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The Mountain Village of Zaros

Taste the difference between a trout from the freezer and one straight from the stream at the mountain village of Zaros. If you’ve been captivated by the music of the lyre, you can have your own instrument made here. What’s more, beautiful walks in the fresh mountain air await, with several old monasteries to visit.

This small village nestled practically at the heart of the island is an unspoilt oasis of waterways and mountain paths. When you first enter the village, stop by the main square, which is surrounded by artisan craft shops. There are articles handwoven by Maria Zacharioudakis and Antonios Stefanakis’ workshop. He is one of the best instrument makers on the island, producing lyra, laouto, mandolins, violas, bouzouki and even the Cretan bagpipe, askomandoura. Moreover, he keeps a choice selection of CDs with Cretan music. You should also take a glance inside the Vegera Taverna. Your hosts Vivi and her mother freshly prepare a choice of two daily meals here at very attractive prices. There is no printed menu – simply ask what the dishes of the day are.

Afterwards, it’s another kilometre up the mountain past the Idi Hotel, a restored watermill and the Votomos Taverna with a trout farm right next door. Salmon and rainbow trout swim away to their heart’s content within the enclosure. The road ends next to the small artificial mountain lake of Limni, where yet another taverna awaits. A small trail resembling a goat track takes you around the lake in about 15 minutes.

Back at Limni taverna, another hiking trail begins. Follow the signpost through a small gorge to the convent of Agios Nikolaos, 1 km away. You can also reach the monastery by car via an access road. The journey is the reward on this walk. The convent itself is rather ugly, and the oversized new church does nothing to help. The convent is home to nuns with one monk who is also there on an almost daily basis. This is the only convent on Crete which still measures time using the ancient Christian Julian calendar. Christmas here is celebrated on the 6th of January, like in Russia.

Part of the E4 European Long Distance Path leads from the convent through Rouvas Gorge, taking you to the chapel of Agios Ioannis in about 2 hours, and to Rouvas Forest. The trail climbs over 550 metres along this stretch of track.

Vrondisi Monastery is a much prettier alternative to Agios Nikolaos convent. A tarred road leads here, forking off from the road towards Kamares about 2.5 km west of Zaros. Long wooden tables and benches are sitting under two giant plane trees in the courtyard in front of the monastery. Even today, Cretans will bring their own canisters to fill with water from the Venetian fountain at the gateway to the monastery. The four waterspouts at the well are said to represent the four rivers of Paradise. The statues of Adam and Eve lost their heads to the Ottomans. There is a single monk who occasionally occupies the monastery. Otherwise, its doors are shut.

On leaving Zaros, keep on the road towards Kamares, and you will arrive in the village of Vorizia. The church of Valsomonero is signposted here, and within easy reach, about 2.5 km along good, tarred road. The church is part of a monastery and its interior was completely covered in wall paintings between the 14th and 16th centuries. 24 frescos depict the Akathist Hymn, which sings the praises of the Holy Mother.

An island full of surprises

A holiday destination for bathing enthusiasts, nature lovers, hikers, and those interested in history and culture. Today, Crete is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Mediterranean - cosmopolitan and mysterious at the same time.

Popular hotels on the sandy beach

The Corissia Hotels are situated within the tranquil, picturesque village of Georgioupolis right on the sandy beach. An ideal seaside resort both to relax and explore the island, because that is just what holidays on Crete are all about.

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