The Lady

Crete On The Quiet Side

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The west is an understated rural concoction of unexploited villages, scattered coves, lush valleys and most spectacularly, a great vista of mountains snow-capped up to June. It is in the valleys and hills that edge them that you will find the lovely, unspoiled Crete. We stayed in a tiny hillside hamlet, Megala Chorafia, in a traditional village house.

We climbed to Aptera, a town dating from the fifth century BC with substantial ruins – Roman cisterns, a classical Greek theatre and temple. On the very edge of the hilltop was a crumbling Turkish fort.

From here must be the most stunning views across the Bay of Souda and the Akrotiri peninsula, and to the fortified island at the mouth of the bay.

Legend has it that these islands were formed after a musical contest between the Muses and Sirens. Defeated, the Sirens plucked off their wings and flung themselves into the sea to become islands.

From Aptera, we walked further inland, along a twisted road, through great orange groves, tiny pastures of bell-clad sheep and goats, always surrounded by flowers in all colours of the rainbow. In Stilos, the first village of any size south of Megala Chorafia, we had to stop for sustenance ready for the steep climb to Samonas. But this is well worth it for the views which become better at each 180 degree hairpin turn.If you have any energy remaining, visit the isolated Byzantine church at Agios Nikolas which houses medieval frescos as good as any found in Crete.

Sally Bodsworth