Zaros, a scenic gem

Zaros collageIf you’ve been to Crete, there’s a very good chance you’ve taken a drink of prize winning Zaros bottled water. It comes from underground springs in the village of Zaros, nestling beneath Mount Idi in the Psiloritis range of mountains.

It is a stunning area and the small lake provides a tranquil oasis for a stroll. From platforms around the lake edge you can view fish, terrapins, dragonflies and waterfowl. There is also a taverna to relax and enjoy the view.

We have visited Zaros and the lake several times when driving between Heraklion and the south coast. I’d previously noticed the tempting sign pointing towards the Rouvas Gorge but it had never been the right weather or circumstances to hike.

INCO logoAt last I’ve walked the gorge along with some fellow members of INCO, the International Community Association of Agios Nikolaos Region, (and surrounding areas). As well as being an informative and supportive group we also enjoy a range of clubs and activities.

In the middle of October our group of eleven people stayed for two nights in the amazing Idi Hotel, situated midway between Zaros village and the lake.

Prices are competitive for bright and well appointed rooms. Breakfast had a good choice and we enjoyed an evening meal in the taverna/fish farm alongside the hotel.

DSCN0770Some members had a relaxing stroll and/or sunbathing in mind while seven of us set off to walk circa 6 km each way in the gorge.

This sign made it clear parts of our route would be tricky! Our most petite member found the steps cut in the rocks too steep and returned to the lake. Another person returned a while later leaving five of us to continue up.

Sometimes, long sloping stretches gave us a chance to catch our breath before the path zig-zagged up again. The forestry commission has made sturdy bridges and ramps to cross the most difficult drops and these were in excellent condition.  Although the effects of water gushing down the gorge are clear to see, the gorge was dry at the end of summer. Right at the top there was a boggy patch to prove how the water drains from the forested slopes around the church dedicated to Agios Ioannis. This shady area had welcome picnic benches to use while we ate our lunch. We were about ready to start our walk down when a large group arrived with a guide – this signaled we’d have to share the path on the way down. That said, we only passed about a dozen people.

Here is a slideshow of the scenery enjoyed on our hike.

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dscn0866Have to say, the last 1 km downhill was accomplished at great speed – some keen to get back to the hotel for a swim and others wanting a cold beer by the lake.

On our second evening we walked down to Zaros village to eat a wide variety of food at the Vegera restaurant where the exuberant, Vivi made us very welcome.

Zaros water bottling plantOn the final morning, before we all went our separate ways, we enjoyed a pre-arranged tour of the Zaros water bottling plant. The local community and employees own the factory and, as water is a free resource, this felt absolutely right.

Perhaps it’s not something you’d think of adding to your holiday itinerary, but all agreed it made a fitting and interesting end to our Zaros break.

If you live in the Lassithi prefecture of Crete and would like to know more about INCO, you can either email incocrete@yahoo.com or fill in the contact form below.

DSCN0891

I think I’ll make a large print of this photo for my home in Kritsa, it will remind me of a fabulous break.

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