but the room is miserable (so refuse it politely).

About 4 km east of the monastery there is a great pebbly beach near the village of Tris Ekklissies (Three Churches). However, there is no coastal road going east of the monastery - nor west, for that matter - so you will have to go back the way you came (Road Book 6d). At the intersection behind Kofinas turn on the road (D1) that heads east and leads to Platanias and Paranimfi. As you approach Paranimfi, you will see from above two roads that continue from there. The one goes southwest and stops in the middle of nowhere, at a place with grey rocks, a chapel and a fountain (an ideal camping site). The other goes southeast and takes you to Tris Ekklissies. The entire route to Tris Ekklissies (where the road ends) is a feast for the eyes: ten kilometres on a D3 road, carved on steep mountain slopes separated by ravines and stretching along the rough rocky shore. At the village you will find a few Rooms to Let and two or three taverns. However, it is really worth it to camp at the huge empty beach west of it, a move that will allow you to combine the pleasures of camping in the wilderness with the comforts of the village close by (food, entertainment etc).

When you head back, turn right (north) at the first intersection you’ll see a few kilometres before Paranimfi. The road will take you to Mournia, a poor country village in the midst of barren hills that seems forgotten by the world. After Mournia, the road continues north, climbing the hills until a place with a great view of the entire Messara valley. Then you reach a T-junction where you turn right, and you follow the road to the villages of Ethia and Achendrias. Achendrias is without signs, so you will have to rely on

Arvi gorge

your instincts to get on the road (D1) that you’ll see from above as you get near the village. (This goes east and crosses a small plateau). Five kilometres after the village you’ll see a second road (D3) to your right and a Gr sign at the intersection that says “M•Úȉ¿ÎÈ” (Maridaki). If you turn, it will take you to the last nice beach in the area. If you continue, you will go downhill and get to the shore, and from there you will follow the coast all the way to Ierapetra. The landscape is full of farmers’ settlements and greenhouses, and although you can still find a few “decent” beaches, you won’t be so thrilled to swim next to the greenhouses and the pieces of torn plastic that are everywhere around.

The uninviting landscape is a good reason why you can cover the entire distance to Mirtos (and from there to Ierapetra) with very few stops - and detours - along the way. The first thing that’s worth seeing is the impressive Arvi gorge, at the end of a country road that starts from the village of Arvi (where you turn left following the E sign that says “FARANGI, MONASTERY SAINT ANTONIOS”). The distance to the gorge is quite short and the sight is very rewarding: a narrow pass between two vertical walls of rock that are three hundred metres tall and look like they’ve been cut apart with a knife! If you want to walk in the gorge you’ll have to wet your feet because there is a small river that runs through it.

A little further on the coastal road you will find the only picturesque village on the entire coast between Tsoutsouro and Ierapetra: Psari Forada. The village has a beautiful beach, but unfortunately it is not allowed to camp there. Still, you can camp at another beautiful beach a little further east; it is two kilometres before Mirtos, it is covered with pebbles, and it is “undiscovered.” If you’d rather stay in a room, you will find several Rooms to Let and three or four small hotels at Mirtos, a nice village that has also a few taverns and a good pebbly beach of its own.
Between Mirtos and Ierapetra there is nothing much to see. It is twenty long kilometres, the worst of the route, through places that have suffered from overexploitation: greenhouses to your left, greenhouses to your right, greenhouses before you and greenhouses behind you!

The only thing worth seeing in this area is an archaeological site east of Mirtos. It is a Minoan settlement of the Early Minoan period (2500 - 2200 BC), named Fournou Korfi after the hill on which it is built. As you drive on the main road you will see a Gr/E sign that says “Mirtos Fournou Korfi, Archaeological site.” Unfortunately, the sign has been placed... only at the opposite side of the road, so it can only be seen by

Lentas or Lendas

those coming from Ierapetra! If you have the eye of an eagle and spot it in time, turn on the dirtroad where it sends you and leave your bike a few metres after the turn. Next to the road is a footpath that will take you to the top of the hill. It is here that the settlement was discovered in 1967, when the British School of Archaeology conducted a two-year excavation of the place under the leadership of Peter Warrer. The British team brought to light over one hundred rooms and found a host of things that indicate there was considerable production of handicrafts: parts of a weaving machine, over seven hundred vases and items of everyday use, lathes etc. In one room, which must have been a place of religious worship, the archaeologists found a clay statuette of a goddess holding a vessel. Today, this and other findings from the site are exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Aghios Nikolaos.

After this visit you can head straight to Ierapetra. But if you do not want to go there and prefer to see Aghios Nikolaos instead (a wise choice by all counts), there is a very pleasant route (A3) that takes you there, which starts from the village of Stomio. Until Anatoli the landscape is quite dull (greenhouses at first and then a burned mountain slope), but after that it changes radically. The road goes through thick pine forests and picturesque villages (Kalamafka, Prina, Kalo Chorio) built at the foot of Mount Dikti’s southeast side, and then it meets the coastal road connecting Aghios Nikolaos and Sitia. Here you turn left (north) and continue to Aghios Nikolaos. If, however, you have an off-road bike, there is a still more impressive route, which takes you to the town through mountains and plateaus (see page 340-342).


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

Syros. This is the island where Greek tradition and western influence come to a harmonious marriage. Ermoúpoli(meaning “the city of Hermes”) is the island’s capital town and has been the first important trade and industrial centre of the country in the 19th century. Evidence of this glorious past can be seen on public buildings (the City Hall, the Customs Office, “Apollo” theatre), on the neoclassical houses and at the beautiful squares. Due to its economic activity, Ermoúpoli has been called “Manchester of Greece” and the history of its years of blossom is exhibited in the Industrial Museum.
The Orthodox community has contributed some outstanding religious monuments to the architecture of Ermoúpoli such as the churches of Metamórphossi tou Sotíros (Transfiguration of Jesus Christ), St Nicolas the Rich (Áyios Nikólaos Ploússios), Dormition of the Mother of God (Koímissis tis Theotókou).

 

 

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