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Crete: Hania Prefecture Overview Page Thirty-six

Westernmost Crete continued

South coast near Elafonisi

Via coastal path you can walk to Paleohora in about six hours, and though this path is marked, you can still get lost without good directions if you take a wrong turn. Since this is largely wild country, be forewarned. A car road cuts off from the road between Elos and Topolia, and down to Paleohora, though it turns to dirt after awhile and forks., with the fork through Aligi and Dris hooking back up with the main road at Plemeniana. This is a better alternative than roads heading due south, but not so smooth either. For nature lovers, though, it's well worth it with all the small streams on the way and truly remote villages.

Gavdhos Islet off of Crete'southern coast ( about 24 nautical miles south of Hora Sfakion) is Europe's southernmost land mass and the only one of Crete's islands with any real population, though only around one hundred inhabitants, who are mostly sheep farmers. There are at least a couple of boats a day to this island (which stops at Soughia and takes about four hours) a place that for many years mainly attracted those wanting to camp out in an isolated place, but now there is also a package tour there as well, though a simple one consisting of day trips (with a boat trip taking only two hours). .

Its beaches are the main attraction, mainly in the north and east, as the south coast of the island has high bluffs that make the sea inaccessible. A scrubby, rocky island with four settlements, it is very hot in summer. The harbor of Karabe is tiny,with a few kafeneia, a few houses, and a church. The capital is Kastri, an extremely depopulated place, though there is a post office cum telephone office, store, taxis and some rooms for rent. On the edge of the town is a building that was a prison between the World Wars for political prisoners. You can walk here in about an hour from the harbor. Vatsiana and Ambelos are the two other tiny villages.

Gavdhos was inhabited during Neolithic times, and during the Greco-Roman period was a dependency of the city of Gortyna, and was inhabited euring both the Classical Greek and Roman ereas. It was later the seat of a bishop , at which time it had as many as eight thousand inhabitants, and still later was a base for pirates. There were 1400 people here in 1914.

The beaches are accessible by minibuses that meet the ferry, as well as some tractors with trailers, though a lot of people bring their own bikes or scooters, there being sparse public transportation here. Sarakinikos on the north coast (which you can walk to in forty minutes) is one of the best beaches, with tavernas serving it; Korfos, east from Vatsiana near a ravine to the south, is also much visited, the beach there called 'Yiorgo's beach' (Yiorgos being the taverna owner who lives there in summer with his family, and who also rents a few rooms). Camping out is an option, though permission must be asked. There's a pebble beach at Tripiti, which is a snorkellers' paradise, with astoundingly clear water and lots of marine life. There's no shade there, however, and the best way to get there is by boat, the hike from Vatsiana being very long. The name Trypiti comes from the Greek word for 'hole', there being in this place a well-known rock with three holes which you can climb up to and look out at the sea from this southernmost tip of the southernmost island of Europe.

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