Three of Crete’s most authentic pleasures — rugged scenic beauty, inspiring heroic history, and finally a rustic meal of savory local meats, grilled on site, can be had in Therisos. This is the perfect place to gain a deeper understanding of Crete.
Day trip to the Therisos Gorge
This dramatic gorge ends in a village of the same name. The drive, along the bed of the gorge, hugs a narrow river. Cliff faces rise steeply on either side, and trees shade the road. No matter how hot the beaches are, the cool brook, deep shade, and taste of mountain air make this a refreshing destination.
The Therisos gorge feels remote, entirely unspoiled. It’s hard to believe that it begins just outside of Chania, in Perivoli (“Orchard”) — nearly a suburb. From here, the narrow road rises over the next 6 kilometers, to reach 580 m above sea level in the village, in the foothills of the Lefka Ori- “White Mountains.” It’s one of Crete’s loveliest drives- filled with drama, but without the treacherous cliff faces that make some routes feel more forbidding.
Reasons to visit Therisos
Even without the drive- which is fantastic, a destination in itself and reason enough to visit this lovely village- quiet Therisos is a place of importance in the history of Crete and the history of Greece as a whole. Cretans, first of all, are famous for their bravery. Therisos holds a special place in the hearts of all Cretans. The village’s strategic location, with its natural defences, made it a perfect place from which to participate in the uprisings against the Ottomans.
From here, in 1821, a small band of Greeks was able to hold the area against a large Ottoman army. It played a role in modern Greek history, too. After the revolution against the Ottomans, Crete was not a part of the Greek state- but Christian Cretans wanted to join greater Greece. Prince George of Greece, sent by the Great Powers, opposed the Cretan’s wish. It was Venizelos who took action, in 1905, from this very spot, gathering Cretan leaders and some 300 armed men.
Crete was united with Greece in 1913, and Venizelous- known and beloved for his bravery- served several times as Prime Minister- starting in 1910.How did he know the village that played such a pivotal role? His mother was from Therisos. You can learn more about this inspiring history at the National Resistance Museum and the Historical and Folklore Museum of Therisos, which is housed in Venizelos’ former headquarters.
Local delicacies: Grilled mountain meats and more
After diving into local history, explore the rugged hills to imagine it all first hand- and to work up an appetite. Therisos is a prime destination for people from Chania wanting to get some fresh mountain air and some rich, smoky, grilled mountain meats.
Goat, raised locally, running nearly wild in the mountains and gorges and grazing on the fragrant mountain herbs and greens, is the meat of choice. Grilled chops are a popular selection. And there is another specialty- seasoned meat grilled across from the coals rather than over them, until it is crisp, juicy and meltingly tender. The name causes confusion- “Antichristo”- but don’t worry- its name just means something like “across from the coals.”
Don’t forget the classic Cretan side dishes- fresh salads, local cheeses like “myzithra” and “graviera”, and the crisp, fried, honey drizzled pies called “kalitsounya” for dessert.
The drive back in the darkness is also gorgeous, winding through the narrow gorge, with the headlights flashing dramatically against the cliffs (try to go light on the raki at dinner). You’ll be back in Chania in no time.
Have you visited any gorges in Crete?