My favourite road is open

Snow alley - driving upThroughout the spring I kept going on about how much snow we have had in the last winter in western Crete (for example in this photo posting) so I was almost surprised to hear that the road that leads into the White Mountains from Anopolis had been cleared of snow a few days ago. The last few snow drifts normally get cleared in late May or early June but I was expecting this to happen later this year.

Snow alley - driving downIt seems that an excavator and a bulldozer must have gone to some serious trouble to clear some of the snow drifts that were left. The two photos use my car for scale (top photo is crap but this was taken before the sun was up) and that car is not small.

So now the shepherds can have access to the pastures of the high mountains. Spring is just starting up there and it is important to bring the sheep up in time to feed on all the fresh green stuff that has all but dried up lower down. I guess that the shepherds of Anopolis must have been pressuring the municipality to clear the road.

Whilst this road was built purely for the needs of the shepherds it is also being used by tourists to gain access to the central White Mountains. It’s perfect for this as the 21km dirt road leads to a height of 1950m allowing easy day trips to Pachnes, the highest summit in the White Mountains as well as to other places.

Please bear a few things in mind if you decide to drive up there by your own means:

  • The distance from Anopolis to the end of the road is 21km. This is a dirt road and is NOT SUITABLE for normal cars. You might make it with a normal car but you might also rip your tyres to shreds. It is also useful to have the ground clearance of a 4×4 car in order not to damage the underside of the car.
  • I often see people with bog standard hire cars attempting to go up there, I have even read people boasting about it.  Well, it’s not something to be proud of. You have just ripped off a Cretan businessman who rented you a road car for use on normal roads. Why do you think that hiring an off-road vehicle is so much more expensive? Because they are designed to drive in much tougher conditions and their wear and tear is much higher.  Considering the very slim margins with which most car hire businesses are operating they will end up making a loss on that hire.
  • When you get to the end of the road (it’s a dead end, there is rock in front of you) avoid parking your car at the widest point: this is used for turning and is always kept free by the locals for this reason. Turn your car around and park a little further down close to the edge of the road (near the drop, not near the cliff where stones could roll down on your car).
  • Finally, if you are driving a car that you are not familiar with…make sure that you have a spare tyre (inflated preferably) and the means and knowledge to change it. It might come in handy.


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4 Responses to My favourite road is open

  1. Barbara says:

    I know this road. :-))
    Last year in september we walk to pachnes. And this was an unique experience!
    I will walk one more time to Pachnes. Maybe not in this year, but the next holidays in Crete will come.
    In May this year we drove about to 1500 meters (with a 4×4), but then was a lot snow.
    But, we have seen the white Mountains, and the marvellous nature, the plants, and the road……
    I love the Sfakia! <3 <3

  2. DavidA says:

    You almost made me feel guilty. Over the years I have driven as far as Mouri in a non-4 x 4 hired car quite a few times, in Spring and in the autumn. We have found that if the road has been scraped after the winter snows and rains, it can be quite a reasonable proposition if you drive slowly and with care. We were rewarded one wet October 11th when descending as we passed an open part in the forest from which 21 vultures slowly took to the air. And in May this year we only saw one the whole time we were there – but we did not try the road at this time since we knew it would be too early for an ordinary Peugeot 307..

    • Jean says:

      It’s not just about whether the road has been cleaned and graded though. The sharp rocks and stones that make up this road eat through tyres. Most of the tyres of the vehicles used to drive up there (local pickups and my car included) cost between Euro 150 and 200 per tyre so that they can withstand the beating and even they need to be replaced often.
      My point is that most Cretans who run car hire businesses are very small operations running on really narrow margins and using their cars for this sort of stuff is unfair. Next time see if you can hire a 4×4, it will be a far more pleasant experience for you too.
      Re. vultures: if there is something to eat in the area they will come in great numbers. If not, they’ll be elsewhere.

  3. Yuriy says:

    Thank you Jean for the latest news from the White Mountains. Snow is impressive.

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