APOKORONAS

 
 

KALYVES

 

Situated 20 kilometres from Hania, Kalyves is a working village, located close to the coastline on one side and on the other by hills. Kalyves is the Greek word for 'huts' and is exactly the opposite of what the name suggests. This beautiful and quaint village is full of Cretan character, with old stone houses that blend in among the more modern developments of holiday apartments. The river Xydes runs through the village giving it a character all of its own along with a refreshing atmosphere. The river has lots of trout however, fishing is prohibited! With two other rivers the Mesopotamos and Kiliaris running through the village they provided running water even in the summer creating a perfect environment for successful growing of crops. 

  

East of the river Kilaris is the artificial river of Mesopotamos, used to give energy to the larger and most complicated Venetian watermill, dating back to the end of the Venetian period. The mill has four domes each serving as water exits.  In the south part of the mill are four wells, called 'voutsia' from these flowed the waters of the river Mesopotamos, moving the arms of the mill . The building where the mill's mechanism was located is also domed, built in stone and 'kourasani' (a plaster, famous for its resistance).  In 1928 the Electricity Company of Kalyves used in the domed building of the mill, providing electricity to Kalyves and Kalami. In December 1960 the main suppliers electricity (DEI) provided electricity to the village and the Electricity Company of Kalyves was closed. The flour mill continued to work until 1976 whilst the olive oil-press continued to carry on until 1986.

Hence the name given the village as the area was once full of small farmers huts made from the bamboo growing at the rivers edge at Kalami. This spared them from daily commuting from their homes. Due to its position it played an important role in the 1821 National Revolution and the Cretan Revolution which took place later in the century. In 1770 it was occupied by the Turks who used it as a base to advance into the mountains and in 1821 Kalyves became the Turkish regional headquarters for the Apokoronas area. Power was generated by water for mills to grind grain and produce olive oil until after World War ll , it was also the first village to be provided with electricity which inevitably replaced water power. On the hill east of the town, are the remains of the fortified settlement 'Castello Apicorono', identified by some academics as the site of the ancient 'Ippokoronion', which is thought to have given the Apokoronas region its name built in 1206, in order to effectively fight invading enemies, it also served as a refuge for the Venetians in case of external threat.  In classical and Byzantine times, Kalyves bay is the likely site of Kissamos, one of the ancient citadel of Aptera's two harbours. This is also believed to have been where the Arab conquerors landed their troops in 826 A.D. The Apokoronas province used to be an administrative district during the 2nd Byzantine period and was called 'Psyros' until the 14th century.  In 1538, the fortress is taken and destroyed by the Turkish admiral Barbarossa. 

Because of the areas fertile ground and its geographical location, Kalyves played an important role during the 1821 national revolution also during the Cretan revolution. It was a major transportation centre for the Turkish and revolutionary armies. During 1770 and the Daskaloyiannis revolution, Turkish armies moved to Kalyves and advanced to the mountains of Apokoronas, while in 1821 the region became the headquarter of the Turkish Pasha, who is appointed local ruler of Apokoronas. This is also where the prisoners were incarcerated, tortured and executed.

  

Around the central square are kafenions, tavernas and gyros 'psistaria' grills, and numerous quaint shops. The traditional watermill, which was one of the first used in the area, construed in the early 20th century is opposite the church of 'Ayia Paraskevi' St. Friday. Two local feast days take place here 'panighyri' on the 26th of July and on the feast of 'Ayia Paraskevi', which is the 20th of July in honour of the 'Prophet Ilias' - also seen as the Christian incarnation of the sun god Helios - this celebration takes place in the nearby village of Armeni. Kalyves is built along the main road its blue flag sandy beaches are quiet and protected from the high winds and are well organised, offering accommodation, tavernas, cafés and restaurants serving good food and great views out to sea. There are also excellent facilities for swimming, sunbathing and water sports.

