WESTERN CRETE( HORA SFAKIA to FALASARNA)

Bye, bye to Skalotis. Another bargain at £40 per night. Left our nice little lodgings and had a drive ahead today to the far west coast and Falasarna. Without stops this was supposed to be a 2.5 hour drive but there was just too much to enjoy so it was easily double that.

Stopped off at the 14th century ruined castle of Frangokastello. What a fine structure! Pink/orange walls against the deep blue sea and an imposing craggy mountain backdrop. Scene of tragedy of course, as they usually are and ghosts are said to emerge on 17 May every year.

There isn’t a lot to Frangokastello, it’s very spread out.But the beach looked very pleasant and extensive and we had a nice stroll beside a tiny harbour with some attractive properties in good locations.

As ever along this coast, the imposing Lefka Ori or White Mountains, more impressive again that the Psiloritis range (the Rough Guide got that right) was always a huge visual draw. The highest summit is over 2450m, or over 8,000 feet. Riven by wild gorges, craggy and bare, mists occasionally sweeping across the hillsides – it is a photographer’s dream.

A truly wonderful drive with the brilliant blue sea never far away.

We stopped at some tiny chapels, this one built into the cliff.

Many were closed and I’m not sure now where I took some of the interior shots of beautiful frescoes. A glory of the ancient world.

HORA SFAKION

It took us a long time to get to the turn off for Hora Sfakion. Should we stop for coffee? Yes why not – which turned out to be a great decision because this was certainly our favourite little spot anywhere in Crete.

Just loved it right away. It was the sort of small, whitewashed Greek village we were more used to on other islands. It wasn’t ancient as such but pretty and with not much development round it. A few attractive lovely small hotels and a smattering of holiday houses. A couple of local bakeries, a pleasant little harbour lined with cafes. It’s also a ferry port to very remote points further west. In fact, I’d been keen to get to Loutra but time just didn’t allow it this trip. Next time!

The village nestled below parched, brown hills, a landscape I really love in Greece. The blue Libyan Sea sparkled all around. We lingered over that coffee and pastry – it was a hard spot to leave.

IMBROS GORGE

But get underway we had to and another treat was in store – a wonderful drive up into the mountains, dizzyingly high above the Imbros Gorge. We stopped often, looking down into the wild gorge several thousand feet below. What fine, wild country! The road eventually wound its way up to the Askifou plateau and a series of tiny villages, farmland and orchards.

It was difficult believe that people live and farm so high up, just below the snow covered Leka Ori. Orchards in bloom too! We must have been around 1000m up at this point.

Then down, down with the snow covered mountains to our left, a beautiful drive of constant interest. It was bitterly cold whenever we got out to just stop and admire it all. That snowy mountain backdrop I couldn’t get enough of, bathed in sunlight.

 

Then the roads, after many, many bends, straightened out again and we were speeding down to the north coast, a different world again to where we had left. By 3pm, we were winding our way down to Falasarna , our last 2 night base on the very west coast of Crete.

FALASARNA

Ye gods! This must once have been a beautiful area, but it was now a sea of plastic, the tomato, melon and other such fruits capital of Crete. We were staying in the Roubini Apartments, a beautiful, split new quite upmarket looking complex high above the beach. Our balcony was huge – we love a good balcony – but the view was marred by the acres of plastic. It was all along the bay and on an industrial scale.

Got unpacked then headed out in the car to stroll the famous sands. In fact, down at sea level the tunnels disappeared from view and once we walked further north, the beach truly lovely.

Soft, pale golden sand, turquoise water, crystal clear. A lovely, mountainous headland and very little development behind the beach; a few tavernas and small hotels.Perfect. It was warm now too so we found a sheltered little cove and stripped off to our undies and plunged into the shallows. Cold but gorgeous!

What a lovely time we had there, just enjoying the heat and the swim. Had one towel between us to dry off and then got dressed (minus underwear) and strolled further along. Then we walked up to some small hotels overlooking this, the nicest part of Falasarna. They looked perfect for a short break, no poly tunnel views, just the sea and the mountains.

We ate out later at an excellent down to earth place near the beach, the Taverna Vassilis. Greek salad to share, their own olives and bread (free) then chicken souvlaki and chips for me and a mixed grill for Chris (two weeks red meat allocation, I reckon) which were just first class. Tasty, chargrilled, simple and delicious.I love how in Greece they always serve you freshly cooked, home made chips.Can’t beat a plate of good chips!

 

Ice cream sundae to finish. Top notch simple food and friendly service. Watched the sun go down from the pretty terrace, sinking below a very limpid Aegean and fell in love with the Greek islands all over again.

NEXT DAY: WESTERN CRETE (ELAFONISI)

 

 

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