Makrys Gialos or Makrigialos, it is a well known tourist resort facing the Libyan sea on the south-east coast of Crete. It belongs to the municipality of Lasithi, 29 km east of Ierapetra and 33 km south of Sitia, on the south national road that runs between Ierapetra and Sitia.
Makrigialos is rather an unimpressive village, hardly worthy of a visit. However, if you continue a little towards the east, the view to the Makrigialos bay is unique and it rivals the beauty and the amenity of the settlement at Aspros Potamos, with its small picturesque port and its marvellous surrounding beaches.
The name Makrys Gialos derives from the long and sandy beach, about 2 km, from the village. The clear and swallow waters are ideal for both children and adults alike. The main beach of Makrigialos is by no means the only one; the area is famous for its numerous beautiful beaches.
Near Makrigialos and next to the extraordinary beach of Kalamokania there is the Minoan villa. The villa was built around 1600 B.C. and it is comparable to the structure of the Minoan palaces, most likely it was the private residence of a local ruler. However excavation has not been completed and so the site is not yet open to the public.
Makrys Gialos was originally a small fishing village, but during the last few years,the area has been built up to accommodate the growing demand for tourist destinations. However, it is still a quiet location, ideal for those looking for a relaxing holiday.
There are numerous fine beaches in the Makri Gialos region.
Whilst the most popular during the summer is the Makri Gialos main beach, which offers all facilities including water sports.
You can also reach several other beaches within a short walking distance. To the east of Makri Gialos there are two beaches below the Sunwing Hotel, reached by walking down the right hand side of the hotel past the bungalows belonging to Sunwing.
Further east takes you to Diaskari beach, which has wooden pergolas shading sun beds and hammock sand is home to a small traditional taverna. Further still, by taking the road to Kalo Nero, you will reach Amathi beach and several other small coves and beaches which are often deserted although there are no facilities on the beaches.
There are many fine villages in the Region of Makri Gialos, all with their own particular merits.
It is well worth hiring a car to visit these villages, sample some of the local atmosphere, hospitality and culture, visit their splendid and historic churches and enjoy spectacular views as most are mountain villages. Aori, Agios Stephanos, Azali, Bembonas, Chrysopigi, Lapithos, Lithines, Orino, Pefki, Pervolakia, Schinokapsala, Stavrohori.
To the west of Makri Gialos the first beach is Kalamokania, further on there are beaches along the coast Koutsouras and Mavros Kolimbos and very attractive horseshoe shaped bays at Galini and Agia Fotia.
Pefki Gorge is a small gorge in southeast Crete, it runs down from Pefki village to Makry Gialos and it is 7 kilometres long.
If you take a walk through Pefki village and Pefki Gorge, you will see that, apart from pine trees (pefka in Greek), the earth is blanketed in kermes oak, lentisc, olive and carob trees, while the villagers’ greenhouses are luckily located further south, in the plain of Makry Gialos and Goudouras.
Starting from Pefki, you pass through the olive groves to Ilias’s Watermill, one of the oldest watermills still standing, which functioned until the early 1920s. Right after the watermill is the entrance to Pefki Gorge, whose walls reach a maximum height of 120 metres.
The walk down the gorge is along a pretty and picturesque route through the pine wood. You will also see plane trees and other common Cretan vegetation, such as thyme and sage bushes. On the south side of the gorge is a spring of fresh drinking water, so it’s a good idea to fill a bottle with cold mountain water to take with you.
There have been a few minor human interventions in the gorge, so don’t be surprised to see a wide footpath and stone benches at some points. Luckily these features have not spoilt the scenery and character of the gorge, as they have been realised as part of the European Leader Programme.
On leaving Pefki Gorge you come to Pisokamino, and 500 m further down is the village Aspros Potamos, where there is a huge rock, the “Volakas tou Sarakinou” (“Saracen’s Rock”). Legend has it that a Saracen pirate left behind in a raid hid there to escape the Cretans hunting him.
