The area of Preveli on the southern coast of the island is, without doubt, one of the most striking in Crete. It combines the impressive geomorphology of the Kourtaliotiko gorge with an ecosystem of significance and a beach of rare beauty; nearby visitors will also find the Monastery of Preveli, with a small museum that is worth visiting for the history of the area. As a name, Preveli is mostly associated with the palm forest surrounding the beach.
Preveli Lake is formed by the estuary of the river Kourtalioti, which runs all year round. The source of the river is located in the middle of the gorge itself. It is not a true lake, but a product of the river’s estuary. The estuary is sandy, due to the continuous deposition of silt: in this way, the ‘lake’ is formed, small and rectangular – a body of water of some 15 stremmata (3.7 acres). On the east side amongst the native pines is a small Byzantine church dedicated to Agios Savva (14th-15th centuries AD). On the shores of the lake is one of the two main concentrations (forests) of the Theophrastus palm located in Crete. A few years back, a large fire burnt much of the forest. Despite this, nature has reasserted herself – and today the palm forest lives again. In the late 1980s, the area attracted hippies and alternative holidaymakers. This slowly changed, mostly to protect the ecosystem of the river and protect the area from litter, fire and human destruction. Now unsupervised camping is forbidden in the area. The southern coast of Crete, and Preveli in particular, is still popular with hippies.
A large rock, shaped like a heart, or mushroom, depending on who is looking, stands in the eastern part of the beach, a few metres into the water. It has always been an object that attracted metaphysical observations – full of symbolism for those late 20th century residents of the palm forest!
The distance from Rethymno is about 35 km, driving through the villages of Armeni, Koxare and Asomatos. Keep in mind that you will need to hike down to the beach, which takes about 15 or 20 minutes.