1.1. Chania- Omalos- Sougia
81 km | 1.970 vertical meter
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.