South Crete is calling us
It seems the weather was on our side, these very first weeks after the quarantine. So, it was a great chance to continue exploring Crete island. Having already walked through the beautiful Rouvas gorge, we decided to head South now. Our destination was the monastery and beach of Koudouma, truly wild part of Crete.
Long route, dirt road
Thanks to the new road from Heraklion towards Moires, the first 40 minutes are easy. You can enjoy the view of various villages before driving in the valley of Messara, a place full of vegetables and fruits. Heading east, crossing the villages of Asimi and Sternes brings you to the famous Asterousia mountains. There 24 km of gravel road awaits you since Koudouma monastery lies on the other side of the mountain massif. It’s not that bad, you just need to take it slowly and be careful, especially where it gets narrow.
The views are stunning. Rocks, dust, goats, and sheep make the landscape look much different than the touristic northern part of the island. The area around the rocky top of Kofinas is red and green during this period thanks to a mix of wheat and poppy flowers.
- Tip: Watch the road signs carefully, when you see one to the Kofina, turn and follow the gravel road. You can hike to the top of the mountain and spot a couple of the very few remaining bearded vultures of Crete, if you are lucky.
Words can’t describe the feelings of wonder and pleasure while driving downhill to Koudouma. The breathtaking view to the Libyan sea, gravel roads leading to other beaches, a wildlife observatory, pine trees, wild herbs and bees. It may took some time to reach our destination, but it was definitely worth it!
We ran to the crystal water immediately upon arrival. It was warmer than expected, usually it’s quite cold this period on the south Cretan coastline. A monk and some workers welcomed us and invited us for dinner and offered us accommodation. It’s one of the few monasteries that keep hosting guests for free if they wish. We had our rooftop tent, though. And, you know, after spending so many weeks on the road last summer, sleeping in cold conditions in Iceland, we wanted to enjoy it under easy circumstances now.
Sea, sun, salt & interesting conversations
That evening and the next day were so relaxing and revitalizing. We loved sleeping in nature, with the sound of waves accompanying us.
At 7 am, as usual, Ektoras woke us up:
“Mom, Dad, sun, get up, sea, swim”, – he kept shouting.
We prepared our breakfast, as well as traditional Greek coffee, put our umbrellas in front of the big cave and were ready for one more great day.
- There is a big cave on the west side of the beach, two more smaller caves on the east. Over there, a big rock creates a private area, also. We preferred the big cave, as it was closer to our car and our fridge there.
- There are several built-in-the-rocks small churches that you can visit, and the monastery itself is definitely worth a look.
- Moreover, you can follow the hiking trail to the Saint Anthony Cave and further to the small coastal village of Agios Ioannis. It’s easy, approximately 90 minutes, and the views are exceptional!
Some locals from nearby villages arrived and brought fresh fish, meat and wine. In the spirit of true Greek hospitality, they invited us to join, and for us it was a good chance to practice our Cretan dialect abilities.
Such remote places like Koudouma monastery remind us how much we missed this Wild Crete during the quarantine. Nature, people, animals and birds, everything is so much different than anywhere else. Sometimes Alyona calls it “The Caucasus of Greece”, maybe you will agree, if you spend enough time on the island.
Promise to return
Yannis, one of the workers over there, lives in the monastery since last year. He came to find peace, to think again about life and himself. We had a great time together, talking about God and life, his family, the animals and nature.
We also enjoyed the company and traditional recipes of Eirini, who takes care of the monks’ food and lives there with her husband.
Simple people, calm atmosphere and stunning environment. When it was time to say “goodbye”, we felt like we spent there many days. We promised to visit this small monastery and wild beach again, it’s surely worthy experience!
- In case you drive to the monastery, you could buy some basic products from a supermarket to offer for the shared table, like pasta, potatoes, wheat flour, whatever. Every meal is offered for free over there, and people of the monastery rely on visitors and good will of locals to maintain this way of hospitality.