Walking Tour: Rouvas Gorge

  • Start Lake Votomos
  • End Lake Votomos
  • Length 10km
  • Difficulty Difficult

Part of the E4 European Path, the Rouvas Gorge hike leads to a protected swath of forest home to some of the oldest oak trees in Crete. It’s an especially lovely walk in springtime, when hooded helleborine orchids, poppies, irises and other wildflowers give the landscape the vibrancy of an impressionist painting, but is recommended any time from April to November. It's a 10km up-and-back trek from the main trailhead at Lake Votomos north of Zaros village. The trail is mostly signed in Greek (and mostly referring to the churches), but small red and white circles painted onto the rocks and trees lead the way.

The trailhead is at a steep staircase on the property of Limni Taverna on the shores of Lake Votomos. The route hugs the mountainside until it enters the gorge about 1km later, just past Moni Agios Nikolaos, a modern monastery that wraps around a historic church replete with icons and fresco fragments. Alternatively, you can start the hike from the monastery and shave 2km off the round-trip route – follow the zigzagging gravel road to the left of the newly constructed blue-domed church until the two paths merge.

From here you enter the gorge, as the vegetation becomes increasingly lush with oak trees, lilies, orchids, sage and other mountain flora, and pass a few natural freshwater pools that will surely be appreciated in warmer months. The elevation change along the route clocks in at about 700m. Along the way, you'll cross first one wooden bridge, then another (and navigate a third quite shifty-looking one that has collapsed and been reinforced with steel girders), and encounter several uncleared rock falls that require a bit of clambering. Eventually, a gorgeous clearing emerges, home to the little Chapel of Agios Ioannis and several benches and tables that invite a leisurely picnic (camping here, surrounded by the Rouvas Forest, is allowed).

Wear sneakers or hiking boots, take at least 2L of water per person and pack some snacks (or a bit more, for the aforementioned picnic). Cold beers await lakeside at Limni Taverna once you descend.