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Gorges to hike and walk near Káto Asítai, in Heraklion region

List of Gorges near Káto Asítai

  • 1.2 km
  • Agios Antonios Gorge, Asites
  • 3 km
  • 1 h

To the west of Ano Asites village, the river that initially forms the Saint Haralabos gorge, and later flows through the village, ultimately transforms into a breathtakingly deep and dramatic gorge, known as the St. Anthony gorge. The descent trail leading to the canyon bed can be found near the scenic Byzantine church of St. Anthony, which also hosts a drinking water spring.

The canyon is teeming with lush vegetation, including towering plane trees and various other plant species. The trail within the canyon forms part of the European E4 hiking route. This trail concludes at the exit of the gorge in the village of Kerasia, close to the Faneromeni church. Regrettably, the riverbed is littered with trash from Asites.

  • 2.7 km
  • Agios Charalambos Gorge
  • 1 km
  • 0.5 h

Saint Charalambos Gorge, a picturesque but petite canyon, is situated to the south of Ano Asites village. The gorge is named after the Saint Charalambos church that was constructed near its entrance beneath a rock. Up until mid-spring, the gorge is filled with water, compelling trekkers to walk along its walls to bypass the riverbed. The stream of the gorge carries water from the valley situated east of Prinias village to Agios Antonios gorge, eventually forming the Xeropotamos river that concludes at the Pancretan Stadium beach in Heraklion.

Our journey begins from the Agios Charalambos chapel nestled in a large rock shelter. We then make our descent along the river, where lovely ponds are formed. As we look upward, the grand walls with their vast caves become visible. The exit of the gorge has incredibly narrow passages which require us to traverse along a trail during winter. However, in the summer, it’s possible to walk on the riverbed, but caution is advised to prevent any ankle injuries.

  • 3.9 km
  • Venerato Gorge
  • 5 km
  • 0.5 h

The Venerato canyon, a hidden gem, is nestled 17km south of Heraklion, adjacent to the Venerato village and Paliani Monastery. Despite its modest length of 500m, the deepest part of the gorge leaves a lasting impression on its visitors, despite the visible impact of human activities.

The journey begins in Avgeniki village and concludes at the Agios Fanourios church in Venerato, nestled beneath a towering cliff. A brief stroll through the canyon from Agios Fanourios can be paired with a quick exploration of Venerato village. This charming village, once home to Venetian nobles, was often referred to as “Little Venice” due to its picturesque landscape.

The Apollonas river, which maintains its flow throughout the year, meanders through the gorge, carrying water from Agia Varvara to the Giofyros river. The river’s name, Apollonas, is derived from the ancient town of Apollonia, which once stood here. Some remnants of this town still exist near the gorge. As one ventures further into the gorge, the vegetation and platan trees flourish, harmoniously blending with an ancient watermill. The gorge narrows down to a width of 60cm, with the walls towering up to 25 meters.

Moving ahead, the Gra Spiliara (Old Cave), a haven for wild pigeons, emerges. The cave and the canyon served as a sanctuary during the Turkish Era and the German Occupation of Crete. Some parts of the gorge require wading through water or climbing over rocks. It is advisable for those descending the gorge to wear a helmet to protect against potential falling stones caused by the goats that inhabit the canyon’s edges.

After walking another 80m, you’ll reach the Kouroupi area. Here, the canyon walls almost converge, creating several small waterfalls. There’s a narrow, 20-meter long crevice in the rock that ends in a 7-meter high cliff and a deep pond. This marks the end of the walkable part of the gorge.

Until the 1950s, locals sourced their drinking water from this river, used it for irrigation, and it was home to a variety of wildlife including turtles, eels, and crabs. Sadly, pollution and domestic sewage have significantly degraded the ecosystem. This beautiful location deserves a better fate, and we can only hope it attains it.

  • 9.5 km
  • Rouvas Gorge (Gafaris)
  • 6 km
  • 2.5 h

The Agios Nikolaos, Gafaris or Rouvas gorge is nestled between the Ambelakia and Samari peaks. This gorge, the most significant in Psiloritis and central Crete, is named after the St Nicholas monastery located near its exit at Zaros. This area is an ecosystem teeming with diverse flora and fauna, smaller canyons, and striking geological formations and cliffs. It spans 4 km, with 2.7 km developed by the Forest Service for activities like hiking, mountaineering, rock climbing, and wildlife observation. However, a fire in 1994 significantly damaged the beautiful Rouvas forest near the gorge’s south entrance.

The Rouvas forest, located in the Saint Nicholas gorge, is a nationally significant ecosystem of holly trees. It covers the inner valley of Psiloritis, surrounded by the peaks of Ambelakia, Samari, Chalazokefala, Skinakas, Koudouni, and Giristi. The area’s trees are ancient, with some trunks exceeding 1 meter in diameter and reaching heights of 15 meters. They grow densely, forming a unique forest society, supplemented by various shrub species.

The forest houses other typical Cretan flora, such as aria, zelkova, cypress, pine, plane, and pear trees, covering approximately 30,000 acres. The uniqueness of the Rouvas forest lies in the holly trees’ unusual size and characteristics compared to their typical Greek counterparts. This is likely due to the absence of external factors that allowed these shrubby oaks to evolve into their current form. Around the forest, one can spot scattered “mitata” (shepherd houses), most of which are now abandoned.

Recommended hiking routes include Zaros Lake to Saint John (a 2.5-hour return trip) and Psakofarago to Agios Ioannis to Lake Zaros (a 5-hour trip). The first route starts from Zaros Lake, leading to the St Nicholas monastery before entering the Rouvas gorge. The trail then ascends through the old burned forest, offering stunning views of the Zaros and Messara planes, before entering a narrow gorge filled with dense vegetation. The path follows the river bed, abundant with water in spring, leading to the heart of the forest, the Agios Ioannis area.

The second route begins north of Agios Ioannis at the Psakofarago gorge, the upper extension of the Rouvas gorge. The trail starts from the Holy Cross church and ends at Lake Zaros, passing through Agios Ioannis and the Rouvas gorge. This route requires a transfer to the Holy Cross church and a pick-up from Lake Zaros. Both routes offer the chance to experience the unique beauty of the Rouvas forest and its surroundings.

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