Fans of the Cretan landscape, can comfortably visit the island by renting a car and venturing through the unique and beautiful mountain roads. Those staying in the area of Chania can easily see the beaches of the south by taking the road through the Askifou Plateau. This road moves towards the Gorge of Imbros, and ends on the coast of the Lybian sea, at the historic village of Chora Sfakion.
From Vrysses to Sfakia
The lovely little village of Vrysses is divided by a river that flows under a bridge. Right after leaving Vrysses, the road passes through Alikambos, home to Dourakis Winery; one of the most renowned wineries of Crete. Visitors can stop and enjoy a wine tasting tour before continuing towards the south.
Here, the road starts curling up into the mountains towards the Plateau of Askifou. The plateau is guarded by the imposing ruins of a Turkish castle on top of a hill.
In the area, there are a few small traditional villages where one can visit and to take in the rich cultural heritage of the locals. Ammoudari is one of these villages where small tavernas offer fresh dishes of the day. No menus available but fresh dishes normally including goat, sheep and abundant greens from the area, all spiced up with mountain herbs.
In the close village of Kares, one can check out the museum dedicated to the Battle of Crete. This home-made version of a war exhibition has been put together in the very home of Giorgos Hatzidakis, a witness of the German occupation during his childhood, who has collected several remains from the historic events.
The bloody past of the plateau go back to the times of the Ottoman domination on the island, but it has also been the place through which the Allies retreated in the final moments of the Battle of Crete.
The Gorge of Imbros
At the very end of the plateau, you will find the village of Imbros, where a few more tavernas declare to be in the exact entry point for the descent into the homonymous gorge. Anyway, all entrances will lead to a visit to some of the most impressive landscapes on Crete, rather easier to trek than other famous canyons on the island.
Those hiking the ravine will find that the route is well signed. It would take about three hours to complete and a taxi ride can be arranged back to the entrance and parking lot.
The gorge presents endless confined caves and spaces while a monumental archway made of stone is also part of the surprising landscape.
Passing Imbros and continuing towards Sfakia, the road descends towards the Libyan sea, through a series of breathtaking hairpin bends. Once the road is over, visitors can choose to turn to the west and see Chora Sfakion, capital of the region of Sfakia.
In Chora Sfakion one can eat in one of the many quaint waterfront tavernas. Here, the must-eat dish is the sfakian pita, a kind of rounded pancake filled in with the local myzithra cheese and covered in local thyme honey.
Chora Sfakion is rather small and easy to visit. And it is also home to the port from where ferries connect the village to nearby seaside towns, lonely beaches with no road access, and the island of Gavdos.
Instead, if choosing to go west, visitors can reach the small town of Frangokastello, home to an impressive Venetian castle built right by the beach. Or they can keep going eastwards until reaching the magnificent coast of Plakias.