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Kissamos - Elafonissos


7. KISSAMOS - ELAFONISSOS (see Map )

7.1 Kissamos to Falassarna 7.2 Falassarna to Elafonissos

If you leave Platanos and head south toward Sfinari you will travel on a very nice road (A3) that was recently paved. About a couple of kilometres before the village the road intersects a dirtroad (D3), which takes you down to the Red Cliffs Beach (Kokkina Gremna), a nice place that invites camping or swimming.

Map  Kissamos to Elafonissos

In Sfinari you will find a few taverns and Rooms to Let, which accommodate the tourists travelling to Elafonissos (also known as Elafonissi). There is no special reason to make a stop here, except perhaps for a swim at the small beach south of Sphinari or for a nice lunch at the cosy little tavern next to the water.
After Sfinari, the road climbs to a height of four hundred metres and you have a great view of the west coast. As you head toward Kefali, a landscape full of barren rocks and small villages unfolds before your eyes, a sight typical of the Cretan countryside. The villages consist of ten to fifteen stone-built houses perched on a mountain slope, lying close to one another as if in a tight embrace. Half of these houses have been long abandoned and the rest are inhabited by a few old people that insist on staying at the village and taking care of the few vines, olive or fruit trees which they grow on the terraced land surrounding it. (As for the terraces, they are a permanent feature of the landscape and are meant to keep what little soil there is from being washed away by the rains). One of the villages you will pass through is Amigdalokefali, where it is worth making a stop to visit the Byzantine chapel that is dedicated to Michael the Archangel. The church bell is Venetian and it dates from 1628.

The next stop you must make is at Kefali, which used to be the largest village in the area. Today its few remaining inhabitants cultivate their olive trees and do business with the passing tourists. There are two or three taverns on the main road and a few Rooms to Let, and there is also a small mini market for your shopping needs. Of course, we suggest you visit the two Byzantine churches of the village. The Metamorphosis church has an inscription informing the traveller that it was restored and decorated with wall paintings in the year 1320.

Chrissoskalitissa

The church of Aghios Athanassios was built in 1394, and on the wall facing south you can see an impressive painting of two ladies in elegant, low-neck dresses. In case you are wondering, these ladies were the owners of the church.

Right after the east exit of Kefali, you will see an intersection with a sign (Gr) directing you to Chrissoskalitissa and Elafonissos in the south and to Hania in the northeast. The route to the Chrissoskalitissa monastery follows the north side of the small ravine of Xiropotamos, then goes through a couple of half-deserted traditional villages, Vathi and Plokamiana. In the wider area around the monastery there are several country homes, three or four tourist taverns, and a few Rooms to Let.

Moni Panagias Chrissoskalitissas, “the Golden-Step Monastery of the Holy Mary,” is a historical monument built on a low rock by the sea, in the same place where the monastery of Aghios Nikolaos was situated. According to the legend, one of the ninety steps of the monastery is gold, but it can only be seen by those who have the purest heart (we can assure you we saw nothing of the kind!) If you come late in the day, though, you will see a golden sun dive into the sea...

It is not quite certain when the monastery was built. The icon of the Holy Mary, which is devoutly worshipped, is allegedly a thousand years old. Our first verifiable information comes from 1855,

Sfinari

when the Reverend Manassis Glynias, a monk consecrated bishop, came to live in the area and gave the monastery new life. Under his guidance new cells and storerooms were built and some fifteen nuns from nearby retreats came to live here. In 1894, a new, large church was built, the same one we see today, and it was promptly decorated with paintings of saints. Then, in 1900, the monastery ceased to exist officially and its property was sold. Yet the candles never stopped burning, thanks to the faith and patience of some nuns that never gave it up. Since 1955, an amazing priest, Father Nektarios, has put in a lot of personal work and, together with the only nun that lives there today, has kept up the buildings and the tradition of the monastery.

Though the monastery itself has nothing special to show, it is worth visiting it if only to meet Father Nektarios. It would be best, though, to avoid the high season (July and August), or you will get lost among the two or three hundred tourists that visit the place daily...

Elafonissos or Elafonissi


A little before you get to the monastery there is an intersection with a half-faded sign (Gr/E) pointing you to Elafonissi. A fairly smooth dirtroad (D3) takes you through an open area planted with olive trees and... country homes and ends just before a sandy beach opposite of Elafonissi.

Today this beach has been turned into a huge parking lot, and it is filled with hundreds of cars that come here every day.

Elafonissi is a small island that can be reached by... walking, since it is only separated from the shore by a body of water that is about 100 metres wide and 0.5 to 1 metre deep!

Because the water is so shallow, it is also very warm and has a sparkling deep colour that reminds of tropical islands. The island’s beaches are covered with a fine white sand, very pleasing to the eye, but to see them you must come quite early in the summer, because in July and August there are at least a thousand visitors a day. They arrive by bus from Hania or by boat from Paleochora or in their own private vehicle, and the beaches disappear under thousands of towels and umbrellas!
Twenty years ago this island was a little paradise, but today, especially in August, it is more like hell. “Hell” also describes the situation around the turn of the century, when the lack of a lighthouse made the island a real death-trap for all the ships that were caught in the storm. Finally, it is an apt characterisation for what took place here in 1824, when 850 people in hiding, men, women, and children, were discovered and slaughtered on these very beaches by a barbarian Turkish-Egyptian force led by Ibrahim Pasha. All around them, the water and the sand were dyed red...
At about three fourths of the way between the monastery and Elafonissi, the road widens considerably and on your left-hand side you see some fences followed by an intersection. If you turn left here you will soon reach a much quieter beach lying at the end of an impressive cedar forest. This is a great spot for camping, but unfortunately there is no fresh water available. A second road (D3) starts here and goes north, climbing the mountain with many sharp turns. This leads to Maniatiana, from where you can either continue for Paleochora or take Routes 8,9, or 2 backwards and return to the north coast.

The Cretan Biscuit

Nikos Tsatsaronakis of Platanos Kissamou was born in a baker’s family, and his first images of the world included bread loaves and biscuits and barley flour, which to him had the aroma and the flavour

Nikos Tsatsaronakis

of Life itself. This is why when he grew up and took over the family business he named it “The Manna.”
“Since 1952 I’ve been baking biscuits in the old traditional way. The barley is ground between two millstones, and the dough is baked in an oven heated with wood fire. Then it is sliced by hand and the slices go back into the oven and are baked some more. This is how my grandma used to make biscuits, this is how I make them too.”

Biscuits come in many different kinds and shapes. There are the barley and the rye biscuits, made of at least 85%

Cretan biscuit

pure barley and rye flour respectively, which are most people’s favourites.

There are the classic biscuits, biscuits that come in rings or half-rings, and biscuits in bite-size that make a perfect snack. The latter are the base for a very tasty appetiser known as “tako.” You will see

it quite often in Crete (as well as other places in Greece), and it is so nutritious that it can even substitute a meal! To make it, you simply dip a biscuit in water so it gets softer, put a little olive oil on top, cover it with a chopped tomato and some feta cheese, and sprinkle it with oregano and salt.

Biscuits are a good snack by themselves, but they can also be dipped in tea or coffee, or eaten with feta cheese and olives (or with anything your heart desires). They taste great, cost little and are quite nutritious, which explains why people like them so.

As Nikos Tsatsaronakis puts it, "if God truly loved His poeple, then the manna He sent them from heaven must have been biscuits"


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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