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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Around Asfendiles

Rather like last month’s walk from Dris, this excursion from Asfendiles, 13km from Paleochora, is short, circular and straightforward, and has stunning scenery, this time with breathtaking views over the south coast of Crete.

P3030377It’s less than thirty minutes’ drive to Asfendiles, though longer if you stop for coffee or soft drinks at the Alpha cafenion in Azogires.  Just beyond here, turn right across a ford and continue 4km to Asfendiles, parking at a sharp bend near the village sign.

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‘Asfendiles’, says ‘Lucky’ at ‘Alpha’, derives its name from the plant ‘asphodelus’, which grows in profusion in the area.  Once a thriving community, with a population of over 150, and a reputation for pottery making, there are now only four permanent residents living here.

Start by walking into the village ; the way out is by a track right, but first go ahead to the tiny ‘platea’, where benches in the shade may tempt you to sit awhile, even after just five minutes.

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The track descends, then bends left around the head of a small valley (which much later will become the Anidri gorge.)  Ignore a track right, and climb up to the ridge, where you go left. On the way here, and afterwards, you may need to pass through wire ‘gates’, keeping sheep and goats in/out.  Leave as you find them, fastening again carefully if necessary.  Below is the road winding up to Prodromi from Anidri, and 60km away is Calypso’s isle – Gavdos, far out in the Libyan Sea.

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Follow the track, easily at first, then climbing steadily north, to where it overlooks Asfendiles again.  The 1834 census recorded 3 Moslem and 5 Christian families living here, during the Turkish occupation.  By 1881 there were 100 inhabitants, when Paleochora numbered a total of just 38.  Keep right, on the wider track, to reach the ‘main road’ to Platanes, and walk up to the former village school, now sadly neglected.  Built in the 1930s, to accommodate pupils from nearby Asfendiles and Platanes, but also from Strati, Achladiakes, Prodromi and Azogires, it closed in the early 1970s.  As school playgrounds go, there must be few better.

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At a height of 700m, the views from here are extensive, along the coast over Sougia towards Agia Roumeli and beyond, with the hill-top chapel of Profitis Ilias easily recognisable.  On a very clear day, the Paximadia islets can be visible far to the ESE, a distance of 80km.  And nearer, to the SW, is the tip of Paleochora’s peninsula, whilst above NE, and just a kilometre away, is the former Dorian stronghold of Yrtakina (see ‘Explore!’  February 2011)

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Walk back along the road, and in fifteen minutes reach the quite beautiful church of Agios Ioannis, which has some of the best-preserved frescoes in the area, painted by the famous Ioannis Pagomenos (John the Frozen), with the church dating from the 12th century.  There’s also a water tap here.

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Passing between the houses of Asfendiles, the road twists and turns down to where you parked your car.

Although one of the shortest walks in the “Explore!” series, and barely 4km in length, there is beauty here in small measures.  Go in the clarity of early morning, or the cool of evening, to enjoy rural Crete as it is now, and try to imagine what Asfendiles was like a hundred years ago.

Thanks once again to ‘Lucky’ at the “Alpha” in Azogires for fascinating background & history.

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EXPLORE! Book Now on Sale….

explore cover 2 trans10 popular walks within striking distance of Paleochora.

This book is in pdf format so you can instantly download it, print off the walks when you need to or just view it on your computer or mobile device. There are handy maps and more extensive descriptions.

The book will be updated regularly if and when the walks alter and it comes with free updates. Also, in the private members area there is a forum for people to post on…asking questions, suggesting updates and fining walking companions

To Order – Click HERE

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