There are those who can study maps for hours on end, looking at paths and trails crossing ridges, reaching mountain summits and descending valleys, planning new adventures and reminiscing over past days – and I’m one of them. So, when the latest Anavasi hiking map to our area (Topo 25,Crete 11.13) indicated a “tower” – ‘Pirghos’ – on a summit above Kandanos, and enquiries locally suggested there was a ruined Byzantine fortress, we just had to go and explore further.

The inspiration for an expedition..


The unnamed summit is 1037m high, and we “climbed” 880m of it by car, driving from Kandanos through Anisaraki and Bambakados to the highest point on the road to Temenia, from close to where a track heads off north-east. January ; deep snow covered the White Mountains away to our right, and with the temperature barely above freezing, warm and windproof clothing, gloves and hats were essential – not the Cretan climate which tourists usually experience …..

Some map-reading and route-finding was required, along tracks with a couple of (open) gates which brought us to a broad plateau at around 920m, marked on the map as ‘Dzikounaria’. There are no official “rights of way” in Crete, as in UK and maybe other countries, so whether this is private land is dubious, although it’s probable. But we met no-one to ask us the usual questions
of “Where are you from?” and “Where are you going to?” – so what a friend calls “judicious trespass” was not necessary.



From the plateau we passed through another gate (a notice in Greek warns ‘Hunting Prohibited’) headed uphill, to the right of a wire fence, and reached the ruins of the reputedly Byzantine tower. Tony Fennymore wrote : “ In 330 AD, Crete found itself part of the Byzantine Empire, and remained so until 824 AD when it was seized by Arab pirates who used it as a base. After numerous attempts the Byzantines eventually won it back in 961 AD, and it remained in their hands until 1204 AD , when Crete came under Venetian rule.” *



Presumably erected as a watch-tower or beacon, rather than a defensive structure, the ‘fortress’ gave us commanding views in all directions, especially over the Kandanos valley now far below, SE towards Rodovani and Sougia, and NE toward Agios Zinas, 1331m, our “Blue Moon” summit (see ‘Explore’ August 2015.) Little remains – a collapsed tower some 2m high, with a surrounding wall which afforded grateful shelter out of the sharp wind and snow flurries. Some imagination is required, and if there was a small armed force here, as at the Dorian fortified towers at Vlithias and above Anidri (see ‘Explore’ – January 2017) it would have been an unpopular posting.

We had taken little more than an hour to reach the summit, marked by a concrete pillar, so rather than returning the same way, we opted to continue north along the ridge. There’s no path at all, and it’s not easy going over rocky terrain ; the fence continued to our left, and several more crossed the ridge, all easily negotiated.

Pirghos summit


A slight dip, then a rise to a second summit at 1023m – that’s no great altitude in Crete, but higher than England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike at a mere 978m. Beyond here is an area marked on the map ‘Achladhia’ – meaning ‘pear trees’ – and there was a small copse, whether accidental or intentional, but incongruous at this height. In the lee of the ridge, out of the wind, we stopped for lunch of pastries from the excellent bakery in Kandanos.

Ag Zinas view


Soon afterwards, at Distrata (‘road junction’), we joined the track, and snow level, at the SW end of the long Ag. Zinas ridge. Inevitably a snowball fight, before, with clouds darkening and more snow imminent, we hastened down to Kandanos, the best part of two hours away.

Don’t you dare!


En route we paused at the isolated shepherd’s hut, housing a diverse and almost museum-type collection of tools, and above it the small church of St. John the Theologian, rarely visited except on its “name day.”

Shepherd’s tools



Agios Iannis


Below the track, bare plane trees gave an art exhibition of arboreal nature, but as Shelley observed … “ If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind ?”


Winter Art


Although the walk up to the “Pirghos” is a worthwhile expedition, I doubt if many will repeat this entire demanding route – if you do, let me know, I’ll be impressed. But we enjoyed a rewarding and satisfying January day in the hills, and to badly misquote the words of James Elroy Flecker (“Hassan”) – “ We are the explorers Barry, and we shall go …. always a little further.”

