Agiafarago, Agio Farago, Aghiofarango are just a few of the names for this beautiful Gorge in Southern Crete, Greece. The gorge give the visitor an ideal opportunity to stretch their legs in a lovely walk with the superb bonus of a secluded, clean, clear water lagoon to plunge into.
The gorge is part of a wildlife reserve conservation area but is fully accessible by the public. It is part of the Mires Municipality which has a population of circa 10-11,000 inhabitants.
This area borders a number of different Cretan Municipalities and the gorge is within the Pigaidakia Municipality which is an area abundant in natural, archaeological, religious and historical treasures and points of interest.
To get there from Matala does require transport and will take less than an hour. The initial part of the drive is fine but as you get down towards the pickup part of the gorge you will be driving on “unmetalled” roads (dirt tracks) which could invalidate your insurance if you cared to read the small print on some motor policies…I disregarded it and took the slight risk.
As it happened the “road to nowhere” did have sufficient traffic on it at certain times to mean that you would not be stranded should you be unlucky enough to break something on your car.
There is limited parking at the starting point and we visited at a relatively off season time so be prepared to park some way back from the main (small Gate) entrance to the gorge. Sadly it is impossible to give a clear direction on how far back to park but then again perhaps this is part of the fun of adventure; so park up and put on some decent shoes or boots.
It is possible to do this walk in flipflops (thongs) and we seen one or two do so but they did not look happy as they walked back and it would definitely prevent any adventure up into any of the caves…so forget vanity but do pack the flip flops into a day sack to take to the beach because the pebble beach is so so hot!!
Points of Interest:
Besides the Gorge there are other very worthwhile visits to be made; We did not visit all of these but from the information hoarding within the gorge some of these are:
- Lithino Cape
- Lassea archaeological site
- Kali Limenes
- Apostolos Pavlos (Apostle Paul) Cave
- Odighititria Monastery and Tower
- A Church in a cave, Martsalo Cave
Aghiofarango Gorge begins at Porofarango and from here the Gorge leads you on a very pleasant, if very hot, walk down to the Libyan Sea.
Agio Farago literally means “Gorge of Saints” and is beyond doubt one of the nicest and most rewarding gorges in the area…not as famous as the Samaria Gorge further to the west of Crete but much less taxing and easy to walk. You have two options for starting points either from the Monastery at Odighitria which is about an hour walk or from Aghia Kyriaki which will take about half this time.
Church in the Cave
About 300m from the quaint little beach which marks the end of the gorge you will find the interesting and well placed Aghios Andonios Church. Sitting cradled by the steep sides of the Gorge it is reputedly once the area’s religious centre and where the Christian faith was initially practiced. According to the information board on site, the church underwent a number of alterations in it’s time. The church originated within a cave and subsequent restoration or extension has taken the church outside of the cave but the alter remains under the natural cave formation.
The last additional modifiactions to the church were made in the 14th or 15th century and despite the loss of the internal murals the architectural qualities of the church are very worthwhile spending some time to reflect upon.
There is a working fresh water Well outside the church which for many years (long ago too) has been the only source of fresh water in the larger area. For this reason more than any religious or spiritual reasons, the well is a focal and congregation point for walkers hikers, climbers and campers visiting this gorge.
You can safely refill your water bottles at this point..as you finish your walk and before you start back up the gorge.
Looking or Climbing?
One of the many caves pocking the gorge walls is the Ghoumenospilio Cave which despite it’s relatively small, low entrance is actually a very roomy cave. Tradition has it (according to the site information board) that Ascetic Monks used this as a gathering place twice a year but since the cave is so close to the sea the monks fell foul of raids and ransacks from the sea and were forced to move further afield.
The walk down the Gorge is fairly flat because you are literally on the last reaches of two rivers before they meet the sea and you can very easily see the silted riverbed which meanders it’s way along the broad base of the Gorge. There are pinch points as the Gorge walls close in on you and then open again to more wonderful views. There is plenty of shade but it is still really hot here…take loads of water.
Make sure you take time to stop looking at your feet to look upwards and you will be pleased with the wealth of flora and fauna but the little goats scaling the gorge walls is really impressive an just a little breathtaking too.
You may be lucky enough to catch some of the birds of prey and you will more than likely see the largest carnivore on the Island of Crete…the human rock climber .
This short video is taken in one of the larger caves and even though it starts sideways on you can just see the speck of a climber on the opposite Gorge wall…it is worth scrambling up into some of the caves but you should be aware of some pretty slippery gravel under foot so make sure you aint doing this in flipflops or you could just end up with a flip.
There are many really good climbs here and if you pick the right one then you will benefit from the shade on one side of the Gorge. You can find out more about climbing in Crete (here and elsewhere) at http://www.climbincrete.com/en/Climbing/Agiofarago and the following is a quote related to Agiofarago….climber or not it still tells you something about the place…
The place is marvellous and you will enjoy climbing and swimming in one of the most beautiful places not only in Crete but also in Greece!
When you pass the church and enter into the beach you will be welcomed by a spotless pebble expanse and will spend no time getting into the clear water.
Consider taking a couple of light sarongs or the like and perhaps light walking poles to make yourself a shelter because there is no respite from the sun whilst on the beach.
There is a small bar/shack in one corner which is stocked by boat but I am not sure that it is open at all times so plan to take any provisions you might need.
This is definitely one of the nicest places you will find to pitch a tent for a day or two.
This video short just gives a quick impression of the cove…I was much too keen to get in the water otherwise it might have been a better production!
On that note I will leave you to plan your trip… Gary