Imbros Gorge and surroundings: amazing discoveries and surprises

Our dear friends Elena and Fernando, together with little Asia and grandma Stella, came to visit us again this year! Last Wednesday, we decided to explore a new gorge, south of Chania, considered the “younger sister” of Samarià: Imbros Gorge (in Greek “ΦαράγγιΊμπρου”).

DSCN5202We decided to set off early from Chania, at about 8am, to get at around 9am to the entrance of the canyon, just at Imbros village. We parked the car in one of the several free parking along the road, and we entered the first part of the path. After about 15 minutes walking, we found the ticket counter, with a sign saying: “City of Sfakia, Imbros Gorge – Length: 8 km – Tickets – Entrance – Have a nice walk!”. We paid 2 euros each and we started the real excursion, which was all downhill. DSCN5210 The day was super clear, but the mountain air was still crispy at that time. So, we walked swiftly this first part of the route, quite wide and well-marked with medium-size rocks, and surrounded by not too high walls and strangely shaped trees. We barely saw any people for almost one hour of walking, so we fully enjoyed the nature owning this gorge, which reveals itself in different forms just for us, with its pleasant silence and its moss and resin smells that were around us for the whole time.We then started to take the very first stretches of the canyon, with impressive rocky walls, from where some trees (possibly oaks) miraculously spurt out and they seemed to be about to fall over our heads!  DSCN5214Little by little, we entered this landscape getting diverse, with huge logs blocking our way, more or less narrow passages, and cascades of sharp rocks running along the path. All led us to a beautiful S-shaped tunnel, the most suggestive spot of the canyon, with very high and smooth walls, almost resembling a slide in a water park! Foto doppia canaloneHere, we crossed the narrowest point of the canyon, wide just 1.60 mt. After overcoming the hardest obstacles, we went ahead until we reached a very unique bivouac, where we stopped for a snack. It was a wooden canopy with a small table, some benches, stools made of logs and every kind of hanging knick-knacks: Greek flags of all sizes, pictures of excursionists and weird moustached characters, old rusted rifles, a rear-view car mirror, banknotes from all over the world, and even two skulls of billy goat wearing sunglasses! What a bizarre place!DSCN5232 After a brief pit stop, we walked towards the last stretch of the canyon, simple and straight, that after a 2 hours walk led us to the final ticket control. From here, we continued for 5 minutes to reach the village of Komitàdes, where a Cretan guy all in black (beard and rosary included!) offered to drop us back to our car in Imbros on board of his pickup truck, at the price of 5 euros each.

The mountain experience left us totally satisfied, the canyon was enchanting and peculiar as many had told us, and above all it was suitable for anyone, since not very long and easy to cover wearing good shoes. But after that lovely walk, how could we say no to a restoring swim? We picked up our car and took the road to Sfakià, where we decided to lose ourselves in the twists and turns of the souther wild coast, that never stops to amaze us. We soon realized that even this time it wouldn’t have disappointed us!

DSCN5271We accidentally reached a small cove, between Ammoùdi and the nudist beach of Filàki, and we immediately fell in love with it! After realising that this small and beautiful corner would have been reserved exclusively for us, once again we were amazed by the different shades of blue that the Cretan sea may have accordingly to the sand, the shore, the sea bottom or the surrounding landscape. We stayed here, cuddled by a priceless solitude and the fresh and light blue water of the “No name beach”, as we nicknamed it that day (*please see footnote)! We wondered about how many remote coves, similar to this one, would exist here in Crete, and this was a comfort for us because it meant that this island, in its countless corners, is preserving its beauty unspoiled by the mass tourism.  DSCN5279Still not satisfied by the many wonders seen by that time, we agreed to set a last stop on our way back, which is the “Winery Dourakis”. The story of this winery started in 1986, when Andreas Dourakis came back fromSaloniccoto his hometown in Crete, Alikampos, where besides taking over his father’s vineyards, he started to grow more in the nearby lands.
DSCN5295 He was driven by his knowledge of the subject, coming from his oenology studies in Germany and from his extensive experience working in local wineries and abroad, as well as by the very advantageous land and climate of this part of Crete. All of this has helped the fortune of this beautiful business, which is now possible to visit with guided tours, celebrate wedding receptions and, obviously, taste and purchase different and exquisite local wines. Once there, we were already fascinated by the outside property: a stone building, similar to a country farm, with a glowing garden and an outside patio and tables. IMG_20150923_174431100_HDRWe went inside and we were welcomed by Sofia, a very nice and knowledgeable young woman, who took us to their shop to taste, to our delight, an extensive variety of their nectars! Eventually, we couldn’t help but purchase 6 different bottles of wine in view of the coming dinners at Villa Anastasia!! Needless to say, we strongly recommend this place to experience a different aspect of the island rather than the typical beach or the archaeological site.

