It’s February on Crete. Heavy snows are expected for the next few days, so it seems like a good time to share some of the most interesting places on the island. Here are a few of the places where people who love the season might enjoy a relatively unknown value the island keeps. Winter on Crete just may be the most unexpected gift the land of the Minoans has to offer.
This share of the Kallergi Mountain Refuge in the White Mountains was built in 1971 by the Greek Mountaineering Club of Chania. This wonderful refuge serves to host hikers and climbers from all around the world that want to experience the majesty of Omalos Plateau, and the wonders nearby. For some background, the Lefka Ori is made up of some 30 peaks above 2,000 meters in the far west of the island. The highest summit is Pachnes with 2,453 m (8,048 ft). The range also boasts of some 50 gorges, the most famous being Samaria Gorge. Omalos is but one of the fantastic plateaus of this region. There’s also Askifou, Impros, Kallikratis, and Anopolis.
The next share is also from the very remote Sfakia region in the White Mountains not far from the remote village of Aradena, which was abandoned back in the 1950s. The village looks out over the amazing Adadena Gorge, which is famous for its traditional kalderimia (cobbled mule tracks), and for griffon vultures. This is a magical place where wild oleander line the ancient riverbed, and where rare chasmophyte (cliff dwelling) flowers that are only native to Crete flourish. Adventure seekers will also find the spectacular Bailey bridge that spans the gorge. Here bungee enthusiasts defy gravity and death on the weekends and during the summer.
Crete’s tallest and most famous peak, Mt. Psiloritis (Ida) was once called the “Pillar that holds up the sky”, by ancient seafarers. This extraordinary mountain is surrounded by incalculable natural wonders. And most people who think of visiting Crete do not realize, that you can ski on Psiloritis in the morning, and swim in the warm Libyan Sea or the Cretan Sea in the afternoon. The mythical playground of the god Zeus, this beautiful area is an adventurer’s lucid dream come true. The view you see here is to the south overlooking the Libyan Sea and the mysterious Paxamadia islets where legend says Artemis and Apollo were born.
The following Instagram post is from the Delina Mountain Resort overlooking Anogia. This famous refuge high up on Mt. Psiloritis was created by one of Greece’s most famous musicians, Vasilis Skoulas. The resort operates year-round offering the best in traditional Crete cuisine and music, as well as serving as a basecamp for nature lovers to explore the middle of this fantastic Island. The director of the resort, Vasilis’ son Michalis Skoulas, is also a musician and someone who connects guests of the resort with the experiences they dream of. For me, the resort itself is dreamy, especially when the sheep’s bells clang in the morning as they meander down the mountain pass nearby. As I said, Psiloritis is full of such wonders.
The wonderful thing about Crete is the diversity mixed with congruent culture and tradition. Nature reflects the same strange dynamic of seemingly opposing forces. The Instagram below shows a view from Apokoronas, where villages like Vryses, Giorgiopulis, Vamos, and others stand to interject centuries-old culture into a mountain landscape older than time itself.
The sea surrounding Crete. As majestic and awesome as the mountains and gorges of the island are, the crystal seas that surround our island home pervade everything else. This image reflects an alternative Crete experience. A lonesome surfer in a wetsuit surfs one of the island’s least visited beaches, wonderful Kokkinos Pyrgos, where the surf is almost always undulating. Situated on the Gulf of Mesara, this part of the island is one of my favorite regions. For anyone who seeks the solitude and ethereal essence of Crete, this unused beach is a version of heaven. Why someone has not rebuilt the beach club in this almost abandoned seaside town is a mystery to me.
Once again, the diversity here on Crete cannot be emphasized enough. This Instagram from Melanie Crane, author of the book Uniquely Crete: Life Redefined on a Greek Island, is illustrative of the all-encompassing feeling one gets living here. It’s as if the island is the source of everything that represents home, habitat, nature, and the sacred.
A fitting end to this Instagram feature is to tease your imagination with a vision. Imagine sitting on an abandoned beach in the south of Crete, a place where a legendary king once swam with his male consorts. Trafoulas or Dragon Bay is just such a place. Located km east of Lendas and 69km south of Heraklion, the legend says King Minos and his men swam here, while his wife Pasiphae and her girlfriends sunbathed at Loutro. It’s winter now, and there is not a soul within a long-range rifle shot of this magic place.
Photo credit: The Lefka Ori feature image is courtesy Giannis Houvardas (Γιάννης Χουβαρδάς)