  

Armeni: Is about 15 minutes, by car, from Kalyves, in the middle of an agricultural valley producing olives, potatoes, grapes and local wine. The abundance of water irrigating the entire area has turned Armeni into a huge orchard full of fruit-bearing trees and flowers, with groves of avocado and oranges.   Armeni was first settled after 961 A.D. by Armenians who served in the army of Nikoforos Fokas, who liberated Crete from the Arabs. It has coffee shops, four tavernas and mini-markets and is a charming older village dominated by plane trees in the village square. Most areas of the village offer good views of the White Mountains. A small river flows right through the village so it is very green and cool, even in the summer heat. At the entrance to the village is an interesting watermill, this two storey three roomed mill has four water exits. In one part textiles were manufactured. The village has two large tavernas of good reputation one often a venue for bouzouki evenings, a grill in summer months and a kafenion, as well as a butcher who's reputation is renown and a general store.  The church of Ayios Nikolaos is large and imposing, giving an air of wealth to the village

 

ALMYRIDA

 

Beach lovers will enjoy the nearby classic seaside village of Almyrida, with its waterside tavernas, shops and small water-sports school. This scenic village by the sea and appealing tourist resort is only 22 kilometres from Hania. On the main road just before you arrive at the resort there are ruins of an 6th century Christian basilica church with a mosaic floor in good condition, separated into three all with mosaics, which are both of excellent quality and have been exceptionally well preserved.

  
On Finikas hill above the Basilica (as well as on the small island of Karga) are the remains of a Greek-Roman Town.
In the bay of Almyrida there is a small rocky island named 'Karga' which has ruins of an ancient wall built by the Phoenicians. In Almyrida during 1896 the last battle against the Turkish occupation took place, whilst during the Second World War shelters were built on the islet for local people. Today, however 'Karga' has become an ecological island offering a safe environment for a collection of different species of birds.

  

PLAKA

  

This is a very traditional village, Plaka simply means 'flat place' (also 'tile') in Greek, it is a well maintained area with scenic narrow streets, a very rocky and steep coastline. Administratively it belongs to the Prefecture of Hania and is located 23km away from the city. Plaka is built at an altitude of 70 metres, higher than the coastal village of Almyrida. It retains its traditional identity, which from now on will be protected through checks on new building regulations in order to prevent the alteration of any of the traditional architectural styles. Its permanent inhabitants are no more than around 300 but during the summer months its population increases rapidly with many summer homes having been built here. 
 

The local residents mostly work on their farms, and tend their olive trees, vineyards, and vegetables. They produce fine olive oil, wine and the traditional drink of Crete called 'tsikoudia'. Although today a large part of the population is also involved in tourism, whilst other have made money by selling on parts of their land, as the area has gradually become a mild tourist resort. Others make their income by fishing or stockbreeding. In 1960 a fierce tornado nearly destroyed the village.
 

From the west, the village has a fantastic view of Souda Bay (the largest natural bay in the Mediterranean), while from the south there is a view of the White Mountains 'Lefka Ori' which are covered with snow throughout the winter months. Northwards the village faces Akrotiri (where the international Hania airport is situated and from the north east it meets with the mountainous area of 'Drapanokefala'. Plaka has the most beautiful sunsets and is a delightful spot for an early morning or evening stroll to take in the magnificent views. 

Many restaurants and traditional coffee shops are open throughout the year in the 'platia' square. Plaka and its neighbouring villages- are also well known because of the Oscar awarded film "Zorbas the Greek" which was filmed around this area, written by Nikos Kazantzakis, directed by Mihalis Kakogiannis, starring Anthony Quinn.

Every summer, at about the end of July a two days traditional feast is organized to honour the memory of the great lyra player Mihalis Papadakis who was born in Plaka. During the feast guests enjoy Cretan dances and can visit the textile and ceramics exhibitions.

Kambia: A little further up the hill from Plaka is a tiny, very traditional settlement with one street and a couple of interesting small lanes, surrounded by well tendered flower gardens and it has a small chapel of Ayios Nikitas, every year a local festival takes place on 15th September to celebrate the Saint’s name day. In the village you will find exhibitions in the studio of of Santorinakis who specialises in painting scenes on glass. 

