15. Plakias to Preveli Monastery Walk and Cycle in Crete
Eight kilometres, mostly along paths which are rough in places and not suitable for cyclists.
For most of the history of Preveli Monastery visitors would have approached along paths like these.
Views of the wild sea cliffs and the burnt olive groves help place the monastery in its real setting,
away from the tourist coaches that you meet when you get there.
The Monastery has been destroyed several times in the past for the part it has played in preserving Christianity and learning in Crete. Nothing survives of the older buildings but the fountain which bears the date 1701. The church was rebuilt in 1835 and restored again in 1911. It contains carved screens and icons removed from other churches in the area for safe keeping. One of the most valuable of these is the icon of Christ 'King of Kings', painted by Michael Prevelis in 1750.
A new museum built in a vaulted stone stable displays the monastery's treasures but no photography is allowed here.
The church is kept locked by the guardian until he thinks that enough people have gathered, when it will be opened.
Many of the monastery buildings are in a very poor state of repair but the money and work force to maintain them are not available.
Only the Abbot lives here now. He speaks good English.
Preveli Monastery is a major tourist attraction and has good modern toilet facilities for its visitors. The monastery is open from 09.00 to 19.00 but closed between 13.00 and 17.00pm. A small charge is made for entry.
Starting from Plakias follow route 11 to the quiet beaches until you get to Skineria beach.
1 hr 25 min. From Skineria there is no path continuing round the rocks close above the sea as the cliffs become steep and then overhanging. Make your way over the crest of the hill to the east above the cliffs, this is rough and slow going but you can avoid this section by following the track inland from Skineria beach and turning right at every track junction. Both routes come together again where the track is closest to the cliffs and starts to curve inland again towards the hill of Timeos Stavros.
2 hours A slight valley runs east, parallel to the shore from this point. Keep to the shoreward side of some fenced fields, heading slightly inland and uphill until the valley starts to slope gently down to the east.
2 hr 10 min. Follow this valley down until it falls abruptly between a group of rocks. The remains of an old path curve round on the landward side through a group of carob trees.
A wire netting fence runs down the hill to the sea just beyond this point but a gate has been left on the path. The footpath is now clear for some distance with the odd splash of red paint as it crosses a gently sloping area heading south-east.
2 hr 30 min. At the end of this section the path becomes more indistinct. It continues to follow the same south-east line over the edge of the hill onto a more steeply sloping region as the ground to your left becomes more rocky. You should be able to see a good stone wall running inland from the cliffs ahead of you.
2 hr 40 min. The path goes through a gap in this wall just below some large boulders.
Once through this gap the path turns slightly inland and becomes indistinct. Look out for a well grown columnar cypress inland below a cliff. A ruined building sits a little way below it.
2 hr 55 min. Looking at the entrance to this building the path continues inland to the left, bringing you up to the group of trees and a small church.
3 hours From here the path leads gently upwards to the east and joins a track.
3 hr 10 min. Preveli Monastery comes into view as you round the next corner.
A track immediately up the hill on your left by the main gateway of Preveli Monastery takes you back to Lefkogia via Gianiou. This track is suitable for walkers or cyclists.