59 km | 1.461 vertical meters | Category 3
Up into the mountains to Theriso: Short of time? Leave the noisy atmosphere of Chania and Vamvapoulos behind for a morning ride.
You pass through the gardens, fields and orange groves all the way to Fournes and the lush valley of Meskla. Here the Sotiros Christou church’s magical beauty, with its fading frescoes of Daniel and Michael Veneris, dating from 1303, will enchant you. Climb on into the alpine mountains, through Zourva and the upper outskirts of the village Theriso, via the vineyards of Gerolakos and Loulos and back through the romantic Theriso gorge. You will be back at Chania in time for lunch.
81 km | 1.970 vertical meter
From Chania into the White Mountains and to Sougia: Sougia the ancient Syia, is an enchanted place on the south coast and a perfect spot for a base camp. From here, you can explore western Crete high above the coast. Day trips take you up to the north near Kissamo and Tavronitis, or to the magical cultivated landscapes of the Sasalos or Deres valleys, through chestnut groves and a sea of silvery olive leaves, along lush river banks, and back to the south.
From the soft shapes of this hilly mountain area formed by slate, Cretaceous lime, clay and the sediments of the late Tertiary and Holocene epochs, a completely different Alpine mountain range of crystalline limestone rises up above the fertile ground towards the east, towering above everything else. The line of mountains is seemingly unending, ranging from the northwest to Sfakia in the southeast. Many of them are 2.000 m high and are covered in snow until May.
The White Mountains or Levka Ori with Mount Pachnes (2.452m) are broken up by lots of canyons from the north to the south and look almost like the mountain tops of the Arlberg, except that they are lined by pine trees and cypresses instead of oaks and maples.
The western side of these mountains can be reached on asphalt and features the Omalos plateau (1.100 m), an almost even basin covering about 25 square kilometers miles. It is full of fertile deposits resulting from the erosion process of the surrounding steep mountains. The first impressive tour takes you across the plateau and through the Alpine mountains from coast to coast, from Chania to Sougia or Paleochora.
You will pass the coastal plateau of Chania, the orange groves near Fournes. The road then winds through the Alpine mountains rising up to a level of 1.100 m. It leads through small valleys, past the landslide and up to the solitary pass. Once you have forced yourself through the chilly spring air, the fog, the rough wind and the rain below the top, everything seems to glisten beautifully.
As you break through the clouds at the top of the pass, everything is white, green and shiny on the plain, and the water from the melting snow drips in peaceful monotony. The sun is out while I rest in the small village. The friendly old folks at the tavern by the village boundary keep my company and gaze at me in amazement as I sip my hot coffee.
The average drop in temperature for every 100 m of altitude is more than 0.5 degree. With temperatures of 15° C/ 59° F at coastal level in spring and fall, this can mean temperatures of about 7°/44.6° F lower at elevated altitudes. Fingered gloves, a long pair of padded pants, fleece shirt, wind breaker and rain jacket are basic must-haves on such tours. In poor weather conditions, frost and snowfall are not unusual in these altitudes around early May.
Omalos is also the starting point for a hike through the Samaria valley that stretches out across 18 km. Access to the valley is near Xiloskalo, about 4.5 km south of and 200 m higher than the main village.
Bleating sheep give you a farewell, leaving the plateau on the southern border, left handed Aghi Theodhori, a small chapel at the pass (1.100 m), while you enter a unique valley surrounded by the alpine, cretaceous mountains overlooked by the Gigilios (2.116 m), Psilafi (1.984 m) and Trouli (1.454 m).
At the northern pass of this gem, it gets a bit windy and not so easy to hold the blance on the bike on the winding road to the junction to Aghia Irini and Sougia. Here, underneath the big wind power plants at about 800 m, you can easily enjoy the beginning of a fast ride to the southern coast and to the Libyan sea.
Keep an eye on the potholes that hide in the shadows at the roadside. Against the bright sunlight, they are hard to detect. Many a car owes them a flat tire or a broken suspension. In an involuntary crossing of such a ground, I could keep up with all the power the handlebar. But then a long search for the bike computer, the maps, the flip-flops and other loose parts was necessary.
