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Built on a small plateau, under the mountains Kastro and Fanari, the Askifou can offer the visitor a magical scenery. Especially in wintertime when the plateau is covered with snow or in springtime when is green-clad. In Askifou there is the largest cypress forest in Crete. 50 km away from Hania and 750 meters above sea level, the area has a population of 500 people. The name Askifou comes from the ancient word Skifos (which means cup), as an old peasant told us, because the plateau looks like that.

From Askifou, we begin our journey to the Tavris hut and few meters south from the village (we pass through it), there is the sign posted E4 trail. If you have got your own transport you can reach the hut from the dirt road, which begins from the village, but you will miss one of the most beautiful walks in Crete.

Askifou view

After 1,5 hour or so, you'll be able to see the Tavris hut. If you have done your arrangements with the Alpine Club (E.O.S.) in Hania, you'll be able to stay there for the night, or you will have to pitch a tent at the exquisite plateau of Niato. From this plateau you can begin a trip to the White Mountains' Kastro peak (at 2218 m) and Fanari (at 2190 m). For Fanari, the classic way is after ascending the Kastro peak, and someone needs to be very careful in wintertime because cornices form on the ridges and the slopes are avalanche prone.

Special attention should be also given to the strong winds blowing too often in the area, sometimes reaching the speed of 100 Km per hour. The only confusing part on the path is at about the half way of the trip (while walking on the E4), where the E4 guides us west after a long traverse. At this spot we should move straight and leave the E4 from this point on. We must follow the ridge and the marking with red dots.

Askifou, Crete

After 45 minutes or so, from that spot we'll reach the Kastro peak. There you can descend and later ascend to the opposite peak, the Fanari (2218 m above sea level), from where you can view (if you are lucky) the snowy slopes of Taygetos in the Peloponese (in wintertime)! In winter and especially in bad weather conditions a change of schedule might be wise and ascend Kastro from the southeast slopes, staying on the ridge for as limited time as possible. We don't have to mention that you'll need full mountain equipment for the winter ascend while in summer nothing in particular (of course your boots and water!)

Askifou Chania

If you want to continue following a different way, you can descend from the Kastro, follow the E4 and reach the Svourihtis shelter or even the Omalos plateau. This of course is a big mountain crossing. You can even head to the villages of Apokorona on the west, or the beautiful abandoned village Kalli Lakki (5,5 hours away) and through the gorge of Sfakia in 4 hours (from Kalli Lakki) you can reach Sfakia.

Posted on: 24/01/2011