Today's route follows the inland roads east of Hania, where an undulating countryside of forested valleys hides many small villages such as Armeni and Neo Horio yet they are still close to attractive sandy beaches. On route you will pass through Ayii Pandes and Vryses before the coastal town of Yeorgioupoli, then onto Lake Kourna prior to climbing higher to the villages of Kournas and Kastelos. Then if you wish you could continue to the mountain village of Asi Gonia with traditional houses, courtyards in bloom and charming but very traditional Cretan mountain folk. Prior to visiting the beautiful area around Argyroupoli. This village offers an intriguing mixture of old and modern characteristics from its Dorian origins to the home of the island’s avocado beauty-product industry, a charmingly scenic village with a hidden past. Afterwards travelling back down to the coast once more for a cooling swim at the busy tourist resort of Dramia where there is the famous long and sandy beach or perhaps return one more to the quieter resort of Yeorgioupoli.


Today we start the day trip following the National Road then first right after Ancient Aptera you turn off for Armeni and Neo Horio, then first right continuing on the Old main road to the East through Armeni (left at this tee-junction takes you into Kalyves).




Armeni was first settled in 961 A.D. by Armenians who served in the army of Nikoforos Fokas, who liberated Crete from the Arabs and the area seems to have been occupied since the Paleochristian period, after partly destroyed mosaic floors that have been discovered in the church of the Virgin Mary other remains of the same period have been found near the church of St. John Theologos built during the Venetian occupation. Walking up the street next to the kafenion you'll discover the old village with dwellings showing a great variety of architectural styles.  There are some delightful walks in the area, that start from the 'platia'.


For a short period during the Cretan revolution the village became the headquarters of the government.  In May 1822 the General Assembly of Crete met under the historic plane tree and voted for the draft of the constitution entitled, 'The Temporary State of Crete.' and the publication of the ‘Proclamation of Freedom'. To commemorate this event the village was renamed 'Eleftheroupoli', 'freedom town'.  The green trees and the natural springs give shade and coolness 'drosia' even in the summer especially at the little café besides the wells. Concerts are organised here with music from both Crete and many parts of the World.


In the 'platia' beneath a huge plane tree, you'll find the kafenion that sells fresh bread and serves as a collection point for the postman.  Across the road from the kafenion is the butcher's shop, dairy and delicatessens of Kostas who supplies many tavernas in the area and has been described as 'the best food shop in Crete'. Kostas enjoys his food and that is evident from his selection of over 40 cold meats and sausages which he brings in from Athens, Thessaloniki and many North European countries.  His fresh meat comes mainly from Apokoronas and Hania.  He makes his own yoghurt, which is a must to try, fresh 'mizithra' (soft cheese) and feta that are absolutely delicious.


In the summer months you will see a stall in the 'platia' selling freshly harvested fruit and vegetables grown locally. This village is the place to visit when all the tavernas get very busy of an evening attracting diners from far a field for a traditional 'Greek Night'. 100 metres down the road towards Neo Horio the imposing church of Ayios Nikolaos is worth a visit.  The small chapel dedicated to the 'Panayia' 'holy virgin' is of great interest as is the small church of St. John. 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. At the entrance of the village can be found an interesting watermill preserved as a historical monument. It is a three room double-floor watermill, with four water exits. In one part of the watermill there was a textile industry. Other important buildings in the area include the small monastery of Jesus Christ in Aykavane, built in the 16th century, along with a Venetian villa situated west from the monastery. Continue on the main road out or Armeni where a stately corridor of plane trees leads out of the village for a short while until you arrive in Neo Horio.




