Kandanos Churches Walk

Ascension of Christ

Last year’s Christmas Puzzle (see ‘Explore’ – Dec 2017) featured several churches in our local villages, among them in Anidri, Kalamos, Voutas, Kadros and Spaniakos. Here’s a leisurely 4 km circular walk from Kandanos, just a short drive from Paleochora, (or which fits in with the ‘bus schedules, see footnote) passing a number of “hidden” Byzantine churches between Kandanos and Plemeniana.

Start from the highly-recommended “Platea” taverna in Kandanos centre, close to the war memorials. Walk up to the dominating Church of the Ascension (pictured above), which, under construction at the time, was spared the destruction of the town, and the massacre of many of its inhabitants, by the Nazis in June 1941. Continue past the Town Hall, and on the outskirts of the town, as the road heads west, keep ahead (with the street lights.) Soon the road dips, to reach pretty Ag. Athanasios ; carry on, then ahead at a ‘cross-tracks’, to meet the main road.

Ag Athanasios


Walk left along the usually quiet road, over a bridge, and just before Plemeniana’s modern church of Ag. Nektarios, turn right into the approach to the Byzantine church of Metamorphosis Sotirou (Transformation of the Saviour.) If you’ve not been here before – and I drove past hundreds of times without visiting – you’re in for a surprise. The German authority Hans Kieser comments: “ Of all the churches in Crete I have visited, this, in my opinion, is the most beautiful and impressive.” * Dating from the Middle Byzantine period, 11th-14thC AD , the church was renovated with great care from 2007-13 and the frescoes restored. An information board gives more details, including that 23 large scenes from the Christological Cycle have survived, and that 36 full-length Saints, and 23 busts of Saints, are depicted.



Metamorphosis frescoes


A further 150m will bring you into the village, and the junction to Elafonisi, which you take; but only briefly – down to cross the stream, then almost immediately up the side road marked XENONAS – in Greek (a villa for rent, you will pass later.) Always on the surfaced road, pass through the ‘settlement’ of Krioneri to reach the spring of Tramountana, then turn left up to Profitis Elias. Built c. 1350, frescoes are very well preserved, especially of Archangel Michael “portrayed in brilliant attire.”

Profitis Ilias


A little further along the lane is a sign to Agia Paraskevi, a short diversion below walnut trees to a secluded picnic site by the stream, and the very old church, seldom visited. Paintings c. 1352 show the martyrdom of the saint, and Agia Paraskevi in prison.



Return to, and follow the lane into Trachiniakos, turning right here, and in another 400m reach the roadside church of St. John the Evangelist (also called Ioannis the Theologian), where the main fresco is of the Baptism in the Jordan, painted c. 1328-29.

Ag Ioannis


Not far into Kandanos now ; stay ahead at the next junction, then a final rise to re-join the main road. On the short step into town, be sure to take the paved pedestrian way and visit Ag. Antonios, recently restored (information inside.)

Ag Antonios


If you’ve time, enjoy lunch (or after an evening walk, dinner) at the ‘Platea’ taverna, whose owner, Samantha Ntountoukalis, translated the book * into Greek and English, painted the signs around the village, and has done much to promote Kandanos as a place to stop and explore,
rather than just pass through on the road south.

Platea taverna

* Byzantine Churches around Paleochora and Kantanos Hans Kieser
Available locally, with descriptions of 26 churches, and exceptionally well illustrated


Currently, the 11am bus from Paleochora reaches Kandanos c. 11.15am, and the 12.45pm bus from Chania passes through c. 2.15pm, giving ample time to walk the route and enjoy lunch. You could also take the 6.15pm bus to Kandanos, with a service leaving Chania at 8.00pm – but don’t have that extra “raki” and miss the last bus home …

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Papadiana to Sougia

It’s July in Crete, very hot, and only …. “ Mad fools and Englishmen go out in the midday sun “ Unless of course, someone recommends a walk starting high in the cool hills, winding down through shady forests, to end, late afternoon, in the Libyan Sea.

