2 Kissamos - Gramvousa - Balos Lagoon

After leaving hotel at 8 a.m., we have gone along the familiar road to the port of Kíssamos (Kastélli), hoping to arrive in 2 hours to the departure of the ship to Gramvousa, which is the small islet with the fortress on a hill and with the striking views from there. After being en route 1 hour 40 min, we have parked directly in the port, have purchased tickets (22 euros for each one) and immediately have passed to the ship "Gramvousa" which was situated beside.

We have occupied our places on the open deck, as it seemed to us, on the bow of the ship at the left side. In the water close to surface a picturesque jellyfish stood in beauty. After half-hour our vessel has turned around and put to the sea back to front. Actually the ship received passengers not from the stern, as it is accepted in the normal ships, but from the bow. As a result our places come to be behind at the right side, there were nothing to see, and therefore we had to pass to another board of vessel for sightseeing and photographing the peninsula.

The ship has passed past the wide cave in which, as it is considered, in ancient times was located a shipyard. Then we have gone around Voúxa Cape - the northern extremity of the peninsula. A black line is clearly visible on cliffs approximately in a metre above the sea, this is the line of sea level in the antiquity. Provided to be, as a result of earthquakes the shift of the earth's crust occurred, which led to the fact that the western part of Crete has risen, and the east part has sunk.

Click the images to enlarge them.

We have left at the right side the rocky lifeless island Ágria ("wild") Gramvoúsa and have approached the first destination of our cruise, the island Ímeri ("tame") Gramvoúsa with the moorage, the beach and the Venetian fortress, built in the XVI century and located at a height of 137 metres. Not far from the moorage near the coast stands the rusted frame of ship, which don't let to forget about the proximity to civilization even in this neglected corner of the earth. Before the debarkation in several languages it was announced the basic information about the island and about a time to be back aboard for the further trip.

After getting out to the coast of the island, my wife has settled on the beach, and I have taken the tripod and climbed upward at the fortress together with the majority of tourists. The narrow zigzag path with uneven stone steps leads there. It was heat and the ascending is passed slowly and heavily. There are several half-wrecked houses and loopholes above, and also the low walls, or rather just barriers. From the southern side of the island is opened the remarkable view of the sea, the hilly peninsula and Balos Lagoon. After making the panorama, I have passed along the wall and have gone down to the sea. There were no time to bathe - we have to return aboard.

All-round panorama from the Gramvousa Fortress

The next destination was Bálos Lagoon at a distance of 2.5 kilometres from the Gramvousa island. There was not any moorage and the passengers was transported on the coast by boats. However, the way on the boat was short and the debarkation passed rapidly. Furthermore, from the board got down a pneumatic chute, and everybody could roll down in the sea on it and swim to the coast on one's own. Amazingly, while on the northern shore of island it was stormy everywhere, here on the west the sea was absolutely quiet.

The lagoon is a little closed bay, located between the main land and the small peninsula Tigáni and connected with the sea with a narrow channel. From the coast of the "continent" rises the high hill, its top was hid in a cloud when we were there. The peninsula which located on the opposite side has the rounded form in plan and the steep shore. How beautifully it would be there if there weren't so many people! People, as I noted, generally have a quality to spoil a view...

The depth on the larger part of the lagoon does not exceed half metre, only near the channel are further, nearer to the high shore, the depth grows. Being sinked into the water here, it is possible to feel the temperature difference between the adjacent sections of water at the bottom, somewhere above the surface it is possible to feel the smell of hydrogen sulfide. Apparently, subterranean springs getting out here. The coasts and the bottom of the lagoon are partially covered with "pink" sand, the same as on the beaches of Elafonissi.

All-round panorama of Balos Lagoon

At 16.30 we have returned aboard, and our cruise has finished by the return to Kissamos port.


3 Varipetro - Limnoupolis Waterpark

In general, this is not quite a valuable route. Simply this day we have decided to rest in the Limnoupolis Waterpark, at the same time to go to the adjacent village.

The national road E75 again led us to the west. After passing by Chania, we have turned to the left under an overpass to the direction of Fournés, Lákki. Over three kilometres we have turned to the left again towards Varipetro.

Varípetro is a typical Crete village with a church in the center, two-story houses, olive and orange fields around.

After stopping in the center of the village, we have seen the old truck with the body that was heaped up to the top with sacks and furniture. It slowly passed along the main street, and a monotonic recitative was heard from a loudspeaker. My modest knowledge of Greek let me to make out the words. Provided to be, they gather old things. In the cab of the truck at the right side sat the stout madame of clearly gipsy appearance. Really, gipsy junk-dealers, what fun! However, this is only my assumption, and these people are not gipsies at all. Unfortunately, that time it did not come to my mind to photograph this. Later, in other villages, we could see and, mainly, hear such things several times again.

We have found the waterpark not at once. I didn't notice any sign on the road. The assumption that the slides of the waterpark will be visible from a distance was not confirmed. Indeed, immediately after departure from the village it is necessary to turn to the right.

After reaching finally the purpose, we have left the car on the large parking and have passed into the waterpark. The ticket price is 17 euros, if you come after 15.00 - 11 euros. Comparing with the similar institution in Cyprus in Agia Napa I have to say that Limnoúpolis noticeably loses. There are not much slides, they not such high, most of all we were pleased by "lazy river".