Well sit back, if your sporting ambition allows such a posture on the bike and smell the scent of thyme and rock rose, while you are hurrying down the mountain with 50 kilometers per hour.
Fast impressions of a greening landscape, passing by olive trees, cypress, pine, maple and oak trees, mixed with the smell of a rotting carcass, hot asphalt and the heavy dust of blooming flowers, while you dive into warmer layers of air.
For all climbers salvation comes at Kambanos. For 4,5 km you can go out of the saddle to climb the last altitude differences of 150 meters. But take a short break at the fountain of Maganari Kambanos after the junction to Skafi. This delicious water is pure and clear, and strengthens the mind and body.
There are no wolves or bears in Crete, so you need only pay attention to the next signpost to Sougia. This can be found at the crossroad to Rodovani. So turn yourself to the left and toward the east, because here your longest roller coaster ride begins, about 10 km long and 500 meters altitude difference downhill on serpentine road. After passing through the village Moni there are only a few kilometers up the coast. But do not pull the home stretch into the town of Sougia, because there lurking evil street sleepers.
Accommodation – Sougia
Recommendation for the night at Chania: Eλia Palazzo Hotel, Theotokopoulou Street. The hotel is housed in an old mansion that was converted into a warm, hospitable, traditional hotel offering you a comfortable stay during your vacation. The hotel is situated in the alleys of the enchanting Venetian Port of Chania, 50 meters from the sea and 300 meters from the city centre.
At Sougia: Captain George right in the center of town. Captain George is a charismatic personality who traveled the seven seas. He knows the highways and byways of Crete and can give you information for excursions and hikes in the area (Ag. Irini Gorge, Lissos). Captain George has also excursions and taxi boats. The hotel has a large, quiet and shady garden with flowers, lawns and trees, also a barbecue area for all guests. All rooms have a private balcony, bathroom (hot water at all times), air conditioning, fridge, kettle, double glazed doors and windows with mosquito repellent, safe.
81 km | 2.385 vertical meters
»And sailing down the side of Crete, as well as we were able, we came to a certain place named Fair Havens, near which was the town of Lasea. And as a long time had gone by, and the journey was now full of danger, because it was late in the year, Paul put the position before them, Saying, Friends, I see that this journey will be one of great damage and loss, not only to the goods and the ship, but to ourselves. But the captain gave more attention to the master and the owner of the ship than to what Paul said.« [Acts of the Apostles 27; 8- 11 / Paul on his journey to Rome]
Only audible to those in the know, there is a soft humming above the waves that turns into a deep buzzing sound as the coastal ferry glides around the small cape near Sougia. The flaps of the bow ramp bang onto the pier and a short time later, you can step onto the vibrating deck of the «Daskalogiannis” or the »Samaria«.
The ferry: Accompanied by the soothing sound of its 1.500 hp engines, the ferry begins to sway gently in the deep blue sea. The rocky coast rises steeply broken up by canyons, lifted up over thousands of years like the breaker zone at the shore. Little white beaches lined up like rare pearls on a string above the gleaming malachite and turquoise water.
But something is different today. There is no humming, no buzzing, just a little ship sitting there. It looks almost shy and bashful because it is so much smaller than its big loud sisters that usually attract all the attention here. As the Lord of the Sea has protected the little ship so far, its owners named it »Neptune« in gratitude.
The travelers look puzzled, but the friendly captain waves and invites them to board »Come aboard! Yes, this is the ferry to Chora Sfakion – it’s a good ship!« The smile fades from his face for a longer moment as he sees the bike, and his skep-tical look reveals the hardship of a seaman’s life. But we soon find a space for the bike between crates of tomatoes, onions and bottles of toilet cleaner. No problem at all.
»But after a little time, a very violent wind, named Euraquilo, came down from it with great force. And when the ship got into the grip of it, and was not able to make headway into the wind, we gave way, and went before it.« [Acts of the Apostles 27; 14- 15]
And so it happened that the journey came to an untimely end in Agia Roumeli, where the majestic Daskalogiannis took the stranded voyagers on board and escorted them safely to Chora Sfakion.
