Earlier this month we began a quest to show our readers the island of Crete like it’s never been shown before. During our time here, we’ve experienced so many times travelers visiting this amazing island without ever truly discovering her. There are so many hidden gems waiting just off the road or around the bend. One such treasure is a place on the southern coast called Agiofarago. At the end of your quest, you’ll discover one of the most breathtaking places in all Greece.
The Gorge of Saints, also known as Agiofarago Gorge, is an amazing canyon in the south of Heraklion Prefecture not far from the famous Odigitria Monastery. More famous for the unbelievable beach that lies at the end of the gorge, Agiofarago is the product of two streams that meet at St. Kiriaki to form the larger riverbed that goes from Porofarango to the Libyan Sea.
The name of the gorge comes from a legend that tells of three hundred religious hermits who lived in the region, who were totally isolated from one another. According to the story, the hermits only met once each year on the Day of Resurrection – it was then that the group would be made aware of the death of their colleagues from the previous year.
Agiofarago features huge vertical cliffs on both sides, uncountable caves within the cliffs, and as picturesque a backdrop as you can imagine for its entire length. Isolated and wild, the gorge is only traversable by foot. The video below by Roaming Goat is a good introduction to this breathtaking hidden place.
As you walk the trail toward Agiofarago Beach, 250 meters before the sea you will come to the church of St. Anthony which was the center of the asceticism of the area. Before the church took its current form, it was rebuilt several times from a small cave in the rock considered sacred. Outside the church, there is a well that once served the aforementioned hermits. Just south of the edifice there is a Minoan tomb, and farther alone there#s the entrance to the now-famous Goumenospilios Cave.
Agiofarago has always been the scene of the practice of asceticism, and the Goumenospilios Cave plays the role as the gathering spot for the aforementioned hermits. It is said that they laid out stones for each to sit on so that the empty stones (seats) could be counted to determine who was missing.
Finally, if you climb the cliffs on the east side of Agiofarago Beach there’s a rocky path trending southeast. At the end of the trail, there is an unbelievable hidden salt lake and subterranean cave known as Vourvoulitis, surrounded by vertical cliffs. Down in the lake, there is a submerged tunnel that leads out to the Libyan Sea beyond. Be advised, the climb is not easy and it is treacherous since the walls of the lake-cave are steep.
To get to Agiofarago from Heraklion, you must drive south toward the famous Matala Beach and through the Messara Plain. At a point, you will see signs to Sivas, after which you will reach the Monastery of Odigitria. It is here you take the dirt road to the left. About 4 kilometers in you turn right (sometimes the sign to Agiofarago Beach is there). Soon the dirt road ends at a place where people park their cars. From here it’s all on foot.
Partially sourced from the amazing Cretan Beaches site.