On the rock you will notice small, egg-sized pebbles. This has given rise to various stories and theories. The commonest tale is that, during the wars, the locals suffered much hunger and hardship. So the children played a game: every time they passed the rock, they would toss a pebble onto it.
If the pebble rolled off the rock, there probably wouldn’t be any food at home. If it stayed on the rock, there would be warm, nourishing food waiting for them. This is supposedly how the pebbles got on the Volakas.
A short distance from the Saracen’s Rock is the village of Aspros Potamos, where the tarmac road either leads back to Pefki village or continues on to Makrys Gialos.
Pervolakia Gorge is in southeast Crete.
The gorge starts right next to Kapsa Monastery, 7 kilometres from Makry Gialos, and ends at Pervolakia village, from which it takes its name.
You can leave the car at Kapsa Monastery and either visit the small pebble beach or enter the gorge, which is the rockiest in the area but also the most impressive.
Pervolakia Gorge is usually traversed by challenge-seekers, as it’s not very easy to walk. Some sections are relatively inaccessible and you may need to do some climbing.
The average time it takes to walk through the gorge is 2 hours.
You will then reach the village of Kato Pervolakia, where you can call a taxi if you have left your car at Kapsa Monastery.
So make sure you’ve got the phone number of a taxi driver from Makry Gialos, or hitch a lift from someone leaving the village.
Koutsouras gorge is near Makry Gialos in southeast Crete.
The gorge links the villages of Koutsouras and Oreino, and you may hear it referred to as “Butterfly Gorge”.
The entrance to the gorge is on the Koutsouras side, in the Community Park. From there it is 3-4 hours’ walk to Oreino village.
In spite of its name, you won’t see many butterflies inside the gorge, as in recent years they have only appeared in the spring.
This is probably due to the huge wildfire that broke out in 1993 and devastated much of the local woodland. Ever since, locals note, the balance of the area has been disturbed and the butterflies are gradually disappearing, especially in the last few years.
Despite the fire damage, however, Koutsouras Park is a lovely place with dense vegetation and rich plant and animal life.
There are marks blazing the trail through the gorge, but be careful as you might get confused.
At the end of the track through the gorge, as you approach Oreino village, there are small springs and beautiful waterfalls (in the winter months).
On reaching Oreino, you can sit down for a refreshing drink of fruit juice at the kafeneion in the village square. Oreino is quite high up, so it’s cooler here than seaside Koutsouras - just the thing on a hot summer day!
Lamnomiu gorge takes its name from the village of Lamnoniou and ends at the beautiful beaches of Kserokambos. The walker will notice the strange stone shapes formed by the constant wind battering the sides of this barren gorge. It will take you about 5 hours to walk.
Kato Zakros Gorge
Kato Zakros gorge is also known as "The Gorge of the Dead" because the Minoans used to bury their dead here in small crevasses high up in the walls of the gorge. It forms part of the E4 walking trail and you can easily walk through it in about an hour.
The trekking route starting at Choclakies will take you about two hours to go and another two to return. The gorge follows a turn to the left, along sheer cliffs. You are mostly moving on the river bank (it is inaccessible in winter), and in spring you should be prepared to climb some rocks, to overcome the water ponds on the way. At the end of the route you will be rewarded with the view of Karoumes beach, solitary and beautiful, with trees that offer their shade freely for you to rest.
You can also make a start from the village of Agahtias and the route is the following: Palaikastro – Agathias – Platyvola Plateau – Skinias beach – Karoumes beach – Karoumes gorge – Choclakies – Palaikastro. You will need about four hours to complete this second route.
Havgas Gorge (Kalamafka)
Havgas gorge is located very close to the village Kalamafka, just 12km north of the city of Ierpapetra. Note that there are several other gorges with the same name around Crete, such as the Havgas Gorge in Lassithi Plateau.
The canyon is very beautiful and has distinctive rock formations, which have been shaped by rare geological phenomena. In many places the rocks host "artistic" creations of nature, carved over time by wind and water. It is relatively short in length and walking along the riverbed is very easy, even for beginners.
