Crete On The Road

The Sunday Telegraph.

Crete on the Road: the Best Driving Tours around West and Central Crete by Frankie Miles. Frankie is from Villas Crete Holidays and she is very knowledgable about this part of the island.

Read the full Article.

Villages West of Chania Crete

Just West of Chania there is a very well known area that runs along the coast that has become quite built up. This does not, however tell the whole story. Between Chania and Maleme, on the coast there are a lot of apartment buildings and hotels, but this also means a lot of facilities. There are a lot of watersports on the beaches between Agia Marina and Platanias including the best scuba diving school in the area. For those of you who are looking for nightlife, Platanias and Agia Marina are also the places to head for.

The few villas that we feature in this area are in the incredibly beautiful and peaceful area to the west of Maleme. In this area on the west and south coasts, the villages are tiny and traditional with farming being the major occupation. You see very little tourism in these rural villages as life has not changed for many years for the people living in them. There are many unspoilt and empty beaches, and even the stunning sandy beaches of Falassarna and Elafonissi are never too crowded. The Rodopou Peninsula is not a place that many tourists go to despite the great views and small secluded rocky coves. Kissamos-Kastelli is a working town with large fishing harbour, a huge sandy beach a promenade with great fish tavernas and yet very few tourists. Boats run on daily excursions from the harbour to Gramvoussa Island and the glorious Balos Lagoon.

These villages now merge together because of considerable tourist development, with a multitude of gift shops, tavernas and sandy beaches.  There are also supermarkets, bakeries, banks and petrol stations in this area. The old village of Platanias is on the hill set behind the newer development.  The old village is very quaint, with traditional white-washed houses and lovely views.  Platanias is mentioned in Venetian inventories as Platanea.  Opposite Platanias is the island of St. Theodori, or Thodorou (it can be seen very clearly to the West of the Panorama Hotel).  This is a rock island, which in antiquity was known as Akition, which means place unsuitable for inhabitaion.  During the Venetian dominion in 1574 it was fortified to stop the Turks landing at Platanias.  They built 2 multi- angled fortresses and a three-aisled chapel.  Today it serves as a sanctuary for the rare Cretan mountain goat, The Kri-Kri. The best taverna in the area is located on the main road through Platanias and is called “Mylos”. Platanias and Agia Marina have long sandy beaches and the most extensive water sports on the north west coast including water skiing, paragliding, and scuba diving. The nightlife is lively with many luxury nightclubs dotted along the shoreline, as well as some more laidback bars. Only 2 minutes from the National Highway and 20 minutes from Chania.

Darmorahori is a sleepy hamlet just set back from Crete’s northwest coast. The village has a few houses, a mini market, and an excellent taverna that has lovely sea and mountain views.  The taverna is surrounded by grass and has a children’s play area to keep the youngsters busy whilst their parents relax. Just 10 minutes away is the north coast  and National Highway which has a large number of different villages and beaches with many amenities. The nearest villages are Tavronitis and Kolymbari.

Because of its important strategic position in the hills north of Chania,  Galatas is unfortunately most well known as the scene for fierce fighting in 1941 during the German parachute invasion of Crete.  There is a large war memorial in the village where a wreath laying ceremony takes place every year on May 20th. Galatas has 2 tavernas, cafes and 2 mini markets, and is 3 minutes from the National highway and 10 minutes from Chania.

The main feature of the village of Kolymbari is the Monastery of Gonias.  It was built between 1618 and 1634 and is consecrated by the Virgin Mary.  In the monastery there is an important collection of post – Byzantine icons of superb artistry.  In the treasury of the monastery we can see many of the old relics, precious high priest vestments, a silver censer, a bulky manuscript with ecclesiastical canons and two Bibles with silver covers.  This monastery has been the center of Orthodox creed in all battles of the nation.  Next to the monastery is the Orthodox academy of Crete.  There are good fish tavernas in Kolymbari such as “Diktyna” and “Edem”, a few shops including a supermarket, and there is the choice of a rocky beach or a sandy beach. Boat trips leave from the small fishing harbour to go to the Diktynna archaeological site. The ruins of the Diktynna Sanctuary are in a beautiful isolated cove with crystal clear waters and sea caves at the north east end of the peninsula. The ruins seen today are those of a temple built in 2AD on the orders of The Emperor Hadrian. The Roman temple was built on the original site of a 7th Century Dorian temple dedicated to the nymph Diktyna who is identified with Artemis, the goddess of hunting). Kolymbari is 2 minutes from the National highway and 30 minutes from Chania.

Maleme is a coastal village that has a good selection of tavernas and bars lining the shingle beach. There is a large supermarket, a pharmacy, a shop stocking English food products, a newspaper stall, a jewellery shop and a number of gift shops.  There is also a large hotel which offers water sports. In 1966, in the position of Kafkales, north of the village, a vaulted grave of the post-Minoan era was excavated.  With its square shaped chamber, perpendicular walls 4m high, and an irregular roof in the shape of a pyramid, it is unique of its kind.  But Maleme is better known for its importance in more recent Greek history.  In World War II, Chania airport was located here.  In 1941, after heavy fighting, it was captured by the German Airborne troops.  There are 4,465 graves in the German Cemetery at Maleme, (occupying a position on the hill overlooking the old airstrip), mainly of very young men.  Most of the lost their lives on 20 May, 1941, on the night they landed.

Tavronitis is a traditional farming centre which has a small tourist industry in the summer months, and is the junction for roads that lead south, west and east. The long bamboo and conifer lined shingle beach with kantinas, sun beds and umbrellas, never gets very busy and it is even easy to find a quiet spot during the summer. The mouth of the Tavronitis River is spanned by The Tavronitis Bailey Bridge that was built by the Italians and is well-known for the battle there on 20 May 1941, during the Second World War.  Thousands of German paratroopers landed near the bridge and a fierce battle took place for control of the key airfield at nearby Maleme. The old bridge had fallen into disrepair and sections had collapsed, but lately this has been restored, and the bridge is now more pleasantly known as an ideal spot for bird watching, particularly at dawn and at dusk. The following birds have been seen at Tavronitis at various times of the year, but mostly during April and May for migrants: Sardinian Warbler, Little Egret, Cetti Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, Little Ringed Plover, Buzzard, Wheat Ear, Gold Finch, Stonechat, Marsh Harrier (Lammergeier), Barn Owl, Squacco Heron, Grey Heron, Glossy Ibis, Kingfisher, Night Heron, Little Bittern, Snipe, Common, Curlew and Wood Sandpipers, Hobby, Red Footed Falcon, Cory’s Shearwaters and Closer Shags. There are many cafes and mini markets, as well as a good selection of relaxed tavernas set by the sea. Tavronitis is 1 minute from the National Highway and 25 minutes from Chania Town.

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