Here, you will experience lofty mountains, fertile valleys, plateaus, springs, rivers, caves, picturesque villages, Byzantine chapels, Venetian towers, ancient sites, endemic wildlife, unique traditions and cultural happenings… as well as a plethora of exceptional beaches with crystal clear water…
The major villages of Apokoronas are Vamos, Armenoi and Vryses, with police, municipal and utility offices as well as taverns and large churches; Kalyves, Almyrida and Georgioupoli are the largest beach resorts.
The district capital Vamos, home to only 600 permanent residents, serves tourists exploring Crete’s northwestern coastline.
Tourism and agriculture are the major local industries, with much construction and quarrying to satisfy the demands of many foreigners eager to buy or rent properties in what used to be beautiful and traditional villages.
At the present time, Gavalohori is among the more popular villages for foreign buyers, with a large amount of often low-quality building taking place. Many residents or workers in Chania also have homes in the area.
According to the tradition, the name “Red Village” was attributed to the settlement during the Turkish occupation, when the Ottoman Army slaughtered all women and children of the village and the blood was flowing all over the place, making everything red.
The village also plays host to an impressive tunnel complex which was used in World War II by the Nazis as an artillery spotting point. The Nazis violently forced the local villagers to construct the tunnel under horrendous conditions and with no way to escape from the site.
Three canons and many missiles were placed in embrasures so that they could patrol/control the whole of Souda Bay. Nowadays, there are at least two entrances to the tunnels that takes you straight down to the complex.
Upon entering, visitors walk through a series of rooms moving eastward but a torch (flashlight) is necessary if you want to explore every corner of the tunnels. Some of the corridors are blocked off, bringing you to unexpected dead ends.
However, the tunnel complex is small so there is no worry of getting trapped. In 2006 a war memorial to those killed during World War II was constructed at the entrance to the tunnels.
The exceptional volume of mysterious, yet magnificent caves is what distinguishes the area in Kokkino Chorio from other places of interest in Apokoronas. Many of Apokoronas caves, and of Crete in general, are connected with religious rituals and myths dating back to the Minoan years.
For the time being, not all the caves are open to the public. However, it is possible to access some of them with the appropriate equipment. Karavospilios cave is situated at the coastal region of Kokkino Chorio, Katalimata is located in the heart of the area and the most famous among them – Drapanos Cave is located just 2 km away from the village.
Drapanos Cave was enlarged for the villagers to protect themselves from the Turkish invasion and during the World War II converted into command bunker by the Germans as it constituted an important route to the mountainous area.
The entrance is effectively hidden behind a small chapel, a large passage goes straight into the hill, with a parallel passage linked at two ends with ‘living rooms’. At this point the intervention of the Germans becomes apparent with concrete staircases and brick re-enforced passageways linking a couple of levels and some larger rooms/chambers.
The other entrance is a small concrete ‘observation box’ approximately 2 meters wide with a panoramic view of the Souda Bay. There is also a gun emplacement behind the door to keep any uninvited folk out, which is linked to the rest of the bunker by a small staircase and a carefully designed ‘killing pit’.
Do not miss to visit The Elephant’s Cave by Drapanos. Nowadays, its entrance is 10 m under the sea level and leads to a main chamber, yet above sea level, approximately 125 m length and 20 m width. The Elephant’s Cave has a unique decor: sinter curtains and flows, pagoda-like stalagmites, stalactites and lakes.
The Cave of Elephants, at Kokkino Chorio except of its great interest as a natural monument presents a very important scientific finding. The underwater geological and paleontological research brought to light a significantly large number of elephant bones contributed to unique experience for the potential visitor.
At Kokkino Chorio you are going to find all the basics for the household. There are many traditional taverns serving exceptional Cretan food, a small yet wonderful ‘Kafenio’, serving local delicacies, cafes, bakery, mini market, ATM and gas station.
Also, in Kokkino Chorio you will see one of the last Glass Blowing factories in Europe, a factory that recycles the used glass into artworks. Kokkino Chorio has three churches: The church of St. George’s (April 23); St Katherines (November 25) and St. Haralambos, the central church of the village.
The region of Apokoronas extends from the foothills of the White Mountains north to the coast, in a wide plain with rolling hills. To the east, Cape Drapanon rises above the plain and extends out into the Sea of Crete. The area is very green and fertile. The Kiliaris river, known in antiquity as ‘Pyknos’, runs through the region.
Robert Pashley suggested that the name ‘Apokoronas’ came from the ancient city of Ippokoronas or Ippokoronion, also cited by Strabo. Specifically, he stated that the city may have been located near modern Nipos, or on the site of the Venetian fortress, Castel Apicorono, on an outcrop between Kalyves and Almyrida.
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