IT is a great road trip to take from Chania or Rethymno.
Road to Argiroupolis is quite scenic and narrow, so you get to slow down and enjoy Crete.
Argiroupolis is still close to the beach (via Episkopi town) so you can spend half day on the beach and half day in Argiroupolis.
We had no problem finding the place, however we had to look at the map a lot, as there is not too many signs.
Argiroupolis is divided into two parts Argiroupolis with old building and quite charming atmosphere and the lower village with about 5 tavernas and many waterfalls incorporated into tavernas decor.
It is nice first to stroll through the village and admire its beauty and then either descend on long staircase or drive around to the lower part of the village. (Remember, if you take a staircase, you have to climb back up :-)
Food was good in the taverna we went to however it was a bit touristy. You just have to take a look at all of them and pick the one that looks good.
This monastery was probably founded in 14th century. In 1866 it served as a stronghold for hundreds of Cretese. In fact they choose the gunpowder store of the monastery as a shelter to protect against the Turks attaks. These people were surrounded by the Turkish army that lay siege for two days. At last this shelter was exploded on the order of the abbot. Many Cretese were killed and also a large number of Turks.
From Matala we took the road to Agia Galini, this is not far from Matala but we cross the border so to speak from the prefecture of Heraklion into Rethymnon. After Agia Galini we follow the road sign posted for Rethymnon. We come to the town of Spili which is very high up in the mountains and the day we were there it was raining lightly while down below the temperatures were melting and not a cloud to be seen. Spili has a large fountain with 25 outlets of water coming from the mouths of carved lions heads. The water is sweet and cold to drink. The village is very picturesque and a bit touristy but a lovely place to stop if out driving.
Mony Arkadi is a 16 th century monastery located 23 km South- East from the town of Rethymno.
The history of the monastery goes back to Byzantine times, when a monk, possibly named Arkadios, founded the monastery which in turn was named after him.
Mony Arkadi, built during the las Venetian period, it is one the most famous monastery of Crete due to the holocaust it suffered in 1866 when hundreds of Cretan fighters and their families died while they were taking refuge in it from The Turkish army.
The History tell us that when the Turkish and the Egypcian forces surrounded the monastery (15,000 men), the Cretan refugees refused to surrender. When the walls came tumbling down and the Turks began the massacre, one of the rebels, Kostis Giamboudakis, blew the gunpowder store. The massive explosion killed all the refugees along with several hundred Turkish soldiers and reduced the monastery to a pile of rubble.
This heroic feat is considered one of the greatest in Cretan history and has turned Arkadi Monastery into one of Europe's Monuments to Freedom.
Many efforts have been made for the restoration of the monastery in the last years.
Nowadays, there are still monks living in the monastery; they take care of the church and the surrounding buildings as well as the small museum where many impressive relics of the 1866 holocaust and some beutiful icons are kept.
In the museum you can also buy very good copied icons made in the traditional way and many other religious items.
Tip under construction!
On the way from Rethymno to Plakias, you will get through the Kourtalioti Gorge. The gorge owes its name to the noise that sounds when the wind blows. Amazing during the day and unbelievable magic at night!!! Look at the sky and let me know...
Plakias is a coastal village, 40 km South from Rethymno, built at the cove of the bay of the same name on a wonderful sandy beach.
The natural beauty of the place helped Plakias to became a renowned tourist resort now providing all the facilities that a visitor cold wish.
Large hotels, youth hostel, small traditional style apartments, camping site, traditional taverns, restaurants, bars...
There are many small secluded baches for the naturalism lovers as well as some organized ones providing quite few facilities such as chairs, umbrellas, sea sports...
This is an extremely scenic and nice place for a walk. Take a picnic and have a little lunch next to the waterfalls. Don't forget your camera. Do wear sturdy shoes. Take your time and enjoy nature. Light a candle for your loved ones and peace in the small church, Agios Nikolas, the patron saint of all sailors:):)( which is why there are so many churches named Agios Nikolas in Greece...as it is a well known fact that Greece is a nation of seafarers!
You will see many gorges in Crete, but the Kourtaliotis is easy to pass through as you can drive you car. Be sure to drive carefully and do watch for falling rocks. The Creten drivers are used to these roads and so I would advise that you give them the right of way when travelling for the first time on such roads. Don't be too shocked if some driver goes wizzing by, seemingly oblivious of the dangers of the sharp curves! Many of these drivers will have had their share of crashes...some never to return! I recently met a young man who had a very vivid scar outlining his handsome face. Of course you know the answer to the question..he had driven over the side of a cliff one dark, drunken night and only his youth and good health had saved him! He told me that it took him 4 hours to drag himself up to the top of the road where if he had not managed, for sure he would not have been found before he had died! What a crazy way to live. I asked him if he drove any differently after his brush with death and his answer was typical of many young greek men; 'No, of course not!'
Crete is full of contrasting and rugged scenery. One of the best and easiest drives to see the huge rock formations and experience the beauty of Crete is to drive from Rethymnon to the Southern part of the island to Plakias and Preveli.