  
KOKKINO HORIO
  

The 'red village' so called after the blood that was split during the Turkish occupation and is situated 4km inland from Almyrida. Kokkino Horio is considered one of the most scenic areas in the region with fantastic views of the mountains, snow covered in the winter and captivating in the summer. The village has the most astoundingly unobstructed sea views over Souda Bay and the cape of Akrotiri. On clear nights the sunsets are incredibly beautiful, a must for photographers and romantics alike. At the end of the village along the coast of Drapano, is a small cove with a secluded beach and the cave of 'Petsi' or 'Karavotopos'. 

  

Because of its elevated position at the entrance to Souda Bay this made the cave an ideal watch tower and observation point during the Second World War and was used extensively by the Germans as a stronghold in the village they also constructed tunnels 'galaries' to protect the military port of Souda. A cave named 'Katalimata', is also located at the centre of the village, again used during World War ll. From these tunnels and caves it is possible to see right over Souda Bay. 213 caves of great historic and environmental value have been recorded in Apokoronas' coastline up to now. Above Kokkino Horio is the strangely shaped hill called 'Drapanokefala' or 'Calapodha'.  At cape Drapano, is the impressive Elephant Cave its entrance is between 3.5 and 10 metres under water, with a width of about 9 metres, an area 60sqm full of stalactites and stalagmites of various shapes and colours.

  

After swimming in for about 40 metres a series of superb red and white stalagmites and stalactites are exposed to greet divers as they emerge in the cave.  Among the treasures of the cave are the fossilized remains of an elephant which include vertebra, teeth and a tusk. Especially interesting apart from the elephants are the numerous deer bones that belong to both normal and dwarf deer, merely 30cm tall. A rare treat can often be seen in the cave, the Mediterranean Monk Seal 'monachus monachus'.

 
Kokkino Horio has three churches, 'Ayios Yeorgios' St. George's which is next to the entrance of the cave and used on St. George's Day (April 23rd), St. Katherine's in the village which is used on November 25th. The main church, used weekly and at other times during Lent/Easter and Advent/Christmas is St. Haralambos.  You can also see a group of cisterns, built in a sloping field, which gathers the rainwater, an interesting example of local architecture, dealing with the permanent problem of lack of water on the island. In the village itself is a taverna and mini-market. On the corner of the village as you enter at the cross roads is a fascinating place to visit the glass factory, where a wide variety of items are made from recycled glass. You can watch the owners making everything from a simple paperweight to large ornaments and elaborate lampshades and bowls.

  

GAVALOHORI

  

An enchanting village located in a sheltered basin surrounded by hills covered in grape vines, dominated by trees and forests of oak, Holm-oak, cypress, wild almond, carob, laurel and pear trees, hairy thorny brooms, wild asparagus and herbs such as Cretan sage etc. You can spend hours exploring this very traditional village, just what you would expect when visiting a Greek Island, narrow sleepy streets, a village steeped in history, local, traditional tavernas, a kafenion and bakery all trying to keep the islands skills alive, pleasant secret corners, Venetian arched wells, Romans tombs and remains of the old public road with its arched bridge and tollbooth.

  

It is an absolute must, a enchanting spot for an early morning or evening stroll to take in the outstanding countryside and village way of life. Gavalohori is a Byzantine village originally founded in 913 A.D. The village however took its name from the noble Byzantine family of Gavalades. The family took possession of the village when the island of Crete was distributed between 12 noblemen from Byzantium in 1182.  Five hundred metres from the village,  you can visit several stone arched wells built during that time in a serene landscape of rare beauty. 

   

Gavalohori also has an interesting Folklore Museum, a house bequeathed by the village family of George and Maria Stilianakis, itself a characteristic example of local traditional architecture. It consists of separate rooms exhibiting examples of silk weaving, pottery, lace-making, masonry and stone carving, woodwork and Church artefacts. In its history section a collections of guns and swords, paintings, and historical lithographs, coins both Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, Turkish, Syracuse and coins of the Cretan State. 


Medals won by the brave citizens of Gavalohori. There is also a textile and embroidery shop run by the Women’s Co-op which has developed the fine art of handicrafts such as knitting, embroidery, and lace-making. 
 

