How Crete’s Asterousia Mountains Made Me See the Sunset As If For The First Time

There are beautiful sunsets, and then there are the sunsets that burn themselves indelibly in one's memory.

It was early July and we were deep in the Asterousia Mountains in the southern half of the Irakleio region, terra incognita even to the locals.

We’d spent all day bouncing around on dirt roads under the relentless sun, kicking up dust that seemed to be getting everywhere – into our hair, eyes, noses, mouths, even our thoughts. Our heads were spinning with the constant turns and the endless rocks, ravines and cliffs that surrounded us.

The harshness of the landscape was tempered only by the odd clump of thyme sprouting here and there. A few goats were the only clue that people might be around; there was no trace of a village and it was rare to even spot another car. Perhaps everyone was down below, enjoying the beaches at the foot of this daunting mountain range, or sheltering in one of the houses clustered down on the coast.

We took another turn and the peak of Kofinas suddenly reared up ahead of us, together with Kapetaniana, the only village on this part of the mountain range, a steep and strange stretch of the island overlooking the Sea of Crete.

The road continued on for a bit and then stopped at the base of the peak; it took us no more than 20 minutes to reach the top, partly walking and partly climbing. We made the hike even though the sun, already low in the west, was about to set, and we were rewarded with an unforgettable sunset as seen from an elevation of 1230m and from a viewing spot right beside the Chapel of Timios Stavros.

The Cretan Sea stretched out below us on one side and a sea of clouds billowed over the Mesara Plain on the other. In the distance, Psiloreitis, Crete’s tallest mountain, seemed to be swimming in cloudy white-capped waves. Darkness began to steal up on us, and, not having a flashlight, we had to make our way back down to the car quickly.

That’s another story, but just like our trip up the mountain, it’s one we’ll not soon forget.

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