Katholiko beach, Chania, Chania

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Author: Giannis Foudoulakis
Katholiko Beach in Akrotiri, Chania, Crete, Greece

Although extremely picturesque, the small bay of Katholikon may not make a direct impression on you. However, the path that ends up there is much more likely to enchant you. The site is located about 20 km northeast of the city of Chania and is part of the property of the monasteries Tzagkarolon and Gouverneto, on the Akrotiri Peninsula. In order to arrive here, you should drive towards Chania airport and follow the road signs that lead to Gouverneto, where the road ends. If you cross the courtyard of the monastery you will find the entrance to the trail. The walk to the sea is about 2 km and requires approximately half to one hour.

The area is of great historical and religious interest. The Gouverneto Monastery or "Our Lady of the Angel" as it is also called is the first that you will come upon. The monastery was built in 1537, looted later on by the Turks, used as an outpost by the Germans during WWII and started being restored only a few years ago. The monastery has strict regulations and visiting hours (2-3 hours each morning and afternoon except Wednesday and Friday), so it is very likely that you will find it closed.

After walking along the path for about 600 meters there is the small church of Ipapanti. Next to it is the cave of Panagia Arkoudiotissa, in the centre of which there is a stalagmite in the form of a stooping bear. A legend says that the Virgin Mary turned the bear into rock as it was drinking the water of the monks. The cave has been used as a place of worship for many centuries, as there have been found inscriptions dedicated to the god Apollo and the goddess Artemis. Approximately in the middle of the path you will find the abandoned monastery of Saint John the Hermit that dates from the 17th century and is popularly known as Katholiko. Next to the monastery is the cave, where Saint John the Hermit lived in asceticism. The cave is about 100 m deep and you should have a flashlight if you are planning to explore it.

The pathway continues across Avlaki Gorge, where there are many caves in the slopes that have been used as shelters by hermit monks in the past. After about 15 minutes you will reach a small fjord with turquoise waters. Next to the sea you will find the remains of the old quarry of the monastery, as well as a small abandoned port. The return is sharply uphill and requires either good physical condition or enough patience and plenty of resting stops. You should also bring along enough water, especially during summer months.

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