Walking through the Amari valley is one of the great pleasures of life. But hiking opportunities in Rethymnon don’t end here. The peak of Psiloritis, the tallest mountain of Crete, is accessible from both the Nida Plateau and from Fourfouras. Gorges can be descended (or ascended). Thronos, Amari and Fourfouras are fabulous bases from which to plan walking trips. A road now links Asi Gonia with Amoudari on the Askyphou plateau at the east side of the White Mountains of Chania, should you wish to venture further west.
Gorges include the Kourtaliotiko gorge, the Kotsifou gorge and the Patsos gorge. Day trips to Omalos in Chania, to walk the Samarian gorge, can easily be arranged. especially if one is staying in the town Rethymnon itself or one of the coastal resorts.
The E4 trail passes through the Rethymnon nomos and offers some outstanding hiking opportunities. The Amari valley is a splendid place to spend some time and a lovely area for a stroll. Difficulties of walks range from easy to to extremely tough, especially if you take in those mountains. Start at Vizari with a population of only 111 and elevation 360 meters and make your way to Lampiotes, as you walk away from the grand Kedros mountain to the smaller Samitos. From there take the road to Monastiraki (population 180, elevation 380m), westwards to Opsigias (population 45, elevation 480m), and onwards to Amari itself. You can stay in Amari or Thronos to the north-east of the valley.
Animals of all kinds announce themselves with the occasional chirp or screech; butterflies flutter by and lizards scuttle along. Heaven-sent aromas will delight as citrus fruits compete with herbs and wild flowers. After Amari head to the village of Elenes (population 74, elevation 646m), to be followed shortly after by Gerakari (population 377, elevation 680m). Like most of the Amari valley, Gerakari - renowned for its cherries - is steeped in a violent, recent history. The Nazis were at their most dastardly in this area.
The road from Gerakari to Spili can be tackled by car or by foot, but if you choose the latter, locals driving-by may insist on giving you a lift. About half way along the road, and diametrically opposite a wonderful-looking taverna, a river passes a couple of metres under the road which could be a good spot to rest. The descent into Spili features a road that swings around the village and via a set of steps drops one into its heart.
The road takes you out of Spili westwards to Myxorrouma, which has a similar altitude to that of Spili - 350 metres. A southerly turn takes one through the back-streets of the pretty village. Trees offering all sorts of fruit and nuts, line the road. Then it's all downhill from Spili to Plakias. You could stop at a taverna in the village of Frati which also offers accommodation. The road snakes on before reaching a junction. A sharp east turn and then a sharp turn south takes you into the Kourtaliotiko gorge, which is also drivable; about half way down there’s a picnic area and steps that lead on to a small chapel. The gorge can act like a wind-tunnel, so be prepared to be buffered, as you walk.
A few hundred metres further on, there is a sign offering modest accommodation and food near the gorge's mouth. A little later you arrive at the village of Levgogia an interesting option if you fancy staying in this area. Close to the Preveli monastery you will eventually reach Plakias, some three and a half hours after leaving Spili.
From there on you can walk to Rodakino, though the road is not ideal for walking, being quite narrow at times, with cars oblivious to the walker. Winds can exacerbate this problem, and it may be difficult to stop oneself from tacking, so be very careful along this stretch. A couple of kilometres before reaching the first of the two Rodakinos (Ano), there is the option of coming off the road, and heading inland. A dirt track runs parallel for a kilometre, before heading along a winding path, which takes you up to a chapel, at its crest of it’s hill. It’s quite tough going, and the gorge on the other side of the hill, is not easy to walk, but this too is on the E4 trail, and will deposit one at Alones, from where one can head to Velonado and on to Argyroupolis.
From Plakias to Kato Rodakino will take approximately three hours, should you decide to continue along the road.
Adapted by Stelios Jackson from his own work which has appeared on other sites.