There’s so much to see in west Crete its difficult to decide what to see and do! You could start with our “Ten things to do” blog. We don’t single out the monasteries amongst these, but the Preveli monastery drive is such a great wide ranging experience its really not to be missed!
What’s in the drive…
You get the benefits of a green and shady walk with freshwater pools to swim in, a beautiful (if a bit crowded) beach.
The views from the monastery out over the Libyan Sea are spectacular, and there is a special feel about the place. The commemorative statues of WW2 set in an equally stunning setting on the way to it are bold and dramatic.
From Panokosmos it’s a 90min drive over good roads, first the Ethniki, then turning south towards Spili to cross the island to the south coast. It makes a perfect day out!
Shortly before the end of the drive you will pass by Kato Preveli – these are the ruins of the original monastery.
The monks moved up to the more remote new site which was more easily defended against pirate raids. This monastery was sacked by the Turks, and then again by the Germans. This was in retribution for the part the monastery, and particularly the abbot, played in getting allied troops off the island after the battle of Crete. The troops were fed and hidden by the monks and then ferried out to submarines waiting off the coast.
Next comes the turning to the parking above the beach, but before this we recommend driving on to the monastery. It’s a winding climbing road which levels out at the site of the commemorative statues of the war.
The War Memorial
A highly arresting juxtaposition of a full size allied soldier and a gun toting Greek abbot stand overlooking the sweep of southern coast and the sea. The statues were funded by the Australian government, whose soldiers were amongst those saved by the monks. The site is fenced off, and often locked, but the fence is low and simple to step over… enough said!
Drive along the road and the monastery comes into view, a tight cluster of buildings and huge Aleppo pine trees perched high on the hillside overlooking the sea.
The site can be crowded, but generally it’s a coach load of tourists, who descend for their 15min, and then take off again. In between it can be delightfully quiet so you can your way to the courtyard, under the shade of the tree to sit and contemplate, to take in the special atmosphere of the place, calm, protective, full of positive energy.
In the grounds is a beautiful mosaic of the baby Jesus…
…and the bougainvillea spills out over some of the ruined buildings.
The cats are watchful and protective of their space, but not so much as the patrolling monk in the church who calls out anyone with the temerity to lift a camera.
Turn back up the road, take the turning off to Preveli beach. There’s a carpark (actually with a car park attendant to collect fees!) high above the beach.
The Beach and the Freshwater swimming
From there it’s a 15-20min walk down well maintained wide steps, mostly with handrails too, to the beach.
Here you may find it a bit crowded with sunbeds, but you can take the well kept path back up along the river. This flows all year round and creates a lush green valley of palm trees, very unusual in Crete.
Walking up this path you will come to several freshwater lakes and plunge pools which make a great place for a swim or a dip.
You may not be entirely alone, but there’ll not usually be more than one other party there.
Preveli Monastery drive – the Return
The downside is the climb back up! But there is the consolation of the taverna at the top, just above the carpark. Taverna Rousolakos, a little place with a charming shady terrace overlooking the views, and an eclectic but sophisticated selection of drinks – Greek microbrewery beers, and “3 Cents” sodas with their highly unusual flavours!
On the way back, stop off in Rethymno, we love Prima Plora, where you can dine literally on the rocks by the sea, with the townscape over the bay in the background.
Best if you start from Panokosmos, check out for yourself:
the luxury of a first class hotel;
the privacy of a private villa;
the atmosphere of staying with friends
(but not having to do the washing up!)
Lots more to see and do…
In any case for your holiday in Crete you might like to look at our blogs which show things to do in Crete, whether it be walking a gorge, hiking in the foothills of the White Mountains, or taking a drive to see the sites. Chania is a great town to visit, particularly to go to the street markets, and of course you’ll want to get the benefits of the Cretan diet – be it the yoghurt and cheese, or the olive oil.