Take the ‘bus …


So here we go. Firstly, check in the Bus Station to ask if there’s a small KTEL bus service from Paleochora to Sougia (this usually operates in summer, leaving at 1 pm.) If not, book a taxi, around the same time, (or persuade a friend) to take you through Azogires (or Anidri) to Temenia, and ask to be dropped off at the turning to Papadiana, 1 km further on the road to Maza/Rodovani. Make sure you take sun protection (cream/hat), plenty of water, and swimming things for later.

But – secondly – there’s a short section of this route, around 2 km, which is more than just a “walk”, and involves a short rocky scramble, a narrow but waymarked trail, careful path-finding, and the descent of a steep hillside. The good news is that this can be avoided, and you’ll still reach Sougia in time for the ferry home.

.. and start here


So, reaching the start by ‘bus or taxi around 1.30pm, set off down the road, keep right at a junction, and walk down to a water cistern, where you fork left. Initially leading downhill, the track contours around the head of the long Kamaria valley, and soon Mertes comes into view.

Over Mertes


Entering the forest, keep right at a junction, down into the village. Recent renovation here, with several well-fed cats now in residence. A surfaced road leads out to Zimvrou and Maza, but follow the rough track eastwards down the valley, below the pines.

Mertes cats


At a fork take the less obvious track right, where it’s overgrown and often muddy, but press on. Just over 1 km later, after passing below a photogenic dry-stone wall, the track reaches Aidoni, with a spring of fresh water nearby.

Through the forest


Turn right here, down to cross the usually dry riverbed; now easy walking, to pass first the church of Panagia, and then above houses at Vagiana., with Kamaria across the valley.


Through the forest, until after a large concrete water cistern, the track loses height via several bends to reach another fork (cistern nearby), where you turn right. (Left would take you to Kamaria and up to Rodovani). And 250m further on, at the second track junction, it’s decision time.

The non-adventurous will turn left here, climbing to meet the road at Agios Christos, and following this (right) to Moni village. If the 5 km down to Sougia doesn’t appeal, then after a drink in Michaelis & Monica’s taverna, call Giorgos (Falagaris) 30-6972370480 for a taxi ride.

For the more direct route, continue ahead, the track narrowing to a path and then a footpath, with two gates to pass through en route, and a fence left. Progress appears to end where the path bends left, and a steep ravine enters from the right; ignore red paint marks disappearing up the latter, and instead go left, where remains of an old stone’kalderimi’ rises through trees to reach open, and rocky ground.



Look out for faded red paint dots, taking you to a more obvious ‘mule trail’ a few metres higher, which would have been the original link between Kamaria and Sougia.

View from path



All straightforward …. for now … as the path winds around the hillside, high above the Kamariano Gorge (see ‘Explore’ – May 2014). “Look well to each step …” as Whymper advised, and look also for intermittent (red) waymarks and stone cairns. And soon, as the path bends to the south, look down left for a clearing in the forest far below you – this is where you’re making for. The Anavasi hiking map (Crete 11.13) shows the path continuing almost into Sougia – it doesn’t, believe me! Probably it once did, but now it’s impossible to locate.

So, when the path rises to a flat spur of thorny bushes and ‘scrub’, with the sea and Gavdos now in sight, swing left (with good, recent red waymarking) to pass a line of wind-bent pine trees, beyond which comes the steep, but mercifully short descent of the ridge, to reach the open area seen earlier.


No “sting in the tail” on this route (although the descent might have qualified), merely a walk alongside the Kamariano brook to the main road, and then, anticipating all that seaside Sougia promises, a further 1.5 km into the village.

Homeward bound aboard the Samaria


Currently, the KTEL mini-bus leaves Paleochora at 1pm daily, through Azogires, and the ferry from Sougia at 6.30pm. Walking time for the route is approx. 3.5 to 4 hrs.

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