Despite my horrendous experience on the road to the cave of Agia Sofia yesterday, I feel surprisingly optomistic about today’s adventures. I’d asked the staff at Manolis Taverna what the roads were like on the North side of the island and was told that they were pretty good. I felt sure that I wasn’t going to encounter roads from hell today. (mentally touching wood!)
Our first port of call today is nearby Avlemonas, a little fishing village that sits in the next bay to Diakofti. Fillipos from Active Car Hire had suggested that this would be a good place to go for a meal in the evening as Diakofti is such a “lonely place”.
Up the pretend mountain we go and then back down a winding road into the next bay but a lovely road to drive down – no other cars and no sheer drops on one side!
Avlemonas is a very pretty fishing village with whitewashed cycladic style houses and several taverna’s and bars. Its small harbour is home to the local fishermen who offload their daily catch onto the jetty where local taverna owners are usually first in the queue.
Further around the harbour is an old Venetian Kastello that used to be used as a watchtower to keep an eye out for marauding pirates. Next to that is a small gulf with amazing turquoise waters which is a lovely sheltered spot to swim.
Apart from its tourist attractions, its real draw is the fact that it is a functioning village where daily life goes on all year round.
Now we’re off to test the roads in the North West of the island as we are heading for the springs of Amir Ali. I’d read that Amir Ali was a dreaded Ottoman ruler and had demanded that all new husbands on their wedding night, hand their wives over to him to have his wicked way with. One newly betrothed Kythirian husband substituted his wife for himself, much to the shock and anger of Amir Ali. Amir Ali’s revenge was to have him beheaded in the spot that is now the Amir Ali springs. So legend has it!
We arrive in the village of Karavas and park at the top of a narrow lane. It is possible to drive down a little further but I’ve had enough of that carry on. We walk down past several brightly painted village houses and follow the signs to the springs under a tree shaded path. The first thing that hits you is the heady smell of orange blossom which seems to have been with us everywhere on this trip so far and this is followed by the evocative smell of wood smoke. Close by we can hear the call of a cockerel who needs its internal clock resetting.
Sometimes we had to leap over stepping stones to follow the path around. It is a lovely tranquil walk in the shade and a much welcome respite from the heat.
On the way back we try to see if it is possible to walk up to what looks like an abandoned settlement above the village. I give up but Peter persists and does eventually make his way up there after battling through the undergrowth.
I continue to walk back up to the car and notice a taverna set just off the main road. It overlooks the terraced fields and the rest of the village and looks like the perfect spot for a bit of lunch – maybe on the way back.
Next we head to Plateia Ammos, another little fishing village that is a bit more low key than Avlemonas but still worth the visit. It’s very quiet but there are a couple of taverna’s on the front and some traditional fisherman’s houses.
We can see on the map that we are quite close to the Moudari lighthouse. I’m a bit hesitant about going there as the map shows that it is an unsurfaced road which means that it could be any condition. However, before we knew it we found ourselves on the winding dirt road up towards this very spot (obviously gluttons for punishment!) From the road here we can see the little island of Elafonissos in the distance which is going to be our next destination.
Let me say here and now that unless you are in a 4×4 don’t attempt to drive right up to the lighthouse. What started off as a dirt road then turned into one of rubble. After that the road turned into boulders so at this point we parked the little white car and walked!
Here we are in the Northern most point on the island and the views are spectacular. The lighthouse surrounded by spring flowers was open for people to climb up to the top and see the views across to the Peloponnese. Peter climbed – I stayed with my feet planted firmly on the ground! We learn from the guardians of the lighthouse that it was built in 1857 by the British and is one of the largest lighthouses in Greece.
After leaving the lighthouse we can see that Fillipos had circled the fishing village of Agia Pelagia on the map for us. This used to be the location of the old port before it was moved to Diakofti. We park up and find a cafe on the harbour called Cafe Blue where we order the most indulgent crepes!
Back in our little trusty wagon our last stop of the day is a short drive to Lagada Beach which is stunning – beautiful turquoise waters and nice and sheltered. I had read that this is an award winning beach and it is clear to see why.
However, we don’t stay on the beach but walk to Kakia lake. That’s right a lake! As we walk around the coastal path from Lagada Beach it is hard to image than there is such thing, but nestled between two cliffs is a gorge that is fed from the mountains (the source begins in one of the mountain villages) and forms this freshwater lagoon. In summer this serves as an alternative place to basque in the sun and swim, but this quiet unassuming place is in fact where the notorious pirate Barbarossa launched his invasion of the island. He is said to have climbed the gorge with his band of pirates and headed straight for Paleochora, the islands’ Byzantine capital which was absolutely decimated and many of its inhabitants murdered. The town was never inhabited again.
As the sun slowly begins to drop behind the mountain we head back to Diakofti.
This brings our day and our trip almost to an end. Tomorrow we depart for the little island of Elafonissos.