St Antonios Gorge
There is much to see in the area, a famous chapel, one of Crete's largest and most famous excursion destinations with a small zoo and children's playground and a new huge reservoir. In the Sankt-Antonios-Gorge there is a lot of water and vegetation and forest, in some places you could almost think you are in a German low mountain range.
Overall, the area is not a bad destination for a day trip with a rental car. This is especially true if you are on holiday in one of the nearby tourist resorts (for example Rethymno, Agia Galini or Plakias).
The gorge St Antonios with chapel
How to get there: In the small town of Spili turn off towards Gerakari. After a few kilometres you come to a signposted turn-off to Patsos. You follow the many signs to the huge tavern Drimos (also written Drymos).
On the large parking lot in front of the tavern at Patsos you can park your car or motorbike for free. The entrance to the ravine is directly at the car park. The chapel in the Patsos gorge, as the Sankt Antonios gorge is also called, is only about 100 meters after the gorge entrance.
Believers, sick people, who hope for healing, come to the chapel of Saint Anthony. Numerous crutches stand on the rocks in the small church. We do not know whether these crutches left behind disabled people who spontaneously received a miracle healing in the chapel. The small church of Agios Antonios is spectacularly protected from wind and rain by an overhanging rock.
Many people have also written down their wishes on small pieces of paper and have stuck them in cracks in the rocks around the Antonios Chapel. You can light a candle, a box with candles and a box for donations is available.
Opposite the church many trees provide shade. Down in the gorge there is a small stream, which has a lot of water, especially in spring. All in all, St Anthony Gorge is a green oasis in the otherwise barren interior of Crete.
Next to the river, less than 50 meters from the chapel Agios Antonios, is a picnic spot. However, the benches, chairs and barbecues were very dilapidated and probably unusable during our last visit in autumn 2017.
The sometimes difficult hikes through the gorge at Patsos end at the mouth of the river into the large Potamon reservoir. If there is a lot of water in the river, the hike is not possible. This is often the case in winter and spring. Overall it is not an easy hike. You can also just walk a few hundred meters into the valley and then turn around.
Drymos Tavern (ταβέρνα Δρυμός)
It's the area's excursion spot. There is very good, down-to-earth food at reasonable prices. The tavern is gigantic. In summer, especially in the afternoons on weekends, hundreds of cars and some buses line up in front of the tavern Drimos. One has the feeling that half of Rethymno is here. Also many tourists can be seen, but according to our impression the local Cretans are in the clear majority.
The restaurant Drymos offers traditional dishes with local ingredients. The large menu includes a lot of meat. It is prepared imposingly on large grills over open fires in the tavern Drymos. But also the salads and the many, often vegetarian, appetizers taste good. The portions are larger than in most other taverns on Crete.
Sometimes there is live music in the large restaurant, about 500 meters above sea level. Then there is a lot going on. The concerts of Cretan folk musicians are especially recommendable.
The Taverna Drymos belongs to our personal Top-10 list of restaurants on Crete. We also liked the fact that everyone in the Drimos is in a really good mood. This is also and especially true for the staff.
Behind the Drymos restaurant, a small zoo has been set up especially for the little guests. You can see the Cretan farm animals, which do not differ so much from those in Germany: Sheep, donkeys, goats, turkeys, chickens, pigs and some others. Everything is very solid and neatly done. There is also a nice, large playground for the kids.
In a nutshell: A super excursion restaurant at the entrance of the Sankt Antonios Gorge
The new reservoir, about 20 kilometers south of Rethymno, is the largest lake on the island of Crete. Lake Potamon covers an area of over 15 km². The reservoir was opened in 2008. Many roads and even a small village were submerged in water. You can drive on mostly new roads around the lake. One can start the round trip for example near the tavern Drymos described above.
The lake is a reservoir for drinking water and for water for agriculture. The water will also be used later for reforestation programmes. Boating, surfing, swimming and so on are strictly forbidden in the huge drinking water reservoir. The lake has been laid out in such a way that there is no easy way to get to the shore. Lake Potamon is also ecologically important, for example for water birds, migratory birds and insects.
On the road around Lake Potamos there are several places where you can take good photos. We recommend the chapel above the western shore and the dam wall. Over the dam there is a public road. It is part of the tour around the Potamon. Shortly after the dam there is a café. Also from here you can take nice photos.
The lake made headlines in 2014 when several people had seen a crocodile in the lake on Crete, some even photographed it. Despite many attempts, among others by a well-known Crocodile Hunter from France, it was not possible to catch the reptile. The media gave the crocodile the name Sifi. It died of hypothermia in winter and was finally found dead. It was a 2 metre long animal of the Nile crocodile species, which can be found in Egypt, among other places. In winter it was too cold for Sifi in the lake at an altitude of 500 metres. Who exposed the crocodile in the lake is not known until today. The dead animal was brought to Heraklion to the Natural History Museum of Crete.
Almost everyone finds this day trip great, even if there are no super sights. The tavern Drimos with the chapel is worth it alone. The new reservoir is certainly very interesting for every Crete lover.
For this excursion, one needs one's own vehicle, there are practically no public buses in the sparsely populated area. If you are fit, you can also visit it by bike. The European long-distance hiking trail E4 also runs in the area.
The place names in this article
The gorge is called in Greek Άγιος Αντώνιος (Agios Antonios). Agios means Saint (Holy). For Antonios there are many translations: Antonius, Antonio, Anthony, Anton and the like.
Gorge means in Greek φαράγγι (farangi), in English gorge.
Especially the locals call the Sankt-Antonios-Schlucht also after the village Patsos nearby, mostly simply Patsos-Gorge.
The tavern is written in German predominantly with i (Drimos), in English mostly with y (Drymos). The Greek name is Taverna Drimos (ταβέρνα Δρυμός).
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