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The Holy Vibes of Martsalo

If you want to find the hidden paradises of Crete you have to travel like a pilgrim. You have to cross rocky trails, let the dust cover your skin, bear the summer heat and walk along with wild goats. What do you think, will you manage? 

Cretazine Tips

  • Martsalo is located between the cape of Lithino and Agiofaraggo. To reach it you need to drive the not-so-smooth dust road that starts from the Monastery of Odigitria, taking the right turn (if you continue straight, you will arrive in Agiofaraggo).  
  • The gorge is 2km long and you will need to walk for about 40 minutes. The trail is not so difficult, but still more demanding than the one in Agiofaraggo (due to the descent and the rocks). Therefore, it is better if you wear hiking shoes, or other shoes that keep your feet stable.
  • Of course you must not forget to have water with you and some snacks! You will find shade under the cedar trees.
  • Since you are there, it is worth visiting the Monastery of Odigitria (you can read more here)
  • St. Paul (Agios Pavlos) passed by here and the first hermitages were established in Martsalo (as well as in Agiofaraggo) during the early years of Christianity on the island.
  • The chapel of Panagia Martsaliani was used as a catacomb, in times when Christians were persecuted. Later it was abandoned and covered by rocks, until the day when a shepherd discovered it in mid-19th century
  • After you experience wild nature in Martsalo and history in the Monastery of Odigitria, we suggest you satisfy your hunger in the nearby village of Sivas, and specifically in the tavern of Vafis ;-)
Published in  Island Routes

The landscape of Martsalo gorge evokes scenes from biblical films, making you unsure whether you are still in Crete or perhaps somewhere in the Middle East. Steep white cliffs with curves and caves that once upon a time hosted hermits; clusters of endemic Theophrastus palm trees sprouting here and there; ancient olive trees that form rare natural sculptures; blossomed pink oleander; and the curious stare of goats through the rocks... the vibes of Martsalo will follow your every step.

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You park your car and start walking on the downhill trail until you reach the chapel of Panagia Martsaliani (Mary of Martsalo) carved within a cave with a ‘suspicious’ shape, as it happens to remarkably look like a Minoan tomb. Something not so unexpected since archaeological excavations revealed that Martsalo once was a Minoan settlement (1800 – 1600 B.C). Around the chapel you will see the little caves of hermits that once lived here, in search of total holiness. And with such a view, who could argue with them? 

Caves that once hosted hermits, clusters of endemic palm trees, ancient olive trees and the sleepless eye of wild goats will accompany every step you take 

The downhill trail becomes a bit steeper until you enter the walls of the gorge. Now you start walking among ancient olive trees, carob trees, oleanders and –of course- goats. You take a break under the shade of the little palm tree forest that will probably feel like an oasis after the merciless exposure to the sun. Now you just need to walk for two more kilometres until you reach the beach, hidden behind salt cedars. A peaceful cove with turquoise waters, protected by the strong winds, completely isolated. A perfect place to achieve holiness! And now you know, that sometimes ‘Ithaca’ is worth as much as the journey...(as for the way back, don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it seems).