These villages are situated in the middle of an agricultural valley producing olives, potatoes, grapes and local wine. With 'Neo Horio' meaning 'new village' albeit this hamlet has been nestling comfortably against the side of a hill overlooking a lush valley of olive and orange groves for a long time. The village runs part way up a gentle hill and views to the village from below are quite charming. From the top of the village there is a wonderful view of huge rock formations, the open countryside, sea and of course the White Mountains. Neo Horio is a self- contained village with a taverna, kafenion and a small market. It is also locally well known for its 'souvlaki grill' in the village square. The 'platia'  features a huge plane tree that has to be driven around and a working well probably dating to the Venetian or Turkish eras. The large church is dedicated to St. Thomas which under Turkish rule served as an unofficial school in order to 'keep the hope of freedom alive in the population.' In the upper village you can find a house first built during the early Venetian period and reconstructed during the Ottoman period. In the complex there is an olive oil-press, storage rooms and the house, which was the property of the feudal Saridis family. Above the village are the impressive ruins and cistern of the Turkish fortress Koule, constructed to control the plain leading to Hania, a fortress built over Venetian ruins during the Turkish occupation, located on the hill south of the village, as well as the small church of St. Yerasimos, carved inside a rock and dated back to the 17th century. From the square the road forks left to Ayii Pandes


In the village of Ayii Pandes there is the unusual Byzantine church. The church has cruciform architecture which supports a large dome at the intersection of the aisles. However, the church's shape is quite uncommon. Externally it is in the shape of a rectangle like many other churches. Seen from the front however, it resembles a three-aisled church in which the central aisle is much shorter than the other two. Continue on this road that runs parallel to the main National route until you reach Vryses.

The Byzantine church of Agii Pandes, Fres




The village of Vryses is 16 km from Hania on the main route towards Rethymnon. The village has retained much of its shady charm, interspersed with busts of heroic, grandly moustached Cretans. It is relatively new compared to others in the region and has existed as a village only since 1925. The village is famous throughout Crete for its thick, creamy yoghurt. Served in the cafés beneath the cool of the many plane trees below the bridge, it's best eaten with a large spoonful of honey on top. The town is rich in agricultural products, with many olive groves nearby and has a reputation for producing excellent cheese.


There are extensive ruins of one of the most important archaeological sites in the Hania area.  Some archaeologists believe Vryses to be ancient 'Kydonia' which was an important ancient city on the northwest coast of Crete. Others believe it is at the site of the modern-day Hania. In legend King Cydon, a son of Hermes and Akakallis the daughter of King Minos, founded Cydonia. The area was first inhabited in the Neolithic period. Interesting Neolithic finds, mainly pottery, have come from the cave of 'Kera Spiliotisa', near Vryses.

The position of the Minoan town that flourished here enabled it to control the fertile plains of Platania and Alikianos, which form the western part of the Kydonia eparchy. Outside the village, and just by the Hania - Rethymnon main road, there is an ancient Greco-Roman bridge, featuring restorations from both the Venetians and the Ottomans, which is well preserved found left at the rusty old sign for the small chapel of Ayios Yeorgios. It is such a shame that this well preserved bridge has not been restored.

Continue left alone the old main road from Vryses heading towards Yeorgioupoli as soon as you drive under the National Road you will see an olive oil factory to your left continue along this road passing a sign for Zoraida Riding stables until you loop under the National Road once you will see that you are actually going to drive under it twice. Go under the second bridge slowly and immediately on the left  you will see a small opening and a seat. If you miss this try and park safely a little further on and walk back.




Here you will see a man made wildlife refuge. The lake holds typical birds like Little Bittern and Squacco Heron. a male Ferrugnous Duck, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Sardinian Warbler, Stonechat and Olivaceous Warbler. Buzzards are seen daily with Alpine Swift are always hawking insects overhead.  Blue Rock Thrush Wood sandpiper, Dabchick, Coot and Moorhen and many more. The whole area around the resort has been declared a nature reserve and has a rich flora and fauna. Continue on this road and you will find the entrance to the village  along an avenue of eucalyptus trees. The left fork then takes you into the resort.


The ancient region of Apokoronas struggled in the hands of several conquerors of the island, simply because of its strategic significance. At the time the valley before Yeorgiopoulis was known as the 'Almiro Pass' and was the only way to Rethymnon it was often an area of many conflicts. This instigated the building of a castle or fort by the Venetians near the river Almyros, which fell into Cretan hands in 1262. Turks later conquered the castle, then regained again by the Cretan revolutionists in 1921 who finally demolished it the area was then known as  'Paliocastella'  'Old Castle'.


