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E4 Trail: 19. Trail: Kallerghi to Kandanos
by Richard Ellis
at 22.7km (S)
1st September - The last two days of the walk were rather low key after the drama of the White Mountains. I left Kallerghi at 0800 after a proper Austrian mountain breakfast served up by my new Bulgarian friend Daniel. It is about an hour down the dirt road to the Omalos plateau and half way down I realised I had left my beloved katsouna (shepherd's crook) at the hut. I couldn't bear the prospect of going all the way back up so I rang Joseph to say that I would collect it the following week. I have learnt that it is now forbidden to cut sticks from the wood of the rare ambelitsia tree so mine is now a museum piece (with the distinction of having walked 450 kms across Crete).
Distance: 28.4 km
Time: 8 hrs. 20 mins.
Mov av 4.2 km/hr
White Mountains, Hania
at 22.8km (SW)
The famous - mainly due to the gorge of Samaria- plateau of Omalos (GR: Ομαλός) is surrounded by the high crowns of the Lefka Ori (White Mountains) at 1,040 to 1,250 meters and is just 38 km from the town of Chania. It extends to the counties of Sfakia, Selino and Kydonia in the prefecture of Hania. Its shape is nearly rectangular with a perimeter of about 25kms and a diameter of approximately 4 kms. It can be reached by car from the north (Neratzoporo) and from the south (Agios Theodoros).
at 23.5km (SE)
The community of Kefalas (GR:Κεφαλάς) is situated in Apokoronas, Hania, approximately 4 km to the east of Vamos. During the Venetian occupation higher and lower Kefalas were classed as two separate villages, however, today they have become one. It is a large village built in an outstanding position facing the sea with architecture dominated by the influence of the early and late years of the Turkish occupation. This influence is well preserved despite the existence of other architectural styles.
The church of Timios Stavros (16th century) is the oldest building of the village while the more recent churches of Panagia, Agios Antonios, and Michael the archangel, works of the reputed Kefalas craftsmen, are examples of folk architecture of the 19th century.
A further example of the work of the same craftsmen is the Public School of Kefalas, which in accordance with the decision of the county council of Hania will house the Environmental Educational Centre of the prefecture, a foundation that will play a definitive role in the development of the municipality of Vamos. Other interesting communities are Paleloni and Drapanos in the direction of Kokino Horio.
The road from Paleloni leads to Embrosgialo, a relatively easily accessible place, along the steep coastline, which extends to Georgioupoli.
Sfakia, South Hania
at 24.1km (S)
The Samaria Gorge is one of the longest ravines in Europe (with a total length of 16 km) and offers one of the most spectacular hiking routes in Europe. Its width ranges from 150 m (widest part) to 3 m (narrowest part). The walk from Xyloskalo in the plateau of Omalos to the shores of Libyan sea at Agia Roumeli, takes 6 to 8 hours. The Samaria Gorge has been designated as a national park in order to protect its flora and fauna. It is one of the last shelters of the mountain goat of Crete (Cretan Ibex, common name : kri-kri). The flora is extensive, ranging from high cypress trees to flowers and herbs. The walking path follows the river which flows to small lakes and waterfalls.
The Gorge is open to visitors from May to October.
at 24.5km (S)
Xylóskalo (Ksyloskalo GR: Ξυλόσκαλο) is the point where the Samarian gorge starts. It is located on the Lefka Ori (White Mountains) in the plateau of Omalos, 43 km from the city of Hania at 1250m above sea level. It is also the entrance to the gorge. There are two tourist lodges where visitors can rest and have food or coffee and take panoramic pictures of the gorge and the White Mountains. There is also the information center of the National Park and a parking area.
Xyloskalo means the "wooden stair" and refers to a wooden staircase built by the locals in order to facilitate the entrance to the gorge as at this point the cliffs are very steep. Today this part of the path is made of stones and it has a wooden handrail.
About 1km before Xyloskalo a dirt road leads, after 5 km, to the Kallergis mountain lodge at 1680m a.s.l.
Samaria National Park
at 25.3km (S)
The deserted village of Samariá (GR: Σαμαριά) is located in the middle of the gorge of Samaria, 7.5 km away from Xyloskalo and 8.5km fro Agia Roumeli. This is the main resting point for the gorge walkers coming down from Omalos. There is a fountain with fresh drinkable water from the spring, benches and some tables, in the shade of tall plane trees where the visitors can relax and have some food (Only if they carry it with them).
The village of Samaria was abandoned in 1962, when the area declared a National Park. The main occupations of its inhabitants were the wood cutting and bee keeping. Opposite the village are the old olive trees cultivated mainly for the residents' own consumption.
Some of the village' s ruined housed are restored and are used today by the gorge authorities. One houses the guards' post, another the doctor's office and a third - the old olive mill - houses the information kiosk of the park where the visitors can view old pictures and folk art exhibits.
Kri - kris (the Cetan Ibex) make their appearance here from time to time especially the young ones which are less shy.
