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Hania - Paleochora


2. HANIA - Paleochora (see Map )

2.1 Hania to Argiles 2.2 Rodovani to Sougia 2.3 Rodovani to Paleochora 2.4 Paleochora

If you choose the eastern direction (toward Sougia), about 100 metres after the intersection you will see to your right a hill crowned with a church. Turn to the right on the narrow road that climbs the hill, and after a while you will arrive at the top, where once the ancient city of Eliros was situated.

Map  Hania Paleochora

The next village on your route is Moni, where you can visit the Byzantine church of Aghios Nikolaos with its beautiful wall paintings, among which the outstanding painting of St. Nicholas, the work of Ioannis Pagomenos.
About two kilometres to the south of Moni a road (A3) heads to the east, passes through Livadas, and ends at the legendary Koustogerako. If some members of the group have decided to walk through the Aghia Irini gorge this will be the best place to wait for them. As you enter the village you will see a monument dedicated to the memory of the tragic events that took place here during the second world war and to the heroic resistance of the local people. The Koustogerako people have a long tradition of rebellions and restlessness, and they fought hard against the Nazis (this is where the illustrious rebel Kantanoleos came from, see). The Nazis surrounded the village but the armed men managed to escape. They left their women and children behind assuming the Nazis would not harm them, but they were totally wrong. Ten of these men, hidden behind a rock, witnessed how the Nazis gathered the women and children together in the village square and set up a machine gun. Still, the incredible cruelty did not make them lose their readiness; they aimed well and a few seconds later the machine gunner and another nine Nazis fell dead. Then they charged and chased them until Moni, killing and wounding many of them. The next day a more powerful Nazi death squad entered the deserted village and blew everything up. This was the fourth time that Koustogerako was reduced to ruins (it was twice before burned by the Venetians and once by the Turks), but the heroic Koustogerako people rebuilt it from scratch after the war was over.

Eliros
However much you look around you, you will only find some traces of the ancient city. The couple of column drums, the few carved stones and the scattered pieces of ceramics make it difficult to believe that at this place stood the largest city of the southwest of Crete in the classical times. It was a city of 16,000 people and it became wealthy through... arms trade!
Eliros was famous for its quality bows, arrows, knives, catapults and other weapons, which it sold all over Crete. It also exported these weapons, and used for this purpose no less than three harbours, Lissos, Syia, and Pikilassos! At the same time, the townsfolk cultivated the fertile valley to the east and south of the city and kept bees. In fact, Eliros had become so wealthy that it minted its own coins on which the two symbols of its wealth were represented: on the one side an arrow in the side of a goat (although those who bought the arrows used them for other targets than goats) and on the other side a bee.

Eliros


The homes of the ancient Elirians were luxurious and had a grand view of the Libyan sea to the south and the White Mountains to the east, as you will be able to see for yourself. But although these people were great arms merchants, they were not masters of the weapons themselves. As a result, they vanished from the face of the earth, probably as victims of the invasion of the Arabs who conquered the whole island during the early 9th century BC. Never has an archaeological excavation taken place on this hill and what remains of ancient Eliros probably lies some feet under the ground.

Today, two kafenìa are located at the beautiful village square, where you can enjoy a good cup of coffee and a great view of the White Mountains and the rock from which the Koustogerako fighters shot the Nazis. It’s worth paying a visit to the small Byzantine church of Aghios Georgios at the edge of the village; it was built in the 10th century and has many impressive paintings of the 15th century made by G. Provatopoulos. If the hikers of the group have not shown up by now, it may be wise to start looking for them!

Two interesting mountain-hiking routes begin at Koustogerako. The most popular one, which takes five hours, heads to the northeast, continues smoothly and at a relatively low altitude (below 1000 metres) through the western side of Mount Psilafi, and ends at the small chapel in the western entrance to the Omalos plateau, at Seliniotikos Giros. The other route is more demanding (six hours) but far more interesting.

Lissos

It goes east passing through a gorge and suddenly gains height climbing the southern side of Mount Psilafi. After only eight kilometres from Koustogerako, the road has climbed 1200 metres, taking you to an altitude of 1700 metres at the Linosseli pass, the highest point of the route. Here you can enjoy a dazzling view of the Libyan sea and quench your thirst at a cool spring that refreshes the traveller all year round. After two kilometres of descending you will reach Xiloskalo at the beginning of the Samaria gorge. For both these routes it’s advisable to request info and maps from the Hania Mountain Climbing Club. Part of the second route, the first six kilometres, can be done on bike and will offer you the most enjoyable mountain ride in the area. The road (D3) passes through a forest and stops suddenly at a place with a beautiful view of the southern coast of Crete and the surrounding area.

