Sea side villages
Platanias, at a distance of approximately 10 kms from the city of Hania, to the west of the river Keritis or Iardanos, according to Homer, is a famous tourist resort which attracts thousands of people every year both from Greece and every part of the world. Its history goes back to ancient times as it can be seen from the findings dating from the Hellenistic and Roman Times.
Platanias is very well known for its beaches and crystal clear seas, its tourist facilities, its shops and night life. There are, however, other facts and characteristics relevantly unknown but which are worth getting to know.
1. There is a marvelous 5- km route of exceptional natural beauty leading from the centre of the town to the location called Drakiana. It is a magnificent walk among orange groves and olive groves. It ends in a little forest of plane trees, a park right beside the river, protected from the hot sun rays under the huge plane trees. You can relax here while enjoying coffee or a delicious meal in the traditional taverna. A few metres away you can visit the little chapel of Agios Georgios with its Byzantine frescoes for the restoring of which the Archaeological Department has already got works under way.
2. Ano Platanias, especially the spot called “Viglie”, is particularly impressive. It is like the “acropolis” in ancient cities- dominating the whole rocky vicinity and offering, from the very edge of the cliff on the north eastern side, an uninterrupted view of the sea, the island Thodorou and the whole plain up to the city of Hania.
3. The main church of the village, the one dedicated to Agios Demetrios, celebrated on 26 October and the “German Shelter”situated right below it –used as ammunition depot during the German Occupation- are equally interesting and worth a visit.
Gerani is a seaside village, where the Town Hall of the Municipality of Platanias is situated. The village is 14 kms away from the city of Hania and only 1 km away from the heart of Platanias. It can be accessed either from the National Motorway or from the seaside road traversing the whole tourist region on the northern side of the island.The village comprises of Pano Gerani and Kato Gerani (the upper and lower village). Kato Gerani has modern hotels and the necessary infrastructure to offer its visitors an unforgettable stay. Pano Gerani has no such facilities- what it does have to offer is the scenic narrow roads, the traditional little cafes and the hospitality of its people- the aroma of a different era. This is where the house of the notable Cretan writer, Kondylakis, is situated close to the church of Agios Eleftherios on the eve of whose name day ,14 December, a big feast is held.
The village of Gerani is quickly but steadily growing and developing. Works are carried out continuously with a view to this development, such as the restoration, the construction of pavements and the lighting up with new lamp posts of the section of the road connecting Gerani to Maleme.Your visit to Gerani will give you the opportunity to enjoy a swim on its very clean beaches, to take a walk among its beautiful flower gardens and, last but not least, to taste Cretan cuisine delicacies in its traditional cafes and tavernas. Any one of these activities will remain unforgettable.
After leaving Gerani behind and driving on for another kilometer towards Maleme, the road forks off to the left and the signs direct you to Kontomari village, Kilada and Xirokambi . Another 2 kms of narrow country road leads to the picturesque and heroic village of Kontomari whose history reaches back to the Venetian Dominion and 1200 AD. The other two villages are small but very picturesque.
Both the road leading to it and the Kontomari village itself is full of rich olive groves, orange groves, vineyards and colourful blooming gardens.
Apart from its scenic, natural beauty, the village also has a glorious history: it is one of the villages of the Network of Martyr villages of Greece since, on 2 June 1941, its residents were executed by the barbarian Nazi occupants.
Today Kontomari is steadily developing and turning into a modern settlement retaining its traditional characteristics with many new stone houses being erected but also with the necessary facilities to offer its visitors the holidays of their life.
As you drive along the seaside road, 4 kms. after Platanias and 6 kms. before reaching the town of Kolymbari, you find yourself in a modern little town of the Platanias Municipality: the town of Maleme.
It is a cosmopolitan resort , well- known worldwide, since its name has been associated with historic events such as the Battle of Crete and the air raids performed by the Nazis in their attempt to take over the military Airport during World War II.
We come across the first mention of its name in a 1577 census, but the founding of the village goes back to ancient times as we can determine from the ruins of a tomb dating from the Late Minoan Era which can still be seen in the area just outside the village. A sign of the more recent history of Maleme is the German Cemetery on the top of a nearby hill – the eternal resting place for the German soldiers who were killed in the area during World War II.
