HOW TO GET THERE
The easiest reference point for starting the journey to the Katharo plain is the Sitia-Kritsa traffic lights, situated on the Agios Nikolaos to Sitia bypass. Head towards Kritsa a distance of about 9 km.
From Kritsa it is 16.5 kms to the plain, The large mountain that dominates the view is Mt.Tsivi at 1665 mtrs. Stop occasionally to look at the view, with the town of Agios Nikolaos in the distance and onward across the Bay of Mirabello to the Orno mountains beyond. In the early ascent the Lakonia basin can be seen below, which is one of the most fertile areas in east Crete and produces one of the worlds finest extra virgin olive oils.
At an altitude of about 700 mtrs. you will pass the last olive trees and travel through an area with a rugged natural beauty, where in the months of April and May the yellow of the wild flowers dominates the scene, and the scent of wild herbs fills the air. Watch out for goats on the road, rest assured whichever side of the road they are on, as you approach they will undoubtedly want to be on the other.
The Katharo area is renowned for the presence of the Griffon vulture, which can often be seen circling around looking for carrion. As you approach the top and pass through the holly oak forest this is the domain of the rare and elusive wild cat of Crete.
On reaching the top the road levels for about 2 kms, which is a blaze of colour from April to early June, then starts to descend and the Katharo plain unfolds before you. On reaching the plain there are three tavernas to welcome you each offering drinks and traditional Cretan fare.
PLACES TO VISIT EN-ROUTE TO KATHARO
CHURCH OF PANAGIA KERA
Situated about 1 km. before Kritsa on the right hand side, with ample parking, a small fee is required to enter the church.
Opening times. During season April - Nov 8.30 - 15.00
The church of Panagia Kera was constructed over eight-hundred years ago and is regarded as one of the premier tourist attractions on Crete. The church is home to spectacular murals that have withstood the ravages of time and weather.
ANCIENT TOWN OF LATO
Situated about 4 kms. from Kritsa (See map below).
Opening hours :- April - Nov 8.30 - 15.00
Closed Mondays and holidays
A small entrance fee may be charged. Ample parking
Lato was an ancient city of Crete. The Dorian city-state was built in a defensible position overlooking Mirabello Bay between two peaks, the ruins date mainly from the Dorian period (fifth and forth centuries BC.)
KRITSA Extract from. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kritsa
Kritsa is one of the oldest and most picturesque villages in Crete. It has an extensive historic record with evidence of occupation as early as the second millennium BC. Built amphitheatrically on a rock hill, named Kastellos, surrounded by olive groves, at an altitude of 375 mtrs. During the Middle Ages, it was thought to be the largest village in Crete. Kritsa has been destroyed many times during the last centuries because it participated in all of Crete's revolutions.
When Kritsa is lit up in the evening it has the form of a scorpion. Old Cretan customs and traditions are kept alive, and Kritsa is considered one of the most important centres of weaving art.