If you return to Koustogerako on the central road and continue to the south, you will arrive after three kilometres at Sougia, a relatively new settlement built on the site where once the ancient city of Syia was located. In front of the village is a wide and beautiful pebbly beach, the cause of the tourist development in the area. Fortunately, only few hotels have been built here, but the buildings are randomly situated and many people have built homes only to rent rooms during the tourist season. It would be a good idea to make this quiet place your base for two or three days and to explore the region on foot or bike. You can walk to the west taking the seaside path to ancient Lissos (see further ahead) or you can take the boat to

Sougia

Aghia Roumeli and walk through the Samaria gorge. If you decide to stay here, your best choices are the Santa Irini Hotel (Tel. 0823 - 051 342) and the Lotos pension (Tel. 0823 - 051 142) in front of the beach. There are plenty of other Rooms to Let and small hotels in Sougia, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a room even during the high season. If, however, you wish to camp, you can set up your tent at the eastern side of the beach, at any place you choose. For your shopping we recommend the Sougia mini market. Its owner, Giorgos Falagaris, is a member of the Hania Motorcycle club, has many stories to tell you about his adventures on his bike in Northern Africa, and will provide you with all the information you need about the Sougia area.

From ancient Syia, the seaport of Eliros that flourished during the Roman and early Byzantine time, very little has survived. This consists of a few wall ruins at the east corner of the beach and the floor mosaic of a 6th century basilica on which the village church was later built.

If you wish to enjoy an impressive hiking archaeological exploration in the footsteps of the famous British explorer of the 19th century Robert Pashley, just follow the path at the back of the Sougia harbour that heads to the west. You will pass through a beautiful gorge, reach the crest of the hill side, and finally descend toward the sea. After about one hour you will reach the ruins of the ancient city of Lissos.

Lissos used to serve as the port of Irtakina and Eliros and seems to have flourished from the classical times till the 10th century AD. Most of its inhabitants were sea merchants and fishermen, but the greatest source of wealth was...tourism! In fact, it was a curious form of tourism with a... clearly medical nature, since the Asclepieion of Lissos - a religious shrine of the healing god Asclepius with a famous healing water spring - attracted visitors from all over Crete. So wealthy was Lissos, it even minted its own golden coins.

The area was largely unexplored until 1957, although the position of the ancient city was known. That year one of the locals, wishing to find the source of the water, dug exactly on top of the sanctuary of Asclepius and found about twenty statues portraying Asclepius, Hygeia, Pluto and a few devout patients. Fortunately, it was not an illicit dealer but a lover of antiquities, so he informed the Ephor of Antiquities of the island, Mr. Nikolaos Platonas, who immediately started an excavation of the area. This brought to light the Lissos Asclepieion with its magnificent mosaic floors, some graves dating from the Roman period, the foundations of houses and public baths, as well as traces of the aqueduct and the city theatre.

Except for the Asclepieion, it won’t be easy to identify the other ruins of the ancient city, because not only have the excavations not been completed, but the place has been left to its fate as well; there is only one temporary guard, and by now thick bushes cover everything. If you walk through the rocks and bushes, you will find indications of ancient Lissos in each step you take. As for the statues our friend found some decades ago, you can see them exhibited in the museums of Hania and Iraklio.

The two Byzantine chapels of the 13th and 14th century that are built on top of two earlier basilicas (of the 4th or 5th century) are also worth seeing. The first, close to the guard’s hut, is the chapel of Ai-Kyrkou (Aghios Kyriakos) with pale fading wall paintings. In this chapel Robert Pashley and his group spent the night of 27th April, 1834. The other, close to the shore rocks, is the chapel of the Virgin Mary, built with materials from an earlier time.


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

Elounda lies 11 km north of Ayios Nikolaos, and is noted for its coves, rocky coastlines, the beautiful village of Elounda itself, the fishing harbour, the sunken city of Olous and the remains of a Byzantine basilica. But what is really amazing here is the impressive selection of luxury hotels, resorts and restaurants. The outstanding natural beauties of secluded Elounda bay and the first-class accommodation services have made Elounda the number one favourite for world leaders, royalties and celebrities alike.
You may not believe it, but it’s true. Below are just some of the services on offer:
• Luxurious spa treatments to be enjoyed in pools and bubble tubs, private steam rooms and saunas, and an endless selection of treatment suites, relaxation lounges, and meditation rooms.
• Limousine service, helicopter and private jet services, car and yacht hire.
• Daily fitness programmes, and numerous sport activities (volleyball, badminton, mini golf, water skiing, windsurfing, sailing, etc.)
• Sightseeing excursions and boat trips to Spinalonga, Ayios Nikolaos, fishing trips and sunset cruises.
• Accommodation specially designed for families and daily activity programmes to entertain children (such as fun competitions, animation programmes, etc.)
If you have already tried out the activities above, it’s time to take a caicque and head for Spinalonga, also known as Leper island

 

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