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Polyrinnia gorge

ClimbInCrete has partnered with ExploreCrete, an excellent site about travelling in Crete. Experience the real Crete with this multi-contributor guide - covering archaeology, ecology, beaches, sightseeing, photos, books, reviews and much more. In this article read about the Polyrinnia gorge in Western Crete by Yannis Samatas.

Hiking in Crete. Polyrinnia gorge in Chania area. (Yannis Samatas)

The map of Crete, Chania

10 hours to Polyrinnia

I already had visited all the places described in the previous page in 1994, together with Marianna. It was a 3-days "adventurous" excursion with very strong and pleasant memories. This is the reason why I feel so angry each time that I hear someone describing Milia as a "place where there is nothing you can do but sit by the fireplace and play cards all day long". All images contained in this page were taken in that excursion.

In 1994 Milia was something new in Crete, but we already had heard a lot about it and seen some images of it. It was a promising place and the decision was made. It took us 3,5 hours to get there from Iraclion. We left the car and walked on the path going down to the right. There was no sign of a house or any other establishment; just a chestnut tree wooded area. A couple of minutes later we were standing in front of the first house: a 2 stories stone building. It was one of those moments that you just stare and keep smiling, unable to believe the beauty in front of your eyes and the good luck that brought you there.

We kept on walking and soon the rest of the buildings were visible. Milia is built in 3 levels: the 2 upper levels are stone-built houses for the visitors while the lower one is consisted of the kitchen and the lounge with the big fireplace.

Milia enter Milia rock

People working in Milia were really friendly. They welcomed us and showed us a couple of houses to choose from. They were all great but we had already chosen the first house we had seen. They took us there and showed us around. There was a stone stair leading to the upper floor. There is also an internal stair connecting the two floors of the house, if a family or a big group of people stays in it. It was just the two of us so we were able to lock the door to the lower floor. One of the walls of the house was a huge rock; actually the whole house was leaning on that rock. It was perfect for us and we had no second thoughts about staying there.

Next morning I woke up really early, just in time to admire a bright red sun rise. Breakfast was great and we asked if there were any interesting nearby places to visit. They talked us about the Park of Freedom and Peace, the cave of Agia Sofia and the gorge of Polyrinia. We were told that it was a 4-5 hour hiking route leading to the ancient Polyrinia city. We needed some action so we asked for further instructions.

At 10 am we started walking. It was an easy path leading up on a hill and then descending to Sirikari village. We started to descend, but eventually the path was lost and we had to find an opening through a wire fence. It took us quite some time but we finally did it. After a while we found the road leading to Sirikari and kept walking on it. We asked for instructions at a house along the way.

We told the house owner that it took us almost 2 hours from Milia to that point and he just laughed and told us that we were lost and took the wrong path after the top of the hill. He was very friendly and offered us a glass of raki and also invited us to join him and his wife for lunch. We thanked him and went on walking again.

Soon we were in Sirikari and tried to locate the path past it. The path starts 5 meters to the left of a church past the village. It was a great path with big red signs and we were sure we were not going to get lost again. We kept descending under the deep shade of olive trees until we met a dirt road. We went to the left looking for the signs...Nothing! We returned and tried the right way...Nothing again. It was a desperate moment. It was then that it occurred to us: "Is there a chance that it is continuing under the road?" Well, there it was. Thirty more minutes lost.

It was not long before we met a couple of houses. The path passes right under the first house and goes straight ahead. Ten minutes later we were entering the Polyrinia gorge. It was magnificent. There is a water stream at the bottom of the gorge and it was full of raven trees along its banks. There were some spectacular cliffs and we learned later that a few years ago people from the nearby villages were using ropes in order to get to those cliffs and collect "diktamos", which is a cretan herb with pharmaceutical properties. They say that if a kri-kri (the wild goat of Crete) is hurt, it is looking for some diktamos to eat and heal its wounds.

The path is on the right flank of the gorge and it is forty five minutes long. After the gorge there is an area, full of olive trees and right after that, there is the village of Polyrinia. The path leading to the ancient city starts at the entrance of the village. One km before the village we took a wrong intersection (to the left). We found the road leading to the village but we did not know that at that time. There was a dilemma: go right or left? We decided to go left.

Polyrinnia Gorge, CreteWe were looking for a sign but there was nothing. Soon we saw a dirt road going up to a hill. It really resembled to the descriptions of Polyrinia, so we decided to follow that road. 20 minutes later we were in front of a very steep hill, a cliff to the left and a fence to the right. We started climbing the hill until we met a rock wall. It looked like the final disaster. We had no way to go than go back. It was 6 in the afternoon, we were exhausted and lost in an unknown place. What a good luck!

It was then that I noticed a hole in the rock. I took a glance and saw that it was like a chimney going up through the rock. It was no more than 3-4 meters high so I took the chance and started climbing. As my head exited the hole I saw...THE ANCIENT CITY OF Polyrinia! We had finally found it!

I told nothing to Marianna, just asked her to come up and I stood in front of the opening with the camera ready, waiting for her to exit. As soon as I saw her I pointed the camera at her and asked her to smile. I can't write here exactly what she said to me...It was awful.





She came up, I showed her the ruins of the city and she smiled again... After that moment everything looked magic. The ancient city was great. It was located on top of a hill with panoramic views to the gulf of Kastelli and the whole area around. It was the best time of the day, a few minutes before sunset and the sun was shining through the clouds. Wild plants covered the whole area and it looked like every possible color was apparent.

Polyrinnia view, Crete

The bad luck of the day was soon forgotten and the only thing left was the happiness of being at such a place. We felt nice as, although we were both inexperienced we took the chance and finally made it. Being 5 hours late and having gotten lost several times was part of the "adventure" and made the memories from this experience stronger.

Polyrinnia, Crete

We wandered around the ruins, took a lot of photos and 30 minutes later we entered a cafe ("kafeneio" in greek) in the village of Polyrinia. We called a taxi from Kastelli and it arrived ten minutes later (returning by taxi is the only way and it costs 4000 drs) . Nektarios, the driver, was a very friendly person full of stories. Soon we were in Milia and had a glass of raki together with Nektarios waiting for the dinner to be served. That night we had the most delicious chicken and fried potatoes we had ever tasted..


Posted on: 24/01/2011