West mainland tour
Agios Antonios village
This is one of the many small but very picturesque villages scattered all over the inland, with a history reaching back to 1750 AD, as could be seen on the religious paintings in the church of Agios Antonios from which the village got its name. It is located at a distance of 9 kms from Kolymbari.
This is an area of great natural beauty with amazing paths and sites for nature lovers. Top quality products are produced here which you can taste: virgin olive oil, wine, oranges and other citrus fruit, almonds, walnuts, as well as various vegetables.
The visitor of the village could possibly watch a performance in the little stone-built theatre “Alexis Minotis”(named after the great Greek actor who was born here) which is situated right next to the church. You could also ask to see the collection of school equipment and objects used in the first Primary School established in the village. It is a good idea, too, to attend one of the religious feasts which combine paying tribute and honours to the saint and the church with feasting, Cretan music and dancing: on the 17th January (or the Eve,the 16th) for the name day of Agios Antonios , or on the 3rd day after Easter Sunday, the name day of Agios Georgios.
Having driven for about 2-3 kms after leaving Agios Antonios , following the country road through olive groves, you find yourself in the village of Kares. It is a scenic village perched on the hills, with a history dating back to the Venetian Dominion of the island . Proof of this is provided by the remains of the old Venetian settlement- oil factories and mills. The village could date back to the Byzantine era, since there are many Byzantine churches in the area with religious paintings of the Byzantine era.
Many religious feasts are held all year round. On 6th December there is a grand celebration of the main church of Agios Nikolaos, on 26 June the celebration of the church dedicated to Peter and Paul, the Apostles and on 6 August the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ.
One of the most important events, however, which you shouldn’t miss, is the “Feast of the Olive Oil”, organized by the local Cultural Club, held during the first fortnight of August: it combines being informed about this top- significance local product and how beneficial it is for our health, with sample tasting of delicacies cooked in olive oil. As in all Cretan feasts, the closing can only be delicious food, Cretan music and dancing.
You can also visit, after making an appointment, the winery in the village.
Last but not least, while trekking in or around the village, you will come across plenty of centuries-old monumental olive trees.
A beautiful, green village “hidden” in the shelter of the mountainous landscape, whose main square fills the visitors with awe with its gigantic plane trees and the enormous oak tree –also centuries old- with a perimeter of over 6 metres! Your soul fills with tranquility and peace as you enjoy your coffee or your meal at the taverna or the coffee shops around the square, under the thick shade of the huge trees-literally in a cool oasis which you don’t feel inclined to leave!
This is a village with a centuries-old history which played a significant role in the life of the area during the-not so distant- past,(it was a Municipality from 1920 to 1930) with the famous central church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary(from whom it probably got its name- Panethimos coming from pan=all +fimi=fame). The village is surrounded by three more churches: those of the Archangel Michael, the Transfiguration of Jesus, and of the Gathering of the Doctors-Saints (who were said to cure people for free). The four churches were built on the four points of the Horizon-east, West, North, and South- in order to protect the village from a deadly epidemic which threatened its people in the past. There is a trail for nature- lovers: it begins at the village square and follows the stream (along which you can find little waterfalls) and after approximately 1 kilometre you come to the exit in the gorge at Deliana village.
About 2 km. from Panethimos there is the little village of “Kria Vrissi” where you can see the remains of a Venetian water reservoir giving cool water – this is where the name of the little village came from. This is where the villagers brought their animals to drink water, where they washed their clothes and from where they carried water home for domestic use and drinking.
Episkopi village -ROTUNDA
After driving along the country road to the west for about 6 kms after Kolymbari, or 16 kms from Platanias, you come across a junction on your right with a road sign showing the way to the village of Episkopi.
Apart from its natural beauty and the idyllic environment it is set in, it is mainly known for the “Rotunda”. This is the Byzantine Church of the Archangel Michael, built in the 5th century AD, the most ancient Christian church on the island of Crete. This church along with the Rotunda of Thessaloniki- the one of Agios Georgios are 2 of the 3 best preserved such churches in the Balkans. It is adorned with significant frescos and religious paintings and mosaic floors.
On the first Sunday of August there is a special event held in the Rotunda : “The Blessing of Crops”. All the producers of the area bring their products to the church where, after a special ceremony and blessings by the Bishop and priests from the area, they are offered as a free treat to all those present. There are also two main religious feasts held in Episkopi : one on 20 July, name day of the Prophet Elias, and one on 15 August, the Ascension of the Virgin Mary.