From here a challenging climb starts, following the winding road uphill, into the mountains of the Sfakia region and to the villages of Asfendou, Kallikratis, Asi Gonia and the magical fountains of ancient Lappa and Spili.
For the next 15 km, the road cuts in steep curves into the bar-ren slopes of the crystalline lime, and then ascends to a pine forest whose scent and the sunbeams peeping through the branches give the rough landscape an enchanting feel. It is a pleasure to master this varied ascent and to climb turn after turn parallel to the mountain slopes.
Just outside the village of Imbros there is a right turn to Asfendou in the east that takes you even further up to an altitude of 1130m. At 21 kilometers along the route, a little detour on an asphalt road is definitely worthwhile. It takes you to the peak of Mount Akones (1.243m) where you can see a weather-beaten radio antenna framework from an abandoned listening post and enjoy a terrific view across Crete, ranging from the silvery sea along the southern coastline to the barren peaks of the mountain range at Sfakia.
In spring, this mountain region can be rather cold and foggy until May. Temperatures may be as low as 0°, so make sure to bring warm clothes and rain jacket.
But when the sun comes out, you can see the houses of Asfendou peeping through the green down in the valley and the road winds gently downward along the slopes of the little plateau – all the way to Kallikratis.
Once you leave Kallikratis behind you, there is a shortcut that saves you 11km. Turn right if you want to try this alternative route in the direction of Vilandredo and Spili.
But come on; let’s get some rhythm on this. Things will speed up considerably if you choose to proceed in the direction of Argiroupoli! Leaning into the road bends, getting out of the curve with speed, hit the brakes, set the rhythm and dive down steeply in the scary hairpin bends of the Giparis gorge for about 400 vertical meters.
Proceed through authentic Asi Gonia, the local centre of sheep farming and cheese processing, until you reach the green valley.
Oak, chestnut and sycamore trees line the road, and there is a sweet smell of violets. Rest for a while, enjoy the calmness, and listen to the dripping and gurgling sound of the brooks that are abundantly covered with vegetation. This watery valley is surrounded by the up to 1.500m high Sfakia Mountains. It’s a truly unique experience.
If you need a break and some food, there is a tavern under the sycamore trees near the car park in Asi Gonia that I can recommend. Argiroupoli also offers a great range of places to stop for a bite to eat.
When you cross the bridge near Argiroupoli and go past the roaring springs and the upper part of Lappa’s old town, which used to be an important town in Mycenaean and Roman times, you’ll face another ascent. The route means a 400m altitude difference and will take you through a fertile hilly landscape with corn, olive and sheep farms until you reach Velonado and Kali Syktia.
After 60 km of endurance riding and a 1.600m altitude difference, you can enjoy the last 20km to the full. From now on, you’ll continually go downhill on a varied road and experience the typical landscape features of Crete.
Olives, grapes, oats, fig and almond trees, and blooming gorse by the roadside accompany you on your way through Agios Ioannis, Paleoloutra, and Agios Vasilios until you reach the turnoff to the main road to Spili. And, sure enough, Spili shortly comes into view from the south western side of Mount Kedros.
Spili is a typical, lively Cretan mountain town and has a community administration centre, health centre and, as it is the domicile of the metropolitan bishop of Lambi, also has a bishop’s see with a seminary.
After a final 100m ascent, you ride into town past the seminary, and reach the centre with a famous Venetian lion fountain dating from the 16th century. Its cool and fresh water is simply delicious.
Argiroupoli – Agnaterma, at the southern outskirts of Argiroupoli, offering en-suite balcony rooms, marvelous view of the valley and to the coast. Tavern with delicious food, situated at the large terrace in front of the house. Clean rooms, central kitchen, excellent living and eating.
Spili – Pension and Tavern Costas Inn, on the main road shortly before the center. Clean rooms, some with fridge and a quite garden (with a choir of singing birds) at the rear of the house in direction to the Kedros Mountains. Breakfast in the morning and delicious food is been served at the tavern and on the terrace in front of the house. Storage and service of the bikes is possible in the basement at the left side of the house.
