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East of Chania

Akrotíri to Réthymnon

valley and mountain view

To my mind, this Cretan countryside resembled good prose, carefully ordered, sober, free from superfluous ornament, powerful and restrained. But between the severe lines one could discern an unexpected sensitiveness and tenderness; in the sheltered hollows the lemon and orange trees perfumed the air, and from the vastness of the sea emanated an inexhaustible poetry.< Nikos Kazantzákis, Zorba the Greek


Akrotíri, the bulbous headland east of Chaniá, shelters the island’s safest port, Soúda, from northerly winds. Its strategic position has assured it plenty of history, and, now that Crete is safe from imminent invasion, the steep access road, Eleftheríou Venizélou, is often chock-a-block with locals heading out to Akrotíri’s beaches, nightclubs and villas.

Outside these suburban tentacles, Akrotíri is a moody place, junky with military zones by the airport, lonely and wild around its famous monasteries. First stop should be little Profítis Ilías church (4.5km from Chaniá), Crete’s chief memorial to Venizélos. Elefthérios Venizélos (1864–1936) and his son Sophoklís (1896–1964) asked to be buried here so they could posthumously enjoy the superb views over Chaniá, but they had patriotic reasons as well: in the rebellion of 1897, Profítis Ilías was briefly the Revolutionary Military Camp of Akrotíri, located just within the Great Powers’ 6km exclusion zone around Chaniá.

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Text © Dana Facaros

Images by Davric, echiner1, Jerzy Strzelecki, Creative Commons License, John and Melanie (Illingworth) Kotsopoulos, Olaf Tausch, GNU Free License, Romtomtom, Wolfgang Sauber, ZeroOne, Шнапс