Makrigialos (Makrygialos - Makrys Gialos)
At first sight, Makrigialos bears all the scars of the 'violent' mass tourism invasion that took place a few decades ago. But when you leave your car at the central road and start walking on the small 'promenade' of the peaceful portside with the fish taverns, you will realize that something has been preserved from the once-upon-a-time picturesque fishing village. Ahead of you extends the gulf of Makrigialos, and the fishing boats are lined up like a colorful army at the small marina. Take your gaze even further to the sea, and you will see the figure of 'exotic' Koufonisi island in the horizon.
Makrigialos is flooded by 'all-inclusive tourists' every summer, and perhaps this is why it is not preferred by locals. However, it is still an ideal 'base' to explore the wider region that hides many beauties: lovely beaches, gorges, scenic villages, monasteries, archaeological sites and more. Another good reason to come here is to attend the Classical Music Festival Casa dei Mezzo, one of the most original (and unexpected) music festivals of Crete.
Leaving Makrigialos behind, when you are in Analipsi take the road that leads to Pefki and start driving on the slope. Pine trees, olive trees and the scent of wild herbs will accompany your route. Soon you will see the village of Pefki overlooking the gulf of Makrigialos from above. Park your car on the central road and start exploring the village lanes, hiding charming corners with colorful flowers in pots, or even growing on the walls and stone arches, lazy cats observing you as you pass by, grandmas greeting you with their kind eyes. The village preserves its traditional architecture with a few exemptions. Take a rest at the coffee shop or the village tavern, enjoying a panoramic view.
Walk through the village lanes that hide charming corners with colorful flowers in pots, or even growing on walls and stone arches, lazy cats observing you as you pass by, grandmas greeting you with their kind eyes
Gorge of Pefki
The beautiful nature of Makrigialos region is not limited to deserted coves, but to realize that you need to walk! On the southwestern extremity of the village starts the gorge of Pefki, abudant in vegetation and natural beauties: pines and platans, oaks, carob trees and impressive rock formations. The gorge is relatively short and easy to cross. Its total length is 2km, so it will take you about two hours to walk it. A few meters before the exit you will encounter the so-called "Rock of the Saracen", an imposing flat rock, which, according to a legend, it is connected to a Saracen who was hiding at this location and was killed by the locals. About 400m. after the exit of the gorge you will meet the renovated settlement of Aspros Potamos, which is now a beautiful guest house.
Continuing from Makrigialos to the east, on the way to Goudouras (beware, don't turn to the road to Sitia!), the landscape becomes almost North African, wild and dry with rocky hills. The heat becomes more intense too, but we know the perfect cure: in the region of Kalo Nero, before and after Kapsa Monastery, you will see many pristine coves with emerald waters, salt cedars and small pebbles. One of them is the beach of Staousa. Enjoy a refreshing dip into the sea and then wear something decent to visit Kapsa Monastery. The Greek sign at the entrance of the Monastery is quite strict: "Women in men's clothes are not allowed to enter". However, the English sign is only prohibiting “short pants”! In any case, make sure you are dressed conservatively!
The Monastery of Agios Ioannis Kapsa is perched up the naked infertile rocks, next to the exit of Pervolakia gorge. It was built in mid-15th century (or according to another theory, in the 13th) but became famous after 1841, when Joseph Vincenzo, aka Gerontogiannis, came to live here. He renovated the Monastery, adding more cells. His miracles attracted a crowd of believers who left many 'offerings', and therefore funded the further development of the Monastery. Joseph Vincenzo was a controversial personality (some considered his miracles a fraud), and there are some extraordinary legends around his name - for example, one said that he could 'walk' on the sea to Koufonisi.
In the Monastery you will see the beautiful wooden iconostasis and the pebble-made mosaic on the floor. Look for the cave where Gerontogiannis led an ascetic life and -of course- enjoy the breathtaking view to the Libyan Sea.
The exploration doesn't have to end here. If you wish, you can continue driving to Sitia, crossing beautiful landscapes, or even walk in the gorges of Koutsouras or Pervolakia. Or you may choose to simply relax, wait for the sunset to highlight the hills of Koufonisi with the color orange, before you take a night stroll to the beach bars of Makrigialos...