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E4 Trail: 05. Metochi Asari to Selakano
by Richard Ellis
at 13.7km (SE)
5th June.- The GPS certainly gave me confidence whenever I came to junctions and occasionally the fairies who put up the E4 signs reassured me as well. If ever there was a “walk of the gods” it is here, as it contours round under Chalasmeni Korfi at over 1,000 metres and becomes steadily greener and more wooded.
Time: 11.5 hrs.
Mov av 4.7 km/hr
Height overnight: 887m.(max 1,100m.)
at 13.9km (SW)
A monument of natural beauty that attract a lot of local and foreign visitors. The gorge of Sarakina (GR: Σαρακίνα) is one of the most beautiful in Crete. Its steep, vertical walls in some parts reach a height up to 250 m. Its widest opening is no more than 15 metres while in some places it’s so narrow that its sides seem to join each other. Its rich flora and fauna, the dittany, the wild birds that nest there, the running water make the route through the gorge a worthwhile experience.
Institute for Aegean Prehistory Study Center for East Crete
at 14.4km (E)
The Institute for Aegean Prehistory Study Center for East Crete (or INSTAP-SCEC) is a unique facility for archaeological research, especially in the area of Aegean Prehistory. The Center is committed to stimulating and facilitating publication in the broader field of Cretan studies, with a focus on archaeology and ethnology.
at 14.8km (SW)
Deep inside the valley of the river Sarantapihos is built the village Mythoi. It is 22 km away from Ierapetra, it is a small village, in a verdurous landscape,with a beautiful square under the shade of age-old planes. It is said that the village took its name from the plant “Minthi”, or mint, which is abundant there.However, it may have been named thus because of its many legends, traditions, and myths (mythoi), the most prevalent one being the Sarantapihos’ one. A mythical giant, forty ells tall, like another Talos or Akritas Digenis, he protected the residents from raids. There are the place names “Tou Sarantapihoui Patounia” (Sarantapihos’ footprint) and “Tou Sarantapihou to Mnima”(Sarantapihos’ grave). There is evidence of ancient habitation at the site “Leniko” where traces of walls can be seen. Also, in an excavation, the head of a woman of the Roman period has been found. At the sites Kastelou Haraki and Orfanou to Spiliari claypots, oil lamps, e.t.c. have been found. The site called Sarakina above Mythoi was a fortress, a hideout of Saracen pirates. The village’s modern history is rich in contributions to the struggles against the conquerors. It nurtured the chieftains Emmanouil Xenikakis, Ioannis Hatzakis, Emmanouil Christakis andothers. During the German Occupation, residents of Mythoi took part in the guerilla corpses of the United Resistance of Captain Bantouvas. In the battle of Symi, one of the most heroic figures was lost, Apostolos Vagionakis, who stood up to the enemy’s bullets for the ideals of our unsubdued Crete. They paid the price of their participation to the struggles during the German Occupation,as 4 persons were executed, including the old and bedridden Nikolaos Ioannou Christakis. The community of Mythoi is today a Local Department of the Municipality of Ierapetra, in 1900 it had 360 Christian residents, in 1951 it had 423 and in 2001it had 287. In the north of Mythoi, around 6 km away, there is the settlementKarydi with the famous Monastery of Panagia (Our Lady) Karydiani and now abandoned summer residences. The mountainous settlement “Minos”, which is situated in a verdurous small plateau below the Afentis peak of the Lasithi mountains, also belongs to the Community of Mythoi.The village Mythoi is a lively village with a rich social and cultural life. It has a cultural association, a football team and field, and a modern olive press. The village’s square with its old plane trees, the mulberry trees, the old fountain,the traditional coffee-houses with the raki and the local dishes, is a place of reference for the residents of Mythoi. The sights, the wild natural landscapes in the north of the village, the famous gorge of Sarakina, a monument of natural beauty, attract a lot of local and foreign visitors. The gorge of Sarakina is one of the most beautiful in Crete. Its steep, vertical sides cause awe, and reach a height of up to 250 m. Its widest opening is no more than 15 m while in some places it’s so narrow that its sides seem joined. Its rich flora and fauna, dittany,the wild birds that nest there and the route inside the gorge are breath-taking. Its promotion is a foremost goal of the Local Department and the Municipality of Ierapetra, of the residents of the village, who head to the future with optimism and anticipation for the development of their place.
