February is generally acknowledged as being the worst month of our winter in Paleochora, with the heaviest rainfall, temperatures often dropping below 10c, and sometimes cold northerly winds. Such combinations, together with limited daylight, require adapting walks to the conditions whenever the opportunity arises, often at short notice.
This circular walk from Kakopetros meets most of the above criteria, a short but enjoyable route in an area new to many, and which can be curtailed should the weather deteriorate. Kakopetros village is 35 km north from Paleochora, roughly the same distance from Chania, and on the main bus route.
Its name translates as “bad stones”, but actually originates from the fact that in times long ago there was a difficult river crossing here (through boulders), on the ‘road’ between Kandanos and the north coast, across the gorge which runs down to Zymbragou. There is ample parking by the memorial, a reminder that Kakopetros has a troubled history. From the village ‘platea’ walk back 400m to the turning left, signed to Kotsifiana. The road winds steadily uphill, views improving with height gained. On reaching the small village, home to some 20 inhabitants, continue ahead, the road now becoming a rough track, and still climbing. ‘Kotsifi’ is the Greek name for ‘blackbird’, one of the most common European birds, and usually seen or heard in the woodland and scrub around the village.
Return to the track, the gradient finally easing on reaching the masts, at 800m above sea level. Well away from any “madding crowds”, even those familiar with SW Crete will enjoy views from a different perspective.
Now the track heads south, beginning to circle around and above the deep valley, with Kotsifiana far below. Avoid a track right, and soon swing eastwards, losing height. Views extend to the White Mountains, snow-covered often until May or early June. The profusion of shrubs trackside are Arbutus unedo or wild strawberry tree, the colourful small fruits both edible (but seedy) and used to make a type of ‘raki’.
Along the ridge, another turn right is ignored, as the track heads north, and drops down to aY-junction. A choice here, maybe depending on the weather. The left fork, an (extremely) rough track, descends to a goat/sheep enclosure, then through a gate and down to meet the surfaced road (to Palea Roumata), where you turn left for 500m back to Kakopetros.
Alternatively, fork right (easier walking) on a level track around the hillside, soon with views to distant Palea Roumata and some of the thirteen hamlets in this area. Go through two gates, and begin a winding descent to the valley, avoiding all side tracks to right and left, and keeping to the main “road” downhill. At a distinctive Y-fork, keep left on the concreted track, and very soon meet a wider road on the outskirts of Kechres. Left here, to join the main road at Pananiana, and left again for a short walk over to Kakopetros.
Two points of interest en route – the first a memorial to a Cretan partisan killed fighting the Germans in 1944, and close to Kakopetros are two deep caves (roadside), origins unknown, maybe used for cold storage?
In summer this walk fits in with the ‘bus timetables, and has often been, for me, a welcome and relaxing antidote to a stressful day in Chania.