Here’s a real bargain – a circular route of around 15km, equally enjoyable as a walk or cycle ride, plus a small free gift – what more could you want? The longer route begins at the village of Floria, 26km from Paleohora on the main road to Chania, around half an hour’s drive or bus journey, with ample parking in the ‘platea’ by the memorials.
Leave Floria on the minor road signed ‘Sassalos 7’ which, running parallel with and above the main Chania road, climbs steadily to a col at 600m before beginning the descent to Sassalos.
Although much of this route is on surfaced roads, there is virtually no traffic, and walking is easy and enjoyable. Cycling down to Sassalos is even more so, free-wheeling through the hamlets of Selia (where the church above is worth visiting) and Maneriana into the village, losing 300m in only 4km.
We arrived there in mid-November to find the ancient raki still (probably illegal) in full production outside the small cafenion, and of course it would have been discourteous to refuse the glass of warm spirit offered to us. We diluted it with water from a nearby tap, and rode off rather unsteadily towards Milones.
Sassalos, fertile and sheltered at the foot of three valleys, is as peaceful and typical a village as you’ll find in Crete, and one of our favourites. It’s also where the little-known Kalogiros Gorge comes down from Aligi, and the even lesser-visited and more difficult Halasses Gorge, or Porofarago, leaves for Makronas. Watch this space! When our guidebook ‘More Walks from Paleohora’ (see below) appeared in 2003, the way south out of Sassalos was by a rough track, fording two streams, then through a chestnut forest to reach the handful of houses at Milones, 4km away. Now it’s a rather unnecessarily wide highway, an improved surface for cycling, but less interesting for walkers.
Pass through Milones, and then fork left for the 4km back to Floria. The concrete soon gives out, and the climbing begins, with the track rising to over 650m. Always stay on the main track, rough though it is. A short distance above the village keep right, and similarly a little further up after a couple of sharp bends. As the gradient eases, a wide track branches off right (south), but keep ahead, heading east. At a further junction (with a deep fissure below right), keep left on a steady descent through olive groves to meet the outward route, and turn right back into Floria, where one of the two cafenions might well tempt you inside.
The bus to Paleohora, faster now than in years gone by, passes through Floria around an hour after leaving Chania.
Now for the free gift – an hour’s easy walk from Floria (4km, circular) and particularly recommended to break the journey after a stressful day shopping in Chania. Walk out of Floria along the main road towards Paleohora for 700m (10 mins) and take the minor road (left) signed to ‘Pano Floria’. Before reaching the village, branch off left down a track heading towards a small church/cemetery, with the hamlet of Demouliana on the hillside above. Wind round to the church, then up to join the road at a sharp ‘hairpin’ bend below Demouliana, and turn left for the short walk back into Floria. Both Pano Floria and Demouliana, and paths beyond the villages, are worth exploring when time allows.
Congratulations to Cheryl (from Kadros) and Carol/Popi (from Paleohora), joint winners of December’s ‘Christmas Puzzle’. Both win a voucher to exchange at ‘To Delfini’ bookshop. The correct answer (sorry Jimmy!) was ‘Plemeniana’.
‘More Walks from Paleohora’ on sale (all year!) from ‘To Delfini’.
Happy ‘Exploring!’ in 2011