The altitude of the area is approximately 500m, ideal for the development of a beautiful pine forest. Unfortunately, the canyon and the surrounding area have been burned several times by fire, thus the the size of the pine forest has shrunk. However, it is worth visiting the area and it is sure that you will be impressed by the small-sizes pine trees springing up among the rocks, resembling bonsais.
The depth of the gorge reaches 300 m. At one point, two slit rocks form the entrance of some consecutive caves, which was used as a hiding place during the German Occupation by the Cretan rebels and the Allies.
The region is called by locals "Chinese Landscape", taken after the smooth rocks with the bonsais. Next to the gorge exit, you can visit the village of Kalamafka with its taverns and gurgling water. Moreover, nearby you can visit the ancient olive oil mill and the churches of St. John and St. Anthony.
Crete has a varied fauna. There are certain subspecies of animals that are indigenous only in Crete, like the local wild goat, kri kri, and the Cretan tree frog. There are also various birds from a number of subspecies of the common hawk, to the grey heron. Finally, the sea life is fairly varied, and certain beaches in the south of the island offer protection to the caretta-caretta (sea turtle) during its reproduction period.
Due to its geographical location, even in relation to Crete, Lassithi presents a particular interest. The reason is because it is the eastern part of Crete and at the same time, the most southern part of Europe.
It presents local indigenous species of plants (not to be found in other parts of the island), as well as plants we can meet only in Asia or in Africa. Selakano with its pine forest, Katharo with its cypress forest, Selena with its "Azilakos" forest, the Ha Gorge, Thripti, the palm forest of Vai, the Chrissi island, the island of Koufonissi, Dionisades and the coastal zone of Ano Mirabello (Milatos, Faros Aforesmenou) are really unique regions. The tens of gorges (almost 40), the 6 plateaus (Lassithi, Katharo, Omalos Viannou, Limnakaros, Nissimos, Chandras) and more than 1300 cavern pits registered embrace the indigenous beauties of the fauna and flora of eastern Crete.
The declaration of biologists that the driest areas present greater number of species is really obvious in Lassithi. Amongst the 2000 indigenous plant species of Crete, just a few are not to be found in Lassithi, which are yet to be found in the other geographical departments of Crete or on the neighbouring islets.
Routes and trails
E4 European Long Distance Path
There is one large trekking or hiking route on the Greek Island of Crete, which is part of the E4 European Long Distance Path. The E4 trail covers the White Mountains (Lefki Ori), Mount Psiloritis (Mount Ida) and the Mount Dikti. The E4 Path is 320 km long.
It begins at Kastelli in the west of Crete and crosses along the whole Island reaching Kato Zakros in the east where it ends.
The E4 Path route is quite varied and can range from what amounts to simple walking on smooth asphalt roads to some hefty hiking in rugged gorges, right up to some real mountain trekking.
In parts the E4 Path is very overgrown, difficult to follow, and often not marked at all.
Description of trails:
A) Kostamonitsa to Selakano
The E4 Path enters the Prefecture of Lassithi from the western side of the Dikti Mountains. Leaving the village of Kostanomitsa and the settlement of Tihos, it climbs the old Venetian Trail towards the Plateau of Lassithi. From the summit you can enjoy the magical scenery of the largest Plateau in Crete below. Ascending the asphalt road towards the village of Kato Metochi, go through it and towards the next village of Aghios Haralambos. E4 now becomes a dirt road. Continuing on you arrive at the village of Psichro, where you can visit the cave in which, according to mythology, the god Zeus was born. Leaving this village, move onwards along the trail towards the villages of Aghios Georgios and Koudoumalia. All of these villages are found within the Plateau of Lassithi and at an elevation of 900 metres. Now your ascent begins, a total of approximately 950 elevation metres. Exiting the village of Koudoumalia, you can enjoy the last view of the Plateau, before reaching another much smaller plateau : the Plateau of Limnakaro. Passing by the church of Our Lady, you should take the opportunity of filling your canteens at the nearby farmhouse. On the right slope of the mountain, you can see the shelter "Strovidi" hat belongs to The Climbing Association of the Plateau of Lassithi. The dirt track goes through the small Plateau of Limnakaro and continues uphill to the summit of Seli, which is the highest point of the route at 1800 metres. You will need a total of 3.5 to 4 hours from the village of Koudoumalia to get here. Five minutes before the summit, on your right, you will find the spring of "Avarsami". Here begins the downhill path towards the settlement of Selakano and the magnificent pine forest that is one of the few remaining in the Prefecture.
