Driving in Crete is fairly easy and relatively safe. However, just like in any place there are rules and 'musts' that you have to know. Respecting these unwritten rules will make your life easier when getting around in Crete. Here are the top 4 "do not" to keep you on the safe side.
Rule 1 - Let the car pass
Don't be mislead by short distances
Rule 3 - Don't rely roadsigns always being visible
Road signs are not bulletproof in Crete. Exactly the opposite - the road sides are full with proofs that Cretans are using the signs as target practice with their guns. Well, it is no secret that Cretans own guns and like to practice shooting, especially in mountainous areas. Those are easy targets and you'll see many signs that resemble Swiss cheese. Driving in mountains Crete requires knowing where you are driving!
Don't underestimate the rain
There is, no doubt, a similarity between the ancient sanctuaries weather it is in Delphi, mainland Greece or in Patsos gorge, island of Crete. There is this special vibe, a charge of energy and something wholly different about the place.
The cave of god Hermes (Ermis Kraneos) in Patsos gorge was a sacred site in antiquity. The protector of shepherds, forests and the fertility of nature, as well as the god Pan, were worshipped there. Periodically people have found objects from the Minoan, Greek and Roman eras. The cave of Ermis Kraneos is known to the locals as Agios Antonios Cave because of the small church of Agios Antonios that has been built within it - on top of an older site. The altar of an ancient open air sanctuary used to stand next to the chapel.
The chapel of St. Antonius is at a place where different cults have been known from as early as the Minoan period. Archaeological findings date back as far as 2000 BC, and different types of worship and services were carried out as late as during the Roman period around 400 AD.
The gorge is green and beautiful. There are two paths that you can follow, that go along the small river.
We are greeted with loud ring of the bell upon arrival in this lonely place. The rhythm of bell ring is somewhat hazy and erratic. We are not sure if it is a greeting or a warning. Are we guests or are we unwelcome breachers?
The hermit told us some of the principles that should be observed in life, for instance, the women should wear black blouse, cover her head, wear long skirt and wear no earrings. The other - God sends you angels to you to look over you and to direct you on the right path. The rules of the visit include not disturbing him and no taking photos. You are, however, invited to read some excerpts from the bible, you can cut grapes and take with you and you can lit the candle.
This monastery is built near the gorge of Arvi, in an elevated area with panoramic sea views. Today it is abandoned and only remnants of monks’cells reveal its past. The monastery is believed that was initially built on the ruins of the ancient Temple of Arvian Zeus in the Valley shaped at the exit of Arvi gorge. However, it was later moved to its current elevated position because of the marshes shaped in the valley. In the monastery there are two churches, one very old and one quite new, dedicated to Saint Anthony.
Having travelled extensively in Crete, we have come across many abandoned villages. Here, I have selected three I would recommend visiting as they are interesting on their own right. Discover the abandoned mansions, stone-build hoses and ineffable vibe of past times!
Ethia village in Asterousia mountains
Asterousia mountains harbour many secrets and surprise adventuous traveller with many discoveries. Ethia village is one of them.
A quiet wind is gusting through the alleys of bygone past of Ethia village - grand and empty stone buildings, the few villagers left are having nap during midday siesta, beautiful gardens and many stories to be told. As families have left Ethia village for decades now, the houses have started to crumble. The village population, which had once numbered in the hundreds, dwindled to single digits. Ethia is one of Greece’s southernmost settlements and just above it, the hills overlook the Libyan Sea.
Ardachtia village in Central Crete
One of the most interesting ghost villages - Ardachtia lies just 500 m from Agios Thomas village. This village has quite a history as its name features in all the Venetian documents of the 16th. Its unique location under cliffs, looming rocks and the natural caves, however, became a reason why it was abandoned. The earthquakes, falling rocks threatened to land right on the rooftops of the houses; the landslides shaking the structures of the buildings threatened the lives of villagers. It was abandoned as a result and nowadays it is a quiet, lonely place, except for few houses.
The name Mixorouma was given to this village due to its position at the confluence of two streams. It is worth for visitors to visit old Mixorouma, a wonderful dorp with stone-built houses, submersed in the green landscape. It is referred to with the name Mixorouma in all Venetian censuses. In 1881, it is referred to with the name Mixorouma in the Municipality of Lampis with 126 residents. In 1900, it is mentioned again in the same municipality as Mixorouma with 146 residents. You can walk through the empty streets and see the old houses that are falling apart and that have their doors open.The only building that is in sort of a good state is, off course, the village church.
Three churches which are utterly beautiful in their architecture, location and unique in their significance.
Church of Sotiros Christou in Temenia
At the altitude of 686 meters Byzantine church in Temenia village, West Crete. Temenia is a small village between Sougia and Kandanos. It is situated in such a point on the mountains from where it leads to Palechora (13 km), Sougia (22 km) or Kandanos (12 km).
Chapel of the Virgin Mary in Fodele
A little before the El Greco Museum there is the 11th or 12th century Church of Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, with fine frescoes (wall paintings) covering many surfaces, patches remain inside the dome, upon tapering columns, and on the undersides of arches. Larger fragments of saintly figures look upon you with soulful eyes from walls and around the altar.
It is a small and highly important relic of the mid-Byzantine period. A visit here will offer memorable views of icon painting from what many say was a 'golden era' for this art form. The opening hours are 8:30 am to 3 pm, apart from Monday when it is closed.
Having traveled for over 30 years, since 6 years now, I have found the whole world in one of the most fascinating and unique places on earth – Crete. It is a diverse, rich and inspiring island which even after so many years does not stop surprising me - its rich history and unique traditions, its people, the delicacies of Cretan cuisine, its landspace and its stunning nature. Here I reveal some of its secrets.
I see Crete through turquoise - pink glasses.