Floria to Plemeniana

Even regular visitors exploring the Paleochora area may not be familiar with the small villages of Kribiziana, Koudouriana, Despotiko and Fragoudiana, although they will have passed through the larger villages of Floria and Plemeniana on the journey over from Chania. Here’s a fine walk which links the latter two, passing through the former four, if you follow me so far ….

A running friend from my former UK life was here in June, setting up a holiday venture in Paleochora (see www.oppositesattractholidays.co.uk ) and eager for an early morning walk. Leaving a car at ‘O Milos’ taverna in Plemeniana, we jumped on the ‘bus (7.15am from Paleochora) for the remaining 12km up to Floria. And then straight into the cafenion for coffee.

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Floria, like Kandanos and Kakopetros, is a “Martyred Village”, and suffered badly in the aftermath of the German invasion of Crete in 1941. Two monuments on either side of the main road, one Greek one German, record the losses of both countries, and on the latter is engraved (translated) : “While mourning the dead we seek friendship with the living.” The cafe has a folder of fascinating wartime and post-war photographs.

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Leaving the cafe, we turned left (NW) on the road marked ‘Sassalos 7’, but very quickly forked sharp left, rising away from the village. The surfaced road soon becomes a rough track, winding out of the valley. Ignoring branches either side, we climbed to a distinctive fork, at 1.5km from Floria, and turned left. The track ahead leads to Milones and Aligi. Nearby is a deep crater (inevitably with dumped debris), and above it a memorial to a Cretan partisan, presumably killed here.

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Another 1.5km, rising slightly, brought us to the ‘phone masts, and a nearby concrete trig pillar, 724m a.s.l. Superb views from here, including the sea on both sides of the island, as well as huge areas of inland Crete.

That trig point looks quite "Roman"

That trig point looks quite “Roman”

An even rougher track heads south from the masts, with broken ground crossed to reach it. We left it to the right after some ten minutes, (before a huge isolated boulder), following a fence over the crest of the ridge, then very steeply down the other side. A track of sorts is rejoined at the foot of the slope, which winds down above a ravine, and then becomes wider. Easy walking down the valley now, although there are three ‘stock-control’ gates to unwire and pass through.

The road passes below the first village, Kribiziana, now uninhabited, reached by a narrow track left, opposite a water tap. Further on, the road becomes surfaced at Koudouriana, below which is the church of Sts Peter & Paul.

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Unbeknown to us, it was the “Saints’ Day”, and a small group of people were celebrating the occasion. “Elate!” they called, “come and join us.” Shaking hands and giving us the traditional ‘feast bread’, they wished us “Chronia Polla”, or ‘many years’. The eldest, Thanassi, invited us to his home in the next village for coffee, impossible to refuse, and an often-met example of Cretan ‘filoxenia’, or friendship to foreigners. The 16th century church was beautifully decorated for the occasion, and the whole experience just delightful.

Icon decorated with flowers

Icon decorated with flowers

We enjoyed 40 minutes hospitality with our new friends in the next village, Despotiko, with iced coffee and “hand-made lemonade” pressed on us for the next part of our walk, further on along the road and then a left turn into Fragoudiana. Once through the village, the road appears to end, but a grassy track leads on, through olive trees to join the main road at Dris, passing the former village school en route.

The quiet main road leads to Plemeniana in 3km, but there is a more interesting way. Cross the bridge, then go almost immediately left, on a road rising between houses, and later alongside a valley with a shallow stream below you. After some 10 mins (not before), when the roads bends round almost 180 deg, look for a rough track up between olive groves to the right. Keeping right, below and between the trees, eventually reach a narrow path left, between bushes, the start marked by a large stone ‘cairn’. In only 60m this joins a wide track, with an overhead plastic water pipe. Go right here down a long winding track, avoiding any side turnings, to reach the little village of Terediana where you turn right, to again meet the main road, and a short step back into Plemeniana.

Eels sign at Milos Cafe

Eels sign at Milos Cafe

We deserved and enjoyed cold drinks at ‘O Milos’, or ‘Eel Cafe’, under shady plane trees above the river. Just thirty minutes and 14km later, before the day became too hot, we were swimming in the Libyan Sea, having – to misquote Rudyard Kipling – “filled the unforgiving minute, with four hours’ worth of distance walked.”