On the hill of the Drapanos peninsula to the left of the village was once situated the ancient city of Amfimala which extended down to Dramia and was port of Lappa, a classical city at modern day Argyroupoli. The river Alymros its slightly salted, and joins the river of Vryses a little further inland when it reaches the sea together they form the larger river where small sailing-boats were able to enter the inner parts of the area. Under the 'Elleniki Kamara' bridge. In the bay there was the small rocky outcrop that holds the chapel of St. Nicholas 'Ayios Nikolaos'. This whole area gave shelter to bandits and pirates. With the rivers often flooded, the land became marshy, mainly east of the Almyros with many of the inhabitants suffering from malaria. During the Turkish occupation the Governors General Adosides pasha and Anthopoulos pasha visited the area, in order to work out plans for sanitation and cultivation, as well as some form of security, but, due to heavy cost, all plans were abandoned.


It wasn't until 1880 when an enterprising gentleman from Athens 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 spite 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. 


Every morning, the fishermen go fishing and bring back a variety of fresh fish, you can often purchase a couple if your around early enough! The smaller fish you are likely to find are 'Atherina' or 'Marithes' whitebait, 'Gavros' fresh anchovies, and 'Sartheles' sardines. You then have 'Glossa' sole, 'Lavraki' sea bass, 'Tsipoura' small bream, 'Fangri' sea bream 'Litherini' red bream, 'Barbouni' red mullet and 'Kefalos' grey mullet. The river is very calm sheltered by the break water and that makes it easy to park their small boats. You can rent a small canoe or pedelos and go inland along the river. Watching the large terrapins, ducks and fish.


The beach stretching in both directions off the main coastal road, in front of this charmingly laid out village. The whole stretch of beach is a favourite nesting ground of the Loggerhead Turtles known by its Latin name 'carreta carreta'. The only marine turtle nesting in Greece and the Mediterranean. Each female lays over 100 eggs, three to four times during the nesting season (June to August). After an incubation period of around 55 days, the hatchlings emerge early morning and made the precarious journey to sea.


The support and co-existence of people and turtle, locals and tourists alike is essential in the protection of these nesting grounds. Their diet consists of fish, crabs, and sponges, but they also each jellyfish. Unfortunately they can often easily mistake plastic bags for food and can choke to death. So with this in mind, please, on your travels around the island pick up and dispose of any stray bags, the turtles and I would be grateful!


plastic bag attached to a loggerhead turtle


A fishing village up to 1990 or so, discovered for its endless sand 6 km long, in front of a unique mountain panorama, this cosy and rural atmosphere in the midst of a charming Mediterranean landscape has been transformed into a popular holiday destination over the past 15 years, without losing its original charm and tranquillity. At the centre of the village is quite a large 'platia' surrounded small narrow streets, with an array of shops in the square are cafés, tavernas and restaurants. 


A lovely typical small and traditional tourist resort, unlike, and quite the opposite of a lot of the larger resorts found to the west of Hania and further east around Heraklion where there’s very little of Crete in evidence. This village has no ambition to grow any larger or nosier thank goodness. This quintessential small tourist resort is a well-located base for exploring the traditional villages towards the quieter areas and resorts of Apokoronas. Whilst still having the reassurance of just enough entertainment at night for a quality family holiday. Follow the signs out of the village for Kournas another 4km inland to Lake Kournas.




A panorama almost reminiscence of an alpine mountain lake presents itself south of Yeorgioupoli  in the spurs of the 'Lefka Ori' 'White Mountains'. The 'limni' Lake is the only natural fresh water lake on the island. The mountains that surround it are mirrored in its surface creating a magical sight with colours turning from pale green to dark blue and it has a sandy muddy strip surrounding part of the lake. On its north - west side there is rich vegetation, consisting of bushes, brambles, reeds and wild trees, while on its east side the vegetation is more gentle. An absolute sanctuary for wildlife.