63 km | 1.725 vertical meters | Category 3
From Sougia to Argiroupoli: I was seasick when I reached Chora Sfakion. After a rough crossing by ship from the west, I was happy to go ashore.
Showered by the spray from the waves on arriving, I did not even felt refreshed and had only one desire: I longed for a difficult mountain stage.
The road with its steep ascents up to the Askifou plateau went forth and back again in a way I had never encountered before. It turned sideways in steep turns, and finally made me throw up my frugal breakfast, just when a cheerful crowd on a jeep safari drove past me. From now on I inhaled deeply the surrounding scent of pine on this breathtaking climb up the serpentine road to the plateau.
Explore the fantastic mountain scenery, going over the pass at 890m and straight to the main village Amoudari, surmounted by the distinctive cone of the Kastro (2.219m). Karst mountain ranges typically feature potholes and closed basins (poljes) that look almost flat, but which are littered with debris caused by the weather scouring the surrounding mountain slopes, which enables the land to be used for agricultural purposes. Swallets (or ponors) allow the water that reaches the potholes to flow off below the ground, but if there is no drain, the plateau will turn into a temporary pond.
Climb the northern mountain ridge at 800m and speed up downhill to the water-rich village of Vrisses, situated under large sycamore trees. The friendly atmosphere invites you for a rest. Try the special Sfakion yogurt they make here from sheep milk.
The route leads through Georgiopoli to Lake Kournas, the only natural freshwater lake of Crete. Overlooking the wide water surface and the surrounding, up to 1.400m high Mt. Fourni, it seems as if you are in the high mountains. But the lake is located just 60m above sea level.
Now there are still 20km to go, until you reach the outskirts of the village Argiroupoli, the ancient Lappa. A unique mild and peaceful atmosphere lies above this place with its rushing fountains.
124 km | 13 km Dirt road | 3.164 vertical meters | Hors catégorie
Through the Selino region: Enjoy this adventurous trip through the splendid green Selino region with its capital Kandanos. Proceed to Elos, located among magnificent chestnut trees, to the famous monastery of Chrissoskalitissa and Elafonisi beach with the finest coral sand and tall juniper trees.
Challenge your body and engage your mind on the adven-turous route back over the washed-out dirt road through the deserted landscape from Elafonisi to Sklavopoula.
After a relaxing downhill to Paleochora you have to face a strenuous climb, via the villages Azogires, Achladiakes and Strati, until you ride over the pass back to Sougia.
85 km | 2.140 vertical meters |Category 1
From Sougia along the west coast to Kissamos: Leaving the green valleys of the Selino region, you travel high above the western shore of Crete, through the barren and rugged landscape of mountains and high valleys.
Every bend offers new fantastic views of the azure water and the gently swaying, partly inaccessible coastline deep below that is incised by steep protruding cliffs. It’s an uphill and down dale ride, you eventually meet the northern lowlands at Lousakies near ancient Polyrrhenia, while they roll out the red carpet for you at Kissamos.
80 km | 1.790 vertical meters |Category 2
After a hearty breakfast your legs are ready to move mountains. Heading south along the red soils of the Kissamos area, you will once again come across lush and shady valleys with olives and vineyards.
Silvery leaves rustle and rush in the wind and you can hear the sound of the gurgling water. If you’re lucky, you might even get a glimpse of the merman at the small waterfall, playing his flute. The Silvery Route.
93 km | 2km dirt road | 2.727 vertical meters | Hors Catégorie
The rolling hills of the Selino range: Ready to take it up a notch? This challenging ride will push your heart rate right through the roof!
There are four peaks to climb. First of all you cross the pass in the direction of Paleochora. From there, the road winds uphill through the lush and shady valley of the Pelekaniotikos River in the direction of Voutas and Moustakos. Pine and oak trees line the road and you’ll see flashes of white and yellow branches along the way.