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– Don’t forget , Bob Tait’s Explore! book is now on sale detailing some amazing walks in the close proximity of Paleochora. Click on the book cover below for more details…

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It’s just 700m from Azzuro beach, west of Paleochora, to Karavopetra beach, nearer the town, less than ten minutes’ walk. But if you go there by the route described below, it’s around 12 km and will take you between four and five hours. Unlike the recent two walks in ‘Explore !’, this one requires some route-finding ability and sure-footedness on often uneven terrain.

 

Drive to Azzuro beach (4.5km along the road towards Koundoura), or, by taxi (or ‘bus leaving Paleochora at 6.30am and 2.30pm) ask for the Megim Hotel. Set off west, crossing the bridge over the River Pelekaniotikos, and immediately turn right. The first part of the walk, through a builders yard, past chained and neglected dogs, and with rubbish discarded either side of the track, is less than attractive, but it will improve, I promise.

Crossing the river

Crossing the river

 

Follow the track north up the wide valley, keeping left (uphill) at a fork where a path leads right to Ag. Georgios church. After approx. 3km from setting off, slope down to cross the river, which will almost certainly be dry in summer – in February we had to wade across. Flourishing oleanders indicate how much water flows down the valley during the winter. A Greek ‘gate’ on the far side may need opening and re-wiring after you. Now on the east side of the river, you will soon reach the “mauvais pas” or ‘bad step’, where a landslip some years ago resulted in the track now continuing some distance above you, requiring a scramble over boulders and loose earth to reach it. The easiest way is by climbing to the right, keeping below the steep wall, to reach easier ground and rejoin the rough track.

 

Minoan Burials?

Minoan Burials?

 

Continue steadily uphill, through one or more ‘gates’ to a more substantial one, and beyond this look carefully for three half-buried clay urns – ‘pithoi’ – which came to light when the road was cut. Research indicates these may have been late Minoan burial urns, but any further suggestions please tell us. Just 10m further, climb up right to meet a narrow path, and the start of the return journey to the coast. Blue-painted arrows and way-marking facilitate route-finding now; this was part of Paleochora’s 2013 “Community Health Walk” held in April, from Voutas to the sea. The path along the ridge is delightfully scenic, first on the west side with views back to Voutas, later on the east, overlooking Kondokinigi. This was almost certainly the original way from Voutas to the coast, long before the valley roads were constructed.

The path along the ridge

The path along the ridge

 

Look carefully for several burial chambers, the best of which is below and left of the footpath, which eventually becomes a wider track, close to more graves, one of which has been cut right through the rock. The track leads to the 15th century Byzantine church of Agios Georgios, with a more recently built bell-tower close by. The church is usually unlocked, and has frescoes which, like many in the area, were probably defaced by the Ottomans during their long occupation. Go left, on the descending track which leads to the Paleochora/Voutas road, 2km away.

Ag. Georgos

Ag. Georgos

 

At the main road walk right for 300m down to the Tsaliana village sign, and turn right again before the bridge, parallel with the river. Pass by several groups of houses, many of which are unoccupied, and after 1km reach Tsaliana’s pretty church, where there is a water tap. Go past the church, ignoring the track right, and curve round the bend. Look carefully for a small path, or follow the way-marking, which takes you steeply down into the riverbed.

Tsaliana Church

Tsaliana Church

 

Outside the summer months there will be running water, and some ‘boulder-hopping’ from side to side of the river may be necessary, otherwise a path keeps mainly to the left bank, through carob trees which later give way to olive groves. Eventually the blue way-marking leads right, into the riverbed, which is followed to a difficult exit at Plakaki beach. Better to ignore this, keeping left and rising slightly, on a path with black water pipes alongside. This soon meets a rough track, with a massive scree slope on the hillside across the river ; go left here, passing a rather plain church (Ag. Ioannis) and a ruined olive mill. Just a little further is the main road and Karavopetra beach.

Ready for a dip?

Ready for a dip?

 

The distance back to Paleochora is 3km. The road is unavoidable for the first 1km, but soon after the little cove at Psilos Volakas you can keep to the seashore all the way to Paleochora’s long sandy beach.

 

Don’t forget – You can get the Explore digital book with 10 fantastic “hidden” walks in the Paleochora area.  On sale now: Click Here for details

 

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