The route crosses the coastal front of the area of Viannos, passing through small seaside settlements with mild tourist development, ideal for quiet holidays in Crete. Then it crosses through semi-mountainous settlements rich in history and beautiful nature. Ideally, the route suggested should be followed in sections, as a guide for exploring the area, with overnight stays at each place.
Ierapetra – Myrtos – Kato Symi
This route passes through areas with many greenhouses and leads to Myrtos, a picturesque coastal settlement. Starting from Ierapetra, we drive in a westerly direction parallel to the coastline. Here we can stop for a swim in the quiet waters of the beach or for food in the fish taverns located by the water. We continue to the west, always following the coastline and pass many deserted, quiet coves and sandy beaches, ideal for those who love privacy. After about 5.5 km we reach Tertsa, another small coastal settlement. In Tertsa there are a few rooms for rent and taverns, as well as a large beach. In the small valley, there are mandarins, oranges, medlars and several bananas.
Continuing our drive, the road begins to climb; we leave the sea behind us and pass by Sykolologos. After the village, it is worth taking a short detour to visit Kalami, an abandoned small village where one can admire the authentic Cretan architecture. Before reaching the village of Pefkos and continuing our way to Viannos, we make another, bigger detour and take the road that leads to Kato Symi. Gradually the landscape changes and becomes even more mountainous until we reach the historic village. Kato Symi is located on the outskirts of one of the most important pine forests of Crete. Here, in the Second World War, tragic and bloody events took place. The village (as well as the neighbouring ones) was destroyed by the Germans as an act of revenge, as many guerrillas had taken refuge in the mountains above Symi.
In Kato Symi, which also offers agritourism accommodation options, we can make a stop for food in one of the traditional taverns, under the sounds of running water and the shade of huge plane trees. If you are feeling up to it after lunch, you can continue the route through the pine forest of Symi, which is also suitable for hiking. Here, there is an important ancient sanctuary dedicated to Aphrodite and Mercury, which unfortunately is not accessible. The road after several turns leads to the plateau of Omalos Viannos, an amazing, untouched landscape. If you are stretched for time, you can just walk to Ano Symi, an almost abandoned village with the church of Agios Georgios and 15th-century frescoes.
Pefkos – Ano Viannos – Keratokampos
Arriving in Keratokampos, it is time for a swim in the waters of the Libyan Sea. From Kato Symi, we return towards Viannos and pass through the small villages of Pefkos and Amira. At Seli in Amira, we make a stop at the Holocaust memorial in the area. In the village, it is also worth visiting the small but remarkable Viannos Holocaust Museum. Then we drive to the historic Ano Viannos where we enjoy a Greek coffee in the square, under the big plane tree. In Ano Viannos we can also visit the Historical Folklore Museum of the village. We continue to Kato Viannos and take the road going south that leads to Keratokambos. The view is wonderful and once again we cross beautiful villages that retain their traditional character, such as Chondros.
Arriving in Keratokampos, it is time for a swim in the waters of the Libyan Sea. The best beaches (Listis, Larinaki) are located just outside the settlement, to the west. Impressive, however, is also the beach of Dermatos, even further west, and it also offers several trees for shade; the only issue, however, is the fact that it is open to the winds. In the area, you will find everything you need for a quiet and relaxing holiday. In addition, there is a rather unexpected attraction, the Viannos Gallery, which houses remarkable works by contemporary Greek artists.
Keratokambos – Emparos – Heraklion
From Keratokambos the route can continue to the hinterland of the Prefecture of Heraklion. Returning to Kato Viannos, this time we follow the fork toward Emparo. After passing the beautiful Martha and Thomadiano we arrive in Emparo, a village built in the valley of the river Baritis.
Here it is worth stopping to try the famous sweets of the women’s cooperative. Then we continue further towards the direction of Kastelli, the main village of the area, passing through olive groves, vineyards and small villages (Afrati, Panagia). From Kastelli we can also visit the neighbouring Thrapsano with its long tradition in pottery.
Route Length: 89 km.
Location: Ierapetra, Viannos