It’s May, and warmer at last after a prolonged wet winter in Paleochora, so with temperatures rising, and our annual three hundred days plus of sunshine already begun, summer will be more than welcome.
Here’s a short, enjoyable, and circular walk close to Paleochora, which will fit in with KTEL bus timetables, or is just a 15-minute drive away. Take the 12.00pm bus to Kallithea (Kakodiki), or park just after the long bridge as you enter the village. Aim to be back for 5.15pm, to pick up the bus leaving Chania at 4.00pm. That’s ample time for a route of around 10 km.
Start the walk left of the “O Filoi” cafe, 100m back towards Paleochora, and don’t be confused by the road signs !
The road winds up into Beilitika, where an important monument by the old schoolhouse translates as : “ In 1897 the Treaty of Surrender of the Turks of Selino who weresurrounded in Kandanos was signed and we were freed after 3 centuries of slavery.” *
Continue on, through olive trees claimed to be 2000 yrs old, to reach modern Agia Triada church, with the far older 13thC Mihail Arhangelos, almost certainly locked, nearby.
Fork left here, dropping slightly, then around the hillside (keep left at a fork which leads up to Meniana) to reach Armi.
Below Armi’s few houses, the road loops down to join the main Chania road ; turn right for just 100m, then before the bridge, go left, passing the now-defunct cement works, in another series of loops to reach the river (Kakodikiano) below Sfakos. Flowing below walnut trees, the shallow river makes a perfect picnic place to while away half an hour. Then onwards and upwards, to reach a junction, and at nearby Ag. Antonios is a tap with good drinking water inside the gate.
Turn left here, following the road for 2km into Mahia, and don’t be disappointed to find the cafenion closed – it has been for many years! A few metres further on, take the track left (look for the ‘red diamond’ sign) winding down into the valley, passing below rather precarious rocks (with badger setts below) to reach a fine stone bridge, steeply arched, and just wide enough for donkeys and their loads. A strong earthquake in October 2013 damaged the masonry, but it survived, and hopefully it will be here for many more years. A picnic table, rather neglected, may tempt you to linger awhile by the riverside.
It’s possible to follow the river downstream from here, during the summer months – an adventurous and exciting “canyoning” or gorge-scrambling expedition, with many cascades, pools and waterfalls, one 2m high, before egress below Vlithias lower down. But the ravine is steep-sided, escape far from easy, and evacuation in the event of an accident would be difficult. See “Explore” – August 2012 and August 2013.
Cross the bridge, to join a wider track, and turn left, rising steadily above the valley. Ignore two side turnings (right), and (only) when the track levels out, look for a third, marked by stone cairns (please add another!) A “sting in the tail” here, with a steep climb to Papadiana, keeping left of a wire fence, the path leading to a house (unoccupied, pass to its right), and on to a second, this one inhabited.
Above is the main road, where you turn right for a final 500m, across the bridge, and into the colourful cafenion to wait for the bus to Paleochora, or on a little further back to your car.
* Read more in Mick McTiernan’s History article – “The Battle of Paleochora.”