Once again, we had it all, even the company of our dearest friends, to live these wonderful experiences in Crete!

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*NOTES:

Actually, the “No name beach” is called Agios Charalambos or Agios Haralabos Beach.

Lissos and Sougia: where history and landscape come together

We are back, as promised, two weeks late but hey! Better late than never. Today we are going to talk about our last excursion with our mates Laura and Carlo. Crete, end of October, and still warm and sunny. No wonder why we choose Crete as our new home!!

DSCN3520We decided to explore the south west coast of the island. Firstly, we reached Sougia by car and then we followed the stunningly beautiful European E4 path, scattered with mountains, starting from Ai Kyrkos gorge. The trail going from Sougia to Lissòs remains one of our favourite routes here in Crete, the secret of its beauty lying in the diversity of its landscape, which encompasses rills, caves, a small and stony path scattered with pines and shrubs. Its planes summon to memory images of lunar landscapes. Our hike lasted about one hour and a half and then we finally reached Lissòs and the unforgettable bay of Ai Kyrkos. And when on top, you can’t help asking yourself: “What an amazing place is this?”.

But let’s focus on the Temple of Asclepio, the crown jewel of the archaeological ruins of Lissòs. The beautiful mosaic on its floor is the centrepiece of it all; it dates back to the first century and it reproduces geometrical shapes and a big quail. Then, you realize you are in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rock-walls, carob and centuries-old olive trees, facing this human masterpiece. In over 1000 years this complex has faced and survived so many challenges! And there is so much more to come…the entire necropolis lays further in silence, scattered with dozens of arcosolium tombs. Death seems to dominate everything and the deafening silence instills respect for the place we are visiting. But we did not forget to visit Ai Kyrkos chapel and, west of the beach, the incredible church of Panagia (Holy Mary), whose marble rocks belonged to an ancient sarcophagus. There you can find a fine representation of Medusa’s head, the Gorgon monsters beheaded by Perseus.

Last but not least, a well-deserved rest, we finally arrived at the beach! Emerald colour, smooth and sanded pebbles, a surreal transparency…This place will never stop to impress us, no DSCN3635wonder it is so loved by the Cretans. A perfect conclusion of this memorable trip, and was a satisfaction looking back on our steps! After some hours spent sunbathing, and one last swim, at 4.30 pm we caught a ten minutes boat ride back to Soùgia. It was such a wonderful day, and we would like to conclude by thanking our mates Carlo and Laura, who already came to visit twice and that are our favourite kind of travellers, the ones that never say no!

Thanks, mates!

 

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Click on the map to see where all these spots are

Samaria Gorge: the giant of Crete

After livening up your summer with some of the best beaches of the island, today we want to tell you about our last amazing adventure, exploring the other side of Crete: the mountain.

DSCN2920Have you ever heard about Samarià Gorge? Probably you have, since it’s the longest gorge in Europe and one of the greatest natural wonders of this part of the world. Last Saturday, together with our friend Fernando, we embarked in one of the most exciting experiences of our life!

