14. RETHYMNON - IERAPETRA (Travelling inland)
(see Map )
Travel to Agios Nikolaos (via the Katharos plateau)
If you do not want to go to Ierapetra (where there is very
little to see anyway) and feel like driving more on the mountains
and visiting more plateaus, we have a great suggestion. There
is a very beautiful route (D3) which takes you up the southeast
side of Mt. Dikti, goes through some very picturesque villages,
then takes you through the Katharos plateau,
goes downhill in an easterly direction and finally ends in Agios
Nikolaos, a town where there is certainly more to see and do.
To follow this route, take the same road that leads to Mirtos
and turn left on the A3 road that you will see near the intersection
for Loutraki. (There is a Gr sign at the point where you must
turn which sends you to “PIZA”). The road ends at
a T-junction where you must turn right - a left turn would take
you inside the village. From the start, you have a great view
of the Mirtos and the Ierapetra valley, even
though the pine forest that once covered the mountain slope
was burned in 1990. After 2 or 3 km the sad sight of burned
trees disappears and you find yourself in a very beautiful landscape
with steep mountain slopes and ravines just above your head
and pine or cedar forests or tall bushes all around you.
A little further a road branches off to the west and takes
you to an almost abandoned village called Mino.
Our route, though, continues straight and leads to Metaxochori,
a village well worth making at least a short stop. Very few
people have stayed at the village, but its traditional architecture
will earn your admiration with its many virtues. The houses
are solid, wisely designed, practical and very tasteful, as
you can easily see since most of them are open and abandoned.
In Metaxochori you will see a T-junction where you must turn
right. (A left turn would take you to the fields). After a while
the road will take you to Christos, a
very beautiful village with many old churches. Christos, like
Selakano and Mathokotsana (which are even more secluded), will
satisfy the traveller who has a taste for traditional, old,
After Christos you continue on an asphalt-paved road (A3).
About 200 metres before the intersection west of Males,
turn left on the small cement road that climbs the mountain.
After 500 metres you will see an intersection. (This is at the
north end of the village and can also be reached if you go through
it, but you may easily get lost in the village alleys). Once
here, go right, following the road that goes up the mountain.
(The one to the left leads to Mathokotsana and Selakano).
The road (D3) passes through a beautiful pine forest and goes
uphill. It finally takes you to the Katharos plateau,
which is much higher and quieter than the neighbouring Lasithi
plateau with which there is no direct contact. The plateau belongs
to the Kritsa community and the locals have each appropriated
a small - or large - part of it. Scattered all over the place,
you will see small houses, shepherd huts, sheepfolds, storage
rooms and chapels, as well as a couple of primitive taverns
that serve mostly the needs of the locals (since very few tourists
come this high). If you are hungry, look for the tavern-hut
of Giorgos Tzanakis, the shepherd. It is at a settlement called
Avdeliakos near the intersection for Kritsa and it will give
you a taste of another epoch.
If you’d like to camp in the Katharos plateau you will
find many quiet nooks to set up your tent, especially toward
the northwest end of it. Keep in mind, though, that you will
need a warm sleeping bag because up here it is cold even in
August. In the spring the plateau is covered with a multi-coloured
carpet of wild flowers, and it is like a beautiful tableau.
From Avdeliakos to Agios Nikolaos
Avdeliakos is the starting point of a good dirtroad (D2), which
winds down the mountain for 16 km, offers spectacular views
of Agios Nikolaos and the Mirambellos gulf, and takes you to Kritsa,
a large village known for its very good woollen clothes and
textiles that are produced locally. We suggest that you avoid
the stupid patterns with the windmills and the small boats,
which are made to appeal to those who don’t know better,
and that you look for the traditional geometric patterns and
the natural colours of wool: beige, brown, grey and white.
If it is earlier than 3:00 p.m. you can visit the church of Panagia Kera (Our Lady, Mary), one kilometre
after Kritsa, on the way to Agios Nikolaos.
This church is full of wall paintings of the 13th and 14th
century that are very well preserved. The uniqueness of the
themes, the richness of the colours and the diversity in expression,
the interesting thematic details that give valuable information
on the time the paintings were made, and the details of style
and execution will certainly impress you.
After Panagia Kera you simply continue for another ten kilometres
and you will reach Agios Nikolaos. However, if you have the
time, you may want to return to Kritsa first and to make a small
detour before Agios Nikolaos in order to visit the Minoan town
of Lato in the north. It is certainly worth the trouble.
|Source of the information on this page : “Unexplored
Crete”, Road Editions. For more
guidebooks and maps of Greece, click here.