Source:The Municipality of Ierapetra.
E4 Trail: 07. Lasithi Plateau to Kasteli
by Richard Ellis
at 15.6km (W)
This was another delightful start to a day’s walking. Rather than tramping round the perimeter which is more or less where the E4 is supposed to go, it is quite possible to take a diagonal line from the south east corner to the north west corner by taking a right, then a left, then a right etc so you end up close to Kato Metochi. This way, you get to see close up the extent of the agricultural activity going on around the plateau in the morning sunshine. You also get to see the newly formed baby frogs – fresh from tadpole status – hopping happily in the sunshine in front of my big boots.
Distance: 23.5 km
Time: 7 hrs.
Mov av 4.7 km/hr
Height overnight: 335m.(max 824m.)
Vassiliki - Archaeological Site
Pahia Ammos, Ierapetra
at 15.8km (SE)
The ancient settlement of Vasilike is one of the first Minoan settlements with town-planning. It occupies the top and slopes of a low hill near the village Vasilike, in the vicinity of the Minoan settlement of Gournia. The first settlement dates back to the Early Minoan II period (2600-2300 B.C.) and owed its development not only to the strategic position, controlling the Isthmus of Hierapetra, but also to the neighbouring fertile plains. The central building of the settlement was destroyed by fire in around 2300 B.C.
Lassithi, Dikti Mountains
at 16.3km (W)
The Lassithi Plateau (GR: Οροπέδιο Λασιθίου, Oropedio Lasithiou), is a high endorheic plateau, located in eastern Crete, Greece on the mountain range of Dikti at an average altitude of 840 m, and in a distance of around 55km from Heraklion and 50km from Agios Nikolaos. The plateau is elliptical in shape with an E-W axis of 11km and the N-S of 7km.
The plateau of Lassithi is renowned for its exceptional agricultural produce, the thousands (almost 15000) windmills that used to be there in the past, its significant historical role and for the unique cave of Psychro also known as "Diktaion Andron".
at 16.5km (SW)
Mournies (GR: Μουρνιές - meaning: mulberry trees) is a village of the western Ierapetra. It is located north of Myrtos, and 25 kilometers away from Ierapetra at 275m (elevation), built on the southeastern outskirts of the Lasithi mountains, with beautiful views of the Libyan Sea and the plains of Ierapetra. It has a mild climate, without extremes, ideal both for permanent residence and for holidays. The landscape is hilly plenty of olive trees. In the 2001 census it had 83 residents.
Mournies is a beautiful, historic, picturesque and traditional village with cafes, a square with a war memorial, an old fountain, and narrow streets branching off the main street of the village. Mournies was named after the Mulberry tree which however is not abundant in the area.
at 17km (SW)
A small village built at an altitude of 540 m in the south parts of the mountain Dikti at the borders of the province of Ierapetra-Viannos. The imposing mountains above the village, the south horizon among the olive-covered hills and in the lower villages, the cool climate create in you a sensation of bodily and spiritual well-being at this balcony of the Cretan nature. Five settlements, two of them uninhabited today, constituted the Community of Riza, now a Local Department of the Municipality of Ierapetra.
