Beguilingly known as the jewel of the Libyan Sea this laid back village of Paleohora stands on a promontory fringed on one side by a long sandy beach, whilst on the other side a pretty little harbour borders a pebble beach that stretches off into "the wild blue yonder".
This is just about as far west and far south as you can go in Crete and when the last bus leaves Paleohora in the evening on its way back over the mountains to Chania, the village tavernas come alive spreading their tables and chairs even further into the narrow main street, which becomes a very atmospheric place to wine and dine, although there are numerous other tavernas to choose from in the back streets or down by the romantic harbour and promenade .
Life in Paleohora, as you might expect, is very informal and dressing for dinner normally entails a pair of sandals and shorts plus a top.
By day a cossie and straw hat are all that's required and if you are an energetic type you can disappear into the hills that abound with small tracks and footpaths leading to tiny whitewashed villages. Alternatively, if you prefer to keep close to the sea, follow the coastline east for about 5 km and you will stumble on one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece, where even your cossie is optional, if you pick a leaf from a fig tree in passing.
For would be mariners, there is a daily ferry service from Paleohora pretty harbour to Agia Roumeli at the bottom of the Samaria Gorge and trips by Caique to the superb pink fringed beaches of Elafonisi.
People watching in Paleohora - A day in the life
Paleohora is one of those places where sitting with a cup of coffee or a cold beer and watching the world go by, comes as naturally as breathing and our Harbour Apartments and Studios couldn't be better placed to enjoy this addictive pastime. If you're an early riser, you can sit on your balcony or the large terrace at the front of the apartments and watch the sun rise out of the sea, with local fishing boats caught in silhouette as they return with their night's catch. As the morning progresses, you'll see a ferryboat arriving from Sougia or the remote island of Gavdos and probably check your watch to see if its on time, as it disgorges the usual gaggle of backpackers, walkers and locals all in intriguingly different shapes and sizes. By now the cafes on the promenade are filling up for breakfast, the tourists with their boiled egg, toast and marmalade and fresh orange juice and the odd local fellow, dressed in black, nursing a small cup of coffee.
As the day progresses, the sun gets hotter, the cafes empty and the tavernas fill for lunch. People wander slowly past in cossies and sandals with perhaps a towel slung over their shoulder and a ubiquitous local straw hat. In the afternoon, before the arrival of the next ferryboat, the town quietens for siesta time and even the young childrenÂ fishing on the harbour-side depart, as the fish too seem to tire and lose interest in the little bits of bread paste turned an enticing pink with taramasalata!
As the sun wanes the ferry arrives & the town springs to life again, the cafes fill up as tourists return from the beach and the soberly dressed Cretan is there again nursing another small cup of coffee.
Later as the sun sets behind you, the sea & mountains turn a soft gold and as dusk approaches, twinkling lights appear & conversations in the cafes become more animated. In the Summer months the temperature cools to a balmy 20°C and the locals & tourists stroll along the promenade in the traditional pre-prandial parade to the strains of muted Greek music wafting gently upwards from a nearby taverna. Later still the cafes & tavernas empty once more & the promenade is deserted, save for the occasional couple strolling hand in hand in the moonlight, with the mountains just a dark shadow on the horizon.
Whale Watching - Paleohora
Dolphins as depicted on Minoan frescoes at Knossos have long been associated with Crete and are often spotted by ferry passengers on the south coast routes from Paleohora to Sougia and Agia Roumeli.
Occasional sightings of whales have also been reported and a few years ago The Institute of Cetacean Research in Athens funded a small research programme based in Paleohora to study the local whale population. The Institute chartered and equipped a local fishing boat under the captaincy of Stelios Yialinakis and to help fund the programme, guest researchers were invited to take part. Subsequently, the daily Paleohora whale watching trips, although little publicised, proved to be enormously popular and often over subscribed.
Early results indicated that there are both Sperm and Ziphius Whales present in this area of the Libyan Sea and although numbers appear to be relatively small, the use of hydrophonic equipment has enabled researchers to listen to their call signals and help identify the different species and family groups.
Although the research and funding has now finished, it captured the imagination of Stelios Yialinakis and he now arranges half-day Dolphin spotting trips from early April to the end of October at an approx. cost of 20€ per person departing from Paleohora Harbour.. In the natural world of course nothings ever guaranteed and although Stelios as a result of the earlier research is better placed than most to find the right spots, you might spend four hours and see absolutely zero. On the other hand you could be lucky and see a whole school of dolphins, or even spot a whale! It's all part and parcel of the mystery and fascination of the world's largest living mammals and their smaller, ultra intelligent cousins.
Melanie Davidson Jul 2008
|"We loved the location of the Harbour apartments, only a stone's throw from the restaurants and the beach. It was our first visit to Crete and we'll definitely be back to Paleohora. Thanks for a great holiday."|
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