8.7 Mirtos- Chandras- Voila- Kato Zakros | 89km | 1.473 Vertical meter | Catégorie 2

89 km | 1.473 vertical meters | Catégorie 3

Mirtos- Chandras- Voila- Kato Zakros

… But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Asailed the monarch’s high estate.
(Ah, let us mourn! – for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him, desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed,
Is but a dim-remembered story
Oft the old time entombed
(The Haunted Palace – Edgar Allen Poe; April 1839)

Coming from Mirtos and Ierapetra, leave the coastal road of the south behind the village of Analispi and turn northeast towards Sitia. Ride on for about 12.5 kms via Lithines until you reach the turn-off to the east at the little village of Pappagiannades. Turn right here and proceed to Chandras via Etia and past Armeni.

Vines And Wines – © nick / bikingcrete.com

At Chandras turn right at the roundabout, proceed uphill through the village, past the church and on to the little playground (road sign „Voila“). Here, turn right again and enjoy a short downhill passage on an easily accessible sand path that leads you to the southeast, as well as a rest at the medieval village of Voila.

Voila: A mystical place where two fountains, adorned with ornaments from the Ottoman era, provide delicious, ice-cold water. One of the fountains is located directly on the path, while the other one, shaded by fig and almond trees, sits above a private garden at the southeastern end of the village.

Voila Village – © nick / bikingcrete.com

The village is dominated by the massive fortified „Tower of Tzen Ali“. Dating back to the 16th century and first mentioned as a fortified residential tower of the Venetian Zeno family, it was repaired and decorated for Muslim purposes in 1740-41. The archway still reveals ornaments from this Ottoman period. The tower served as a country estate for utilizing the fertile Armenochantradon valley and as an outpost for the leader of the Janissaries, „Tzen Ali“.

Agios Georgios Church – © nick / bikingcrete.com

Church of Agios Georgios: East of the path that leads through the surrounding village, you can find residential buildings, stables and warehouses, as well as the ruins of two churches. Situated on the eastern slope, the well-preserved twin-naved church of Agios Georgios houses the 16th century gravestone fresco of the Salomon family, a patrician family originating from the Veneto.

The fresco shows the Blessed Virgin Mary sitting on a throne, surrounded by the members of the family: Giorgio Salomon with a white beard, his wife with a bonnet, pink blouse and purple dress, the son of the family in traditional Cretan costume with wide trousers and boots, as well as their daughter-in-law and grandson. A small inscription on the western church wall refers to the death of their daughter, Maria Solomon, who died in 1510 at the age of ten. (From Candia Veneziana; Michele Buonsanti – Alberta Galla; 2012)

Oh bitter tomb so sorrowful, at once a friend and foe;
here in thy cold stone doth my beloved lie, thus art thou a friend withal;
yet foe shall I deem thee, when all her loveliness has thou devoured
(Inscription on the tomb of the Solomon family, Agios Georgios Church, Voila / from Candia Veneziana; Michele Buonsanti – Alberta Galla; 2012)

In the fields to the west of the path, you can see a protective wall, the remains of buildings and irrigation facilities. Enjoy the great view across this unique cultivated landscape, the wonderful valley and the vineyards, framed by the Sitia Mountains towering another 200 metres above it all. The grapes of the extraordinary Economou Liatiko PDO of the Domaine Economou in Ziros come from these vineyards. They are traditional ungrafted vines, up to 40 years old, as grape phylloxera is not common in the rather arid Ziros plain.

Medieval Wine Press And Place To Sleep – Voila – © nick / bikingcrete.com

Kiln Voila – © nick / bikingcrete.com

Wine was already produced in Crete as early as in Minoan times, more than 4,000 years ago. Today, most of the wine-growing regions are located north of the mountains. The relatively cool climate up there allows the grapes to maintain their refreshing effervescence and acidity along with deep, complex aromas ranging from apricots, plums, cherries, and almonds to exotic tobacco, coffee, and cedar wood. In addition to Chardonnay, the white wines include the grape varieties Vidiano, Vilana, Dafni, Plyto, Thrapsathari, Muscat of Spina, and Malyazia di Candia. Red wine grape vines include Kotsifali, Mandilari, Liatiko, Romeiko, and Syrah.

Limestone, slate, clay, red slate, and marl are the predominant soils on which the wines are grown.

Map © Wines of Crete – http://www.winesofcrete.gr

In the Heraklion area: PDO Archanes (Kotsifali, Mandilaria), PDO Dafnes (Liatiko), PDO Chandakas-Candia (white: Vidiano, Assyrtiko, Athiri, Thrapsathiri, and red: Kotsifali, Mandilaria) and PDO Peza (white: Vilana, and red: Kotsifali, Mandilaria), as well as the PDO Sitia wines (white: Vilana, Thrapsathiri, and red: Liatiko, Mandilaria, Assyrtiko).

Sitanos – © nick / bikingcrete.com

The route continues uphill for about five kilometers and 100 meters in altitude. It takes you through the sublime and barren landscape of the Sitia Mountains, past the largely deserted village of Katelionas and down to the farming village of Sitanos, situated in the fertile valley and surrounded by vineyards, olives and vegetable plantations.

Make a sharp right turn in the village, go left in the bend at the cemetery and right at the next crossroads to face the next ascent of 100 meters in altitude.

It will take you through vibrant purple slate and Tripolitza limestone until you reach the mountain plateau at 700 meters above sea level.

Next is a curvy ride as the road descends steeply to Karydi and Adravasti. Proceed eastwards to Zakros until you reach the coastal town of Kato Zakros after 35 kilometers.

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