Elounda, Mirabello bay, Lassithi
at 17.4km (NE)
The island of Spinalonga (Gr: Σπιναλόγκα), officially known as Kalydon (Καλυδών), is located in the Gulf of Elounda in north-eastern Crete, in Lasithi prefecture, next to the town of Elounda. The official Greek name of the island today is Kalydon. Originally, Spinalonga was not an island, it was part of the island of Crete. During Venetian occupation the island was carved out of the coast for defense purposes and a fort was built there. A popular name for the island since Venetian rule is Spinalonga. During Venetian rule, salt was harvested from salt pans around the island. The island has also been used as a leper colony. Spinalonga has appeared in novels, television series, and a short film.
at 17.4km (NW)
Near the beautiful village of Vrahasi there is the imposing gorge of Selinari, formed by the mountain of Anavlohos (625 m) to the north and the mountain Fonias o Detis (818 m) to the south. The symbol of Crete, the Cretan wild goat (Agrimi or kri-kri) and the Griffon Vulture are two rare species that used to reside in the gorge. The authorities in Vrahasi intend to establish a center of protection of the local fauna and flora at the gorge of Selinari and to develop a wildlife station, to provide observation of the Griffon Vulture colony at the east side of the gorge of Selinari. The hunting is forbidden in an area covering 10 sq.km. around the gorge.
at 17.5km (NW)
At the side of the gorge of Selinari, at the 42 km. of the national road Iraklion - Agios Nikolaos is the small old chapel and the newly founded monastery of Agios Georgios Selinaris. In the monastery there is also a home for the aged founded in 1963. The small chapel was probably founded early in the 16th century AD, and ever since it is a place of worshiping. The people passing through the chapel stop to light a candle to the saint. The chapel is considered miraculous, there are various legends concerning miracles related either with healing of sick people or with divine punishment of people that did not pay the respect due to the saint.
at 17.8km (SE)
Ierápetra (GR: Ιεράπετρα), the southernmost town of Crete, combines a brilliant past with a present of economic growth and extension. The temperature seldom falls below 12°C, and the mean annual temperature is 20°C, also it is the sunniest and hottest region of Greece. It has a long sandy beach and clean blue sea, a picturesque port with the castle "Kales", an archaeological Museum, and many more attractions. Visitors will find a wide range of accommodation facilities and lots of interesting things to do and see in the town and the wider area as well.
at 17.8km (SW)
A stately village built in settlements, 22 km away from Ierapetra, at an altitudeof 225 m, next to the Ierapetra-Vianos provincial road. A green landscape,overgrown with olive trees, with an unlimited view of the Libyan Sea, to thesurrounding areas Koleitos, Kakon Oros, to the beaches Vatos and Kallikovrechtis.An almost abandoned village, with old houses built of stone, with chiseled doorframes and coats of arms bearing the Christian cross and proving its old gloryand history.Giannis Dimitromanolakis, an author from Gdohia, writes:“Gdohia sprouted right opposite the beach of the Libyan Sea. Nothing wouldhave been better for the pirates, who, like diabolical ghosts, emerged into thenight to kill and prey. The village’s history is dipped in blood, as it often sufferedfrom the raids of the pirates from the Barbary Coast. It took the name Gdohiafrom the catastrophes, from the verb “gdyno”, to skin, to set fire, to devastate.”Gdohia’s course in time has evidence of struggles, sacrifices and holocausts toshow. It was not only exposed to the pirates but it was situated on the naturalsouth passage going from the Viannos area to the Ierapetra area. This meantthat the hordes of barbarous conquerors burnt and devastated it, along withthe other Symiana villages, as they are called, in the West Ierapetra.Gdohia’s settlements are built leaving a distance between each other: KatoGdohia or Pitropiana, taking their name from the Epitropakis family livingthere, Pefkiana or Grysboliana, from the Grysbolakis family, Dimitromanolianafrom the Dimitromanolakis family, Daskaliana from the Daskalakis family,Papadiana from the Papadakis family. Great stonecutters, stoneworkers,famous for their art, Gdohia’s residents built the mansions of the whole areaand the famous bridge of Myrtos using stones from the quarries of Kolleitos.The miraculous church of Panagia (Our Lady) Evaggelistria of Gdohia, a workof art and a great ecclesiastical monument is also built by Gdohia’s residents.Gdohia village, once the seat of a Community, today a Local Department ofthe Municipality of Ierapetra, presents an exceptional sight-seeing interest. Itprovides natural landscapes, beautiful beaches, picturesque little churches onthe hills, a spacious square with palm trees, seats and a war memorial forthe fallen fighters of the liberation wars. In the 1881 census, 296 residents areregistered and 73 in 2001. Gdohia’s permanent residents, along with someforeigners’ families who have bought and renovated old houses, struggle forthe village’s development which gradually acquires the necessary infrastructures.A village with rich history and civilization, with vast olive groves, a nicemild climate, both during summer and winter, it hopes to come back to life.The old mansions, half-wrecked and burned in the German Occupation, standas if they were sculptures, a painting with the deep blue Libyan Sea serving asa background, narrate the flourishing, the glory and the history of Gdohia andwait to be inhabited again.
