Our photo of the day is from Askyfou Plateau in Chania - Crete.
Isolated, tranquil, and steeped in history, the ancient crossing point of the Askifou Plateau makes an idyllic retreat.
Green and verdant, in stark contrast to the rugged limestone peaks that encircle it, Askifou sits in the heart of the Lefka Ori (“White Mountains”), a waypoint used by travelers for centuries between Hania and the Libyan Sea.
Four villages make up the Askifou communities – Ammoudari – the largest on the plateau’s western edge, and the tiny hamlets of Kares, Goni and Petres.
Connected by a latticework of country lanes, this is a place that wears the indelible marks of not only ancient Cretan history but the story of Europe itself.
Perched on high ground as you enter the plateau are the ruins of an Ottoman fortress – Koules – built by the occupying Turks in the 19th century to control the passage to Hora Sfakion. In 1822 a great battle took place here when Sfakian rebels defeated the Ottoman forces. Two years later the Turks returned to wreak their revenge.
More than a century later war returned to Askifou. In May 1941 as the German invasion of Crete pushed the island’s defenders into retreat, the plateau witnessed the exodus of a vast defeated army. Almost 20,000 Australian, British, New Zealand and Greek troops, all desperate to avoid capture or worse, came through Askifou. Over four days and nights along the road on the western edge of the plain they trudged in the hope of salvation: evacuation by the British Navy from the beach at Hora Sfakion.
Askifou, a 50-km drive from Hania and 20km from Hora Sfakion, makes an ideal base for exploring some of the most alluring and accessible sections of the Lefka Ori.
The southern edge of the plateau is the starting point for the Imbros Gorge and the beginning of a gentle 11-km hike to the village of Komitades. Tickets for the gorge walk are 2.50 euros and available at the gorge’s main entry point.
For more adventurous walkers, a hike to the abandoned village of Asfendou and along the Kallikratis Gorge is a greater challenge. To the plateau’s west, via Ammoudari, is a road and track leading up to the Niato Plateau (1,200m), which is crossed by the European E4 long-distance path and sits under the Lefka Ori’s legendary highest peak Pachnes (2,453m).
Source: Greece IsImage: by Antonis Alimpertis - Many thanks!