Approximately 3 kms after leaving Kolymbari behind, as you go southward, you reach Spilia, one of the most beautiful and picturesque places in the Kolymbari region which could very well be the ideal holiday destination.
The village “hugs” the hill on your right as you approach from the direction of Kolymbari, extending from the main road to the top of the hill with the famous “Platania” Square, the huge plane trees and the currently being remodeled Venetian Fountain.
The inhabitants have retained and enhanced the traditional characteristics of the village, adding stone villas and cobbled paths which add a very special touch.
Right next to the “Platania” Square, the imposing church of the Virgin “Myrtidiotissa” dominates overlooking the village. There is a grand religious feast here on 8 September.
Keep going upwards with extra caution at some points of the road. Maybe a 4-wheel drive or a jeep would be more suitable or maybe you can go up on foot since the whole ascent is less than 1 km. Halfway up you turn left and find yourself at the “Park of Heroes”, a park right in the heart of a pine forest with rows of plaques dedicated to the people of Spilia who gave their lives fighting for their country.
A little to the left of the park there is another surprising site : the famous “Marathokefala” – a cave in the form of a horizontal gallery 135 m. long full of stalagmites and stalactites. Legend has it that St John the Hermit lived and died in this very cave.
This is a place which, combined with the magnificent view (extending from Kissamos to Hania), fills your soul with awe .
If you take the time to explore the village of Spilia step by step and walk through its cobbled streets, you will come across many more surprising sights. Plan a visit to Spilia and discover its beauties for yourself !
Kamara village -Kalidonia village -Melissourgio village
At a distance of approximately 6kms away from Kolymbari, as you drive westwards in the direction of Kissamos, you come to the point where the road forks off to the left and leads to Kalidonia, Veni, Melissourgio and Kamara. These small villages are situated at the point where Cape Spada begins and, apart from their natural beauty, they have other places of interest.
One most notable monument is the Fountain of Kamara and Melissourgio, a source of life for the village, since its waters, coming from 3 different sources, covered the needs of the villages in drinking water and irrigation. Very close to the fountain there were 3 gigantic plane trees only one of which can be seen today. The perimeter of its trunk is 6m but it has been struck and partly burnt by lightning. The fountain has dried up ever since 1960 and, unfortunately, up to now the works scheduled for its restoring and emergence haven’t even started yet.
In the area close to and around the Kamara fountain, in the area called “Moschati”, there are many monuments of nature, centuries-old olive trees, most of which have a perimeter of 11 or more metres.
The touring path which starts from the Kamara settlement and ends up in Melissourgio, as it passes the hill top called “Korfi” gives you an unlimited view of the sea from Kissamos to the City of Hania.
There are 2 churches-religious monuments in Kamara : one dedicated to Agios Ioannis and one to Agia Paraskevi.
In the central square of Kalidonia there is the “Monument of Peace” where the finishing point of the “Race for Peace” is. This is a small, 10km Marathon held in the beginning of October each year. Cape Spada is called “Cape of Peace” after the Convention held there some years ago with worldwide leaders- among them the late Olaf Palme and Melina Merkouri. The Convention was the initiative of the former Bishop of the area, Reverend Mr. Irineos Galanakis and its aim was the promotion of World Peace.
In the middle of July the Cultural Club or the village organizes a feast, called the “Feast of Rooster Cooked in Wine” with delicious food and traditional Cretan music and dancing.
After leaving Kolymbari follow the road towards Spilia-Drakona-Episkopi and 6 kms along the way you come to a village spread indolently along the country road and a spacious rural area- Astrikas. The road leading to the village is lined with olive trees, eucalyptus trees and colourful blooming gardens giving off sweet, delicate scents. There is also an organic oil refinery and standardization plant which can be visited after an appointment is made.
After traversing the village of Astrikas, keep driving on the country road to the south west and you will soon find yourself in Deliana. For the last 2 kms the road gives the impression of “sinking” in the dark green of a cypress trees forest – in fact, the whole village is “swamped” in green. You reach the main square in Deliana also full of the many colours and scents coming from the flower gardens adorning the yards of houses and traditional little cafes and tavernas around the square. The village has developed around the church of St John the Baptist, with the amazing frescoes, dating back at least 600 years.
