Touring in Crete: Plakias village and the Gorges of Kotsifos and Kourtaliotiko

Plakias Bay, Rethymno, Crete3rd stop: Plakias village and the gorges of Kotsifos and Kourtaliotiko

Plakias village

Coordinates: 35°11′N 24°23′E 

Foinikas - Mythios and Plakias

Plakias is a village on the south coast of Crete, in Rethymno Prefecture, about 30 km south of the city of Rethymno. It is part of the municipality Foinikas. It is surrounded by mountains to the north and the Libyan Sea to the south. The name in Greek means “Flat”, because the town stands on an Alluvial fan of material that has come down the Kotsifou gorge directly from the north. This material has been formed along the sea’s edge into a long fine gold sand beach, which shelves very gradually out into the bay, making it good and as safe as can be for swimming, so very suitable for family holidays.

The recorded history of surrounding mountain villages like Myrthios and Sellia goes back into the 10th century, when the Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (961 AD) built roads and bridges in order to link those villages, and there are some fragments of wall remaining from a fortified area on a hill top just northeast of the present main town.

Plakias beach, southern Crete

 

Plakias has a 1300 metre long sandy beach and there are several other beaches within walking distance (Souda, Damnoni, Ammoudi and Skhinaria). There are plenty of places to eat along the sea front, the biggest cluster of tavernas is at the west end.
Plakias is home to the Youth Hostel Plakias, famous among international backpackers as the ‘most southerly hostel’ in Europe, set in a garden in Olive groves behind the town. Also World famous are the cafe “Nufaro”, (known universally as “Joe’s bar”), and the very traditional taverna “Niko’s Souvlaki”, which is hidden up a side street. “World International Tourism Day” each September is celebrated with a big evening festival, with a free buffet meal and free traditional music+songs+dancing shows in the main square.

Monastery of Preveli 

Coordinates: 35°9.454′N 24°27.3765′E
 

The historical Monastery of Preveli, southern CreteTo the east (8 km) of Plakias village is the historic Monastery of Preveli, which, due to its isolated position, played an important role in Cretan revolts against occupying forces such as against the Nazis in World War II. The Monastery of Preveli, comprises two main building complexes, the ruined Lower Monastery of St. John the Baptist, and the currently operational Upper (Rear) Monastery of St. John the Theologian.

In the Battle of Crete in 1941, Agathangelos Lagouvardos helped supply British, Australian and New Zealand troops on the island, and provided shelter for them. A group of Australian soldiers protected by the monastery managed to secure their rescue by submarine from the island at Preveli Beach. After this was discovered, the Lower Monastery was destroyed by German forces.

The upper monastery contains numerous religious relics and icons, and many of its buildings, now heavily restored, are open to the public. There are also a number of monuments to the work of the monastery during the Second World War, many of them financed by rescued Australian former soldiers. The town of Prevelly in Western Australia was named after the monastery.

Preveli beach and lagoon

Preveli lagoon

Preveli beach and lagoon, sometimes known locally as “Palm Beach”, is located below the monastery, at the mouth of the Kourtaliótiko gorge. Behind the beach is an extensive glade of palm trees. The beach is regularly served by tourist boats from the nearby resort of Plakias. On August 22, 2010, a large proportion of the palm grove was destroyed in a fire but already in 2011 it has naturally re-generated.

The village of Spili

Coordinates: 35°11′N 24°30′E

Spili village, Lampi

 

Spili is a beautiful, traditional village impressively located at the foot of Mount Vorizi which hovers over the town, and some 30 km south of Rethymno town. Its cobbled streets, flowering shrubs and arches create the most picturesque Cretan village. Spili is known for its Venetian fountain with a long row of 19 stone lion’s heads splashing cool water into the trough below.
Spili’s location in the center of northern and southern Crete is most convenient for exploring this part of the island with its various routes, especially by hiking and cycling.
At 450 metres above sea level, it offers the most welcome cool evenings during the summer. In early spring, at the end of January, you’ll find a spectacular display of wild flowers; red poppies and mustard yellow flowers carpet the olive groves whereas on uncultivated ground wild anemones, tulips and delicate orchids bloom.

Kotsifos gorge, Rethymno, CreteKourtaliotiko Gorge in CreteThe gorges

There are two roads down into Plakias through the mountain range which lies to the north, both of which run through spectacular gorges – to the north of Plakias, the Kotsifos Gorge, and to the northeast, the Kourtaliotiko Gorge. A good coastal motor track runs west beyond Souda to Rodakino beach, Frango-kastello and Sfakia. There are plenty of walks locally , and bolder walkers will enjoy the high green country beyond the coastal mountain range north of town . Plenty here for the mountain biker or cycle tourer too. Six or so buses a day to/from Rethymnon bus station, some of these go via the Monastery of Preveli .

Accommodation

Morpheas Apartments 
Plakias/Rethymnon, Plakias, Crete GR-74060, Greece
Tel: +30 28320 31583  Morpheas Apartments Website
Special offer until end of May ’12: from 30€

Hotel Alianthos Garden
Plakias, Crete GR-74060, Greece
Tel: +30 28320 31280, +30 69784 88117 (winter)
Email: info@alianthos.gr    Hotel website

AnnaView Apartments 
Mirthios, Plakias, Crete 74060, Greece
Tel: +30 69733 24775  AnnaView Website
Special offer: 50% off room rate until end of March ’12 (27€)

Hotel Agios Pavlos 
Agios Pavlos, Spili, Crete 740 53, Greece
See Trip Advisor’s reviews of this hotel 

Photos of Hotel Agios Pavlos, Spili
This photo of Hotel Agios Pavlos is courtesy of TripAdvisor

External links

Preveli Monastery website

Horseback riding in Plakias

Climb in Crete

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