At the village's edge lies the byzantine church of "Osia Maria of Egypt" (Osia = Saint). The name Samaria is believed that is a corruption of the words "Osia Maria" or "Santa Maria".
A little before the village (coming from Xyloskalo) in a small clearing lies the small church of Agios Geórgios.
Kri-Kri or Agrimi
Cretan Ibex, Lefka Ori, Hania
at 25.4km (S)
Kri-Kri is the common name of the Cretan feral goat (Capra aegagrus ssp. cretica) which is the largest wild mammal on the island. Its grandeur, its bravery, its ability to observe without being noticed, its speed and its impressive horns are the features that were loved by the locals and made it a symbol of Crete and the untamed Cretan spirit. It lives mainly on the White Mountains and its local name is "Agrimi" (GR: Αγρίμι = the wild one) for the male and "Sanada" (GR: Σανάδα) for the female. Recent years, young kri-kris have approached the old village of Samaria, where they are fed by the park rangers and can be seen by the visitors. Kri-kris and goats are close genetically, as the hybridization that exists between them show. Kri-kri's size however is a good deal larger than that of a goat
Kri-kris have a strong sexual dimorphism. Males are larger than females. They all have horns, with annual rings and knobs, from which their age can be easily calculated. Males have larger horns than females (up to 90 cm), which curve backwards. An other characteristic of the males is the beard, which rarely occurs in females. Their coat is short and brown in summer and brownish and denser in winter. They have a black line on the back, which extends from the neck to the top of the tail while at its shoulders the line intersects with another one that reaches the stomach. There are also black patterns on the front parts of their legs.
There are numerous representations of Kri-kris on ancient sealstones, vases and coins, indicating the esteem in which they were held by the people of antiquity.
Phototograph by Anastassios Sakoulis - www.photophysis.gr
at 27.8km (SE)
Georgioupolis lies at the northern coast of Crete, about 35km away from Hania and 20 km from Rethimno. It is a nice coastal village situated at the bay of Almiros, in a lovely green scenery. It has a sandy beach and attracts quite a few visitors in the summer time. It provides all the necessary facilities to the tourists.
E4 Trail: 16. Trail: A rest day in Askyfou
by Richard Ellis
at 28.5km (SE)
29th August - Nicholas Crane, at the beginning of his huge walk across the watershed of Europe, writes that Julius Caesar and his Roman Army probably had it right when they walked for three days and rested for one. He ignored the advice (to his regret) and so did I in Part One, but now I had learnt my lesson. So for my rest day, I went for a little 7 km walk around the Askyfou plateau (without a pack) and found my way up to the Turkish fort which dominates the skyline there.
E4 Trail: 17. Trail: Tavri to Katsiveli
by Richard Ellis
at 28.5km (SE)
30th August - The day dawned with a cloudless blue sky. I was lucky. The route starts with a gentle two km warm up across the Niato plateau before turning more vicious. The next phase is a very steep 700 meter climb up the north east ridge of Kastro. One of the pluses is that you are doing this in the relative cool of the morning - one of the minuses is that you will probably be carrying something like five litres of water.
Distance: 17.0 km
Time: 10 hrs. 5mins.
Mov av 2.5 km/hr
Height overnight: 1,913m.
Max. height: 2,060m.
Sfakia, White Mountains
at 28.8km (SE)
It is located at an altitude of 750 m, 50 km SE from the city of Hania and 20 km from the village of Vryses. Its population is approximately 500 people. The small villages that constitute the community of Askifou are Kares, Ammoudari, Goni and Petres. The most touristic organised of them is Ammoudari with restaurants, gas station, and some rooms for rent.
Samaria National Park
at 29.1km (S)
Pórtes (GR: Πόρτες - Gates) or Sideróportes (Iron Gates) is maybe the most striking point of the canyon. Here the canyon walls rise nearly 300 meters while the width is only 3.5 m. At this point the water runs almost all year round. The stratified limestone, the dominant rock of the canyon, forms specific geological formations, showing all the geological history of the canyon in the eyes of connoisseurs. Portes are 11 km away from the entrance of the Samarian gorge at Xylóskalo and 4km from the beach at Agia Roumeli.
at 30.3km (SW)
A small village 21km away from Kastelli Kissamou,at 340 m. a.s.l with 57 permanent residents. The village is mentioned by Fr. Barozzi since 1577. A little before the village of Sassalos, starts the gorge of Salasse, a small one which leads to Tyflos river, and is worthy to walk.
at 30.7km (SE)
Crete's only freshwater lake, Lake Kournás (GR: Λίμνη Κουρνά), is relatively large, with a perimeter of 3.5 km. Although almost all touristic leaflets say that it is possible to walk around the lake, that is not true. At least not at the end of the rain season (winter). There is a nature preserve on the Southwest of the lake. But there is a rustic road from the North of the lake to the Hills on the West of the lake too.
at 31.5km (W)
Α principal village located at 280m a.sl., on the main road to the southern coast, 47km from Hania and 22km from Kastelli with 370 inhabitants. There are a post Office and police station, workshops, olive press, wheat mill etc. The village lies at the entrance of the gorge of Topolia and 27 km away is the monastery of Chrissoskalitissa.