The village situated in close proximity above the lake of Kournas gave its name to the waters, which aids mainly with the irrigation of the surrounding fields. The lake is fed from underground springs and reaches a maximum depth of approx. 45 meters with a diameter of approximately 1.5 km. In spring the water is plentiful but by autumn you can see on the eastern beach that the clearly sunk water level offers more room for the tourist to sunbath. In front of the two taverns is where you can rent pedal boats and explore the lake and its inhabitants which are mainly geese, ducks, crabs, kingfishers an array of birds and small (non-venomous) water snakes.

The lake's water is highly transparent so with some luck and a careful approach you'll even see the shy fresh water turtles 'Balkan terrapins'. Which laze in the sunshine on the small rocks mainly on the shoreline, however if disturbed they will quickly dash into the safety of the water. It is possible in the late summer and autumn with low water levels to walk all around the lake however, take care as the undergrowth can be overgrown in places and it can still be swampy close to the waters edge. As you climb uphill away from the Lake you can stop for much better photo shoot of the lake.




About 2 kilometres south of the lake and before arriving at the village, is found the cave of Kournas. The cave is not big, 35 metres in depth, but it has many stalactites, stalagmites, and natural pillars. The cave may be reached if you wish to visit by a path off the main road near a taverna, safer to ask at the taverna for directions. The village has been built amphitheatrically, at the eastern foot of Lefka Ori (White Mountains) and it has a marvellous view to the lake. 


The main village of Kournas is old and authentic a place where time has stood still. Set high on the hillside with  houses of interesting architecture. The important Byzantine church of 'Ayios Yeorgios', with frescoes from the 14th century and also 'Ayia Irini'. The tiny church is in the middle of the village on the north side below the road. There is a staircase from the road to the chapel, which has remains of frescoes on its walls. The traditional Post Office is in the kafenion! Just hand over your letters inside. During the Turkish occupation the village children had to be educated in hiding and there was a secret underground school . In today's school as well as lessons, both young and old learn Cretan dances.

The church of Agia Anna, Filaki, Kournas


On Filaki hill there is also a Minoan Tholos tomb but this can be difficult to find so again I would ask directions. Also the Byzantine church of ' Ayia Anna' with a lovely dolphin decorated tomb of an important Cretan family during the Venetian era known as 'Kalergis' inside.  

To get to the traditional village of Kastelos you travel through an oak wood, a magnificent landscape with rich shade, suitable for relaxing from the heat of summer. This semi-mountainous village was built on the feet of the White Mountains on an altitude of 252m. Originally the village was situated lower in the valley where the inhabitants were forced to leave in 1800 due to the Turkish Ottomans. Close to the village in 1835 a severe battle amongst Cretans and Ottomans left 22 dead Turks and just 1 Cretan. It was the main reason that the Turks stopped raiding in the area. The locals made an important contribution to the resistance against the German fascists during the World War ll. In the centre of the village. Follow signs for Asi Gonia. The old road twists and bends for a while before travelling though a delightful forested valley, you just have a felling your travelling somewhere interesting as you climb higher past the Ancient small church of 'Ayia Kyriaki'.




I suggest you take a left over the Gipari Bridge passing the springs which are surrounded by tavernas for the moment. When you reach the tee junction at the top of the hill turn right into the village of Argyroupolis - Ancient Lappa. 

Set on the eastern edge of the White Mountains between the Mouselas and Petre rivers, the intervening 2,500 years have left a rich vein of artefacts and anecdotes to keep you occupied for many a return visit.  Ancient Lappa was certainly popular with Crete’s numerous invading forces. It was taken by storm and almost entirely destroyed by the opposing Romans in 67BC, rebuilt with it the right of coinage after helping Octavius defeat Anthony in the roman civil war and then destroyed again by the Saracens in the ninth century. Its recovery during the Venetian occupation sparked a spate of villa building and became known simply as Polis 'city'. But while its status appears to have taken a dip during early Turkish rule, with yet another name-change, to Gaidouropoli (Donkey city), they made amends in 1822 by arriving at its present name of Argyroupolis (Silver City), said to derive from a nearby silver mine. There are several tavernas set under the plane trees and close to the springs. 


