In March we ventured out to the west coast of Crete to check out Falasarna Beach – a spot that is popular with the locals. We’d heard that it’s not the place to be when the westerly winds are blowing unless you like being sandblasted. So, when we woke up one Saturday morning to a blue sky and gentle breeze, we decided to take advantage of the nice weather and jumped into the car. We headed out to Falasarna which is about 45 minutes directly west of our place on the Akrotiri. When we arrived there, the giant beach, aptly named “Big Beach” was totally empty of anyone. (I guess the Greeks don’t like cold water!) We staked our claim and enjoyed a very relaxing Saturday on the beach. (No, we don’t like cold water either so we just sat in the warm sunshine and took in the view.)
Falasarna has a big agricultural community and the landscape is filled with greenhouses (the white rectangular shapes near the beach).
In the busy summer months, Big Beach is filled with umbrellas, lounge chairs and people! Hard to imagine that early Spring day.
Ancient Falasarna is the site of Roman ruins including these terra cotta baths.
Excavations suggest that this area was part of an old harbor dating back to 1st century B.C.
Yesterday, we ventured a little farther to the south coast of Crete to Paleohora, a rapidly growing town on a spit that juts out into the Libyan Sea. At the point of the spit are the ruins of Castelo Selino (a castle built by the Venetians in 1279 and destroyed by the pirate, Barbarossa in 1539.)
Paleohora means “Old Town” in Greek and used to be known as the “hippie town of Crete”. Today it is a thriving tourist destination but still has that laid-back feeling with a pleasant promenade, lots of great tavernas and shops and two very different but gorgeous beaches – Pebble Beach to the east and Sandy Beach to the west separated by only about 5 blocks of town.
When we arrived, we had a light lunch at a taverna on the east side of the town. The wind had kicked up and the surf was very rough.
After lunch, we walked to the top of the castle ruins and looked down onto the west side of the town. The water was still and there was only a light breeze flapping through the beach umbrellas. We headed down to the beach right away and tried out our new snorkeling gear. Awesome day on the beach!
One of our favorite road trips was with some friends from base and their two boys. We were all curious about a beach we’d heard of on the farthest southwest tip of Crete called Elafonisi so we headed inland through the mountains.
Along the way we saw many interesting sites including a one lane tunnel in the Koutsamatados ravine…
…and roadside advertisements for local produce,
which we stopped and sampled.
Another stop was the cave Ayia Sofia, one of the largest caves on Crete (and there are thousands of caves here) which now shelters a small chapel with many stalagmites and stalactites. This cave has been a holy place since Minoan, Neolithic, Roman and Byzantine times. The boys really thought it was “cool”! (So did Mel)
The white monastery of Chrysoskalitissa is home to one last monk. It sits high on a hill above the sea and was undergoing some restoration when we arrived. This monastery is built on the remains of an ancient Minoan site. The name means Virgin of the Golden Step and legend has it that the top step (of about 90 steps) is made of gold but only visible to the person who has known no sin. Obviously, none of us even saw a glimmer.
Ginger, Melanie and the boys enjoyed the view from the top of the monastery.
When we finally made it to the beach at Elafonisi it was very windy but it didn’t stop us from enjoying a nice swim.
Elafonisi is a gem of a beach because the incredibly warm water is so clear, calm and shallow and the sand has a pink tinge to it. Elafonisi island can be easily waded to through ankle deep water on the sand bar.
Every time we experience these wonderful sites we are reminded that God is so very near to us and thank Him for blessing us with the beauty of nature and friendships.