Monastery of Moni Faneromeni at the isthmus of Crete.
The isthmus of Crete
The motorway heading south from Aghios Nikolaos is not particularly interesting at first, because it leads through between barren hills, past newly built settlements, villas and hotel castles above the occasionally recognizable bays with sandy beaches. However, the construction of the new highway, which is still under construction, is breathtaking in places.
Apart from the reed-lined beaches of Almiros and Amoudhara shortly after Aghios Nikolaos along the old national road, there are few reasons to stop. 6 miles (10 kilometers) after the city, you reach the growing settlement of Kalo Hario with tavernas and mini-markets. Here some paths wind steeply down to the coast with excellent small beaches.
The next village is Istro, where shortly after there is a turnoff to the remote mountain monastery of Moni Faneromeni. The route then passes a remarkable Minoan site at Gournia.
After about 12 1/2 miles (20 kilometers) you reach Pachio Ammos, where the narrowest point of Crete is located. The route across the isthmus to Ierapetra on the Libyan Sea is only 7 1/2 miles (12 kilometers) here.
Pachia Ammos is a rather windy cluster of houses about 1 1/4 miles (two kilometers) east of Gournia. There are a few cafés, mini-markets and several restaurants here behind the stony beach. In one of them the musician Eddy Winter, who immigrated from Germany, regularly performs live.
Here you can also make a detour to another important early Minoan site in Vasiliki and the ancient village of Episkopi with its magnificent Byzantine church or to the Ha Gorge nearby.
3 miles (5 kilometers) after Istro, you take the signposted exit and drive up a dusty, partially paved dirt road dizzyingly inland. The 3 3/4 miles (6 kilometers) stretch is a bit challenging to drive up to Moni Faneromeni, but when you finally arrive, you have one of the most beautiful views on Crete.
The monastery was already built at the beginning of the second Byzantine era. The ethnic Christian order had great power and played a prominent role in the resistance in the subsequent periods of foreign domination.
In summer, the two monks now living in the monastery receive guests and prepare meals for them in their kitchen. However, if the rather gloomy-looking monastery building is locked, you can knock loudly to gain entry. The monks lead visitors into the chapel, which was built as a cave shrine after a holy icon of the Virgin Mary was miraculously discovered there. This discovery was also the reason for the foundation of the monastery.
The frescoes, although made quite late in the seventeenth century, are impressive – especially by Panayia Theotikou, the Mother of God.
Directions to Moni Faneromeni
Link to map with directions:
Click here: Directions to Moni Faneromeni.