If you think that Greece is not an exotic destination you are terribly wrong
It would be enough to see my post on Instagram, as I lay on a fallen trunk of a palm tree, having everyone wondering at what exotic edge of the world I was wandering around (some are still skeptical). Yet, this place exists in Greece and more specifically in Crete, where you can find two large palm forests. The most famous and biggest is that of Vai in the prefecture of Lasithi, which is on my magic list for the following year. But I have visited the palm forest of the Preveli Monastery in the prefecture of Rethymno, about 40 acres big. Its name, as well as the wider area, is due to the homonymous historic monastery close by, which is dedicated to St. John the Theologian. And here you will be well informed of the history.
The first glimpse you have of the palm forest is from up top, which will come after you walk down the stairs for about 15 to 20 minutes. In the middle of the route you will have the chance to see the beach with the riverbank of the palm tree forest, 1-2 km long in a gorge. The Grand Potamos originates from the Cretan mountains with the Kourtaliotiko gorge and reaches Preveli, creating about a one kilometre lake-river surrounded by palm trees that expand to the beach in the South Cretan Sea. A magical scenery that preserves greater (exotic) magic when you are among the palm trees (the kind of native Cretan palm or palm of Theophrastus as it’s called).
Most of the palm groves in Preveli were incinerated in the great fire that broke out in the area, at dawn on Sunday, August 22, 2010. Nearly 70% of the forest was destroyed. Everyone spoke back then of an enormous disaster of nature. Fortunately, the Preveli palm trees, thanks to their fireproof capacity -unknown until recently-that distinguishes Theofrastos palm, managed not only to regenerate, but also to keep the same “incinerated” adult palm trees of Theofrastos by next autumn.
I visited Preveli last summer in 2017, but you can see its magic all year long. When I arrived at Preveli beach, with its light sand and pebbly seabed, a canteen and a lot of shade from the mountains and trees. The truth is, compared to other beaches in Crete, this is not the best one, here it’s all about the palm trees. So, it’s not necessary to visit during summer with the enormous Cretan heat. A walk or ride along the river, through the palm trees and the oleander to the gorge, is undoubtedly a unique experience. I explored the palm forest around the lake on foot with the necessary stops for photographs. Because, if I told you this landscape is Greek (and you have not visited a palm grove of Crete before) would you believe me without evidence?
Preveli is about 35 km from Rethymnon and 10 km from Plakias.
You have two basic access options from land and sea.
The first is to drive from Plakias to the Preveli Monastery, following the signs. One and a half kilometres after the Lower Preveli Monastery, you will park your car in the large parking lot (2 euros for the car) and take the path that goes down to the beach. The descend lasts about 15-20 minutes. However, climbing is quite tiring. Make sure you do not do it on a hot day.
Alternatively, you can take the dirt road leading to the nearby Drimychian Ammoudi and walk the short path leading to Preveli in just 5 minutes. Saving downhill-climbing but losing sight. You choose.
There are also boats from Agia Galini and Plakias, which operate on Preveli (15 euros per person).
*Images by Polina Paraskevopoulou (Copyright)