Gavdos Island - a piece of Heaven

There comes a time in life when you need to put in order your thoughts and if you are looking for somewhere to escape, get away from all the crowds, if you like walking, excellent un-crowded beaches and a simple life then Gavdos is the perfect place. Here you can really get away from it all.

Gavdos (Gvdhos) is the southernmost Greek island (it is also the most southerly point of Europe), located to the south of its much bigger and known neighbour, Crete, of which it is administratively a part, in the Chania prefecture. It forms a community with surrounding islets and is part of the former province of Selino.

Gavdos is situated 20 miles south of Crete. It is opposite Sfakia to the southernmost border of Greece and Europe. It is 22 nautical miles away from Loutro, right in the middle of the Libyan Sea. The little neighbour Gavdoloupa or how many people say "little gavdos" is located near north west of Gavdos.

In 2001 the total population of Gavdos was measured as 98 people, but these days the truth is that Gavdos boasts a permanent population of only about 40, down from a high of about 8000 during Byzantine times. In the summer the total people on the island can reach 4000 and most of them are campers. The harbour for ferries is Karave (also spelled Carave or Karabe). The island's capital is Kastri. The village of Kastri is 35km southeast of Rethymnon and south of Panormon. It is an old village that took its name from a Venetian castle that used to be up in the mountains. To reach Kastri you will go through some villages which still maintain traditional village characteristics. The area of Kastri contains several Byzantine churches.

Gavdos has supported a permanent population since Neolithic times. However, the island currently has very few permanent residents. Gavdos has been identified as the site of the mythical Ogygia where Kalypso held Odysseus prisoner. Archaelogical evidence showd that the Roman Empire was active on the island. During this time the flora of the island was overexploited, and started a process of erosion which continues to this very day.

The Apostle Paul passed to the lee of Gavdos on his final voyage to Rome. After leaving Crete, a storm swept up blowing his ship off course such that he passed near to the island. The account is recorded in Acts 27:16 " As we drifted to the sheltered side of a small island called Caudia, we barely managed to secure the ship's lifeboat". The modern name of the island is Gavdo or Ghavdo, although it was strangely corrupted by the Italian sailors into Gozzo.

Later, at the time of the Byzantine Empire, the island had some eight thousand inhabitants (900 - 1000AD) and supported 3 bishops and an archbishop. During the Ottoman Empire's reighn on the island, which lasted from 1665 up until 1895, Gavdos was known as Gondzo. During this period the population decreased considerably to only 500 inhabitants by 1882. Areference to Saracens on the island survives - a beach is named Sarakiniko (a name meaning "of the Saracens" in Greek).

In the 1930s the island was used as a place of exile fror communists; more than 250 people were exiled including leading figures of the Greek movement, such as Markos Vafiadis. During World War 2, allied forces evacuated some forces to Gavdos following the German victory in the battle of Crete.

Later on, the general phase of urbanisation that started in other parts of Greece in the 1960s, took place in the 1950s on Gavdos. During that period the islanders exchanged their land on Gavdos with ex-Turkish land on Crete, which had now become exchangeable via the state. Upon settling in Crete they created a community known as Gavdiotika, which is part of the town of Paleochora.

Gavdos has several beaches, a few are presented here:

Potamos - is a beautiful beach in the northwest part of the island. It is a sandy beach with yellow and nicely coloured red sand. Unfortunately for most visitors it can only be reached by sea because it is surrounded by hills and there is no footpath leading to the beach. Most people who take the walk to Potamos beach end up just seeing the beach from above and cannot find a safe way down, although some people do succeed!

Agios Ioannis - is situated in the north and was voted as the second most beautiful beach in the world by the Travel Channel in 2007. Agios Ioannis (St. John's) beach is situated next to the tiny village with a population of 10 and is home to several impressively large caves. There are no hotels or pensions or any place of luxury, only the sea, the sand and a beautiful view of the island of Crete. At the bus stop (end of the road) you will find the only taverna: Kapetan Theofilos.

Pyrgos - is situated in the north and can be reached by small boat or foot after a long adventurous walk. It is a quiet beach and isolated with no facilities. Visitors must bring their own food and water.

Sarakinikos - is a 20 minute walk over a dirt track and is the most "cultivated" beach on the island, with a couple of tavernas and some accommodation. The large sandy beach is situated in the north east, 2 km from the harbour.

Tripiti - is situated in the south of the island and is famous for its beautiful rock formations. The rocks form archades. The name of this southern point is Tripiti (tripa "hole") and there are 3 holes / caves / arches under the rock that runs into the sea. From Korfos, you can walk to Tripiti - about 3 km (roughly 1 hour). The path is signposted so you cannot lose you way. This is the most southern point in Europe and there is a very large chair that you have to climb on in order to sit on it.

Korfos - As you walk inland from the harbour Karave and arrive at the crossroads (and a couple of houses), the beach is signposted left. (turning right is to Sarakinikos beach). It is a lovely walk along the coast to Korfos Bay and there are some rooms and family rooms for rent at Georgos and Maria's Taverna.

Gavdos has been described as a mythical, virgin and mermaid's island, with therapeutic properties. It treats wounded hearts and souls, reveals new potential and awakes unknown senses. It is a return to nature and your roots. It soothes nerves and lets you escape from every-day life. After a while it becomes an addition. Vist soon . Before this island is also lost to modern tourism.

In the end, the pictures speak for themselves .

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