DSCN2925We left Chania at 7.45 with a bus to Omalos, but it actually continues till Xyloskalo, where the actual excursion starts from. After having paid the 5 euro entrance for the Samaria National Park (founded in 1962), equipped with water, sandwiches and a lot of energy, we were ready to start! The excursion of this gorge is not for everyone: 16 km long, it takes about 6 hours walking, counting the stops for eating, drinking and using the toilet. The road is almost all downhill: you start from a 1200 mt height (from Xyloskalo) and then you arrive at the southern coast of the island, at Agia Roumeli. Every 2-3 km, you can find fresh water springs, toilets and rest areas with tables and benches where you can have a packed lunch and restore your energy.

DSCN2926Our walk started with a steep and marked path that tried our strength straight away. We took about one hour to descend to the bed of the gorge, surrounded by centennial pine trees and breath-taking views over the valley. Going on, the road was a bit more “diverse”, as it was dug in a riverbed that in the winter fills with water. Huge rocks, strangely shaped trees, mountain walls more or less smoothed by the wind, and small brooks to cross. But the most memorable encounter of those first few kilometres was definitely with one of the inhabitants of this gorge and these mountains: the legendary feral goat Kri-Kri, endemic species of Crete.
DSCN2969The examples of the area, most likely used to the amount of daily visitors, are easy to approach: they look like small ibices and their cubs are the cutest in the world!

DSCN3007 Halfway through, we arrived at the old village of Samarià where its inhabitants lived until the opening of the park in 1962. To think that people could live there is really unbelievable! Taking advantage of the service area equipped with toilets and tables in the shade, we had our sandwich and relaxed our tired legs that after 2 hours walking were starting to give up…

DSCN3054Bold and determined to reach the sea as early as possible, we resumed our journey after 30 minutes’ break. The surrounding landscape was changing repeatedly, and this made the walk varied and exciting. DSCN3066

Walking through rocky walls high hundredths of meters and centennial trees that incredibly grow from that rock, we felt very small. In that place and in that moment, we were facing the absolute superiority of Nature over man. Suffice it to say, that Samaria Gorge, together with the Mount Olympus National Park, are the only preserved areas in Greece to be included in the MAB Network, which is the Unesco programme “Man and Biosphere”. This must be the reason why here live nearly 500 species of plants and animals, of which about 70 are endemic of Crete.

DSCN3074After about 5 hours’ trek, we finally reached the most famous spot of this gorge, the “Iron Gates” (Σιδερόπορτες). This passage is known to be the narrowest of the canyon. After kilometres of very wide spaces (up to 150 mt wide), here the sides of the gorge close in to a width of only 3 metres, and the sides soar up to a height of 600 metres…it’s breath-taking!

DSCN3121After the gates, the worst was over! Once at the end of the route, we stopped at a kiosk where we were asked to show our entrance tickets, and we walked the last very sunny stretch of cobblestone separating us from the sea. After about 20 minutes, we finally spotted a mirage at the horizon, our “oasis in the desert”: the Lybian Sea!! Despite our exhaustion and the sore calves, we sped up our pace and in a jiffy we were swimming in the fresh and clear water of AgiaRoumeli, incredulous to finally be there! And in this place of unreal beauty, with volcanic sand and pitch-black pebbles, we spent two hours of well-deserved relax.

DSCN3124At 5:30 pm, we took the last ferry to Hora Sfakion, where at 6:30 pm there was the last bus to Chania. Even in the hour spent on the ferry, Crete has given us some pieces of paradise, with its unbelievably blue sea water and the magnificent White Mountains (Λεφκά Όρι) as a backdrop.

What can we say more about this adventure… the pictures are quite self-explanatory, don’t you think?

Anyone of good will, strong legs and love for the nature should go for this experience. Rest assured, you will never forget it!

Bye, everyone!

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Click on the map to see our path