Guided walk through the Platania and Patsos gorge
In the Amari valley, on the slopes of Mount Psiloritis, there lies the small village of Platania. From this point there is a very beautiful gorge that ascends quite steeply up to a cave-chapel called Agios Antonios. The walk starts at an altitude of 430m on the edge of the village and ascends to the chapel at 800m, taking about three hours for the return trip. During the beginning of the walk we pass through old olive groves with some truly large trees, before starting our climb upwards. The path hugs the side of the gorge and offers some great views down and across the Amari valley. Griffon Vultures circle overhead and if you are lucky you may see a Golden Eagle.
After an exhilarating walk, and after having crossed the final rock ridge, it is at last possible to make out your destination – the rock-chapel of Saint Anthony. It is perfectly situated at the top of the gorge on a small hidden plateau. Although it looks far away it only takes a few minutes and there you can rest under a large Plane tree. The chapel is built into the side of a cave and it is easy to imagine how once upon a time a hermit may have lived there in such an idyllic environment.
Our walk begins from near the village of Voleones as we ascend to Veni monastery, or the monastery of St. Anthony. This is in a spectacular position with a great view northeast towards Mount Psiloritis. In addition, it has a wonderful cave chapel deep into a cliff with holy water that has made it a holy site since the time of the Minoans. After looking around we continue our walk to St. Anthony’s gorge, or the Patsos gorge, where there is a small chapel dedicated to the saint and a great walk through the gorge.
At St. Anthony’s monastery, the deep cave is divided into two parts. There is holy water and bones of monks of the past, very impressive old earthen basins that also get filled with the miraculous holy water from the continuous roof drippings, a remnant of Minoan worship embodied later in the Christian culture. At this cave, locals still have the ancient habit to offer the priest vegetables or eggs in order to bless them. Outside the cave there is a yard with monk cells kept in good condition. The monastery was built by the Byzantines and later, during the Venetian Era, it was the seat of the Chortatzis family (well known to all Cretans due to their revolutionary action). The paved path that leads to the monastery is decorated with fountains with running water and there are many trees that offer shade. One of these trees in the Ottoman period was the place where the notables of the area met and took important decisions. For this reason it is called the ‘Pnyx of Crete’. The Turks burned the monastery three times in an attempt to prevent concentrations of rebels.