B) Selakano to Vasiliki
At the entrance to the settlement of Selakano, follow the dirt road to the left which leads to the settlement of Mathokotsana, which you pass through to the end. Caution must be exercised here because of the many junctions to the left and right, and the signs must be strictly followed. The dirt road goes above the large village of Males but not through it. To your left and right there are enormous pine trees and holm-oak frees. Looking to the right and below, you can admire the view of the Libyan Sea and the town of lerapetra. Continue along the various dirt roads until you reach the asphalt road which leads to the village of Prina, one kilometre away. Leaving Prina, take the dirt road that goes to the small village of Meseleri, where the pine forest ends. Go through the village and continue uphill, passing by the monastery of Vriomeni located above the village of Stavros. The dirt road continues and meets with another dirt road, which comes from the settlement of Asari. Here under the huge planetree, you can rest and fill up your canteen with water. From this spring, you continue northeast on the downhill dirt road towards the village of Vasiliki, which is surrounded by countless olive tees.
After going through the small village of Vasiliki, follow the asphalt road that leads to the lerapetra-Aghios Nikolaos highway. Cross over this highway to the other side to take up the dirt road that leads to the small village of Monastiraki. Pass through the village going uphill along the rough dirt road following a southeasterly direction. At a marked point turn left, leaving the dirt road behind. Now you are on an uphill trail that eventually leads to the dirt road that comes from Kato Chorio and continues on to the mountain village of Thripti. On the left below is one of the most accessibly difficult gorges of Crete, the Gorge of Ha (climbing equipment mandatory). Continue uphill until the village of Thripti, gazing down for the last time on the green valley of lerapetra which is located at the narrowest point between North and South of the island. Going through the upper part of the village of Thripti, you pick up the dirt road again. On the right is the tallest peak of the Sitia mountains, the peak of Afentis Estavromenos (The Crufixication of Christ) at 1,476 metres.
Continuing downwards, go through the village and keeping left, pick up a trail that goes uphill towards a large transmission antenna. From this point you head downhill criss-crossing trails and dirt roads until you reach the village of Chrisopigi. Beyond this village, following along the dirt road you will arrive at the village of Daphni. After passing through this village, keep on the dirt roads that pass below the village of Kato Kria and continue onward towards the valley of Lithines. At the lowest point of the valley is the old settlement of Adromili, located in the midst of very tall planetrees. A little below the settlement is the picturesque church of Aghios Apostolos (The Apostles) where there is a water spring. From here, head uphill along dirt roads until the small village of Vouri. From this village, cross over the lerapetra-Sitia highway to reach the village of Papagianades, where you can refresh yourself at the old spring in the village.
D) Papagianades-Kato Zakros
Having passed through the village of Papagianades, walk uphill for 100 metres along the asphalt road to reach a dirt road on the left, which goes uphill to the village of Armeni. To the right you can observe the old settlement of Etia, and the large stone building of Demetzo.Further down along the dirt road, follow the asphalt road from the village of Armetis towards the village of Chandras, continuing on until the large village of Ziros. To the right and left you can see vineyards, and windmills that pump water from wells. Walking towards the left along the narrow laneways of Ziros, you arrive at the dirt road that winds uphill and takes you to the Plateau of Mavros Champos. After a short time, you reach the little church of Aghios Georgios at Skalia, where there is a large stone water structure. The dirt road now goes downhill until it reaches the village of Ano Zakros. Passing though the village, take the dirt road for a short distance, and then follow the path that leads to the magnificent Gorge of Nekron. The red rocks of the deep gorge accompany you as far as the village of Kato Zakros on the eastern coast of Crete.