It’s debatable whether summer or winter is the best time to see waterfalls. In summer, if there’s a shady pool below a fall, it’s invigorating and revitalising to swim up under the cascade, then float back downstream. Winter, especially after heavy rain, makes falls more impressive, although the water, often augmented by snow-melt, will be icy cold.
Four rivers (‘potami’) reach the sea close to Paleochora ; the Pelakaniotikos to the west at Koundoura, and another three – Kakodikianos, Azoghirianos and Dhichalomata – east of our town. All contain waterfalls, although after May several are non-existent as the rivers dry up.
The Dhichalomata has two tributaries, one source under Platanes, the other below Prodromi, which meet below Anidri, then it heads south through the Anidri Gorge to the sea at Ianniscari.
Only in winter, and then after heavy rain, is there any possibility of water in the gorge. There are three falls, including the famous “water-slide”, which in January 2015, when I walked up the gorge after several days of torrential rain, and when these photos were taken, was in spate, and impassable. Climbing above to the right, and passing two more falls rarely seen with water, I managed to reach Anidri with feet only slightly wet.
The Pelakaniotikos is the longest river in our area, from which derived the region’s name of Pelakanos (after re-organisation in 2011 this became Kantanos/Selinou.) Its source is high on the slopes of Ag. Dikaios, 1181m, above Moustakos, then water joins from the Baouli gorge, below Archondiko. Water flows year-round, certainly until Voutas and through the narrow ravine below the village, at the end of which is a series of small pools and cascades, perfect for passing an hour or two on a summer’s afternoon.
Most of Paleochora’s water supply comes from the Kakodikianos river, with a huge catchment area in the hills above Kandanos. One branch originates below Spina, the other beyond Aligi, meeting near Plemeniana and from there flowing 12 km to the sea. I’ve described the section between Mahia and Kalamos before (see ‘Explore’ – August 2012 & August 2013) when we reached the waterfall below Vlithias. The pool below the 3m fall is deep even in mid-summer, and to swim directly under the force is exhilarating. With no path to the waterfall, an expedition is necessary either downstream (or upstream, better) from tracks below Vlithias.
That’s what my family did last August, my grandsons Isaac and Theo forging a way between bamboo and oleanders, often waist-deep in water, to reach the fall, and a picnic lunch.
An hour later we returned the same way, pausing at an even deeper pool en route. Son Christian, well over six feet tall, leapt in ….. and completely disappeared, much to the consternation of his two boys, and much relief when he re-surfaced moments later.
The most visited local waterfall is that close to the road above Azogires, a lovely sylvan spot maintained by Eftichis (‘Lucky’) from the Alfa cafe.
The fall, rear of the pool, is only a metre or so high, but it’s a lovely setting, and has a legend. Come here after midnight, and there are ‘nereids’ or water-nymphs bathing, but beware – look at them and they will take your sight, talk to them and they will take your voice, stay with them and they will take your soul …..
Walk down a path to the old Venetian-style stone bridge, to view several other small cascades and pools.
On the same Azoghirianos river, far higher up the valley, is the most spectacular waterfall in our area, possibly in SW Crete. It’s well over 6m high, plunging into a dark abyss surrounded by rocks and holly-oak trees ; in spate, this is a splendid sight – “the wild cataract leaps in glory.”
But ….. I’m keeping its location a secret ; suffice to say that it’s in a deep ravine below Stratoi village, is very rarely visited, and probably dries out in the summer. As a clue, there are ruins of an old watermill nearby.
Although not on the same scale as Niagara, Victoria and Angel Falls, Paleochora’s waterfalls have their own charm and appeal – both in winter and in summer – go and enjoy them.
The beautiful old stone bridge over the River Kakodikianos below Mahia collapsed in mid-January, after storms and possibly a minor earthquake, and seems beyond repair. ‘Explore !’ in May 2017 – “A Short Walk from Kakodiki” – crossed the bridge, which is also decribed in “Ten Walks from Paleohora” and in the “Explore !” collection of walks. A real tragedy.