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Omalos Plateau Excursion


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Omalos Plateau Excursion Details:

The famous plateau of Omalos is surrounded by the high crowns of the Lefka Ori (White Mountains) at 1,040 to 1,250 meters and is just 38 km from the town of Chania. The plateau of Omalos is the physical border and “meeting” point among 3 from the 5 counties of the prefecture of Chania, namely Kydonia, Sfakia and Selino.

  1. Departure from the port of Heraklion or a predetermined point
  2. Stop at Rethymno city
  3. Stop at Chania city
  4. Excursion to Omalos Plateau
  5. Return to Heraklion

Notes: The predetermined positions may change according to your wishes. The tour can be combined with a visit to the Rethymno or Chania market to while shopping.

General Information

Chania lies on the north coast of west Crete and is the capital of Chania Prefecture. Chania Prefecture covers the westernmost end of Crete and features a combination of many beautiful beaches, small fertile plains, high mountains and deep gorges, such as the Samaria Gorge. Chania Prefecture is the greenest part of the island, as the range of the White Mountains ensures the highest rainfall in Crete.
Chania is one of the oldest cities in Crete, with a rich and tumultuous history. Today it is the second most populated city on the island, a city which has preserved its traditional architecture and most of its monuments from Venetian and Turkish times. The Venetian harbour with its lighthouse and the old town in the centre have bestowed on Chania the reputation of the most picturesque city in Crete, welcoming thousands of visitors each year.
Chania does not lag behind in modern developments, as it is home to the Technical University of Crete and other educational establishments. It also offers many and varied cultural events and amusements.
New town of Chania
You could say that Chania consists of two towns, the old and the new, which coexist in a harmonious whole. The new town embraces the old and spreads outwards ever wider. Its layout is fairly good near the centre and it’s easy to find your way around. Unfortunately this changes in the suburbs, where it’s easy to get lost. It is commonly observed that its is very easy to find your way into Chania but much harder to get out. Of course, you may not want to leave, as Chania is a city that will enchant you.
The Old town of Chania
The heart of Chania is still the old town, with its narrow, labyrinthine alleyways and listed buildings dating from different periods, where you can enjoy romantic strolls. Many of these buildings have been turned into small hotels, restaurants, shops or homes.
Don’t hesitate to wander round the alleys of the old town, looking for the lovely images that await you. Your camera must be your inseparable companion, as Chania is one of the most-photographed cities in Greece.
The old town stretches out parallel to the Venetian harbour, from Firkas Fortress and the Maritime Museum to the “Pyli tis Ammou” (Gate of the Sand, or Koum Kapi in Turkish) to the east of the arsenals. This is the part of town within the Venetian walls and includes Byzantine Chania, once enclosed within less extensive walls.
The Byzantine walls protected the fortress of Kastelli, the hill which was first inhabited in the Neolithic period.
Kastelli Hill rises above the Turkish mosque in the Venetian harbour. Here stood the acropolis of ancient Kydonia, the Minoan Chania. There, too, was built the first Byzantine fortress, the Kastelli, surrounded by walls with many towers and bastions. The Venetians established their headquarters there in 1252, building the Rector’s Residence (the Rector was the Governor of Chania), while the same site was the seat of the pashas during the Turkish Occupation. During the last years of Turkish rule, the Christian aristocracy lived inside the Kastelli. Unfortunately most of the district was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War, and its medieval aspect was lost forever.
Today only the base of the north wall remains. There is also the main road that once ran through the Kastelli, modern-day Kanevaro Street with its imposing mansions.

