There are two small mountain ranges in the far east of Crete, located very close to each other.
The southern one, Orno Thryptis, is the higher of the two. It is a single ridge which runs from south-west to north-east. The highest peak, 1476m, is Afendis Stavromenos from where you have amazing views of the whole of eastern Crete, Ierapetra, Agios Nikólaos and the bay of Mirabella.
On this peak is the small church of the Holy Cross (Afendis Stavromenos), where on the 14th September every year a panagia (a festival of the saint of that particular church) is held. During the winter months the peak is covered with snow.
You can drive up there from Káto Horió, just after Ierapetra. Take the road to the village and plateau of Thrypti, leading through a pine forest, the only one in the Sitian mountains. The plateau of Thrypti lies at an altitude of 880 metres and it is the highest area where vineyards exist on Crete.
Today not many people live in Thrypti anymore, most only come in the weekends. Nice little village to walk around in and have a coffee at the local kafenion. There’s also a road from Kavousi and Azoria to Thrypti, one from Agios Ioannis, and one from the mountain village of Orinó. You need a 4WD for the roads from Kavousi and Orinó.
The only possible way to reach the top, Afendis Stavromenos, is to walk (takes about 3 to 4 hours from Thrypti) or drive up in a 4WD jeep. The first 2 km from Thrypti is a good dust road, but after that the road becomes very steep, often over 10% and even up to 20% with many serpentine bends. The road is unpaved, consisting of loose gravel with some very steep drops from the side of the road, so you have to take care when driving and go very slowly. The power lines to the top, next to the road, have been destroyed by the snow and storm in winter, so a generator is continuously going on the summit, next to the big antenna. If you walk up from the village, there is supposed to be a path marked by red stones, but very difficult to find and after 3 stones the marking stops. Also, take care with the dogs of the local goat herder, just after the village, they can be a little ‘overenthusiastic’. So we were told by two Austrian tourists who walked all the way up, we met on the top and got a lift back to the village with us.
The views up there are breathtaking, especially in early morning. We left very early, as it’s a 1.5 hour drive all the way up (from Myrtos). We got there around 8.15 and then walked (climbed) around for hours, taking 5 minutes breaks all the time to take in the views in the ever changing light. You need good (high) shoes and a good balance here, as there are no paths, only rocks and shrubs (with thorns). Even then, walk slowly and take great care not to get caught in between some rocks, or slip and fall on the loose stones. But the reward is great! One of the most amazing places I’ve been so far!
Instead of driving the same way back down, you can also, if you drive a jeep, take the dust road and pass Azoria and the ancient olive tree, making it a wonderful circle with everything in it: village, high mountain, archeological site and the olive tree! Or drive to Agios Ioannis, a traditional mountain village for lunch, and follow the road from there back down to the sea.
Other sights in the same area:
- Thrypti village
- Kato Chorio
- Ha gorge
- Agios Ioannis