Who says only Chania Old Town is beautiful and alluring? Crete is full of really eye-catching and fascinating villages and the region of Apokoronas is famous for its small, yet of exceptional beauty settlements and villages.
They are located near the coastline or near the impressive White Mountains overlooking the Aegean Sea, medieval, historical, with narrow streets adorned with bougainvillea. The best summary of the Cretan essence is located in Apokoronas.
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 in this part of Crete.
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.
From cobblestone paths, to 19th century churches, and from Venetians remains to luscious green fields – these authentic Cretan villages in Apokoronas will surely charm you away.
While the lake is ‘touristy’, Kournas village is somehow isolated from the crows. The picturesque village of Kournas is built at an attitude of 250 meters on the foothills of Mount Dafnomadara (1680 m). The village is located 4 kilometers from the Lake Kournas and 48 km from the city of Chania.
The northern side of the village offers stunning views to the sea while from the southern part overlooks the valley at the foot of the White Mountains. The traditional houses, the village square, the pottery workshops and the local traditional taverns provide its guests a charming and relaxing atmosphere.
In Kournas village you can explore and discover the hidden treasures of Apokoronas, breathing in the fresh air and overlooking the magnificent waters of the Aegean and the White Mountains.
In the magnificent valley at the south of Kournas village you can walk the path of “Azilakas Walk” (about 3 km long) towards the rare forest of Azilakas. Azilakas forest is a dense and untouched forest with Holm Oak trees, a large evergreen oak native to the Mediterranean region.
Around the village you can see beekeepers gathering the honey, farmers working on their land and picking the edible vegetables. Most of the residences in Kournas are farmers and some of them know very well the production process of the traditional drink of Crete, tsikoudia.
sikoudia is the spirit of life and Cretans claim to owe a lot of their open heart character and joy for life to this drink. It is a 100% natural, extra strong, clear distilled spirit containing approximately 37% alcohol per volume and is produced from the must-residue of the wine-press when distilling aromatic grapes harvested in mid-August.
Kournas is also well known for the traditional music and dancing. Music has always been an integral part of life in Kournas, due to its remote location, which strengthened community ties and ensured that traditions such as the Cretan music and dancing were maintained.
On August 29th the inhabitants of Kournas celebrate the feast of St. John the Baptist with a wonderful festival music and dancing. During the festival, you will encounter singing, dancing and plenty of Cretan music.
Moreover, on August 16th, the Community of Kournas organizes an annual festival with a performance by the famous singer Nikos Zoidakis. This festival is one of its kind in Apokoronas and invites people from different cultures, ages and backgrounds. Even if you come here alone, you can be sure to leave Kournas with many new friends.
Trekking and walking routes will take you through the most significant places of the area, surrounded by greenery. Admire the wildlife and enjoy the plantation of the surrounding hills and the lake, as you listen to the birds humming and the water gurgling. Walk up and down the hills and relish the natural landscapes.
Visitors will enjoy wandering through the village, admiring the beauty of the buildings and village’s historic ambience. One of the most scenic spots in Kournas is the Church of Agios Georgios, one of the oldest churches in Crete, dating back to 1200.
During the Ottoman occupation Kournas played an important role in the Cretan resistance of Ottoman rule during the Cretan revolt in 1866 and in 1897 became the center of the Revolutionary Government.
Kournas Lake which is located near the village of Kournas is one of the most fascinating sites in Crete. Kournas Lake and the surrounding area are protected by the Natura 2000 as a Bird Protection Area because of its magnificent ecosystem.
The lake is located approximately 47 km from the charming town of Chania and 33 km from Kalives. Kournas is a fairly large, yet of exceptionally beauty village, perched on a hill overlooking the lake.
Despite the fact that almost all touristic guides say that it is possible to walk around the lake that is not true. At least not at the end of the rain season (winter). The lake is an important wetland with moorhens and ducks, herons, cormorants, eels and a threatened two-color turtle that has dots on its carapace, called Terrapin.
Kournas Lake is a dreamlike holiday destination, of naturalist and geological interest. It has developed in tourism, as on the banks are facilities with organized beaches for swimmers and paddle boats. It also has many taverns that are famous for their food and charming cafes with spectacular views.
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.
There is a unique culture in the area of Apokoronas that sets it apart from anywhere else in Crete. From the cuisine to how they spend their time with family and enjoy the present and cherish every moment of life.
There are many ways to discover this way of life, but exploring the lesser-travelled but equally stunning locations on these spectacular villages is one of the best!
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