One of the most beautiful gorges in the White Mountains is undoubtedly the Gorge of St Irene in East Selino.
We follow from Chania the country road to Omalos. After 12 kilometers we turn right to Sougia, crossing the old stone-built bridge of Alikianos over’ the countless orange trees and river Keritis. In spring the blossom of the trees spreads a terrific scent σ’ all over the area. This scenery continues as we go through the villages’ Skines and Chliaro.
In the area «Lagos» the vegetation starts to change. The route goes through a ravine full of plane tree, that give coolness even in the hottest summer days. A spring at the side of the road awaits the passer-by, to quench his thirst with its clear water.
Leaving behind us the Nea Roumata and going uphill to Prase, the landscape is dominated by olive groves, chestnut forests and cypresses. The view of the wooded slopes until Sebronas is amazing. In autumn do not forget to buy the delicious chestnuts –for which the place is famous, as well as for its apples.
From here our route becomes uphill through alpine landscapes with mainly low vegetation, to reach the highest point: at Petras Seli. The view is fantastic from the one side to the Cretan sea’ and from the other side to the Libyan sea and to the whole western side of the White Mountains (Lefka Ori).
Lower to the south we can see the green-clad village of St. Irene and the homonymous gorge. The entrance of the gorge lies directly after the last houses of the village. On the left we will see a sign with information. In the shade of the’ plane trees and next to the river we walk in an easily distinguished path. Here is also the church of the Saviour, dating back to 1357 and the ruins of the church of St. George, dating back to 1460.
The formation of the gorge is probably due to the corrosion of the limestone rocks by the waters of the White Mountains, which also accounts of the rich vegetation. Almost all’ along the gorge, the rich vegetation of dittany, sage, levandel, carob trees, plane trees, pine trees, cypresses and oleanders gives colour and scent to our route.
After a slightly downhill part, the route becomes again uphill, giving us its oppurtunity to admire its part from on high. The narrow points of the gorge are shorter than 10 m, while the height often reaches almost 500 meters. At many points is still preserved an old path with the simple dry stone, sample of a wonderful art, which has been forgotten in our days.
The exit of the gorge is located at a green-clad gully. The road beginning here leads us to Sougia (7 km.), but after about 1 kilometer we find on the right and earthen road the goes over an old stone-built bridge and leads to the monastery of Panagia with its unique elaborate belfry.
The seaside village of Sougia offers many accommodation choices and the opportunity to visit many archaeological sites, like ancient Syia and ancient Lissos. It also offers a unique combination of sea and mountain, which is possible only in Crete.