These cozy one- and two-bedroom apartments with balconies, surrounded by a Mediterranean garden and fruit-bearing trees in the middle of a traditional village, are a perfect spot to discover the best of Central and Western Crete. Jump to Hania and grab a bus to Samaria Gorge. Head to the Imbros Gorge, only 30 minutes away on the southern side of Crete, where you can also the gorgeous Frankish castle known as Frangokastello and the remote folkloric town of Sfakia. Just 20 minutes away you’ll find the spring-fed Kournas lake, considered the only natural lake on any Mediterranean island. There may be opportunities to canoe and kayak on the lake too!
Activities and attractions
There’s an ambitious plan to signpost all the area’s hiking paths by 2020, even if you can currently hike without these using your GPS. Hiking remains one of the must-do activities in the area, but there are also beach activities such swimming and snorkeling not far away. Just 500 meters away are two historic caves, Kalamato which is of archeological interest, and Krionerida which is of historic significance. The whole area is very bike friendly, and bikes can be rented in nearby seaside town of Georgioupolis.
Do visit the historic Byzantine monastery of Michael and Gabriel in Vafes village, as well as the monastery of Saint George in nearby Vrises, just 10 minutes away by car. Also noteworthy are the Dourakis winery in Alikampos, the old olive oil museum in Vafes and the village’s still functioning cold-pressed olive oil mill where you can buy some real good virgin olive oil. Oenophiles will also appreciate the Dourakis winery in Alikampos, just 15 minutes away by car. One hour away the village of Margarites has a pottery workshop for those who love buying local ceramics, while the 16th century Arkadi monastery – also an hour away – is another great spot to visit.
Tastes of Crete
The village has an old “taverna” to dine in that was literally built in the 17th century! There are two more “meze” or grazing coffee shops known as “Mezedopolia” that are worth visiting. Traditionally, the tapa-like “meza” plates are enjoyed with small vials of cold and bold Tsikoudia (aka Raki) liqueur, which isn’t exactly for the faint hearted (still, we do recommend the experience).
The studios will invite you to prepare your own light Cretan cuisine too, or at least a hearty breakfast, thanks to some of the fruit or even vegetables from the area that might just end up in your little apartment, along with a bottle of the owner’s prized olive oil. Indeed, around the building itself you can delight in the shade of many trees such as citrus (orange and lemon), banana, persimmon, fig, raspberry, plum and others, while admiring the grapevines and their grapes. You might even find jams and preserves made of these fruits right in your apartment, along with traditional sweet biscuits and strong Tsikoudia liqueur made from grapes.
The old original 17th century stone-built mansion that belongs to the owner’s family (Mr. Valsamakis) is now an integral part of the property, paying tribute to traditional Cretan architecture that protects against the elements (thick stone walls, smaller windows to keep out sun and cold, lots of natural wood, etc.). In fact, the whole village is designated as a historically protected village by the Greek Ministry of Culture, with many homes hailing from the Ottoman and Venetian eras. Add to the property modern LED lighting, wooden furniture by local carpenters, double-glazed windows, very minimal use of plastic, energy efficient appliances and functional furniture, and you’ve good yourself a naturally green property that marries eco modernity with ancient local green wisdom. On the recycling front, the owner has integrated recycling facilities into his property, in addition to giving any leftover food to his farm animals so that there’s no food waste. Mr. Valsamakis works fervently to preserve the village’s heritage as he is the town councilor, and has also expressed his interest in working with Ecotourism-Greece.com to promote green practices to all the accommodation in the area. We’ll raise our little glass of chilled Tsikoudia to these efforts!