The tranquil village of Argyroupolis situated at the once important ancient city of Lappa. According to legend, Agamemnon, King of the Mycenaean, built Lappa. Its location was perfect for an Acropolis, built a safe distance from the sea so that the town was not threatened by pirate attacks or passing invaders. To the north of the town is a large fertile valley and the river Mouselas, to its south and east lay steep mountains protecting its rear. The Lappans soon acquired wealth and power and prospered throughout the classical and Hellenistic period. 


They had a strong army and the elders were clever and diplomatic, forming alliances with other citadels around the island. Whilst also being the first to show their support to those defeated in wars. Certainly Lappa had two big harbours, 'Ydramia' on the Cretan Sea today's 'Dramia' and 'Finika' on the Libyan Sea where Loutro is today. In the second Byzantine era a new town was built on the site of the old one, Lappa lost its name and was called only 'Poli' town. During the succeeding centuries the town was known under different names 'stimpoli' 'inner city''. At the time of the Turkish rule the place was also called 'Gaidoropoli' or 'Saropoli' Donkey or Saddletown. According to legend the people made silver and copper coins in the village and gained the name Argyroupolis in 1822 'argyro' silver.


After suffering at the hands of the Romans in 68 B.C. who actually levelled the town. Then some thirty-seven years later the townsfolk were given their freedom back rebuild their town once more with the help of ironically another Roman, Octavius. Lappa flourished and grew even bigger and better than before. Erecting mansions and superb public buildings, including a large aqueduct that supplied the famous Roman Baths with water from fresh clear mountain springs even then which help the town to thrive during the Roman era, intern this became one of the most important towns of Western Crete. In 824 A.D. it was stripped of all its wealth and glory by the Arabs and thought to have been burned to the ground. 


Today the Necropolis lies below the town and can be reached by an ancient stoned footpath worn smooth by the feet of many who have walk this way before you. You arrive at 'The Tombs of the Five Virgins' with its small chapel which takes its name from five young women who were put to death by the Romans for secretly practicing Christianity in the tombs. The locals celebrate their martyrdom on the first Tuesday after Easter when local shepherds bring their lambs to the shrine to be blessed, the milk is boiled on site and drunk by all those attending. You must go behind the chapel to view the best of the caves, which have some of the most incredible shaped entrances, some in the shape of large vases. 


Continuing along the ancient pathway below the church, you can find a huge plane tree, which is, 2000 years old and a pathway runs through its trunk. A cooling and lovely area to visit. Alternatively you can also reach Necropolis by following the small road to the village of 'Kato Poros', just before Argyroupolis, coming from the direction of Episkopi. After about one kilometre you see a signpost to the village of Kato Poros follow this for a short while until you see the sign for the tombs. The footpath opposite this on the right hand side of the road leads you up to the village of Argyrouopolis 1.5km.


A walk through the narrow streets of Argyroupolis will give you a taste of a once great past and you will find beautiful places to linger. Behind the 7th century Venetian church of 'Ayios Ioannis' church in the village square there is an old cistern built in 27 B.C. and is still in working order with a water capacity of more than 1000 cubic metres. This well is 25 metres long, 6 metres wide and 7.5 metres high. About 15 years ago a mosaic floor from the Roman ear was uncovered. Some manor houses in a good condition, stone portals and historical ruins give a unique character to this village with 32 churches and chapels. There are small supermarkets, bakeries, a  butchers, small cafés and a kafenion. Shops sell local produce of Avocado beauty products here you can also get a free map which helps find the village's many sights and you can visit a small folklore museum on the main road assembled by the Zografakis family who have lived in Argyroupolis for generations.


Below the village the land becomes especially idyllic, even on hot days amongst the evergreens it is a cooling and refreshing area 'Ayia Dynami' meaning 'St. Power' also called the ' Mills' of the town. This place is rich in water, there's so much water roaring through the village the wells supply the drinking water of Rethymnon. For many years there was a carpet laundry, the ruins still remain. Vegetation is abundant in this fertile environment and as well as a great number of chestnut and plane trees you'll also find banana trees. Around the tavernas at night time the whole scene is quite magical with lights illuminating the shrubbery.


