If you like to hike, then you put the Rouvas Gorge to onto your lists for things to do in South Crete. It is a beautiful path with stunning views and diversified attractions.
When you drive through the village of Zaros you will see the signs to the small lake of Zaros (Votomou lake). On the way to the lake there are a few taverns offering delicious trouts, but let's speak about food after the tour ;)
The lake is a good the starting point for the hike through the Rouvas gorge, one of the most beautiful natural sites in Crete. The path, which is lined with wild herbs that disperse an incredible aroma, starts behind the tavern and takes you along the mountain side to the monastery of Agios Nikolaos.
If you want to visit the monastery, turn left, otherwise follow pass the gravel /stone field and follow the path into the canyon. The way leads up and down, sometimes along a stream, which has water in winter and early spring. It is recommended to carry at least one liter of water with you in Summer & Autumn, when the river is tried out. There small signposts which are guiding you the way to the Rouvas Plateau, but you have to look a bit to stay on the right path (For the children in our group it was a lot of fun to find the right way).
Because of the rain in the winter season some part of the gorge change a lot each year, which is the reason, why you might not find marks that guide you - but no worries, you will find you way, just follow the river bed up the mountain.
The Rouvas forest is an ecosystem with rich flora and fauna, smaller canyons and interesting geological formations and cliffs of rare beauty. The Rouvas forest is home to many of the typical Cretan flora trees such as maple, cypress, pine, sycamore, pear, which together with the bushes, ground cover, but also the wildlife on about 30,000 hectares make this wonderful biotope.
On your way you will pass some small wooden bridges, climb stone stairs and continue into the lush green gorge to the heart of the forest, which opens to in a green meadow. This Rouvas Plateau is a fascinating place with huge trees, wooden benches, a church, a stream and a spring to replenish its water supplies. Here you can make a pick nick, rest for a while, visit the church of Agios Ioannis or just enjoy the spirit of the surrounding nature.
For here you will return back in a small loop and then the same way down, which offers amazing views.
For those who are not long enough or who prefer to ski downhill, you can still join the Psako Gorge (6 km long), which is actually the upper extension of the Rouvas Gorge.
The trail is well marked and starts near the Nida Plateau, so you either have to drop off at the top and get picked up in Zaros again, or you can extend the Rouvas hike by about 2-3 hours and walk all the way up and down.
Good - there are plenty of options to find food in Zaros and on the way back to the village. This area is famous for it's fresh trout, which you can see in the pools around the taverns.
We like it a bit more cozy and if you do too, you might want to visit the tavern Vegera in Zaros. It is one of the first six restaurants to be included, back in 2002, in the “Ψηλορείτη Γεύσεις” (Flavours of Psiloritis) network as restaurants that promote the famous Cretan diet.
Vivi, the chef and owner is a lovely person and know how to cook (and teaches that as well.
Kali orexi :)