Exploring Keri Forest, a Green Oasis Built in a Dry Land

The Place Where You Can Enjoy Nature in Many Ways

 Crete Island has many forests to explore, from the old and unspoiled ones nestled in wild mountainous areas to the forested lands in recent decades designed to prevent desertification and preserve the ecosystem. They have traditionally been popular with hikers but many of them, especially the green parks developed at the periphery of the cities, also suit recreational activities such as horse riding, biking, or even afternoon romantic walks.

  In one of our exploring trips around Heraklion, we discovered Keri Grove, a green oasis of peace and silence, hidden in a rocky landscape at 300 m altitude on the hill Keri, 14 km west of the city.

 From the old national road leading to Rethymno, a few hundred meters after Voulismeno Aloni geological site, a sand and gravel road starts, framed on the left side by rows of pines and cypresses, and on the right side by a nicely arranged area with white rocks looking like statues scattered through the small vegetation, and narrow paths for walks and cycling.

 It was the perfect time and place for a stop to breathe some fresh air and enjoy the beautiful view of the large valley.  We called jokingly this area "Zen Garden" for its raw beauty, minimalist design, and picturesque background that inspires calm and tranquility as a medieval Japanese print. With our imagination, we could easily confuse the dwarf conifer trees with bonsai trees…

 We’ve found out that Keri Grove is a reforested area, a project conducted by the former Municipality of Tylissos, to serve as a green lung for this arid landscape near the city. The young forest of Pine and Cyprus trees and the dwarf wild vegetation covers an area of 5 square kilometers which can be easily accessed by car on this dusty road, but there are also many trails to explore, on foot, or by bike.

 In fact, this is one of the favorite training routes of the children's cycling clubs in Heraklion, so we were not surprised to meet a group of athletes and the coach ready for a training session.  Halfway there is a parking with a shelter and a small pavilion with benches. Even if it doesn’t seem to be a neat construction, it is still a good place for rest and a snack or even for a family Sunday outing.

 We kept going forward, curious to know what secrets this interesting place is hiding.  And they were just coming... At the easternmost part of the forest, at the edge of a vertical cliff, the panorama of the city opened in front of our eyes. In an indistinct horizon, the infinite blue sky merges with the calmness of the sea… At our feet, the wetland of Amlyros spring and Amoudara Bay draws a picture of an exotic and abundant paradise seen from above.

 By contrast, lying on the coast, the city with its arteries, streets, conglomerates of white cubes, and shy patches of greenery is like a computer board powered by solar energy.  Turning around to the west, we admired the magnificent view of the mount of Stroumpoulas, the so-called “pyramid of Heraklion” and one of the emblems of the city.

 And that was not yet everything. Few steps ahead, the road was suddenly closed with a wire fence, yet open for adrenaline lovers, beyond which we found a spectacular abyss that took our breath away… This is the terminal part of the beautiful gorge of Almyros, one of the most popular hiking trails on the island. If you are strong enough, you can take a picture using the extension stick of your camera or you can play with the echo of your voice from the top of the rock. But it is not recommended to get closer if you are afraid of heights. Better enjoy our pictures.

 At some point, lost in the peace of the place, we thought that we were alone in this new afternoon adventure. Not really. We came across some local companions happy to wander among boulders and thistles, with whom we even managed to communicate… in their language, of course. And they agreed to pose for our story☺. 

 If you are an active person and love exploration trips, and if it happens you to be in Heraklion or Rethymnon area, get the bicycle in the car, or simply come to pay a visit to Keri Grove. 



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