You can if you wish continue on to Asi Gonia further up the Gipari gorge and then return back to Yeorgiopolis or take an alternative route via Episkopi and the busy resort of Dramia. (see below)




You reach Asi Gonia by taking a left after crossing the bridge again and following the signs for another 6km to Asi Gonia, the route is particularly scenic and winds through the Gipari gorge a birdwatchers dream this lush green area has a river running through the gorge all winter long bringing pipits and blue rock thrush hawks and griffon vultures. Next the village Asi Gonia 'asi in Arabic means 'rebel' whilst 'gonia' in Greek means corner. Its natural position was easy to fortify and difficult to approach, making it a centre for Cretan revolutionaries. When the Turks ruled the island the so- called 'rebels of Asi Gonia' did not allow any Turks through the gorge into their village. During the Roman period the town of Lappa controlled it. As with most mountain folk from time immemorial they were always fighting the Turks who ruled the island. 


This ruggedly rustic village has been build on the Mousela valley. The 'platia' features a large tree and statues. This village is where one of Crete's modern day heroes was born the renowned George Psychoundakis the Cretan Runner. Mr. Psychountakis died on 29th January 2006, aged 85. His obituary was published worldwide telling of his bravery in the resistance against the German invasion during World War ll. He was born in Asi Gonia's and was a shepherd, like most of the male residents. Some locals said they believed one reason the festival day became so popular was to see Mr. Psychountakis and shake the hand of this war hero. more info 
Another was Lieutenant Pavlos (Paul) Gyparis (above) who commanded the Cretan Brigade of the EOK in Macedonia and was also
responsible for the personal security of Venizelos at that time.


The people have retained its traditions and customs, many of the villager wear all black and the 'sariki' 'black headdress', baggy black trousers and high boots. If you want tradition then you don't have to look much further than this. The villages economy is mainly stockbreeding, although the village only seems to come alive on 23rd April when the unusual custom takes place  'Ayios Yeorgios' St. Georges festival. This is when the local shepherds bring their flocks to the church to have them blessed by the priest, they even milk them in the churchyard. The ladies of the village boil the milk and offer it to everyone present (in traditional costumes) villagers and visitors alike with barbecue grills providing non-stop lamb 'souvlaki'. 


By mid-afternoon, the church and village square are crammed full of livestock. After the sheep have been blessed the shepard's engage themselves in a frenzied speed-milking contest. Other events take place such as sheep shearing during the course of the afternoon. The feast lasts the whole day from early in the morning until late in the afternoon, when the last flock of sheep will be milked and blessed. St. George has been adopted as the Patron Saint of Crete Within Greece, St. George is patron to among others, shepard's, the army, working animal and the poor. 'Yiorgos' George is also a very popular boy's name here so many people celebrate their name day today.




The name 'Episcopi' means 'diocese', and is common to many villages in Crete, that used to house in the past the bishop's offices. The religious past of the area is obvious now to the visitor, as there are a number of beautiful churches scattered around the streets of the village some still with remarkable frescoes. The village of Episkopi is fairly old, and not a typical tourist village. It is mentioned in archives having 446 inhabitants before 1583.


Dramia and close by Kavros is where peanuts were initially cultivated but today both villages rely on tourism. The small brooks were full of crabs, Kavros in English means 'crab'. The first hotel was built in 1979 which started a new beginning on this once peaceful farming land. The beach of Dramia was once an idyllic stretch of sand but has now turned into a very popular resort , a mass of sunbeds and umbrellas (which is not for me). However, there are fantastic beaches located either side of the villages busy beach. These are extremely beautiful and are exceptionally clean with plenty of areas to park and relax with nothing more than a few 'kantinas'.




Day 1 : Day 2 : Day 3 : Day 4 : Day 5 : Day 6 : Day 7: Day 8




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