Friday, 21 June 2013

Hiking in the Rouvas gorge, Zaros... with your dog

The gorge above the village of Zaros, on Mount Psiloritis (Heraklion district), is something of a hidden treasure. In the summer, Zaros is a lovely escape from the heat of the coastal areas. There are natural springs in the area - the sources of Zaros and Rouvas bottled water - as well as fish farms selling trout, and the sizeable Lake Votomos. The whole area feels quite 'unCretan', and makes a refreshing change from the dry, rocky landscape found in much of the rest of the island.                                                  
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Once you arrive in Zaros, find your way up to the lake. A path ascends from the lake up past the Monastery of Agios Nikolaos, and on into the Rouvas Gorge.

I don't remember how long it took us to walk to the end - around 1.5 hours with a couple of stops I think. Half way along we found a lovely picnic area, with stone seats and table beneath the trees. It had a real 'woodland sprite' kind of feel.
Sage exploring the picnic area for leftovers
The walk through the gorge is quite strenuous, you are slowly climbing up for quite a large section of the hike before you enter the gorge. There are also a few parts where you need to scramble over rocks and old wooden bridges - it needs good walking shoes. It's well worth it though, for the views of Psiloritis and over the mountains to the southern coast of Crete.

We came across quite a few goats, as is typical of Cretan hikes, best to keep your dog close by or on the lead when you hear the sheep bells. You should carry water too - I didn't see anywhere to collect water until we reached the end of the gorge.

At the end of the gorge is another wonderful woodland area, great for picnics (called Agios Ioannis). There we found a couple of groups of people with portable bbqs, who hospitably 'forced' us to drink raki and eat with them. They had driven up to the top via an unmade road that, they say, is only really passable with a 4x4. The road starts from Gergeri village and ends at Agios Ioannis. I haven't tried it. We stumbled back down through the gorge, regretting the raki....

This area, Agios Ioannis, would be a lovely area for camping in the summer - really cool and peaceful. There is drinking water there and plenty of shade. We didn't try it, but I'll try to go back this year if I have the chance.

When we reached the end of the walk, we sat outside The Lake taverna for some cool beers ( As the name suggests, tables are arranged at the edge of the lake, with lovely views over the lake to the woodland and mountains beyond. They didn't have any problem with Sage relaxing after her hike by my chair (on the lead).

We hiked through the gorge in September. However, I have been to the lake with Sage on a previous occasion, but we didn't attempt the hike. This time it was snowing, it was January 2011, and the whole area looked magical. The woods were covered in snow and the lake looked almost 'Alpine'. Instead of hiking, we sat inside The Lake taverna, and ate a very good meal of oven cooked lamb. I also remember some of the best olives I've ever eaten, marinated in oil and sage. The owners were absolutely fine about Sage sitting inside the taverna, even though we were all covered in mud and snow. There were quite a few people eating, and a really warm, inviting atmosphere to escape to from the snow. I think I even remember they had lit the fireplace, but maybe I'm just getting a bit carried away with nostalgia....

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