Duration: Full Day Tour (6-7 hours)
The road trip Akrotiri will lead you to some mystical places at the Akrotiri peninsula north east of Chania.
The peninsula hosts the major in function Monasteries of Crete. The large number of monasteries and hermits gave this area the name Mount Athos of Crete. The peninsula accommodates also the Chania International Airport and the naval base of the Hellenic Navy and NATO at Souda Bay. And of course …. some wonderful beaches
The Road Trip Akrotiri includes:
- Monastery Agia Triada
- Monastery Gouverneto
- walk to the Bear Cave and the ruined Monastery Katholiko
In addition optional:
- settlement Stavros, where Alexis Zorbas was filmed. Swim at the beach where actor Anthony Quinn danced the famous Sirtaki.
- Whoever wants a swim on the way back, can do so at Stavros village or at the bay of Kalathas.
- Venizelos Graves
Kilometers: from/ to Chania approx. 45-50 km
Hiking Duration: from Gouverneto monastery until Katholiko and back approx 75-90 min.
Height difference: 400 m. Suitable for children over 6 y.
Total time for the tour: 6-7 hours (without swim break)
Road Trip Akrotiri
An almost full-day tour by motorbike or car hire on the Akrotiri peninsula to the monasteries of Agia Triada and Gouverneto, then walk through the nature reserve to the Bear Cave and the monastery Katholiko, probably the oldest of Crete.
Coming either from Chania or from Rethymnon, please follow the signs to the Chania International Airport Ioannis Daskalogiannis. Right before the airport (you will see the airport to the right) there are signs for the monastery Agia Triada or monastery Tzangarolon.
Monastery Agia Triada
The access road of the monastery Agia Triada of Tzangarolon (the brothers Jeremiah and Lavrentio Jagarolon were the builders of the monastery) is quite impressive with Cypress and olive trees lining both sides of the street.
Every amateur photographer needs at least 1 hour here, you can easily shoot about 100 photos on a visit. The architectural details from different eras, together with the monastery atmosphere, makes this place an oasis for the eyes and soul.
There is a museum shop with cheese, olive oil and wine (all produced by the monks in their surrounding fields ) and a small “kafeneion”. Dozens of cats, many of them tame, patiently wait for lunch outside the kitchen door. Depending on your luck or misfortune, you will meet numerous local and international visitors (many with tour buses) admiring the many icons in the main chapel. Do not fail to go upstairs on the monastery’s walls for more views from on high.
- Continue reading about this monastery in Monastery Agia Triada (Holy Trinity) in Akrotiri peninsula
Please note: for the hike to the Bear Cave and the monastery Katholiko, you first have to pass on foot the grounds of the monastery Gouverneto. A parking lot is in front of the monastery.
The road trip Akrotiri continues driving from the monastery Agia Triada to the monastery Gouverneto. The road is easy to find, turning once, following the sign and continuing straight. The road winds up higher, the landscape becomes more barren, and after 10-15 minutes, we reach our goal. It’s Sunday, and despite the early time (9:30) quite a few cars are already in the parking area.
We enter the grounds of the monastery and then the monastery itself. The church door is open and you can clearly hear the Byzantine chanting by the monks / priests. About 70 believers are there in a pious and contemplative state.
Note: Please be dressed adequate, photography is not allowed on the grounds of the convent. Please follow the general rules of all monasteries. The monks here can be quite rude.
Past the monastery, there is a fence with a door which you can open. Here starts the hill down hike to the Bear Cave and into the Avlaki gorge.
Down we go ….
The highlight of the road trip Akrotiri starts here. There is a 400 m height difference to overcome. The northern tip of the Akrotiri peninsula is a nature reserve, the sparse flora is unique …. spherical dwarf shrubs are found here and there. Carob trees, wild olive trees and all sorts of cactus lend the surroundings its extreme Mediterranean flair.
After about 15 minutes we reach the Bear Cave, which is finally fenced in (in past years a shepherd had his herd of goats housed in the cave). The discoveries in the cave revealed that since ancient times it was used as a sanctuary of Artemis. You can see the namesake of the cave at a first glance … in the middle of the room you find almost white stalagmite curved in the shape of bears. In the depths of the cave, there was certainly a lot to see …. but I didn’t dare to move deeper within! A torch is needed here.
After the Bear Cave the zig zag paths starts
After a few meters the zig zag paths begins. At this point I wondered how the monks mastered this route in former times. We got our first look at the abandoned monastery Katholiko after about 20 minutes.
Arrived at the monastery Katholiko
Walking down the last stairs, to your left hand you will notice a cave. An ascetic named Ioannis the Hermit lived here at the beginning of the 16th century. His sad end: he lived exclusively on herbs and the fruit of the carob trees, causing his physical condition to weaken so terribly that he moved on all fours. A shepherd took him as a pet and fatally wounded him with an arrow.
His grave site is being honored today at the entrance to his cave just before the monastery Katholiko. Shortly after his death, this place became a pilgrimage site for the inhabitants of Kydonia (Chania).
The monastery itself is not operating. You can explore the ruins and enjoy being in the rough nature of Crete and in the middle of the Nature Reserve Akrotiri.
After visiting the monastery Katholiko you can hike along the gorge Avlaki to the sea (there & back approx 45 mins) and visit the old harbor of the monastery with some ruins.
Then you have 2 options for the return to civilization:
1. a badly signed footpath leads over the mountains to the village of Stavros (not recommended without a local guide), from where you can take a taxi to the parking lot of the monastery Gouverneto.
2. take the same way back to the vehicle.
The Road Trip Akrotiri comes to its end
From the parking lot drive back to the monastery Agia Triada and afterwards until the main road or until you see the sign leading to Chorafakia 3 km. Take the road to Chorafakia.
Almost at the exit of the village you will meet the main road leading to Chania or Stavros.
A visit in Stavros: Stavros is and was always a summer settlement for the people of Chania. It became known since the “Alexis Zorbas” was filmed here (in 1963) at the beach under the mountain symbol of Stavros. You can recognize the cave (and you can also walk up there), where Basil and Zorbas attempt to work the old lignite mine. Swim at the beach where the actor Anthony Quinn (Zorbas) danced the famous Sirtaki.
Swim at Kalathas Beach: Taking the road to Chania, you will soon see the bay of Kalathas with its beach.
And the last attraction: Stop at the Venizelos Graves to enjoy the great view to the gulf of Chania. The sight is well signposted. Read more in Venizelos Graves Chania – the lost Eleftheria statue
Conclusion of the whole tour: I can recommend this tour to everyone. This is a tour removed from the usual tourist attractions and certainly helps one to know and appreciate Crete better.