A Road-Trip from Chania into the Mountains
Throughout the two months we’ll be spending on Crete, our plan is to embark on a road-trip every week. The ultimate goal of our first excursion was the famous pink beach of Elafonissi, but we had plenty of time to make some other stops along the way. We didn’t even make it to the beach on the first day, but saw more than enough to warrant a separate post.
Minoan Tomb in Maleme
Discovered only at the beginning of 1900s, this massive tomb is from the Minoan period on Crete, and dates between the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries BC. It was unfortunately looted after its discovery, and damaged during WWII, but its shape and sheer age remain highly impressive. From the parking lot, you have to hike up a short path, through a field of olive trees. The entrance to the chamber is about fourteen meters long, and lined by high walls on both sides. The tomb is free, and quick to visit, and makes a great stop between Chania and Kissamos.
Deutsche Kriegsgräberstätte Costermano
A few hundred meters away from the tomb, you’ll find another resting place for the dead. This time, it’s the war military cemetery of fallen German soldiers, most of whom died during an air strike in 1941. The surprisingly large cemetery spans several terraces, with the graves of over 4400 soldiers.
The ancient Minoans and World War II… our trip was off to a surprisingly “historic” start, and this continued in the town of Kissamos, AKA Kastelli. This is the biggest town west of Chania, and was the site of the Roman city of Cisamus. There have been amazing archaeological finds, here, many of which can be seen in the town’s small Archaeology Museum.
But as much as we enjoy history, we’d had our fill today, and limited ourselves to a short coffee break on the seaside promenade. Kissamos instantly won us over — it’s touristy, but not too much so (in comparison to Chania), the beaches look great, and there’s an appealing, calm vibe. We liked it so much, we’ve already started talking about it as a base for our next trip to Crete!
Topolia And Gorge
Now it was time to get into the mountainous interior of Crete. Taking the road headed south out of Kissamos, we ascended small, winding roads to the town of Topolia, where we planned to have lunch at a restaurant called Oinochóos. We urge you to do the same: not only was the food excellent, but there was a view to match, over the mountain gorge.
We enjoyed lunch maybe too much, considering the next leg of our day: a hike through the Topolia Gorge. (At the very least, the bottle of Retsina had been a bad idea.) We walked down a narrow street until arriving at the town church, where we found a path leading steeply downhill, into the valley. We followed a sign to the Old Stone Bridge, and then walked along the trail to the south, kept company by dozens of curious goats.
Fairytale Elafonisi And Elos
The gorge had been beautiful, but the hike back uphill to our car was horrible, and we had to sit for a long time in the shade, re-hydrating, before continuing. Our next stop was the Fairytale Elafonisi, our accommodation for the night. At the gate, we were greeted warmly by Gregori and his wife, who had just opened this beautiful guesthouse last year, after a lengthy period of restoration. Located in the town of Perivolia, it makes a great base for early-morning excursions to nearby Elafonisi.
That night, we took Gregori’s recommendation and dined in the neighboring town of Elos, at a restaurant called Filoxenia. We ordered a selection of delicious mezze, and were mostly successful in fending off our waiter’s obvious attempts to get us drunk. It was the perfect way to end the first day of our first Cretan roadtrip.
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