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Paths of Apokoronas (Route 12)

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Route 12: The shepherds’ path
Asi Gonia - Hainospilios - Havidi Poros - Timios Stavros
Total length: 8.4 km, estimated time 3h 25΄
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Route 12 connects Asi Gonia with sites of particular natural beauty and historical value, crossing through a protected area of the European Ecological Network Natura 2000, where 19 habitat types can be found, as well as diktamos (Origanum dictamnus), an endemic species of Crete that can be found in mountain areas with altitude up to 1,600 meters. Similar to Route 11, Route 12 starts from the central square of Asi Gonia, where visitors can find a monument dedicated to the Cretan struggles for freedom and the busts of Pavlos Gyparis, Stylianos Kokkinakis and Michail Meladakis, who distinguished themselves for their action in and outside Crete.
From this square head south for about 70 meters and then turn left, descending to the stream south of the village. The path crosses through the stream and meets the road again after 700 meters (“opposite” the village), where you first turn right (southwest) and after 150 meters left (south) at the first turn, following a path that leads to the interior of a ravine, west of the road to Kallikratis. At a steep point near the southern end of this ravine one can find Hainospilios, the “cave of rebels”, where in December 1868 the members of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of Crete issued a resolution titled “Union (with Greece) or Death”.
Continuing uphill from here you will meet the road again after 200 meters, near the place where the Ottomans built a tower (kule), one of the many that were built after the 1866 revolution in order to control the mountain areas of Crete. From here signs lead you southwest along the road, which you should leave after about 400 meters and continue uphill. Half a kilometer away from here, at Vourvoures, one can find the old house of colonel Andreas Papadakis, a leading member of AEAK (Supreme Committee of the Struggle of Crete), the first armed resistance organization in Crete. The first British radio station was installed here in the autumn of 1941, through which AEAK transmitted valuable information about the German positions and movements to the Middle East Allied Command in Cairo.
The path continues on to the location Havidi Poros and the picturesque church of Agios Ioannis, next to which there is a well-preserved mitato (shepherds’ hut) and a little further another church, dedicated to Agio Pnevma (the Holy Spirit). From here move northwest and then northeast along the ridge for about 1.2 km, where you will find another beautiful chapel dedicated to Timios Stavros (the Holy Cross), with excellent views of Asi Gonia and Mount Omanite above it. From here, descend carefully from the north side of the hill, in order to reach a stream that leads to a dirt road, which widens into a road a little further away and leads you to the central square of Asi Gonia, from where you started.
Depending on the time of the year, it might be worth visiting the church of Ai Giorgis Galatas (St George “the milkman”), where the homonymous custom takes place every year on the feast of Agios Georgios (April 23). On this day the shepherds of the village bring their sheep and goats to the church, where the animals are milked one by one and the herd is blessed by a priest. Subsequently the milk is distributed to the attendees -residents or visitors- either boiled or cold, while at the same time girls dressed in traditional costumes offer Cretan rusks and cheese. Don’t miss it if you are around!
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Source: Municipality of Apokoronas (2022)
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