Aspro: The small and again ancient hamlet of Aspro (Koprana) a Turkish name up until just 30 years ago. This hamlet was built high on the hillside surrounded by countryside of outstanding natural beauty. Its narrow winding roads and houses dated from the 18th century some still have the Turkish stone details are beautifully restored making it a unique village in this area, built between Almyrida and the historic village of Gavalohori. Cars however must be parked in the main square as the roads are too narrow for vehicles.
 

KEFALAS

 

Once more an outstanding long-established village built facing the sea with most  parts relatively unspoilt, as most of the houses have been lovingly renovated to their traditional style, This village of Kefalas is over 800 years old and is thought to have been founded about 1175 A.D. during the Greek Byzantine empire and its name a derivative of 'Kafalades', the leaders under Emperor Michalis Komninos. From 1200 to 1700 A.D. Crete was part of the 'serene republic of Venice', the Venetians in this area, and elsewhere on the island, certainly left their mark. 

 
The village was a in an important strategic position and serves as a watchtower with views in all directions. Pirates and any enemy could be spotted for miles. The architecture dominated by the influence of the early and late years of Turkish occupation the Turks including their General Commander of Crete, Mustapha Pasha in the beginning of the 18th century made their homes and businesses here, including bringing their many wives and personnel staff, they had their olive oil presses, one of which was in the village square, the present day school was built on its ruins.
Mathios Milonogiannis was the leader of the Apokoronas freedom fighters during the Turkish liberation wars. Mathios' brother, Yiannis, bought a house in the village from the Greek government in 1923 and it has been occupied by his ancestors ever since. In 1985 the Culture Ministry declared the house a national historical monument. The houses had arched doorways, many of which can still be seen today, some still have the original wells still remarkably intact. The road to Kefalas was only tarmaced in 1964 and as with many of the islands villages had no electricity until late 1970.The narrow lanes are a must to walk or if your brave enough to drive around, these are magical and steeped in lots of history, their gardens are full of colourful flowers and bougainvillea climbing up every veranda and overhanging every wall.

There are eight, churches in good condition in the village. Amongst them is the double church Maria Panayia. On the 15th August the community celebrates 'Assumption Day', with a fest, with music, dancing and splendid food. A lovely touch on the following Saturday is the celebration for the people over 60 years of age where the younger children have sports day, more fantastic food and drink. In the village square, are the churches of Panayia, Ayios Antonis, built in 1862 and Timios Stavros was built prior to this in the 16th century and is also the oldest building of the village. There is a World War 11 memorial, the school (built in the 1920's), along with a bust of Captain Mathaios Mylonogiannis, a local rebel leader of the 19th century.  During the Venetian occupation higher 'apano' Kefalas and lower 'kato' Kefalas were classed as two separate villages, however, today they have become one.

The very well renown families who lived in the village - of Angavanakis and Kouklakis both have monuments to their names in the form of the Angavanakis house this is found uphill and to the right, just before the church of Michail Archangelos (built 1880). With ancestors of the Kouklakis family are buried at the church of Prophet Ilia, high at the western edge of the village, and the Angavanakis church was the church of Ayia Irini at Katohori. In addition to all this there are a few kafenions one on the square itself and the other nearby for you to relax and cool down. The village also has a mini-market

Drapanos: is a small, quiet traditional village leading from Kokkino Horio to Kefalas. In the middle of the village is a right turn down an old donkey path leading down the valley. When you reach the dry river bed, turn left then follow the path to the chapel of Ayios Ioannis, built into the rocky wall of the valley side.
 

Paleloni: is a small neighbourhood village of Kefalas it has retained much of its original charm with many old, traditional buildings the main road through the village is lined with large eucalyptus trees. From every part of the village there are terrific mountain views while some areas of the village offer beautiful views to the sea. From the main road you can follow the signs to Ombrosgialos this is a fantastic but very rocky cove, with a small traditional taverna northeast of Kefalas, with lovely views it is well worth the trip on the long winding road down to the sea past a small naval base.

