Crete has more undiscovered travel gems than almost any place on Earth. Millions travel here each season, but most do not venture too far from the island’s dozens of Blue Flag beaches and the all-inclusive resorts that line some of them. However, the natural treasures of this largest of the Greek isles often lie deep in the interior. One place, a mountain bastion high up overlooking the famous Lassithi Plateau, is the Katharo Plateau.
Located about 26 kilometers from Agios Nikolaos, Katharo is remote in every imaginable sense. The exciting thing is that it is accessible by car. Situated at an altitude above 1150 meters, this lush pastoral landscape is only 16 kilometers from Kritsa.
The high plateau is one of the most significant sources of crystal life-promoting waters that flow into Lassithi via a river through the beautiful Havgas Gorge. Katharo is about 300 meters (980 ft) higher than the astounding Lasithi Plateau. And very few visitors to the more famous attraction even know the overlook exists.
Uninhabited throughout most of the year, this lush plateau does feature a quint and fascinating settlement called Avdeliakos. The tiny village is mostly family gardens, some apple orchards, and a few vineyards tended by the local shepherds who graze sheep there. Visitors will be surprised to find the picturesque Chapel of the Lord Christ there, as well.
In Avdeliakos, visitors will find some tavernas for excellent Cretan cuisine that’s truly authentic. Katharo is a white wonderland in winter, but access is poor except on the best days. However, tavernas open on some holidays, and the best time to visit is August 15th (the closest weekend following) at the feast of the shepherds. The cheese at this fest is out of this world, and tasting events are held at this time. The festival features terrific traditional cuisine, dancing, traditional music, and much more.
A final note worth mentioning is that the Ketharo is an important place for research by paleontologists. It is here that scientists unearthed fossils of elephants and dwarf-hippos from about 540,000 years ago. The researchers believed Katharo was once a high mountain lake that supported such creatures.
Hints: For hikers, All Trails has good advice for adventurers looking for a moderate hike through some beautiful terrain.