* From the Introduction to “Fenny’s Hania” – a guided walking tour of Hania old town.

A record number of entries for the Christmas Puzzle, from seven different countries. The winner was Hannah Kilduff from France, who wins the €10 voucher for “To Delfini” bookshop. Congratulations to Hannah, and thanks to everyone who entered. The correct answer was … of course … ANTONIOS



Share This:

Welcome to the 100th. Explore! article (more about this right at the end). It is fitting that this milestone falls in December, as loyal readers will know, it’s the Paleochora Christmas Puzzle time!

So, if the weather is wet or cold outside, light up the log burner, get some spiced wine (or a cup of tea) and indulge yourself…

You won’t travel far in Crete without passing a church or small chapel, and “Explore” walks have visited many, all having the name of a Saint, either male (eg. Agios DIMITRIOS) female (Agia MARINA) or occasionally a combination or plural (Agii PAVLOS & PETROS, and Agii APOSTOLI).

Ag Apostoli Ligia

One website lists 750 Greek ‘prime names’, with 2085 ‘derivatives’, ie. the prime name of NIKOLAOS has derivatives of Nikos, Nick, Nicoleta and Nicole. Similarly DIONISIS with Denis and Denise. The site gives 2800 “name days”, from January 1st (VASILIS) to December 31st (MELANY), and alphabetically from Aaron to Zoe. A further 980 names have unknown or non-established name days.

Ag Nikolaus Strati

The Greek equivalent of Robert (or Bob) is HARALAMBOS, with a church in Prodromi, its name day February 10th, and perhaps next year I shall go there.

Close to Paleochora is the 13thC church of Ag. GIORGOS in Anidri, and Ag. IOANNIS, of similar age, in Kalamos.

Ag Giorgos Anidri


Ag Ioannis Kalamos

High above Spaniakos, hidden away, is Ag. TIMIOS STAVROS, and near Kakodiki is Ag. ISIDOROS.

Ag Isidoros Kakodiki

Voutas has Ag. PARASKEVI with its bizarre frescoes, and at Temenia is Ag. SOTIROS, a beautiful Byzantine church.

Ag Paraskevi Voutas


Ag Sotiris, Temenia

Close to Kandanos are Ag. MAMAS, Ag. AIKATERINI, and Ag. ANNA.

Ag Aikaterini Kandanos


Agia Anna Kandanos

The churches dedicated to PROFITIS ILIAS are always on heights (eg. above Anidri and Kadros), and many visitors will have walked through the Ag. IRINI gorge.

Profitis Ilias Kadros

Ag. ANTONIOS is close to me in two ways, and Ag. ZINAS was the high point of a memorable walk (see ‘Explore’ August 2015.)

Many ‘main’ churches are named PANAGIA after the Madonna (eg. in Spaniakos), and Ag. TRIADA, the Holy Trinity (in Kallithea.) Less frequently found are CLEO, TITOS, OLGA and NINA.

So here is what you have to do…

You can download a printable version of the grid – click here

Of the 29 names in BLOCK CAPITALS, 26 can be found in the Word Square (vertical, horizontal, diagonal) – when you’ve found these, 14 unused letters remain. Circle these, and read from left to right, top to bottom, to find two more names.

Which is the one missing name?

DO NOT put your answer as a comment. Please enter using this form:


Closing date : 5th January 2018 , with the usual prize of a Ten Euro voucher for “To Delfini” bookshop for the lucky winner.

Note from the editor: As I mentioned right at the start, this is the 100th. Explore! article.

Yes, Bob has been researching and writing these exclusive insights into the local area since 2009. Time certainly flies!

There are thousands of regular readers all across the globe…From the USA to Australia (and at least one in Turkey). Many people never miss an article and many of those have had their experience of visiting Paleochora greatly enhanced by getting off the beaten track and following one or more of these articles.

On behalf of all the loyal readers, wherever they are, I would like to take this opportunity to give Bob our sincere thanks and a hearty pat on the back for all of the pleasure he has given us. Long may it continue!

Share This: