Dikteon Cave

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Can mere mortals debate the birthplace of a God?  Well, there is a debate about the birthplace of Zeus.  I have come to visit Dikteon Cave (otherwise known as Dictaean Cave) because other than the cave I visited in Psiloritis, this is said to be the ‘true’ birthplace of the God.  So I had to come and see what is so special about this, that makes it the most famous amongst the other 3,000 caves in Crete and 8,500 in Greece.

In ancient times, this was a place of worship and pilgrimage, as offerings found here attest.  Today, it’s still visited by travellers from all over the world, who, like me, are curious and awe-struck at the beauty of the cave.

The Dikteon Cave is  impressive,  rich in stalagmites and stalactites.  You walk down following a structure with protective railing, so the visit is hardly a spelunking adventure.  Nevertheless, the place is beautiful, and I must say that the lighting brings out the beauty of the rock formations even more.

At 1025m, the Dikteon Cave dominates the Lassithi Plateau and the whole of East Crete.  It is situated in the Dicte mountain range, and faces north.  The nearest village is Psychro, so proud locals also call it the Psychro Cave.  From this town, I have followed a paved path lined with oak trees. I was offered a donkey ride up to the cave, but declined.  At the end of the path, just before the cave entrance, I had to stop and catch my breath after a long uphill walk.  The panoramic view of the whole plateau was very worth a pause, and I suddenly realised how lucky I was to be standing on that spot and drawing in this blissfully refreshing mountain air, perfumed with thyme, sage and other aromatic herbs.

If a Goddess had to pick a fabulous secluded and secretive place to give birth to the one she knew would be the ‘Father of the Gods of Olympus’, this would be the place.  I’m sure this was no accidental choice!

The Dikteon Cave consists of five chambers large and small. The most impressive sight is the lake at the lowest point, surrounded by massive stalactites and stalagmites. At the lake, there is the ‘Mantle of Zeus’, a stalactite which hangs over the lake like a chandelier.  This shape, looked at with mythical imagination, resembles a cloak.  At the back of the lake, there’s a small chamber of the cave, in which it is said that the Father of the Gods was born.

If you would like to visit this ancient mythical place, please contact Karma Travel. They will be able to sort out all your travel needs, from transfers and accommodation to guided tours and advise on how to make the most of your time and experience authentic Crete at its best!

Monasteries

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It was my last day in Chania, and a Saturday.   I had promised myself I would visit Moni Agias Triadas and Moni Gouvernetou, which are in the Akrotiri Peninsula, to the northeast of Chania.

I had foolishly forgotten my drivers’ license, so I could not rent a car.  I thought it was easy enough to follow the rough instructions on my Lonely Planet tourist guide and just get there.  So I went and took a bus.  Firstly, I made enquiries at the bus station, and the girl in the information booth sent me to buy a ticket towards the airport, which is south of the peninsula, and told me to get off the bus at a particular point, then take a taxi.  I bought the ticket.  When I was about to board the bus, I looked closely at my map and the guide, and realised that she had sent me to the opposite end of the peninsula, which would make the taxi fare quite costly.  I had to quickly exchange my bus ticket, and boarded a bus to Stavros.

Without knowing the region, traveling by bus becomes a bit of an adventure, as stops are not necessarily called by the driver, and at bus stops, there are no signs to tell you the name of the place.  I was following my map carefully and looking for any signs we passed on the road, as I was not going all the way to Stavros, but getting off two villages before.  I did manage to get off at Horafakia, and called a taxi to take me from there to Moni Agias Triadas.

The monastery of the Holy Trinity is proudly active and still plays a part in the local economy. Monks own a vast amount of land, and they produce olive oil, wine and other products.  You can visit the gardens, a chapel, and an exhibition of Byzantine icons and religious paraphernalia.  The paintings were particularly beautiful.

From there, my book said you could walk about four kilometres to Moni Gouvernetou.  I am a keen walker, and thought of this as a short ‘pilgrimage’ of sorts, so I set off walking.   About one kilometre down the road, an Ucranian couple stopped their car and generously offered me a ride to the monastery, which I accepted.   I am glad I did, as little did I know, a few hundred metres down the road, it narrowed to the point that two lanes became one tightly winding road, which could have been dangerous to walk on, particularly if cars were coming from up the hill at some speed and would not necessarily see you!