A small detour on a partly unpaved road to the peaceful village of Moustakos is worth your while for a break at the bubbling brook. The varied mountain route then takes you uphill and high above the tree line into inhospitable and barren heights, where even the paved road seems to fade away.
Allow some time to enjoy the view over the beautiful Selino range with its rolling hills deep down in the valley. A green sea of olive trees seem to stretch all the way to the horizon. And well, these mountains on the horizon you still have to cross on your way back to Sougia.
74 km | 4,6km dirt road | 2.239 vertical meters | Category 1
Up into the mountains and to Prodomi: Let’s take you on 4-hours ride into the mountains of the Pelekanos municipality. Climb up to the pass at 800m, via Rodovani, Papadiana and Strati and marvel at the spectacular mountain scenery and the sea view on your rollercoaster ride downhill to Paleochora.
In the center of town, turn left in direction to „Camping Paleochora“ and to the village Anidri.
It is a climb of 750 vertical meters up to a barren plateau, sometimes hidden in the fog and to the mountain village Prodomi, where the 4,6 km long track on unpaved road begins. The road winds dramatically along the steep slopes; sparsely covered with macchia, rock rose and kermes oak. You’ll reach the small mountain villages of Platanos and Asfendiles and dive down again on asphalt in the green valley of the Azogirianos creek, where you can refresh yourself at the watering hole between humming bees and wasps.
82 km | 2.221 vertical meters | Category 1
Through the Selino region to Sasalos: Take a ride through the rolling hills and the changing landscape of the fertile Selino region. Enjoy the climb to the villages of Rodovani and Temenia, up to the pass and downhill to Kandanos.
From there the ascent is moderate until you reach the small village of Aligni where the junction leads to the beautiful Sasalos Valley and the Milonofarrago gorge.
The road follows the gurgling brook, through copse of chestnut trees and sycamores. The banks and rocks are covered with grasses, herbaceous plants and ferns. At the center of Sasalos, a right turn leads into the wooded hills and in direction to the villages of Maneriana and Selia.
The mountain track winds gently uphill to the mountain ridge, then via Floria downhill to the wide plateau with the lovely town Kandanos. Enjoy the fresh water from the well at the junction to Sougia. A New Zealand soldier donated it to the people of Kandanos.
42 km | 1.151 vertical meters | Category 3
Push yourself to new limits on this steep Mountain Time trial.
I’ll hope that you are free from giddiness!
First there is the salty smell and the rushing waves at the shore of enchanting Chora Sfakion, but then there are only barren limestone slopes, the serpentine road and bent guardrails which try to grab you with their iron-sheet-fingers. But this is just the beginning!
103 km/ 1.951 vertical meters/ Category 1
Transfer stage to the south coast at Kalamaki: Celebrate your hard-earned achievements and turn your body into a machine on this hilly endurance ride on the transfer stage from Western to Central Crete.
From Chora Sfakion the road winds gently through the countryside and led up in turns to Selia and Mirthios.
The view up to the steep slopes and down over the wide bays is always great. Shortly after Asomatos, the road enters the wild Kourtaliotiko gorge. Here rises the river, which flows with rapid current through the gorge and enters the sea at Moni Preveli. So go again for the mountains on your way to Spili.
Climb through the alpine mountain scenery, the rugged gorge and through the green valley of Frati. The first part is really steep. The rocky walls stay closely together and rise directly into the bright blue sky. Spots of rock flowers and bluebells gleam into the shady gorge.
After leaving Spili and crossing the pass at 500m the road drops down in wide sweeping curves until it reaches the Gulf of Messara and the picturesque village of Agia Galini. So go on for Timbaki and at least enjoy the stay at the friendly beach-village Kalamaki, situated near ancient Agia Triada and Festos.
Recommendation for the night at Kalamaki: Apartment-Hotel Aglaia. Take the left fork of the main road at the village entrance. The friendly Charalambaki family offers comfortable appartements and double rooms, equipped with kitchenette and fridge, they make an ideal mid-range accommodation option. Shower and WC en suite. Web: https://www.aglaia.gr