Every July there is a celebration held in Deliana. The feast is called “Baladinia”, in honour of the chieftain Emmanuel Baladinos, from Deliana, who fought bravely not only in his village but also in far-away Metsovo, in northern Greece, where celebrations are held in his honour. It is a two-day celebration : on the first day-usually Saturday-there is a memorial service in the square, speeches are delivered on the life and deeds of the hero and later on in the evening there is a great feast with delicious food, Cretan folk music and dancing lasting till the early morning hours. All during the ceremony there are many horses (they are called “Georgalidika”, a breed found only in Crete ) led to Deliana by their owners not only from the surrounding villages but often from all over Crete in order to participate in the “Baladinia” celebrations.
On the second day the horses are led to the entrance of the Deliana Gorge via a dirt road of about 2 kms. This is the starting point of a “race” or , even better, a ride through the gorge and a demonstration of the horses’ skills and the ability of their riders. They go up the gorge and, on the way back, they all gather at the same point, the specially prepared place, under the gigantic plane trees, where barbeques have been set up and there is a great feast in the thick shade of the trees. More often than not, the extremely active local Cultural Association who organize the event holds a draw to win a horse. Don’t miss out on this event if you happen to be in the area those days.
Drakona village -Karthiana village -Vassilopoulo village -Vassiliana village -Dromonero village
After leaving Spilia village behind and heading south towards Deliana and Kakopetros, you will be surprised by the number and beauty of little villages adorning the countryside at a very close distance to the country road such as Drakona, Gerakiana, Glossa, Mothiana, Karthiana, Vassilopoulo and Vassiliana-to mention only a few of them. They are small but picturesque villages which can offer their visitor-if nothing more- peace and quiet, hospitality and the chance to relax. They are all suitable for hiking and enjoying the beauty of the inland of our Municipality.
About 1.5 kms after leaving Drakona, on your right, just off the road, half- hidden in the thick shade of huge plane trees, the chapel of Agios Stefanos nests like a white dove. The chapel dates back to the 9th century AD and is rich in Byzantine frescoes.
After traversing the village of Kalidonia, go south for another 2 kms and you find yourself in the village of Nohia. The name is first mentioned in the 1570 AD census but there is a church in the village with the date 1081 engraved on it. It is said that on this very spot – at a distance of 6 kms from Kolymbari- there was an ancient city named Inahia and this is where the name Nohia came from.
It is a small village built on a hill side covered in olive groves and vineyards which produce top quality olive oil and wine. From its very early years, however, the village became well-known for the ceramics its people made, especially the ceramic pots and jugs-called “laynes”(the stress on the “y”)-used for carrying and storing water, as there were no water supply systems in villages at that time. These water pots were made in a special way , with very particular characteristics, had become famous all over the island of Crete-and even further away- and their trade created a substantial source of income for the people of Nohia.
There are some ceramic workshops left in the village and they are worth a visit, since you might catch a glimpse of somebody creating ceramics on the spot. Another product which has made Nohia well known are the sweet crisps with the particular taste which are made in the village bakeries and are considered a very special treat by the visitors of the village.
Of course, the village has its share in victims of struggles and wars or freedom both during the Turkish Domination and the German Occupation. The site called “speelies =caves” is the spot where the villagers fled and found protection in the caves.
In August the people of Nohia hold the “Feast of the Ceramic Jug” –the “layna”. Of course, there are many religious feasts e.g. the one for Agios Konstantinos on 21st May, for the Virgin Mary on the 14-15 August and Agios Ioannis the Baptist on the 28-29th August.
The village of Nohia is easily accessible by car, bus, bike or 4-wheel drives. Plan a visit –both for the most scenic village with its surroundings and for one of the few ceramics workshops left. Afterwards you can enjoy your coffee with the sweet crisps mentioned above, or even a delicious meal, in the traditional cafes around the village square. You will have created very special memories to take back home with you.
After two kms to the southeast of Nohia village the road leads to another little village of the inland : Plakalona , which got its name from the many stone threshing floors constructed all around the village. The spot called “Koukounara” , recently remodeled, is of exceptional natural beauty and worth a visit. It is used mainly for recreational purposes and it offers the visitor peace and relaxation.