The Amári Valley
Rural Crete at its best
Do yourself the favour of leaving the sea and sand at least for a day and explore rural Crete. And do so by visiting the scenically spectacular Amári Valley. The valley is not very much visited. The main roads from North to South bypasses it, leaving the isolated hamlets relatively unaltered by the changes of the last decades.
In the summer the climate here is cooler than at the coast. Therefore, in midsummer when the vegetation elsewhere has withered away, the trees, flowers and general greenery here makes a stunning contrast to the rest of the island. The valley is shadowed to the north by the vast profile of mighty Psiloritis. To the south it is flanked by the Kedros mountain range and in the centre of the valley the view is blocked by the Samitos Mountain. At the lower slopes of Psiloritis, Kedros and Samitos lies a number of little whitewashed villages where traditional ways of life go on with little or no reference to tourist demands.
In many of these villages you'll find ancient richly frescoed churches. Some of the finest Byzantine remains in Crete. Ask around. There will probably be an old lady who has the church key and for a euro or two is willing to show you the treasures.
From the village of Thrónos two roads are crossing the Amári Valley. One along the Kedros range and another at the north eastern side of the valley clinging to the flanks of the Psiloritis. Thrónos itself used to be the seat of a bishop in the Byzantine era (the name Thrónos means throne). The old 'Church of the Panagia' has beautiful frescoes and around it you can see mosaic remains from an even older and much larger church which used to be here.
The village called Amári is the chief village of the valley. In the centre there's a Venetian clock tower which you can climb and from where you have a beautiful view. Outside the village the old church of Agia Anna has some frescoes in very bad shape. Dating from 1225 they and are probably the oldest on Crete.
On the western side of the Amári valley many of the villages although they look the same as on the eastern side are actually entirely modern. During World War II these villages were completely destroyed by the Germans as a reprisal for the kidnapping of the German General Kneipe and to destroy guerilla resistance to the occupation. Still, also in these areas beautifully frescoed churches have survived. If you would like to bring some of the local products home to the Villa Talea kitchen try the village cheeses 'thimansio' (thyme and honey). Or you can buy pickles cherries or cherry brandy from the cherry orchards in the valley.