The White Mountains of Crete (Lefka Ori) are a spectacle to behold. The white capped limestone peaks offer the most dramatic backdrop for an Island so famous for seaside pleasures and ancient seafaring. In fact, the spectacle of sheer cliffs rising into the clouds is almost as awe inspiring as the pristine beaches and aquamarine waters of the Cretan and Libyan Seas that surround Crete.
After having explored a few of the nearby beaches west of our adopted hamlet of Metohi, near Platanias, we naturally could not resist exploring for one day the mountain villages and the distant southern seaside. Heading out from Metochi Villas we took the road just past Garani south toward the picturesque little town of Alikianos. From there we headed deep into the mountains and a patchwork of cliff hugging villages and towns toward what seems like the roof of the world and Apopigadi.
Interestingly, while this mountain stop off comes replete with herds of mountain goats and sheep, the circling hawks and falcons spiral upward to even higher peaks to the east. No words or even pictures can correctly convey the quiet beauty of these places.
Taking the downward trek to our destination of Palaiochora on the Libyan Sea we diverted first to the fairly remote town of Sougia, a quite postage stamp of a beach town notable for it’s quaintness, if nothing else. For the sojourner among you readers, the panoramic views of the great sea and the villages beneath comes at a price. Make no mistake, Crete is one of the most wild environments in modern Europe.
Craggy mountain roads hang out over infinity, and only the adept mountain goats (and locals) seem unscathed. After a bout of vertigo though, those fun and friendly Cretan people emerge to invite all visitors. This was the case at Sougia, as a Greek waitress came out to greet us from a closed tavern.
Next we headed westward to Palaiochora, famous for it’s 11 km of coastline and the Venetian fortress Selino Kasteli. The scene of bitter fighting in between Greek regiment and German forces occupying the Island in WWII, the town is as peaceful as one can imagine now. Friendly shopkeepers and locals of every description always greeting with a wave and a smile.
After a short stay at this seaside village we started our race with sun to traverse the mountains before darkness. A navigator (Michael Parrish) error sent us westward past the town of Kandanos onto a scenic and quite pleasurable village hopping trek homeward. Except for one single lane tunnel carved into the side of a gorge, the route westernmost route across these mountains is the tamer, and least nerve racking. (thanks to the navigator here)
Down to Lochia and entering the new highway at Kalidonia we ended our day trek back at the villa in time for dinner, before sunset. Not bad for having visited the top of the world.
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