 

XIROSTERNI

 

Xirosterni is situated midway between Kefalas and Vamos and is a traditional Cretan village with a peaceful atmosphere and many beautifully restored homes. The approach to Xirosterni is through pine woods and the village itself is high on a hillside with sweeping views down towards Souda Bay. The old name used to be 'Viola', which is a beautiful Cretan flower. The new name 'Xirosterni' means 'dry cistern', or 'dry well'. During the Ottoman rule a Turk ordered a villager to pull water out of the cistern for his horse to drink. 

 
The villager replied "there is no water", to avoid the humiliation of serving the enemy. The Turk then said angrily "why do you call the town Viola? You should call it Xirosterni" (dry cistern). Every 6th of August a 3 day local festival takes place around the local church with lots of Cretan music, dancing, and of course plenty of food, prepared by the villagers. A lyra player, (the lyra being the main musical instrument in Crete) plays and sings every year the famous song - "They say that the water of Xirosterni has leeches, but this beautiful town gives birth to handsome dancers and singers"

  

VAMOS

 

Vamos is a semi-mountainous village, 250 metres high above sea level, it is an extremely historic inland village, and the capital of the region of Apokoronas. Situated at the  beautiful rolling foothills of the White Mountains the village is known for the many revolts and battles it endured against the Ottoman domination, mainly because of its strategic location. Battles in 1866 and 1896 attracted foreign interest and were the cause of the General Cretan Revolutionary Meeting with the aim of the independence of Crete. 

   

Vamos goes back several centuries. According to historical sources its first inhabitants were Arab Saracen pirates around the 8th century. In a census taken by the Venetians in 1573, Vamos is mentioned as 'Vamu' with 271 permanent inhabitants - today there are over 800 villagers. During the time Greece was under Turkish domination, Vamos was the headquarters of the Turkish army and in 1863 a Pasha named Savas chose Vamos as the Capital of the prefecture of Sfakia. People of Vamos proved to be very patriotic fighting to free themselves and other islanders from the Turkish domination. The winning battles of 1896 liberated Vamos from the Turkish rule. At the time that Vamos was the capital of Sfakia, it developed greatly as a region. This was, and still is characterised by the luxurious houses and public building of the town. From then on, there was a profound difference in the levels of society, depicting the contrast between the affluent that lived in the so called 'konakia' and the poor that lived in the 'kamarospitia' (one room house). These grand houses were built with local materials such as stone, wood and soil, even today these houses still impress the visitor with their authenticity and traditional colour. Up until the 19th century architecture all over Greece was greatly influenced by the Venetian domination.

   

Albeit, you do have to stop and walk or drive (slowly) around the back streets, all houses are very well maintained and restored to the finest quality of Cretan character. The old winery, grocery, cafe and girls school have been attentively resorted. During the month of April you can attend the 'Hochlidovradia' snails eve! This traditional feast is where snails or in the Cretan dialect 'Chochlioi', are served this beloved staple food of the Cretans we consumed in quantity especially during the war years when food was scares and snails and 'horta' weeds were the main and often only source of food. They are cooked in various ways served with the traditional fire water 'tsikoudia' along with plenty of music and dancing. The famous art and cultural festivals are good opportunities for everyone to experience the hospitality and entertainment Vamos can offer. Their are several cultural evenings that take place during the month of August these including musical evenings, theatrical, artistic and handicraft exhibitions.  The initiative of a group of inhabitants to create an association for the preservation of the village as well as alternative tourism strategies is already paying off while constituting a model for further local progress.

In today's village there are super markets, bakery, grocery stores, a county court, post-office, bank, telephone company, police station, health centre and two petrol stations. It has two churches Ayios Nikolaos and Ayios Yeorgios. The village also boasts several high quality tavernas in its high street and square and it even has an ostrich farm!
  

Southeast of Vamos, in the Venetian village of Karydi Kartsomodo you can see the ruins of a single roomed monastery of 'Panayia at Katomeri' complete with frescoes dating from the 13th century.
 
