The Cyclamen Gorge

Hard to believe, but there’s an impressive and challenging gorge on the outskirts of Chania, only 7 km and a fifteen minute drive from the city centre.  It’s called the Cyclamen, or Agios Georgios Gorge, and forms the first kilometre of a circular and waymarked  route which takes around 2.5 hours.

So where is this hidden gem, and how do you get there ?  Travel from Chania to Mournies (or leave the National Road at the exit there), and continue further south, out of Mournies to Vantes.  Through the village for 300m to the gorge entrance, marked with an Information Board.

At the outset, be advised that this is not an easy route.  Red triangles warn of steep slopes, dangerous falling rocks, and crossing seasonal torrents.  And in six places, chains have been bolted to the rocks as ‘handrails’ to assist progress in possible slippery conditions and dangerous locations.

After the roadside ‘gate’, the route begins rather inauspiciously to the left of a concrete water cistern, but then becomes more interesting.  Follow the waymarking closely, and if you lose it, retrace steps to relocate.  Soon, after passing below huge boulders, and crossing the streambed, comes the first rock step, and chains.  If you find this intimidating, turn back – for  worse is to come.  Undeterred, head onwards and upwards, crossing and re-crossing the stream, with assistance from the chains where necessary, and one exposed traverse in particular would be difficult without them.

All too soon (for some …) the gradient eases to a level path between plane trees, crosses the riverbed a final time, and begins the climb towards Agios Georgios. 

It’s only 150m height gain, but seems more ; now a track, below impressive caves, and still waymarked, zig-zags up the hillside, and through a ‘gate’ to meet a forest road.  From here there’s a view to the fringes of the White Mountains, and it’s hard to believe that Chania harbour is exactly 7 km away …..

Easier now, follow the track up into the village, where are the ruins of a fort/kastello, probably Ottoman, and a large unimpressive church, always closed on our visits. 

The descent requires careful watching for the waymarking ; after just 100m on the surfaced road north from the church, branch left on a track which soon becomes a stony path alongside a fence, where in December we found several bunches of cyclamen flowers (although none in the gorge.)

Careful navigating will take you the top of a spur, and a ‘kalderimi’ heading downhill in a series of zig-zags.

Across the valley is what we thought an ‘eyesore’ in the landscape, but later research informed that it’s the ABEA Factory, the oldest olive oil processing plant in Greece, founded in 1889, and moving here to Agrokipio from Chania in 1994.  Producing soaps and oils, with a large employment, turn “a blind eye” to what might otherwise be an intrusion into the scenery.

On reaching the road, turn right for just 200m to complete the circuit, a fine expedition.  And in no time at all, you could be relaxing beside Chania’s Venetian Harbour …..

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