As the road drops down into Kakopetros, on the way over to Chania, there’s a small roadside cafenio – To Paradosiako, meaning ‘Traditional’ – where I’ve often stopped to stretch my legs on the drive home, although more often than not it’s closed these days. If it is open, there’s a spectacular view down into the gorge below, through which runs a little-used path, and a way on to the remote and rarely visited village of Zymbragou.
Many years ago, Lynne and I were sitting here with lemonades, wondering how we could find a way into the gorge. Which we eventually did, although it took us four attempts. After the third ended (as did the previous two) in steep terrain, undergrowth and wire fencing, I was ready to give up and drive home. “One last try,” persisted Lynne, and we found a delightful route down into the valley, a path alongside the stream, then through the narrow ravine and into more open country to reach Zymbragou. And after repeating the walk earlier this summer, here’s the way.
There’s space to park by the ‘cafe’, or you could take the midday bus from Paleochora, which will drop you here around 45 minutes later. Walk on downhill, passing the site of yet another atrocity committed during the Nazi occupation, to turn left (at a bus shelter) signed to Ag. Giorgos.
Follow this road past a community building, below the church, and just when you’re heading easily towards the gorge, take a turn RIGHT, and when this track in turn heads towards the gorge, turn RIGHT AGAIN, in the opposite direction. Don’t panic, all will be well …
With luck and care, you’ll arrive at residencies where you turn sharp left, and almost immediately right, down to cross the river, if flowing. Now all is relatively straightforward, the track keeping to the valley floor, passing citrus trees, and leading to the first of several wire ‘gates’. These may appear barriers, but this is a well-used although sometimes overgrown ‘hunters’ path’, as manifested by the numerous spent rifle cartridges, and all the gates WILL open, and please close them all behind you.
Initially the narrow path keeps close above the ravine, winding through tall Jerusalem sage and other foliage. If doubts arise, keep faith, as did Lynne all those years ago. Leaving the river, and through more gates, the path soon becomes more distinct and wider, eventually becoming a clear track and easy walking. Always heading north, and downhill, pass below some sheds/greenhouses, and then turn RIGHT. After an inland ‘loop’, the track heads again towards the river, which you cross by a bridge. Now on the left bank, walk easily up, passing more orange trees, to join the main road, and turn left for a short stroll into Zymbragou.
Surprisingly for a large village, there is no cafenio in Zymbragou, but a spring of fresh water next to the heroes’ memorial will be welcome. There are options from here : first, and easiest, is to join friends who have kindly driven here to meet you. Second, without walking into the village, take the road (4km) up to Dromonero and wait for the KTEL bus back to Paleochora.
And thirdly, making it a ’round trip’, walk back to Kakopetros and the cafe. There is little to explore in Zymbragou ; the village main church – Panagia – and cemetery hardly merit the effort, although the view compensates. So walk on south out of the ‘platea’, and soon pass below the smaller church of Agia Marina, with a visit well worth the short climb.
Level at first, with views across the valley towards the gorge passed through earlier, the road soon snakes up (but without ladders ..) to reach the colourful church of Agia Pareskevi, and its ruined predecessor nearby. Left from here, onwards and upwards, always on the well-used road, to eventually join with the route to Deliana, where you turn left.
This later becomes surfaced, and the 2km walk along the ridge offers landscapes to both sides. To the left, the north coast and glimpses of the White Mountains. Directly below right is the Kalami Gorge, with the Mesavlia/Deliana Gorge a short distance away. Most impressive, from here at over 500m, is the panorama towards Kissamos Bay, framed by the two peninsulae of Rodopou and Gramvousa.
On reaching the main road at Selli (meaning ‘pass’) walk left for just 400m to the starting point, where the ‘cafe’ may be open and waiting for you ….. but don’t bank on it.