Opposite the aforementioned village in a wide valley of olive groves on the road to Vryses, stands the Karydi of St. George's Monastery. The first reference to the monastery were found in documents dating to 1600. In this small settlement of Karydi the church was build in 1636. Abandoned in 1923 it quickly became a ruin until a few years ago when renovation work began. Since 1996 father Dorotheos has lived in the first house to have been refurbished. He and other priests of the diocese care for the monastery together with a few faithful benefactors. Its courtyard has a splendid walnut tree and the Basilica is well preserved and there are still remains of the cells and the impressive olive mill consisting of 12 arches. With the introduction of developing olive oil in 1829 this monastery grew bigger and bigger providing plenty of work for its parishioners. The feast of Saint George is celebrated on the 23rd of April.

  

Ayios Pavlos, Ayios Vasilios, Kambia:  small hamlets such as these, most of which are very old indeed, are spread throughout the area, which is characterised by a lack of water and limited agricultural productivity. While this lack of resources resulted in a severe reduction of the population it did not have any effect on the architectural character or the natural surroundings of the region until recently. This is the main reason why a lot of foreigners buy old houses or land and settle here. The biggest part of the steep, rocky coastline has preserved its natural wild beauty and is proposed to become a protected area under the Natura 2000 Environmental Management Program.

  

Douliana: is 2 km from Vamos towards Kalyves, a traditionally protected village with hidden corners and peaceful nature. Here begins a very fascinating old footpath which in former years connected Douliana with Gavalohori, it passes through a small gorge, and pine forest, and the spectacular chapel of Ayios Yiannis (St. John), can be seen which has been build inside a cave. The village is 300 metres above sea level, it has a cosy square with one local café and mini market and a popular small taverna. 
 

 

Tsivaras village: Lies between Vamos and Kalyves. It is built in a hill 700 metres above sea level, with a beautiful sea and olive groves view. The village has a small café and a mini market. 
  

Litsarda Souri, Selia, Likotinara  & Koustouriana: This is a most interesting route which will take you through several traditional villages from Litsarda, through the semi-deserted Souri with its neoclassical church of Ayios Ioannis Theologos and Selia surrounded by a lush forest is 400 metres above sea level. You can still see beautiful ruins of previous centuries, a village school, a church of the early 18th century on the hilltop and enjoy the peaceful nature and walks in the nearby villages. Located here is the gallery of Allan Tazzyman, an English painter who lives in the village and has contributed a lot not only in the promotion of the area with his beautiful paintings, but also in its protection from the uncontrolled development. The coastline all around this area with the steep cliffs is a plant lovers paradise with a wide variety growing all around the area of Likotinara ending at Koustouriana which boasts a magnificent view and lookout point from the tiny square over the coast with views that stretch east beyond Rethymnon.

  

Kalamitsi Alexandrou: The small community of Kalamitsi is situated 8 km away from Vamos. It is an old and well-preserved village with narrow streets, the large, modern, cross-shaped and domed church of Ayia Triada and impressively constructed underground reservoir 'Softas' dates from the Turkish occupation. In the quiet square with its fountain is the centre of village life, where everyone comes to talk and reminisce Situated in a small and lush green gorge, about 500m below the village is the Well of Eleusa. 350metres out of the village on the Vamos road, you will see huge plane trees this is where the women of the village used to wash their clothes at a well. Today this same well is used for celebrations. If you follow on the next very narrow pathway on your left you will come to a cave. At the end you will come across the tiny Chapel of Ayia Eleusa where the well received its name. In this village is another ladies craft co-operative which is dedicated to the breeding of silk worms and the processing of silk in the traditional Cretan way best times for this are June to July. You can see signs as you drive through the village directing you the the workshop which is open until 1.00pm.

 

YEOGIOUPOLIS

 

 
Yeorgioupolis: Spelled Georgioupolis - Is a real Cretan community by the sea, lies at the base of the Drapano peninsula and is built at the mouth of the river Almyros. Yeorgioupolis was formerly a fishing village with its small port and this is where the ruins of the ancient town of Amfimala can still be found today. The harbour is well protected by a long rocky breakwater, and the well photographed, and distinct white chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of fishermen.

