14. RETHYMNON - IERAPETRA (Travelling inland)
From Mountain Dikti to Ierapetra via the Omalos plateau
The route to the
Omalos plateau (Viannos or Viannou plateau) is the
most impressive one on Mountain. Dikti. It starts right after
the east exit of Katofigi. The dirtroad is generally good (D2
/ D3), except for two or three kilometres shortly before the
plateau where it has a steep inclination. The plateau is 1300
metres above sea level and it is truly beautiful. It has a small
lake at its centre, a little chapel, and a primitive stone hut
that is the home of three shepherds, the Stavrakakis brothers.
Needless to say, you can pitch camp anywhere you like; the
best idea would probably be to set up your tent at a nice spot
and then pay a visit to the shepherds. They will offer you raki
and wonderful cream cheese of their own production, and they
will be very happy if in return you give them three or four
packs of cigarettes, which for them is a precious little gift
since they rarely leave the mountain to go down to the village.
If you have a warm sleeping bag and sleep outside your tent,
and if you are lucky and the night is cloudless and moonless,
you’ll have an experience to remember all your life. The
stars are so bright and the stillness is so deep that you’ll
have the magic feeling of being on a spacecraft travelling through
The road crosses the Omalos plateau from west to east and then
goes downhill. It winds through the thickest and most beautiful
pine forest of Crete and takes you to the abandoned (Ep)ano
Simi and to the very lively Kato Simi. Since
it is fairly easy, it allows quick off-road driving and will
not tire you. If you get hot, you can take an ice-cold shower
at the small waterfall that you’ll find just before Kato
Simi. About one kilometre earlier, you will see a fenced area
next to the road.
This encloses what’s left of the Sanctuary of Hermes
and Aphrodite, which has an uninterrupted history spanning the
years from the Middle Minoan period till the third century AD.
It was discovered very recently (1972) and was excavated systematically
by Mrs. A. Lembessi. Among other valuable items, she found many
clay and bronze statuettes, tiles of the temple engraved with
the names of donors, and several sacred vessels. Some of these
findings are exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Iraklio.
At the village of Kato Simi you will see a war memorial. This
was built to remind the world of the five hundred men executed
here in 1943, when the Germans decided to punish the locals
for the murder of two German soldiers. Their rage was such that
they also burned six villages to the ground...
By now you may have had enough of driving on the mountains
and you may be dreaming of a refreshing swim. As you follow
the main road leading to Ierapetra you will see many intersections
where you can turn right (south) and head for the beach. If
you decide to continue on the main road it will take you to
Mirtos, a seaside village with a nice pebbly
beach where you can also take a swim. If you are looking for
a nice beach to camp, there is one two kilometres west of Mirtos,
although the best beaches lie west of Keratokambos, many kilometres
away. East of Mirtos there is little to see, except for the
Minoan site between this village and Nea Mirtos which we mentioned
earlier From Mirtos all you have to do is follow the coastal
road until you reach Ierapetra.
|A taste of Paradise
What are we made of? The things we eat, the air we breathe,
what we see and hear. Giorgos Tzanakis, shepherd
and cheese maker at the Katharos plateau, was born between
the sheep in the fields sometime in winter.
The first bed he lay on was a warm sheepskin, the first
sounds he heard were the bleating and the bells of the
sheep, and the first smells he ever knew were those of
sage and marjoram.
When we arrived at his small hut we found him chopping
wood for the stove. It was the beginning of December,
and the weather was cold and rainy.
“Welcome, lads! Come in and have a raki with me
to warm up a bit. But you must be hungry too.”
By the time we had taken our helmets and raincoats off,
he had unearthed five or six potatoes, cut a couple of
tomatoes from his small greenhouse, fetched two eggs from
the hencoop, cut a large piece of hard cheese of his own
production, taken out some barley biscuits, olives and
raki, and filled the table with goodies...
He shook the earth off the potatoes, cut them in large
pieces and threw them in the pan with the sizzling olive
The wonderful smells of the French fries, the freshly
sliced tomato with the oregano and the burning wood became
the incense that turned the poor shepherd’s hut
into a chapel. This was no lunch he was offering us; it
was like a Holy Communion. We got a taste of his personal
paradise ans continued with our own trip and lives...
of the information on this page : “Unexplored
Crete”, Road Editions. For more
guidebooks and maps of Greece, click here.