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Hania - Hora Sfakion (Sfakia)


4. HANIA - HORA SFAKION (see Map )

4.1 Hania to Vrisses (1) 4.2 Hania to Vrisses (2) 4.3 Vamos Peninsula 4.4 Hora Sfakion

(Hania to Vrisses, by the mountain route) If you are considering exploring the White Mountains from the northwestern side, you can choose to avoid the National Road altogether, and instead of following the coast you can reach Vrisses through the mountain. Head to the south of Hania toward Therisso, riding through the beautiful Therissiano gorge.

Map  Hania to Hora Sfakion

Just after Therisso you will find a dirtroad (D2) with a Greek... hand-written sign directing you to Drakona. Turn left and climb the mountain. From the very first kilometres, an imposing view of the northwestern side of the White Mountains will unfold before your eyes. Continue for a while until you see a second dirtroad (D3) to your right, which also climbs the mountain. This road stretches about 8.5 kilometres and takes you to an altitude of 1350 metres, only to stop suddenly at the foot of the Kaloros peak. But even though it leads nowhere, the road is worth taking since it will reward you with the most beautiful scenery any route on the White Mountains has to offer. The entire northern coast of the Hania prefecture lies before your eyes, from the Gramvoussa peninsula in the west to the Vamos peninsula in the east, while on very clear days you can see as far to the north as the coast of the Peloponnese!

As you climb the mountain you will see large grey rocks, and between them thin clumps of cedars, pine and oak trees, low bushes, marjoram and sage. There are no intersections to confuse you on this road, except for one at 4.5 kilometres, where you turn left - a right turn would take you right to a sheepfold(!) - and there are no places to pitch camp, except for a few level spots by the roadside. It would be wise, though, to avoid camping here, because you will be exposed to the very strong gusts of wind coming down the mountains around you.

Cretan filoxenia

When you have fully enjoyed the view, you will want to get back to the main route. Once back, you must keep on it for a couple of kilometres, until you see an intersection where you turn right, closely followed by a second one, where you turn left in order to get to Drakona (please ignore the badly placed Greek sign which seems to point you to the right). After taking a break to walk through the picturesque alleys of Drakona, take the asphalt-paved road which leads to Gerolakos, and turn right shortly before you get there in order to visit the picturesque Thimia.

The people in these villages continue to live with the traditions and customs of their forefathers, and technology, though beneficial, has not brought significant changes to their characteristic way of life. Each family produces its own basic goods: milk; cheese (ghravièra and mizìthra); top quality butter made of cream (appropriately called stakovoùtiro or “cream butter”); yoghurt; meat (especially that of the fouriàrika katsìkia, wild goats that taste delicious); bread; biscuits; vegetables; eggs; olives and olive oil; wine; raki; and a lot more. If you are lucky enough to be invited to their table you will never forget the experience. It is not only their mouth-watering food and the irresistible smells that will delight you; it is also the birds chirping above your head, the beautiful sight of the slopes around you, and the fresh mountain air on your skin. Above all, it is the warm hospitality of these people and their sunny smile that speaks volumes about their heart. They will treat you to the most sumptuous meal and then they’ll ask you to forgive them because they didn’t have the time to prepare everything as they should! They will clink glasses with you and say something like kalòs ìrthate ke òpos mas evrìkate (welcome, no matter how prepared you find us) or lìgha pràghmata, polì aghàpi (little food, much love). They will make you feel that you are really special, and they will do it because they “exude” warmth, not because they are interested in your money. If you can afford to spend some time with them you will discover a whole new world, one that has nothing to do with the tourist world of the Cretan coast that’s just a few kilometres away...

After you have visited Thimia, take the dirtroad to the east of the village, which climbs the mountain slope (if you get a little confused in the village streets, keep going and you will certainly find the way). When you reach the col that lies ahead and pass a cement cistern, you will see an intersection where you turn right. The road then descends and takes you again to the asphalt at the north entrance of Kambi. Turn right when you get there (that is, head south) and cross the green slopes until you reach Tsakistra. Here you have one more opportunity to climb the mountain again; simply turn right on the road going to Madaro and keep going. The road you are on (D3) stops after ten kilometres at a height of one thousand metres. However, it offers a magnificent view throughout those ten kilometres, so it is again worth the trouble. When you return to Tsakistra, turn left on the dirtroad (D3) that will take you to the asphalt road a little north of Kiriakoselia. Our route continues southward (to the right), but we highly recommend a short break from it; just turn left, go past Kiriakoselia, and after 1.5 km you will see Agios Nikolaos, one of the most beautiful Byzantine churches

Kiriakoselia church

of Crete. Built around the end of the 11th century or the beginning of the 12th, it has some very impressive wall paintings which are in excellent condition. To see them, however, you must first go to Samonas and ask for the key at the kafenio.

If you now get back to our route and continue southward, you will pass through Ramni and head for Kares. Don’t continue until Kares, but turn left just before you get there. You will pass through a couple of very picturesque villages, Melidoni and Pemonia, where you should really make a stop in order to walk their alleys. Then turn right in order to see the equally charming Fres and Tzitzifies (there are Gr/E signs in all intersections). In Tzitzifies you will see a large pink church before which starts a dirtroad going right (D3). This is your last chance to enjoy a route through the northern side of the White Mountains, one that does not stop in the middle of nowhere (for a change), but makes a half circle and takes you to Vafes. If it was pretty late when you left Hania, or if you took your time along the way and find that it will soon be dark,

Vothonas plateau

you can camp at an excellent spot at the middle of the route. We are talking about the Vothonas plateau, found at a height of six hundred metres and having everything you need: thick grass, shade-giving trees, and a cistern with drinkable water.

To get to Vafes, simply cross the plateau, ignoring the road you will see to your right (this seems to go up the mountain, but in fact stops after five hundred metres in front of a shepherd’s hut). From Vafes you continue on an asphalt-paved road (A3), which will take you straight to Vrisses.


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

In the small but organized city museum you will see findings from excavations in ancient Kissamos and its surrounding areas. The museum’s collection includes floor mosaics of 2nd and 3rd century houses found in Kissamos city, as well as findings from the archeological sites of Polirrinia and Falasarna (mainly statues, reliefs and ceramics dating back to the Hellenistic and Roman times).
The present town is famous for its amazing wine which is produced here and is celebrated with “the Feast of Wine" at the beginning of August. During the feast local wine is offered in great quantities under the sound of lyre and lute and in a very enthusiastic atmosphere.
The beaches surrounding Kastelli that you can visit for swimming in the homonym gulf are Molos beach covered by thick pebbles, Ghipedo beach surrounded by trees and Telonio beach with view of the Venetian walls. It is better though to take the road to the famous Gramvousa peninsula.

 

 

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