The White Mountains of Crete in Greece

by - November 05, 2017

A spectacular mountain drive awaits you in Western Crete. From the city of Hania on the Northern coast, the roads go south through the Lefka Ori (White Mountains) to the southern coast of the island. We hit Crete during a heat wave in the dead of summer, so we got a rare opportunity to take in these mountains without any snow around. They’re called the White Mountains because they almost always have snow at the peaks. Not this time.

Depending on which mountain road is taken, one can wind up at Xyloskalo (the beginning of the Samaria Gorge), or at the isolated beach town of Sougia on the southern coast. The roads get a little hairy at times, with a 100 meter drop right off the edge.

Making its way through the Lefka Ori, the road twists and turns its way through uncompromising peaks and tranquil valleys. You’re presented with a changing myriad of scenery. One minute you’re bisecting a plateau spotted with dark green shrubs, the bushes scattered like polka-dots. While the next minute you’re moving along a steep precipice of nothing but silvery-grey rock, falling off the edge in a 50 meter drop.

For one mile you’re scooting along a flank of bright reddish mahogany. While the next mile you’re drenched with a symphony of colorful wildflowers–some cherry-colored, some bright yellow, and some lavender. One minute you notice the mysterious breeds of goats and sheep meandering along in sporadic herds. Then, upon turning a few corners up the road, you’re immersed in intoxicating aromas of sage and rosemary.

The road also changes frequently. Sometimes it’s marked and paved, while sometimes it isn’t. Several man-made dirt roads veer off in various directions. We noticed one that traversed the entire valley, switching back several times and heading all the way to the top of one of the peaks.

In the Lefka Ori, you’ll drive through small villages, like Moni, Agia Irini, Laki, and Fournes that have been inhabited by families for generations. About 12 km from Sougia we stopped at a local tavern. Here the proprietor offered us complimentary shots of Raki as a greeting, a common Cretan custom.

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