What you really shouldn’t miss out on is a visit to the huge Maleme coast and beaches. The area has recently been remodeled and-apart from swimming- is now used for very successful summer concerts and various other cultural events. There are also many religious events held in Maleme since the Women’s Culture Association and Club is really very active. There are religious feasts held on the name day of Agios Antonios, on 17 January, that of Agia Marina, on 17 July ,and that of the Holy Cross on 14 September.
There are numerous routes and trails for nature lovers all around the village – paths that lead you through meadows covered with colourful flowers in bloom, or along the beach which is covered with lovely little lilies and blue amaranth flowers – a really glorious sight !
Immediately after the historic Maleme military airport, if you keep driving westward, you will come across the Tavronitis River with the eucalyptus trees lining its banks- a really unique phenomenon of the local flora-, the delta it forms and the metal bridge which, along with the above-mentioned airport, comprise a preservable historic monument of the Battle of Crete and World War II.
This point is a road junction where 3 main roads merge –not only the roads leading to the 3 former municipalities which make up the Platanias Municipality but also many secondary roads leading inland and even to the south of the island of Crete.
The village is very old dating back to ancient times –proof of which is the ruins of the tomb of the late Minoan Era recently discovered on the opposite Hill 107.
The whole village is an ideal destination for nature lovers who can enjoy a walk from the clean beaches with the trees ,to the delta of the Tavronitis River and the metal bridge-monument, up to the hilltop called Debla with its rapidly developing settlement where many European citizens have chosen to make their home and live permanently.
The village has retained a steady pace of development through the recent years making itself both attractive and friendly for its visitors. In the village centre and along the beaches you can enjoy coffee, fresh fish or genuine Cretan cuisine delicacies prepared with pure local ingredients.
After leaving behind the town of Platanias and driving westwards along the coast for another 10 kms. you come to the seaside town of Kolymbari lying peacefully in the Kolymbari Bay. The town has a history of over 100 years although some of its areas date back as far as the Venetian Era.
Apart from the traditional cafes and tavernas which can be found all over the town, there are numerous other spots worth visiting:
The Monastery of Gonia dating back to the early 9th century AD has survived many attacks from barbarians who burned it time and again. It is rich in Cultural and Religious treasures and has been not only a religious centre but also headquarters in many wars of the locals for their freedom against would-be conquerors. The Monastery is dedicated to the Ascension of the Virgin Mary and there is a grand celebration held here on the 14th and 15th of August each year.
Right next to the Monastery you come across the Orthodox Academy of Crete –a world famous Spiritual and Cultural Centre of Platanias Municipality, venue to very significant events, local, National and even International Scientific Conferences , Seminars and Fora. It is a real jewel for the area which has made our Municipality known universally.
The Museum of Cretan Herbs situated right next to the Academy.
The Fisheries Museum where you can see specimens of the marine life of the area and where Art Exhibitions are often held every summer .
The Monument dedicated to the Cadets who gave their lives defending the island against the Nazi Invasion. The Monument is situated on the hilltop above the town of Kolymbari and offers the visitor a magnificent, panoramic view of the Northern coast of the island – extending from the City of Hania to Kolymbari Bay and Kissamos Gulf.
The caves situated in “Vardia” with a spectacular view to the Cretan Sea
There are also significant events worth attending:
The feast (held both on the Day and the Eve of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary). A grand celebration is held on the 14th and the 15th August.
The “Fish” Feast in the beginning of August , organized and carried out by all the fishermen as well as the locals, and which attracts hundreds of visitors who can enjoy delicious fish while listening to traditional Cretan music an even joining in the Cretan dancing.
You can go trekking in the surrounding hills and even to the Northern end of Cape Spada which starts right here, in Kolymbari.
Last but not least, you can always relax and enjoy unsurpassed tastes and delicious , fresh fish at the scenic seaside tavernas , at the same time enjoying the view of the deep blue waters of the Cretan Sea. A truly unbelievable experience !