 

Numerous smaller streams run into the sea all around the beach of Kalivaki to the left of the village, often making the water quite cold in areas and also beware there are quite dangerous offshore currents, so don't swim too far out from the beach, and take heed of the warning signs. This is also a favourite nesting ground for the loggerhead sea turtles and if you take a trip up the river you can find small colonies of their miniature relations however, these terrapin are not as small as the ones we are used to seeing in most European ponds. It has become a resort with numerous hotels, but the village square is one of the most traditional you will find and what most of us have come to expect from Greece it is surrounded by cafés, tavernas, restaurants, tourist shops and bars.

 

The towering eucalyptus trees along the river banks, and the golden sand beach, extending from the river mouth for a good 10km running eastwards towards Rethymnon. The region of Yeorgioupolis was an area of many battles over the years, the region around the river Almyrono was often the are of conflicts more so in the Turkish rule. Although the Venetian built a castle near the river, which the area took its name from 'Paleokastella' Old Castle which the Turks destroyed in 1821.


As the area was not developed after this for another sixty years. The region gave shelter for bandits, pirates and thieves from all walks of life. With the rivers often flooded, the land became marshy, mainly east of the Almyros with many of the inhabitants suffering from malaria. It wasn't until 1880 when an enterprising gentleman by the name of Mitiades Papadogiannis worked on a system of development for the locality he tried to sell his idea to neighbouring villages but to no avail and it wasn't until 1884 when he managed to buy a plot of land building a small house on it. In spit of all the problems he encountered he settled in the area in 1892 and a town emerged. Named Almyropolis after the river. A skilled engineer, named Michael Sakkakis came to his aid and planned the town.

  

Papadogiannis founded the agricultural society and worked towards the areas development and health care firstly dispersing quinine amongst any of the sick, and by planting lots of eucalyptus trees in and around the district. Mainly Indigenous to Australia these trees had a reputation as a cure towards Malaria and fight against the mosquitoes that spread the disease. The water consumption of this plant also reduced the extent of marshy ground. The marshy soil was dried out also by diverting the water into the sea. People then began to build houses and trade slowly began and a small school was erected. 

   

In 1898 the Cretan state was founded and Prince George, a son of the Greek king who was appointed High Commissioner to Crete in 1889, however his appointment was very short lived.  The inspiration of Mitiades Papadogiannis was recognised when the towns name was changed in 1902 to 'Yeorgioupolis' Georgetown after the Prince. Even today the whole area is a nature reserve.  Three rivers actually run into the sea, beside the Almyros is the Perastikos, which cuts through the long sandy beach and the 'Gria Vlihada' in the 'Kalivaki' Cove, west of the village. 

  
Dramia: is 2 minutes drive from Yeorgioupoli, a small fishing village with the longest sandy beach in western Crete. It is fully geared towards tourism in the summer season and becomes very busy. 

  

VRYSES

  

Vryses is set on the banks of the Almyros or Tris Almyri river with constant running water, which runs down the valley to Yeorgioupolis. This shady little town, with its streets lined with old plane trees is a relatively new village, developed after 1925 on two 'hania' (inns) which were there to accommodate the merchants and travellers to and from Sfakia. Today it is still an important crossroads leading to the south, with a junction off the National Highway highway leading south. It is set in beautiful natural surroundings, in a valley full of trees due to the Vrysano river which flows through its centre, making it a nice place to escape the summer heat.


In the shade of old giant plane trees, this lovely setting has small tavernas and cafés offering traditional Cretan dishes. To the east of the village at the junction with the National Highway is ancient bridge dated from the Greek-Roman times. The bridge is called the Elliniki Kamara (The Greek Arch).  Two important village feasts take place on the 7th July, in honour of Ayia Kyriaki, and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary at Alikambos on the 15th August. Vrysses is also renowned  for its quality of milk products such as cheese and yoghurt. 

