Once upon a time, after a stressful spring and summer, Lynne and I booked a package holiday with UK Freelance Holidays, to “quieter Crete”, in a place we’d never heard of – Paleochora – and stayed a week at Olive Tree Cottages, just outside the town. Lynne’s plans to cook wonderful vegetarian meals were abandoned when we discovered the Third Eye restaurant, and we enjoyed leisurely breakfasts at the Chania Bar (now Almyrida cafe) on “our terrace over the sea.”
We relaxed, swam at nearby Keratides beach, walked along the coast and over the cliff to deserted Anidri beaches (no road then), and, a week being far too short, vowed to return. Which we did, and the rest, as they say, is history …..
Now, nearly thirty years later, I’m still here (and so, sadly, is Lynne) and I’m still exploring. Olive Tree Cottages are still available for rent (though independently, not with Freelance), and from close to there, now, is a waymarked path (in fact the original route down from or up to Anidri, the road through the gorge was only engineered and built in the 1950s.)
This makes a more pleasant and interesting walk than 4 km up the surfaced road ; there’s a choice of two ways to approach the village, and an optional climb to the hill-top church of Profitis Ilias. From Anidri, after refreshments or lunch at ‘To Scolio’ taverna, a descent of the Anidri Gorge to Ianiscari beach for a swim, and later a walk alongside and above the sea back into Paleochora, makes a day’s excursion that’s hard to better.
Start by walking east out of town, past Chalikia (‘stony’) beach, on above ‘camping beach’, and when the road swings left up to Anidri, turn right across the bridge to the entrance to Olive Tree Cottages.
The path begins just 20m from here, waymarked in orange*, through a “gate” in the fence.
Steep initially, pass some TV aerials after which the gradient eases across the hillside, high above Keratides beach.
Climb again, on an old stone ‘kalderimi’, when the path soon levels out to reach an olive grove, another gate, and join a wider track leading up right. Frequent pauses on the ascent will allow you to enjoy views to Akrotiri Flomes – cape “crocodile” – over to Paleochora, distant Gavdos, and maybe watch the “Samaria” ferry passing far below.
Soon after the track bends left, waymarking leads right, and it’s decision time. Ahead leads easily (1.6km) to reach the surfaced Anidri road, turning right for 400 m into the village, and ‘To Scolio’ cafe.
The alternative climbs the hillside, through and initially alongside a fence, winding between rocks, well-marked throughout. ‘Explore !’ – January 2013 – kept to the ridge crest and reached the stone pillar on the summit at 302m ; this path is lower (and much safer). Eventually it descends, over loose stones and earth, to meet another track at the pass/col above Anidri gorge.
More decisions here ; left to join the route describe earlier and so into Anidri, or ahead (marked) for a steep climb to Profitis Ilias church, but a descent into the gorge is inadvisable, despite a path indicated on some maps. If you choose the climb, the views are rewarding ; a “bird’s eye” look down into the gorge for the brave, and over Anidri village, much-extended and developed over recent years.
A meandering path leads down towards Anidri, where you face a final decision – which way to return to Paleochora ?
But you can decide that over lunch or snacks in ‘To Scolio’ …
*EDITOR’S FOOTNOTE. As mentioned in the article, this path is waymarked with orange paint. This was done because it formed part of a Sougia – Paleochora cross country run held in the spring of 2018.
Whilst some waymarking is useful, unfortunately this waymarking was done in an overly excessive manner. Even on sections where there is only one possible path because of fences and vegetation to the sides, there are often several large florescent orange paint marks (sometimes several in less than a couple of meters). It is particularly ugly up through Anidri gorge. In fact, it is akin to seeing those meaningless spray paint graffiti squiggles on fine old Venetian houses (and even on archeological ruins) elsewhere on the island. The fact it hasn’t been cleaned up is a bit like leaving litter behind.
It is sad that the people who did this were not “named and shamed” and forced by the council to re-trace their steps with paint stripper and cleaning materials to get rid of their vandalism. What do you think? Have your say in the comments…