The gorge is lush with plane-trees, wild olive trees, flowers, and bushes. Its walls are 300m high, and the width in some cases is 5m only. Through the gorge flows the river Tiflos.
A little after the village, there is a well maintained footpath on the mountain side which reaches the Agia Sophia Cave at 285m a.s.l. The cave is of great scientific interest, has a diameter of 70m and it is 20m high. There are marvelous stalagmites and stalactites of various shapes.
At the left end there is a small church with an icon that, as tradition says, came from Constantinople, and has been wedged in a rock. In the cave were discovered many finds from neolithic era.
Two patron feasts are taking place there each year: One on Tuesday after Easter and a second on December 24, when the birth of Jesus is represented.
Agia Rouméli village - Tarra
Sfakia, South Hania
at 32km (S)
Agia Rouméli (GR: Αγία Ρουμέλη)is a small fishing village, approximately two kms from the ending of Samaria Gorge. It is accessible only by boat from Paleohora, and from Hora Sfakion. It serves mainly as a stopover for visitors coming down the Samaria Gorge, and waiting for the boat to take them to Sfakia or Paleohora. However those who decide to stay for a couple of days or more will find apart from the unique scenery, a great beach with crystal clear water, plenty of interesting walks and a good choice of accommodations, taverns, cafés and stores.
The place is also rich in history as it was inhabited since the antiquity. It is the site of the ancient city of Tárra (GR: Τάρρα), a famous cult place, that flourished from the Classical to the Roman times.
Imbros village and gorge
Sfakia, South Hania
at 32.1km (SE)
The ravine begins from the last houses of the village of Imbros and 8 km after it ends at the village of Komitades. Its crossing is smooth and entails no danger...
Elyros, Ancient city
at 32.2km (SW)
Elyros ("Έλυρος" in Greek) is an ancient city, located in southwest Crete, in Kefala Hill, near the village Rodovani and is presently unexcavated. Elyros was flourishing at least as early as the Greek Classical Period, e.g. 500 to 350 BC. In the Classical Period Elyros was the most important ancient city in southwestern Crete, having about 16,000 inhabitants. It was an industrial and commercial city with large weapons production. Syia and Lissos were its harbours. Apollo, Phylakides and Philandros, sons of Apollo and nymph Akakallida, were worshiped there. In the third century BC Elyros was at war with Kydonia, an important center of Cretan power, located in the modern city of Chania. The citizens of Elyros sent to the Delphi Oracle, a bronze votive complex that represents a goat feeding the sons of Apollo when they were infants. It is also one of the thirty cities that signed the decree with Eumenes B’ in 183 BC.Elyros was also important during Roman times. A Roman statue, the Philosopher of Elyros was recovered here and is now in the Archaeological Museum of Chania. During Byzantine times, Elyros was the seat of an Archbishop and the remains of the bishopric church, a sixth century basilica, can still be seen in the centre of the old city. Robert Pashley was the first who identified the location of the city, near village Rodovani. Thenon studied more carefully the ruins of the city and discovered the inscription that says: “it seemed to the city of the Elyrians”.
The output of its mint consists of silver drachms from the 3rd c. BC, which depict a wild goat and a bee; in addition to their function as religious symbols, these undoubtedly hint at the stock-raising activities in the region, particularly to this kind of wild goat, which can still be found in great numbers on the island. The bee also has reference to the abundant honey-production of Crete.
Ágios Pávlos beach
Sfakia, South Hania
at 32.4km (S)
Ágios Pávlos (GR: Άγιος Παύλος)is a beach on the shores of Sfakiá between Agia Rouméli and Loutró. The pine trees from the high cliffs above almost reach the sea and form a unique landscape. The beach is sandy with pebbles with no facilities except for a small tavern. It can be reached only on foot ( about 1 hour walk from Agia Roumeli) or by boat. The picturesque small church of Agios Pavlos (Saint Paul) a byzantine basilica of the 10th century A.D. with frescoes, lies just a few meters from the sea. It is built with stones from the beach itself on the spot where Saint Paul reportedly baptised people on his way to Rome.
E4 Trail: 20. Trail: Kandanos to Chrisoskalitissa
by Richard Ellis
at 32.5km (SW)
2nd September - I was up and away from Kandanos by 0650 with the intention of meeting Susa at Elos, spending the night there and dropping down to the west coast next morning. However, it is good to be flexible. The verges of the road to Elos were full of "mellow fruitfulness" - I enjoyed handfuls of blackberries and a couple of the sweetest figs I have ever tasted. The sweet chestnuts were looking good for later, but as all over Crete the grapes had been badly spoiled by a very cold wet Spring.
Distance: 32.3 km
Time: 7 hrs.
Mov av 5.3 km/hr
Height: Sea level.
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