Embrosneros, Vafes & Nipos: Off the beaten track are some beautiful villages that remain relatively untouched by tourism and modern developments retaining much of the original old charm. Embrosneros is south of Vrysses this ancient village dates to 1355 when it belonged to the Latin patriarch of Constantinople. Here the locals cultivate olive and carob trees, most breed sheep and goats. A dairy produces fresh cheese with are sold mainly in Vrysses. There are interesting churches one built into a rock near the entrance of the village and is one of the oldest in Crete. It also has it very on amphitheatre, where concerts are held in the summer months. At the highest point of the village are the remains of the 'Alidakis' Castle with a very prestigious reputation as a legend has it that the stones of the walls are bound together with milk and loam instead of water to show the wealth of the 'Alidakis' family. Vafes surrounded by cypress and olive trees. A 15 minuets walk from the village is the cave of 'Knonerida' through a small gorge, it has a low roof so care must be taken. 

Nipos: is located in one of the most 'virgin' areas of Apokoronas, surrounded by nature and greenery, close to the 'Lefka Ori' White Mountains, with a beautiful village square and lots of nice traditional Cretan taverns. The village of Nipos is 8km from Vamos and 2km from Vryses. The nearest beach is Yeorgioupolis 5km away.

  

STYLOS

  

Stylos: is a traditional Cretan village famous for its giant plane trees, natural spring water and a number of springs and rivulets that keep Stylos green. The water here is so clear and pure that it is bottled commercially by the company 'Etanap' which is on the outskirts of the village. According to historical references, Stylos was the first inhabitance of the people that later moved and established the ancient city of Aptera. In Stylos there are two Byzantine churches, the temple of Mary the Zerviotissa named after an icon found of the Virgin Mary holding baby Christ (zerviotissa means in Greek 'the one who holds with her left hand'). The architecture of this temple dates back to the 11th century. The other temple is that of St. John Theologos and St. Nicolas. In its grounds is a rock with the fossilized skeleton of what is thought to be a sea lion albeit, no one knows how it got there. Further on to the hamlet of Faragi (gorge), lies the Diktamos Gorge. During the winter and rainy months, the gorge's lake is filled with water and becomes a charming sight.

  

Stylos is a super place to sit in the shade whilst enjoying cooling drink in the cafes that surround the river. this was where the Australians and New Zealand rearguard made their final stand during the Battle of Crete as this was then the main road to the south of the island. enabling the majority of Allied troops to be evacuated while they themselves were mostly stranded on the island. 

  

Many of these troops found refuge in the surrounding villages and the foothills, and they were later smuggled off the island. However some of the villages were destroyed in retribution. Further inland are the villages of Provarma and Samonas a narrow winding road up hairpin bends takes you to the village with some spectacular views. You should visit the lovely isolated church of Ayios Nikolaos nestled in the valley with fantastic medieval frescoes. If your adventurous and would like to explore the cave of Samonas you have some exploring to do prior to your getting into the cave!

 

A very heavy, red iron door protects the wanderer from ending up in the hole and falling into its void without a trace. The key 'kleidi' can be got from the municipal offices in Kalyves. Once through the door, there's a steep passageway down and a make shift ladder. Once you have descended, astonishment will take away any fear you might have had of falling! There's a small lake with crystal clear water, impressive stalagmites and a few stalactites. A torch is a must as inside it is pitch black. It is also very cold.

 

MEGALA HORAFIA - APTERA

 

Megala Horafia: also now known as Aptera, is a picturesque hilltop village surrounded by green countryside with panoramic views of Souda Bay and the magnificent White Mountains. It is 9 km away from Hania, developed just below the ancient city of Aptera, which is within walking distance. At the centre of this small Cretan hamlet is its orthodox church. The old road from Hania to Vryses winds gently up from the National Road to Megala Horafia. 

 

Initially farmers built their houses high up on theses slopes because of the strategic location each surrounded by large plots of land for safety, making the village spread out over the hills hence the village name 'Megala Horafia'  'large fields'.  No narrow streets, which are found in other typical Cretan villages but it still has a special charm of its own.  There are three tavernas in the village, one kafenion and a small 'pantopoleion' mini-market.

 
 
 
 

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 More Round the Island pages
: Beaches - Western Crete : Apokoronas : Hania Town : Kournas Lake : Aptera :
: Frangokastello : Gramvousa : Spinalonga : Monasteries

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