at 18km (S)
Myrtos (GR: Μύρτος) is situated 15km to the west of Ierapetra, at the estuaries of the river Sarantapihos, in a valley with olive and orange trees. It is a beautiful village built by the sea, with a beach street lined with taverns and cafe bars.
In a short distance from Myrtos on a low hill lies the archaeological site of "Pyrgos" with the ruins of a villa from the post minoan period and a little further at "Fournou Koryfi" lie the ruins of a proto minoan settlement.
Myrtos features a small archaeological museum with exhibits mostly from the area, an initiative of a local teacher.
Myrtos is a popular tourist destination, with nice small hotels, picturesque taverns and kafeneions, a lovely sandy beach and hospitable people.
Ierápetra Archaeological Museum
Ierapetra town, South Lassithi
at 18.2km (SE)
The museum was founded at the end of the 19th century, during the Turkish occupation of Crete and was housed in several buildings in the past. Today it is housed in the building of the Commercial Ottoman School, which is protected by a preservation order. The collection includes findings from the broader area and from the Minoan to the Roman period. Among the items are painted sarcophagi, lamps, vases, figurines, relief plaques. One of the most important exhibits of the museum is the Clay sarcophagus dated to 1450-1400 B.C.
Ierapetra town, South Lassithi
at 18.6km (SE)
The fort, built by the Venetians and Known to Ierapetrans as the "Kalés" (GR: Καλές), has been erected on the top of the southernmost mole of the ancient harbour. It is one of those monuments of the past which, because of its solid construction and the fact that it was still garrisoned until the latest years of the last century, still exists today to serve as a reminder of some of the nation's most difficult times.
Windmills of Lasithi
Seli Ampelou, Lassithi Plateau
at 18.8km (W)
It is the most significant group of windmills preserved on Crete. It occupies the northern entrance to the Lasithi plateau and is the landmark of the whole area. Today 24 windmills are preserved (out of the original 26), 7 of which extend to the south of the road that enters the plateau while the rest are built to the north of it. All the mills belong to the one-sided type of windmill, that grinds in a standard position, always on the same direction of the wind. Windmills of this type are preserved on Crete and on Carpathos but the Cretan ones are generally more carefully built and more elegant. The group of windmills has been declared a work of art since 1986. The mills belong to individuals and some of them have been restored while others still remain half-ruined.
Source: The Hellenic Ministry of Culture
Diktaian Cave (Dikteon Antron)
Psychro, Lassithi Plateau
at 18.9km (W)
The cave of Psychro is one of the most important cult places of Minoan Crete. The excavators and several scholars identify the cave as the famous "Diktaian Cave", where Zeus was born and brought up with the aid of Amaltheia and the Kouretes, and which is connected with myths as this of the seer Epimenides who "slept" here, or the coupling of Zeus with Europa.
at 18.9km (NW)
Krassi is a small village 47 Km's from Iraklion and 17 km from Malia at an altitude of 600 m.asl, on the way to Lassithi plateau, and is administratively part of the Municipality of Malia. The village is one of the prettiest in Crete, with a lot of springs. Due to the free running water , it is covered with walnut trees, plane trees and all kinds of vegetation. Next to the spring in the middle of the village is one of the oldest and biggest plane trees in Crete (its root has a circumference of 22 meters!).
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