1st stop: Anopoli
The route from Chora Sfakion to Anopoli climbs up the zig zag road crossing the ‘naked’ mountain, treating you with excellent views down the portside and across, to the island of Gavdos. And then the landscape changes, your eyes fill with white stone and pines until you reach Anopoli, the historic village of Sfakia. At the central square stands the statue of Daskalogiannis, who led the 1770 revolution against the Turks and originated from this place. The village expands to a large area –and according to the baker who will prepare luscious sfakian pies for you, it has 7 cemetaries! The history of the village goes back many centuries. Anopoli was one of the autonomous ancient cities of Crete (and you will meet another one a bit further down the road). Climb to the hill of Agia Ekaterini to enjoy breathtaking views to the Libyan Sea and explore the remains of the ancient city and part of the fortification walls on the northern slope. Before you continue the route, do not forget to pay a visit to the sfakian bakery you will see on the left side of the road as you enter the village.
Sfakian rusks (paximadia) aromatized with anis and coriander, raki, Greek coffee and of course the local culinary masterpiece: sfakian pies, filled with white cheese and topped with honey. The hardest part of the trip is to leave this bakery and the pleasant company of the baker, Yiannis Orfanoudakis, who has a lot of stories to tell...!
2nd stop: Aradaina
The bridge of Aradaina
With a happy stomach you continue towards the village of Aradaina. The constant interchange of white stone and pine trees tells you that you are in Lefka Ori, the majestic mountains of Chania prefecture. You will know you are in Aradaina once you cross the bridge that takes you to the other side of the gorge. Don’t be frightened by the noise, the bridge is quite stable! This metal construction hangs 138 meters over the ground, so even if you are not here to try bungee jumping, the ‘threatening’ gap will give you a nice dose of adrenaline. Park your car and walk to the middle of the bridge, where brave ones try the … salto mortale. From there you will see the gorge in all its majesty, as well as hikers small like ants crossing its narrow ravine, steep wild cliffs and trees sprouting in the middle of nowhere. Then you will feel the subtle swinging of the bridge– caused by the wind. Go back to stable ground and sit for a drink at the canteen before you continue your tour to the deserted village of Aradaina.
The ghost-village and ancient Aradin
Aradin was one of Crete’s ancient cities, which flourished during the Roman, Byzantine and Venetian times. It was an autonomous city, with its own coin that prospered until the 1770 revolution of Daskalogiannis, when it was utterly destroyed by the Turks. Today the deserted village, built almost at the edge of the steep cliff near the bridge, is an open air museum of Sfakian architecture. Or, a ready-made cinematic scenery: arches, staircases, little yards, roofless houses, all made of stone and covered by plants, with almond and fig trees sprouting from their interiors. There you will also see a public wine press and the Byzantine temple of Michail Archangel. Bearing a sword and wings, Michail Archangel was the appropriate spirit that would protect brave Sfakian fighters in the numerous battles they took part. The temple was built around 1300-1400 B.C over the ruins of an older temple. Take a look at the original iconostasis with the icons. Michail Archangel doesn’t look very ‘angelic’, and in another icon you will see Adam and Eve completely naked in the Garden of Eden.
You admired it from above, now it’s time to cross it! Take the path that starts next to the bridge – to your right you will see the stone-made trail leading to the bottom of the gorge. The route is not very difficult with just 5.5 km in the ravine and it will take you about 3-4 hours to reach the exit, right at the Libyan Sea and the wonderful beach of Marmara. A swim in the crystal clear waters of this isolated beach is the perfect way to end this rewarding walk through the wild nature of Aradaina: abundant vegetation, wildlife, and vertical cliffs rising 150 meters over your head. From Marmama you can either decide to walk east towards Loutro (where you can take a boat back to Chora Sfakion) or walk all the way back. If you really like walking, you can try walking all the way back to Chora Sfakion, following the E4 trail. On then again, you might decide to stay...