Amari, Rethymno, Greece
40 minutes drive
A few kilometres south of Patsos lies the Amari valley, which is irrigated by the Plati river. Framed by two mountains, Kedros in the west and Psiloritis in the east, the valley is full of olive and cherry and apricot trees and surrounded by some forty attractive hamlets perched on the mountain slopes, possibly the most beautiful ones in Crete.
This protected area has been continuously inhabited ever since the Minoan times. Important Minoan settlements have come to light, while every village has at least one Byzantine church of the 14th or 15th century and sometimes even earlier, always with amazing wall paintings. The valley is crossed by three roads: one (A3) going through the hamlets on the east slope, one (A3) going through the hamlets in the west, and one (also A3, but larger and faster) that goes through the heart of the valley. Of course, it is worth taking all three and exploring every corner of the valley, but if you are pressed for time we recommend the first one, which starts from the village of Agia Fotini.
There are two ways to get from Patsos to the east side of the valley. If you’d rather ride on a dirtroad (D3), turn right (south) at the west end of Patsos. This way you’ll get on the dirtroad that climbs on the side of the Katsonissi peak and finally meets the Spili - Gerakari road (A3). At the intersection turn left and head for Gerakari - unless of course you’d rather turn right, go to Spili and switch to Route 12 or 13 - and from Gerakari head north on the road (A3) that takes you to Aghia Fotini.
If, however, you prefer to ride on asphalt, go northeast of Patsos, pass the villages of Pantanassa and Voleones, get on the Rethimno - Amari road, and turn right (south) in order to get to Aghia Fotini. The last part of the trip is particularly beautiful as you’ll be following the west side of a ravine that’s full of trees.
One kilometre northeast of Aghia Fotini is a picturesque village called Thronos (The Throne). True to its name, the village seems to be sitting on the mountain slope as if on a throne, and it offers a unique view of the Psiloritis peaks and the Amari valley. The truth is, however, that the name of the village comes from the “Episcopal Throne of Sivritos.” What survives from the magnificent metropolis of that time (7th century AD) is a part of a floor mosaic, which can be seen outside the Byzantine church of the Holy Mary that was built here in the 14th century.