Preveli monastery drive - sights not to be missed
Things to see on the Preveli drive

There’s so much to see in west Crete its difficult to decide what to see and do!  Make a start with our “Ten things to do” blog to give you ideas.  We don’t single out the monasteries amongst these, but the Preveli monastery drive is such a great wide ranging experience its really not to be missed!

The monastery perched on the hillside
The monastery perched on the hillside

What’s in the drive…

You get the benefits of a green and shady walk with freshwater pools to swim in, a beautiful (if a bit crowded) beach. 

Lush palms alongside the river
Lush palms alongside the river

The views from the monastery out over the Libyan Sea are spectacular, and there is a special feel about the place.  The commemorative statues of WW2 set in an equally stunning setting on the way to it are bold and dramatic.

Monument to the Monks and Soldiers of World War II
Monument to the Monks and Soldiers of World War II

From the villa it’s a 90min drive over good roads, first the Ethniki, then turning south towards Spili to cross the island to the south coast.  It makes a perfect day out!

Kato Preveli

Shortly before the end of the drive you will pass by Kato Preveli – these are the ruins of the original monastery. 

Kato Preveli
Kato Preveli

The monks moved up to the more remote new site which was more easily defended against pirate raids.  This monastery was sacked by the Turks, and then again by the Germans.  This was in retribution for the part the monastery, and particularly the abbot, played in getting allied troops off the island after the battle of Crete.   The troops were fed and hidden by the monks and then ferried out to submarines waiting off the coast.

The South coast of Crete the end of the Preveli monastery drive
The South coast

Next comes the turning to the parking above the beach, but before this we recommend driving on to the monastery.  It’s a winding climbing road which levels out at the site of the commemorative statues of the war. 

The War Memorial

Memorial paid for by the Australian Government, honouring the monks of Preveli Monastery
Memorial paid for by the Australian Government, honouring the monks of Preveli Monastery

A highly arresting juxtaposition of a full size allied soldier and a gun toting Greek abbot stand overlooking the sweep of southern coast and the sea.  The statues were funded by the Australian government, whose soldiers were amongst those saved by the monks.  The site is fenced off, and often locked, but the fence is low and simple to step over – enough said!

Statue of the Abbot with gun in hand
A not to be messed with Abbot!

Drive along the road and the monastery comes into view, a tight cluster of buildings and huge Aleppo pine trees perched high on the hillside overlooking the sea.   

The jewel of the Preveli monsastery Drive: the  Monastery
Preveli Monastery

Preveli Monastery

The site can be crowded, but generally it’s a coach load of tourists, who descend for their 15min, and then take off again.  In between it can be delightfully quiet so you can your way to the courtyard, under the shade of the tree to sit and contemplate, to take in the special atmosphere of the place, calm, protective, full of positive energy.

Courtyard of the monastery
Place for contemplation in the Monastery courtyard

In the grounds is a beautiful mosaic of the baby Jesus…

Mosaic in the Monastery
Mosaic in the Monastery

…and the bougainvillea spills out over some of the ruined buildings. 

Buildings in the monastery, with bougainvillea
Monastery buildings

The cats are watchful and protective of their space, but not so much as the patrolling monk in the church who calls out anyone with the temerity to lift a camera.

Cats on patrol at the monastery
Cats on patrol…
Chief cat!
Chief Cat!

Turn back up the road, take the turning off to Preveli beach.  There’s a carpark (actually with a car park attendant to collect fees!) high above the beach.

The Beach and the Freshwater swimming

Car park high above Preveli Beach - taverna just visible above it
Car park high above Preveli Beach – taverna just visible above it

From there it’s a 15-20min walk down well maintained wide steps, mostly with handrails too, to the beach.  

Start of the climb down to the beach
Start of the climb down to the beach

Here you may find it a bit crowded with sunbeds, but you can take the well kept path back up along the river.  This flows all year round and creates a lush green valley of palm trees, very unusual in Crete. 

Path to the freshwater swimming pools
Path to the freshwater swimming pools

Walking up this path you will come to several freshwater lakes and plunge pools which make a great place for a swim or a dip. 

Higher up, the small pools
Higher up, the small pools

You may not be entirely alone, but there’ll not usually be more than one other party there.

Preveli Monastery drive – the Return

The downside is the climb back up!  But there is the consolation of the taverna at the top, just above the carpark.  Taverna Rousolakos, a little place with a charming shady terrace overlooking the views, and an eclectic but sophisticated selection of drinks – Greek microbrewery beers, and “3 Cents” sodas with their highly unusual flavours!

On the way back, stop off in Rethymno, we love Prima Plora, where you can dine literally on the rocks by the sea, with the townscape over the bay in the background.

Try this out for yourself – the route and the sites we talk about.

Panokosmos - the place to return to after the Preveli Monastery drive
And chill out at the pool when you get back!

More about living in Crete

There is much more in our blogs. These show things to do in Crete, whether it be walking a gorge, hiking in the foothills of the White Mountains, or taking a drive to see the sites.  Chania is a great town to visit, particularly to go to the street markets, and of course you’ll want to get the benefits of the Cretan diet – be it the yoghurt and cheese, or the olive oil.

Street market in Chania

This Dream Villa

And if you would like to live in a place where you can see these, here is just the place. This is a dream villa which we designed and built 10 years ago and now reluctantly are ready to sell and move on. Its in the Apokoronas, in the west of the island, 35min drive from Chania, 50min from the international airport. 

The plot highlighted against the Apokoronas plain – sea just visible in the background