We got to the monastery at about 4.20 PM, and the gate was open, but the actual monastery was closed. It would reopen at 5.00 PM.  We could go in and take a walk in the premises, though.  These, I have to say, are spectacular.  The monastery is the guardian of a vast amount of land that includes mountains and valleys rolling towards the sea.  They have some olive groves and vineyards, but the valley, importantly, is home to another monastery which is located closer to the coast, and is where St John the Hermit used to live in a cave at the bottom of a rock staircase.  You can walk down a beautiful rock path towards it, and visit a few caves where his disciples dwelled, which hold small chapels.  Again, the hills are covered in aromatic herbs, so you walk amidst the smell of thyme, sage, oregano, and olive trees.  The natural beauty of the place is breathtaking.  It inspires awe and gives you a feeling of tranquility.

I walked down, then up the path, and returned to the monastery, where you are welcome to visit a patio and a small church in the middle of it. By the time I walked in, it was time for vespers.  It was beautiful.  Chants and sweet incense wrapped around me and engulfed me.  I stayed there quite a while to meditate and pray.

When I got out, I figured I would just call the same taxi company that brought me to Moni Agias Triadas and ask them to pick me up at Moni Gouvernetou to take me to Chania.  By then, I already knew that I had missed the afternoon bus from Stavros to Chania; I was conscious of the need to find my way back.  However, I had not considered the possibility of being unable to call the taxi in the first place.  My mobile had no signal!

Luckily, a French couple walked out of the monastery and made their way towards a car.  I explained my problem, and they kindly agreed to take me down to the first village.  I was really very grateful.   From where they stopped, I called a taxi and finally got back to Chania.

The adventure was worth it.  The monasteries were beautiful and I enjoyed the journey.  However, if you are considering a visit to these wonderful places, I suggest you save yourself some trouble and plan your own transportation ahead.  Contact Karma Travel and get a great deal in car rental, transfers or a guided visit!

Imbros Gorge

Imbros Gorge, Sfakia, Crete, Greece

I am a keen walker, and had heard of beautiful gorges which extend across the middle of Crete.  I wanted to see for myself, so I went to Imbros, a small village, and started on an 8Km walk through the gorge which ends at another small village called Komitades.

The walk is not difficult at all, and I would say it is not strenuous either.  The terrain is not difficult: you march along a beautiful path with breathtaking scenery.  Holding your breath would be a pity, though, as the gorge is lined with bushes of aromatic wild herbs such as sage, thyme and oregano, pine and cypress, and the scent is a delight.

When you reach the end, it is a 5Km ride (or walk, if you still have the energy and will) to go to Chora Sfakion.

There are organised tours to visit this region.  Consult with Karma Travel to find out the best option to suit your plan.

Paleochora

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I spent the fourth day in Paleochora.  This is a beach resort town which, according to the Lonely Planet travel guide, was ‘discovered by hippies’.  It does have a hippie vibe to it, and is very laid back.  There is a huge and apparently quite organised camping site towards the west of the town.

My initial plan was to walk along the E4 European Walking Path, but several things defeated my original intention.  Firstly, although I had read a travel guide and bought a map, I was not sure I had actually found the correct walking path. There was no signposting,  however intently I looked.  I found a path which wound uphill by the seaside and followed the rugged coastline.  I was not alone: I found what had been described as ‘the elusive kri kri’ (wild mountain goats).  These little goats were not elusive at all; they were quite happily trotting down towards the beach, and not in the least bit startled to see people.

The intense heat and the fact that I was not sure whether I had found the correct walking path, the E4, made me reconsider.  I ended up swimming in the sea for the whole afternoon.  There were parasols and loungers for rent, and a kantina with very friendly patrons who could sell you snacks, beverages or a salad or a sandwich, so I had a brilliant time there.

In the end, I found out that the path I followed had been the correct one, so I could have gone on walking to find an archaeological site and other beautiful beaches.  I was not too bothered by the fact that I did not continue walking towards the ancient ruins.  I had a perfect afternoon and then enjoyed the walk back to Paleochora, which has very nice places to have a drink and have a supper of Mezedes.

To get to Paleochora, book your transfers and accommodation through Karma Travel.

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