You trip will begin from the centre of Rethymnon, where you must ask any local where the road to Plakias is. It's quite simple, but much easier to show you when you are there than trying to describe the way from these pages. Don't worry though, every person from Rethymnon can show you the way and most everyone speaks English!
Once you are on the road, just keep driving south and follow the signs to Plakias or Preveli. You will certainly want to stop along the way and take photos. At one point, there is a sign indicating that there is a church, Agious Nikolas, down some stone steps!
Get out of your car, be sure you wearing good walking shoes, and venture down those steps. Just keep going! It may seem a long way at first, but there is a lovely little church at the end of the steps. Not only a church, but the beginning of a fantastic river that is surging with such power from the rocks and cascading down waterfalls through green foliage. Absolutely worth the walk both down and up!
Venetian Fortress in Rethimno is known as the biggest fortress of Venetians.
It was built in year 1573.
Venetian Fortress is the biggest one in the Europe. It is realy huge. There were a lot of nice views from the top of the hill especially you can see a nice sea view from the wall. It could be difficult to park the car just near the entrance, so you'd better go 100m ahead and you'll find a nice and not so expensive parking place.
It is also connected with the sad events when at the WWII Creteian women jumped from the top of it as they didn't want to be in German's captivity.
In the front of the Fortress there is an Archaeological Museum. In the past there was a Venetian and next Turkish prison at this place, now there is a museum.
Monastery Moni Arkadi (Moni Akradiou) is 16th century monastery.
It is a symbol of Creteian heroic struggle for the independence. It is the most famous Creteian national symbol of the whole island.
In year 1866 the big sad event has happened at this place.
As there was Turkish siege a few hundred of people used this place as a shelter from Turkish soldiers. The Turkish soldiers attacked this place. Greek people found the shelter in the place where the gunpowder was and when Turkish people attacked them the defenders had prefered to blow up themselves. All people perished included Turkish also.
The defenders chose the death to lose their liberty...
Every year at the day of anniversary that event crowd of people come to the Monastery to pay the homage to those who lost the life there.
The Monastery is a monument of martyrdom of year 1866.
There is a Church of Saint Elena and Saint Constantin at the area of Monastery which was built in year 1587.
There is also very moving small museum near the Church. I mean the museum of the victims of the year 1866. You can see the long plait of the young, Creteian woman who lost her life then...It is very moving and to be honest I had tears in my eyes watching it.
There is also a small shop near of the museum when you can buy a small souvenirs, a religious stuff, the replicas of the famous Icon from Monastery which was there in year 1866.
There is Melidoni Cave 26 km east from Rethimno. Going to small village called Melidoni you can get it 3 km from the village.
It was used as a cult place in old periods like Neolithic, Minoan and Archaic ones.
The legend says that giant Talos used to live there. In a mythology he was a servant of Minos King.
Now there is an altar inside of the cave which is a memory of the sad martyrdom event which happened there. In year 1824 a few hundred of people escaping from Turkish soldiers had perished in a deadly trap. They all choked inside as the gate of the cave was blocked by the soldiers by the brushwood and next the wood was lighted.
So, it is a historic and martydrom place in my opinion. I was very moved visiting this place.
This was a very much under publicised cave which was a pleasant suprise.No big signs or admission fee, just a Greek bloke who lent us a torch and some candlres and warned us to be wary of slippy surfaces
Pretty impressive with varios chambers and plenty of stalactites and mites. Reputedly the home to the mythical bronze giant Talos but more recently famous for the murdering of over 300 locals by the Turks (suprise suprise!) in 1824. The villagers had retreated to the cave whilst under attack from the Turks and ended up dying there. The Turks asphyxiated them by smoking them to death after firstly unsuccesfully trying to block the airway into the cave. The Greeks bodies remained where they died, in their natural tomb, for 10 years before they were discovered and nowadays a shrine at the cave reminds those who visit of the atrocity.
We were quite moved by all this. There was excavating going on while we were there. The friendly caretaker showed us where we could wash our hands and shoes and very kindly took a photo of us but unfortunately it turned out blurred!
In 1984 we stayed in Bali when it was a small, pretty fishing village with some good, empty beaches on the approach road. We returned on a later holiday and were absolutely horrified at what the place had turned into. Hotels and rooms everywhere, fancy bars and restaurants, posh clubs, water sports on all the beaches. There wasn't a scrap of land without a building on it, now spread out around all the bays and over the cliffs, or so it seemed. It all appeared extremely up-market and very unGreek. Needless to say, we did an about turn and headed off elsewhere.
It is now well and truly on the beaten track with English package holidays resident and goodness knows, probably every nationality under the sun is here. It could well be your cup of tea. The main village beach is exremely small but there are a few to choose from.
We liked the place when we stayed all those years ago, there was still a reasonably compact, village feel to it and the tavernas above the harbour were a good place to eat with excellent views over the water. Not for us any more.
Apart from Plakias's huge main beach there are some pretty coves around the headland to the east and a lovely beach to the west. Some of the coves in 1984 were only accessible on foot or motorbike but I daresay someone has paved the way by now.
The beach to the west was empty apart from a couple of shepherds and their sheep.
Today I don't suppose we would even recognise these places.