The turquoise treasures of the western part
Sunset at Falasarna
the southernmost extension of the Ionian Sea embraces the landmass of Crete in the western part of the Prefecture of Chania. As the west part of the Prefecture we can define the coastal area west of Kasteli Kissamou, Kasteli itself and Kissamou Bay.
To the west of Kastelli lies some of Crete's loneliest -and for many visitors finest- coastline with excellent wide and sandy beaches. Beaches like Falasarna and Sfinari would be an unforgetable experience for any visitor. The western part has to offer some of the most spectacular secret treasures like the Chrysoskalitissa Monastery or the islet of Elafonisi.
.Kasteli Kissamou

In antiquity, Kissamos was the most important maritime and commercial centre of western Crete. It was the port of ancient Polyrrhenia, but it was autonomous and minted its own coins which depict Hermes on one side and a dolphin on the other.
The city reached the height of its importance under the Romans, as can be seen from the ruins of its acropolis, its theatre, its aqueduct and the statues which have been found.
Kasteli Kissamou
Gramvousa, the venetian castle
the town took its name (which means "little castle") from its Venetian fortress. Today, Kasteli is the chief town of the Eparchy of Kissamos and has a population of 2,800. Kasteli is world famous for its excellent wines.
Off the northern extremity of Cape Vouxa is the islet of Gramvousa with its Venetian castle, subsequently a lair of pirates.

We continue west from Kasteli, towards Falasarna.The road runs downhill and, 53 km from Chania, we arrive at Platanos, a modern village with extensive cultivation of fruit and vegetables. In Platanos we bear right. In the distance, to the right, we can see the fertile plain of Falasarna.
It runs down to one of the best beaches in Crete, with clear greenish- blue water and a sandy shore.The road to the beach is surfaced. At the end of the beach, one can see the steep, rocky hill on which ancient Falasarna stood.

The surfaced road ends here, but a track continues to the ancient acropolis. Near the beginning of this road is a throne cut into the rock. Where the track ends, at the western extremity of Cape Gramvousa, we can see the remains of the ancient city, the most westerly in Crete. Falasarna was built in historical times, was independent and autonomous and struck its own coins. Falasarna, thanks to its safe harbour, impregnable castle and fertile plain, became an important commercial and maritime centre.
Ancient Falasarna
The city was entered from the sea side, and it was built on a number of levels, as can be seen from the surviving remnants of the walls, which were built using square untrimmed stones. There are also ruins of a temple of Artemis or Apollo, and even the foundations of houses can be seen.
Returning to the village of Platanos and going south we arrive at the picturesque fishing-village of Sfinari with its beautiful beach.
.Chrysoskalitissa Monastery

Going to the southern extremity of the western part of the Prefecture we arrive at Chrysoskalitissa Convent. The fortress-like convent is built high up on a steep cliff over a narrow bay, with a wonderful view south over the sea.
There is a total of ninty (90) steps up to the convent.
Chrysoskalitissa Monastery
According to tradition, seven of them are gold, though sinners cannot see them. This is the origin of the name (which means "Our Lady of the Golden Staircase"). The convent was built under Venetian rule, on the site formerly occupied by a monastery of St. Nicholas.
Chrysoskalitissa Monastery
Another possible origin of the name is that it comes from an icon of Our Lady preserved in the convent; the icon is more than 1,000 years old and is gilded and carved. The double-aisled main church is dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin and to the Holy Trinity. The foundation was formerly inhabited by monks, but since 1940 it has been used by nuns. One kilometre from the convent there is a fine sandy beach.

At about 5 Km beyond Chrysoskalissa, the road bumps down to the coast opposite the tiny uninhabited islet of Elafonisi. Elafonisi is joined to the body of Crete by a shallow reef some 800 metres long. This is easy to cross when the weather is calm.The landscape is warm and welcoming, with brilliant white sand and the calm sea. There is no hint of the frightful waves which the south wind can whip up-some of the fiercest in the Mediterranean.
You can easily wade out to the island with its sandy beaches and rock pools and the shallow lagoon is warm and crystal-clear. The whole place is really magnificent making you feel like being in a lost paradise.
In Elafonisi are also a couple of seasonal tavernas where you can taste some pure samples of the traditional Cretan cuisine.

Photos and text taken from "Crete - today and yesterday"
and "Crete - A tour of all the towns and villages"
(Toubis Editions)
Toubis Editions
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