Omalos Plateau

The famous plateau of Omalos is surrounded by the high crowns of the Lefka Ori (White Mountains) at 1,040 to 1,250 meters and is just 38 km from the town of Chania. The plateau of Omalos is the physical border and “meeting” point among 3 from the 5 counties of the prefecture of Chania, namely Kydonia, Sfakia and Selino.
The plateau of Omalos was the shelter of the locals and the base of rebels during the two and a half centruries of the Turkish occupation, but also during all other wars against invadors.
From the plateau and specifically from the location Xyloskalo at 1,250 m high, there is the start of the path along the world famous Samaria gorge. In Xyloskalo there is a forest outpost and information centre (small museum) about Lefka Ori and Samaria.
The path to Gigilos Opposite Xyloskalo rises with wild pride the rough mountain of Gigilos (Rotten). The peak of Gigilosis at 2,080 m and in the ancient times it was believed to have been the location of the throne of the Crete-born god Zeus. West from Gigilos in the peaks of Agathopi (1,768 m) and Psilafi (1,984 m) it was believed that the god of gods (Zeus) was performing his harness racings. In the recent past, the peaks of Agathopi have hosted slalom ski races.
One of the most beautiful routes in Lefka Ori is the climbing of Gigilos, taking two and a half hours of walking. This route is quite easy. Half-way to Gigilos (one hour from Xyloskalo), there is the spring of Linoseli (Seli of the Hellenes) where the water at 1,500 m high is ice-cold during all seasons of the year. At ancient times there was a famous Oracle there. Just before that, there is the Demonospilio (cave of deamons), which according to a tradition was the den of deamons. In Gigilos there are many climbing routes that have been mapped out by Greek and foreign alpinists. More than 10 cave gulches tear rip down the aurface of the mountain, the deepest of them with 115 meters vertical descent, found when climbing towards the peak.
Southeast of the plateau a mountain road five kilometers long, leads to the mountain lodge of Kallergi, at 1,680 m height. From there the view of the Cretan and Libyan sea, of the Samaria gorge and the island of Gavdos is magnificent. From the lodge one can continue mountaineering across the Lefka Ori to Sfakia and elsewhere.
When climbing down the plateau, on uor right hand there is the large cave-gulch Honos or the cave of Tzanis, where there was the den of the chieftain Tzanis Markos during the first years of the Turksih invasion. He was also called Fobos (fear), as he was actually the fear of the invaders. This cave was explored for the first time by speleologists from Chania and France. Its length reaches 2,5 kilometers, the height distance from the entrance to the depth is 241 meters and forms a huge covered gorge.
The Tower of Hadzimihalis Yiannaris At older times, in the plateau locals grew grain and potatoes and there were many sheperd huts and “mitata” (cheese-dairies) where the marvellous cheese of the area was produced. During the German occupation in the second World War, a small airport was also operating in Omalos for a short time.
Opposite the entrance of the cave of Tzanis, on a small barrow, there is the Tower and the church of the famous chieftain and semi-god of Lefka Ori, Hadzimihalis Yiannaris. He was a rebel from the village of Lakki, born in 1851 and died in 1916.
The plateau also shows a different unique view in the winter, when it is often covered by snow, while all year lots of Greek and foreign visitors arrive here.

Samaria Gorge

Before our descent to the gorge begins, we should know that: the Samaria gorge is the biggest in Europe, 18 km long , and the passage we cross is 14 km. Its width is from 150 to 3 meters in the narrowest spot called Portes. It has been declared National Park in order its rare fauna and flora to be protected. Thanks to the wild and full-of-ravines form, it is the only place that “agrimi” (wild animal), as the locals call the Cretan wild goat, lives. There are additionally many rare species of birds and along the gorge many rare herbs grow, such as the wild burning bush and several wild flowers. In the gorge the below mentioned are strictly forbidden: hunting, setting fires, cutting flowers and herbs and staying there overnight. Throughout the gorge, there are guards, and guides with mules that can carry anyone having any kind of problem, with a small charge. Moreover, there is something like a ticket that you give back on your way out, so as to be ascertained that all visitors are out of the gorge. During winter, the gorge is inaccessible and the crossing is allowed from the beginning of May until the end of October. The marching lasts 6-8 hours , depending on the hiker’s stamina. For this marching, we must be supplied with suitable hard shoes (army boots) and light food. We do not have to carry water, as along the gorge there are streams with crystal clear waters. Moreover, we must be informed about the departure time of the last boat from Agia Roumeli, where we shall end up, to Sfakia.
Xilokalos , at the entrance of the gorge, is a small path with wooden parapet, in order these that will descend the Faragga (big gorge) to be eased and protected. Going down the passage and there is awe in the atmosphere. Very tall mountains, left and right and an endless ravine in front of you. Numerous shades of green and at far end tall mountains. You keep on descending for four kilometers and sometimes there is a chaos ahead of you, some other times very tall trees, or springs and huge rocks that make you think that you can go no farther. After a 30-minute walk, there is a small change of scenery. The chapel of Agios Nickolaos is ahead of us, surrounded by enormous cypresses and two gates in the antechamber. We are already in the deepest spot of the gorge and huge mountains 2.000 m high are around. Here the course changes and becomes smoother. Other smaller gorges are united with Samaria’s. The plain begins to become wider and suddenly there is no water on the ground. Down here, in the middle of the gorge the village called Samaria is situated, uninhabited now, since the woodchoppers and shepherds that used to live here, were transferred elsewhere, when the gorge was declared National Park, in 1962. in the small Byzantine church from the 14th century located here, many icons and frescos are preserved. Osia Maria the Egyptian whose name was changed to Sia Maria and finally Samaria gave its name to the entire area. There is a spring and this village is an ideal place to have a rest and some snack. Besides, we are only half the way of the passing.
The landscape changes again. The ravine becomes narrower and very tall rocks come closer. Just before you reach Portes, an open and flat place on the right and a stream challenge you to stop and quench you thirst. As soon as you get to Portes the view is majestic! The two sides of the gorge are so close that you think they will meet and form a narrow door, 3 meters wide and 600 high. Passing through the narrow passage and the blue sea is right ahead of you. The path leads to a dry waterfall on round stones. It gets wider and reaches another desolate village Agia Roumeli. One more kilometer on the same rocks and we reach the new Agia Roumeli.
A beautiful end in our way out of the Gorge to the Libyan Sea. A swimming after this long hiking in a beautiful beach with thick sand, black pebbles and crystal clear waters is the right thing to do.

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