In general, there are nothing to do there all day long for adult people. I can advise first to pass along the same road from Chania to Lakki, Omalós till the entrance to Samariá Gorge, and on the way back you can go to the waterpark (we have planned the route in all day to these places, but for technical reasons it did not take place).


4 Souda - Akrotiri Peninsula - Chania

After turning from the national road to the right and after passing through the seaport Soúda, we have came to the war cemetery.

The large concrete cross in the middle is surrounded with straight rows of gravestones and crosses on an ideal green lawn. The soldiers of allies of the anti-Hitler coalition are buried here, which died in Crete during the World War II. Generally Britons, New Zealanders, Australians. Although I saw there also German, Italian and French graves.

Further our way passed past the airport to the Monastery of Holy Trinity (Agía Triáda or Tsagarólon), based in XVII century by the two Venetian monks, who changed their religion to Orthodoxy. The two-story building, square in plan, with the tower of belfry above the entrance, surrounds the internal cavity with the large church in the middle. Inside and outside everything is painted in the orange color, which gives sufficiently uncommon appearance to the cloistral buildings.

Immediately after the entrance (2 euros) a museum and a store are located. In the museum are represented icons, church books, clothing and another utensils, made generally in XIX century. In the the store products of the cloister production were presented: olive oil, vine, rakí (or in Cretan - tsikoudiá); the local products of other producers: honey, seasoning; and of course, various icons.

Our further way passed to the Gouvernéto Monastery. We didn't reach it by car a little, the road was blocked with a bar and further we went on foot along a fence. The cloister was closed, as we expected. I give here the sufficiently strange timetable of the time, when the monastery is opened for visits:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: 9.00-12.00 and 17.00-19.00
Saturday, Sunday: 5.00-11.00 and 17.00-20.00
Wednesday and Friday: closed all day long.

Further from the monastery leads the path, which is not marked by any signs and which slowly begins to get down. The sounds of bells are audible from the slopes of a hill: this is the goats, which have the half-wild way of living, graze there and climb up to the branches of bushes in search of fresh leaves.

This is a typical picture for Crete. Sometimes such goats can be seen in the middle of a plumb cliff, and it is incomprehensible how they have got there and how they going to get out.

Beside the path, after the wooden fence among ruins is located the small Arkoudiótissa (she-bear) cave, named so because of the large white stalagmite in the form of bear, that was inclined above the stone tank for the drink, that is raised in the center of the cave. The part of the cave at the entrance was turned into a small church.

Further the path begins to get down steeply into the gorge. Almost on the bottom is located the neglected Katholikó Monastery, which was found, probably, in V or VI century by John the Hermit. There is a small cave where he lived in front of the entrance into the monastery. 300 years ago monks left the monastery because of frequent pirate raids. Dilapidated houses are attached to the wide bridge, which was spanned across the bottom of the gorge. A high tree grows inside one of these houses, that once has overgrown through its roof and raising now high above its walls. Also here is located the church that was cut out in the cliff.

After overcoming the long lift of the way back, we have returned to the car and have gone further. Our way passed to Stavrós village, to that place, where "Zorba the Greek" performed by Anthony Quinn in the film of the same name presented to the world the new symbol of Greece - the "sirtáki" dance. I have to say that the place was considerably changed since 60th of the last century. The vacant land near the bay is now built on, and generally Stavros became now the settlement with the remarkable beach in the closed bay that is completely protected from roughness on sea and with the view of a high picturesque hill. We have bathed there after the harassing march in the gorge, and then we have gone further.

Along the way to Chania we have come to the settlement Profítis Ilías (Prophet Elijah). Here is located the church of the same name of XVI century. This place is well-known by the last uprising of Cretans against the Turkish occupation in the 1897, which led to the independence of Crete (1898) and its joining to Greece (1913). Here also is located the tomb of Elefthérios Venizélos, well-known politician (perhaps, most respected in Greece), the kingpin in the mentioned events. Furthermore, here in the 1997 it was unveiled the monument to the local hero, Spýros Kayalés, who replaced with his body the flagstaff. The place is situated on the height and the remarkable panoramic view of Chania is opened from there.

After going down, we have entered into the residential area of the city Chaniá, the second largest in Crete. Along the road we have stopped near a majestic cathedral, then we have gone further to to the center.

It is necessary to do for the sightseeing of any city in the island: a) with help of the signs on the road to drive up more closely to the center; b) to find there a place for parking, free if possible. The further way is passing on foot, since all cities in Crete are small and almost all basic objects of sightseeing is situated in the center not far from each other.

We have parked near the wall of Venetian fortress in an embankment and passed to the old harbour - the most beautiful place among the urban views of Crete: the many-colored old houses (some of them are neglected), the mosque of uncommon architecture, the lighthouse on the sea. The space between the embankment and the houses is filled with restaurants under wide awnings. After walking on the embankment and the narrow adjacent by-streets which filled with souvenir stores and tavernas, we have come to the most lively street of the city which crosses it from the west to the east. There is here the large cross-shaped building of the municipal market, where the various goods are for sale.

All-round panorama of the harbour of Chania

After shopping in the market, we have returned to the car, it began to grow dark and time had come to return.    Further...

Attribution-No Derivative Works (CC-BY-ND) by Andrey K.