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Asterousia mountains: Into the wild

Asterousia mountains: Into the wild

Destination Crete

Combining rugged nature and stunning landscapes, a visit to the Asterousia mountains is an unforgettable experience.

Like a towering curtain running along the southern coast of Heraklion province, Asterousia is a place for those who like to go ‘off the beaten track’. You’ll find no resorts or beach bars, but the tiny villages that dot the region have a charm all of their own.

The largest and most developed is Lentas, a friendly seaside hamlet with a few tavernas, mini-market and a handful of cafes. Busy in the high season, its sandy beach has sun-beds and is good for families with young children. Head west from here and the rugged and completely undeveloped coast offers many isolated swimming spots, pristine bays, all with few or no tourist facilities.

To the east of Lentas, Kapetaniana village is typical of the Asterousia communities with its small population of about 100. Once a monastery, its church of Panagia contains some of the most important examples of Byzantine art in Greece. Spirituality is everywhere here. The village sits on the western edge of Kofinas mountain – in ancient times a sacred Minoan peak sanctuary. Below is the village of Agios Ioannis.

One of the most secluded monasteries in Crete, Koudoumas monastery is nearby, on the eastern side of Kofinas at the exit of the Katarraktis gorge. They’ll even give you a bed for the night if you want to sample how a monk lives!

Further east, the former fishing villages of Treis Ekklisies and Tsoutsouros await the most intrepid drivers – each with dramatically steep descents. There’s not much to see at Treis Ekklisies apart from its long grey sand beach spotted with tamarisk trees, though it has its own rugged windswept charm, along with a handful of simple tavernas, open only in spring and summer.

Tsoutsouros is more developed. Built on the ruins of the ancient city of Inatos, there’s a long sandy beach and a harbour here. The seafront has a number of cafes and tavernas with Zorba’s Taverna a popular favourite.

Getting there

Hersonissos to Tsoutsouros takes just over an hour to drive, via Kastelli. Kapetaniana is a further hour on this route. Going directly to Lentas from Hersonissos will take approximately one hour 30 minutes, via Heraklion and Zaros.