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The district of Apokoronas in North West Crete, is one of the prettiest areas in the whole of the island. It's the greenest part of Crete and has spectacular scenery as the foothills of the White Mountains slope down to the beautiful blue waters of the Aegean Sea. The prefecture is renowned for its hospitality and natural beauty as well as its captivating history.
Chania International Airport offers easy access right into the heart of Apokoronas. The bus services are infrequent, however, so hiring a car or taxi would be advisable. Close to Chania, the whole Apokorona area is dotted with little settlements, from pretty traditional mountain villages to tranquil coastal fishing villages that are now thriving as tourist resorts. Each has its own unique character and tradition.
The Historical and Folklore Museum of Gavalohori situated in Vamos is a fascinating place to visit to get a glimpse into the real Crete. The traditional architecture of the building gives way to several rooms, each focusing on a traditional craft, weaving, stone-cutting, silk, pottery and woodcarving. The museum also boasts a typical arched house which has many fine examples of traditional furnishings. Vamos itself has a magnificent natural setting, with a backdrop of craggy mountains and profusion of trees, such as laurel, pear, carob, wild almond and oak. With bushes of herbs in abundance, the fresh mountain air is sweetly scented.
Kalyves nestled by the beautiful blue sea is a small and genuine village with warm sandy beaches and a laid back approach to life. Its good choice of hotels and apartments and the delicious food served in the tavernas and restaurants make this a great spot to relax and unwind. Around 25km west of Chania is the popular coastal resort of Almyrida. The safe sandy beaches here slope gently toward the crystal clear sea which is really accessible being right next to the road. It's easy to see why Almyrida has become so popular with families and those with mobility problems. With a plethora of friendly tavernas, bars and shops this resort offers a more modern holiday with watersports, entertainment and good quality facilities all on offer.
There are two local Turkish forts worth visiting whilst in Apokoronas. During the 19th century Aptera and Itzedin Forts were built using materials from the remains of archaeological sites nearby. Itzedin was so called after the son of the then Sultan, by Reouf Pasha the commander of Crete.
The hillside settlement Vamos is a village that seems to be untouched by time. The warmth of the welcome is matched only by the fine Cretian cuisine at the little tavernas and kafenion (coffee shops that are an important meeting place and hub of village society). The views of the gorgeous countryside are incomparable and it's a great base for exploring this historic and scenic part of Apokoronas by foot.
Megala Chorafia, which literally means big field, is a pretty village set on top of a hill. It is right by the National Road which makes it a great base for exploring the archaeology and other fascinating places to visit in the area. The countryside round here is exquisite with flora and fauna unique to Crete. Gorges pepper the rocky landscape, perfect for a cooling stroll, for example the magnificent 10km long Diktamos gorge. Another nearby gorge, the Ramni-Macher leads to the Byzantine church of Agios Nikolaos.
The settlement of Samonas has few inhabitants but is a restful place to stay. Hiring a villa here offers complete peace and tranquility and magnificent views across the sea. For such a hot climate you might be surprised to learn that the whole landscape is influenced by water. There are over 200 caves in the area and as well as the Stylos springs there are the Kiliaris, Xydias and Almyros Rivers. Kourna Lake is the only freshwater lake to be found in the whole of Crete and is a magnet for all sorts of birds, insects and animals. Cretan butterflies, kingfishers, griffon vultures and buzzards all frequent this area.
Curved on the slopes of Mount Drapanokefal sits the little village of Plaka, its horseshoe shape offering amazing views across Souda Bay. Olive and plane trees provide shade from the hot sun and the white washed walls of the traditional houses prettily point you toward the main square, the focal point of the village where you will find kafeneia and tavernas.
This is just a small smattering of what the spectacular area of Apokoronas has to offer. But one thing is for sure, wherever you visit, this green corner of Crete will delight every one of your senses, making you wish to return again and again.