Ever heard of Skoudiana, Xatzoudiana, Lofos and Agakiana?
I thought not; and yet everyone taking the road much travelled from Chania to Paleochora will have passed within a kilometre of each of them. Too small to be termed ‘villages’, all are situated on the outskirts of Kantanos, and a circular walk from there, no more than two hours, and passing through all four, makes an enjoyable prelude to lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner in that very hospitable small town.
As with previous walks from Kantanos, take the bus from Paleochora to, or park in the main platea, close to the Memorials. Set off on the main road towards Paleochora, but opposite the Health Centre, after just 150m, turn right downhill. Soon you will reach a junction, and turn right over a bridge, but if you’ve not visited the church of Agios Ioannnis *, with many 14th C frescos, continue on a little way, and then return. Across the bridge, the road rises and bends uphill into Skoudiana, where you go left. Skoudiana seems deserted and abandoned ; I’ve walked through many times, and like Adlestrop, “no one left and no one came …”
Now a rough track between olive trees heads north, soon alongside a streambed now dry, but widened and eroded after the winter storms, and will eventually lead you to the main Kantanos/Chania road.
Turn right here, keeping wary of traffic and flying goats, and if still in colourful bloom, enjoy the wild flowers, pink and white cistus and lavender, and vivid yellow gorse and broom bushes.
Everything is a little more spectacular this spring after months of heavy rain – “behind every cloud …,” and there have been many earlier this year.
After 800m you will reach the roadside stall of local products, honey, olives and oil, raki, and more, where Despina will tempt you with samples, all from her family farm above Kantanos.
Then turn sharp right, signed “Vineyards of Kantanos”, easy road walking between fields of vines, soon swinging left over the brow of the hill, overlooking distant Kantanos. A short descent leads to a T-junction, and a left-turn into rural Xatzoudiana.
Follow the road, crossing a stream, rising to reach another junction ; make a diversion right here, to Lofos, and the cemetery and little white church of Agios Mamas,* again 14thC, usually open, and with a cold water tap nearby.
A little further on is the hamlet of Agakiana where the surfaced road ends. Return past Ag. Mamas to the road junction and turn right.
Approaching Kantanos, look out for a “red diamond” sign rather hidden in the undergrowth right of the road. If spotted, take a path right, passing right of a half-built house to a neglected childrens’ playground, through this to another (overgrown) path and up to the main road. If you miss the sign, just continue ahead to reach the road at the (closed) Silk Oil garage, then go right into Kantanos centre.
I’ve already extolled Samantha’s “I Platea” taverna, so to balance things out I must recommend the Greek dishes at “O Platanos”, especially the delicious Cretan cheese/honey pies.
* More information in ‘Byzantine Churches around Paleochora and Kantanos” by Hans Kieser, translated by Samantha, on sale at her ‘I Platea’ taverna.
To extend this walk (by c.2 hours) follow ‘Kantanos Churches Walk’ – Explore ! August 2018 as far as Agios Ioannis church, then turn left over the bridge to join this description.