Travelers visiting Crete and her capital in Heraklion never get to experience many of the hidden gems just off the beaten path. Almiros Gorge, a few hundred meters from the beach at Amoudara, is one such treasure of hidden Crete. I took a short trip there with my best pal Minas, earlier this morning. Here’s a new discovery I know you’ll be thrilled to know more about.
Almiros Gorge is the closest of Crete’s more than 400 canyons. Situated between Keri and Kastrokefala near Heraklion, the remote canyon is a green oasis not many visitors would ever find. This is where the largest holly forest (Phillirea Media) of Crete is, and where many other species of trees and flora wait to amaze the timely adventurer.
The place actually has several names including the Gorge of Keri (due to the homonym hill nearby), Almiros (due to its adjacency to Almiros river), Ellinoperamata (it finishes at Ellinoperamata area), Porofarago (a common name throughout Cretan gorges), Three Churches (due to the three chapels of Santa Marina, St Antonios, St Paraskevi), Strouboulas (as it starts close to Strouboulas peak) and Ghosts’ gorge (because for many years the site of the canyon used by groups of Satanists and rumors about ghosts walking there).
Because my friend Minas Liapakis knows of my interest in the mysteries of Crete, he suggested we take the short drive up the gravel road leading to the gorge this morning. In particular, he wanted to share the ghost stories about the forgotten gorge, which sits in the shadow of Mount Stroumboulas, one of Crete’s most interesting peaks. Driving in the hills above Amoudara, Minas turned his SUV off the main road onto the gravel track that leads up into the hills overlooking Heraklion.
Traveling to Almiros Gorge by car, you can only reach the Catholic monastery of St. Anthony Farangitis, which was built way back in the 14th century. This amazing place, alongside the small chapels of Agia Marina, St. John, and St. Paraskevi. Further up the gorge, which has looming limestone cliffs that are home to dozens of eagles, trickling waterfalls feed an unbelievable green landscape.
Many legends emanate from this region of Heraklion Prefecture, and some say the “ghost” legend is on account of a satanic cult that once practiced rituals in a section of the gorge. However, Minas related another story where the occupying Ottomans massacred some monks and citizens during the Seige of Candia (1648 to 1669), and how their ghosts haunt the walls of the steep canyon. Back then, the Ottoman army camped beneath the pyramid-shaped Mount Stroumboulas, not far from nearby Tylisos.
Whatever the reason, Almiros has something indescribable – something more majestic than ominous. Talking with Minas at the end of the gravel road, I could not help but notice my own “familiars” – the huge birds of prey that live high up on the canyon walls. There must have been a dozen circling overhead as we gazed up onto the craggy cliffs.
Almiros Gorge is a real “must-see” for the more adventurous visitor and especially those who enjoy hiking and nature. To get to the gorge I suggest punching in another awesome secret place, the Lake of Almiros, which is only a few meters from the side road that leads to the gorge. The lake, which gets a massive flow of fresh spring water straight out of the mountain cliffs, is so clear you can see to its bottom. See the image above, and sync with the Google Map below. We also recommend downloading the most complete reference for the island, My Crete Guide for Android or iOS.