The Valley of the Forgotten Mills
by Minoa.info / Juhani
The Myloi Valley is a peculiar site. A modest sign “Myloi” by the road from eastern Rethymno to Chromonastri with an almost unnoticeable parking place may fool a visitor to pass this remarkable place.
Mill Valley is a different kind of attraction. There are no museums or restored buildings – not to mention archaeological excavations, fenced findings and discoveries or tourist kitsch. What makes Myloi worth the visit is the feel of the ancient world, freely growing nature, deserted houses and the remnants of the earlier residency – all of this with just a 15 minutes drive from Rethymno.
The lush and all-covering plantation is characteristic for this place and clearly visible when you see the valley from up above. There are gigantic platan and hazel trees along the bottom of the gorge, as well as cypresses and mulberries which grow in multitudes. For anyone with an interest for studying the plants and vegetation the area has lots to go through.
From the roadside a stony trail leads down to the bottom of the valley. Along the trail stone walls begin to reveal the remnants of the ancient village, which at its flourish was a lively and vibrant place. A small chapel has been built into a rock crack. The embanked gardens are still clearly visible and the fruit trees seem like waiting for the earlier residency to continue again. The oranges and limes mature in the humid and scenting air.
The Mill which has best stood against the test of time is still accessible and inside it you can still perceive how grain was grinded into flour and how water and materials passed through the mill. There are still bars in the windows – perhaps the precious flour needed to be guarded from thieves.
The deserted houses of the village are exciting to explore. In the center of the village it requires even a bit of courage to enter the dark and quiet houses, and the trees that grow through them give silent testimony of the bygone ancient times and inhabitants.
There is plenty of water flowing from the rocky walls and cliffs of the valley, and during the ancient times the water was guided into the mills and the kitchens as well. No pumps were needed as the natural course of the water was suitable as it was and there was enough of water for building a mill for most of the houses. The mill was a sign of wealth and well-being, as well as the large bread ovens still visible in the ruins of the houses.
The interior wooden structures and roofs of the houses have partly collapsed, and in many houses there are no doors or windows left. In a couple of houses the stairs are strong enough for taking a look at the upstairs. The walls are covered with trees and climber plants which tear down the manmade structures. As you explore deeper into the village, you may notice how your imagination begins to awaken the earlier life of the village, making the ancient beauty and life of the village almost real and visible. In the maze of the houses and the dark and moist alleys the visitor gets unique experiences and a quiet look at the remnants of the ancient village almost seem to invite the past times to return.
Tavern in the midst of the foliage
As you approach the village a few hundred meters on the trail you get to the only inhabited buildings in the area, a beautifully restored house and a tavern ready to serve visitors. Both buildings are surrounded by old and deserted houses on the terraced village bank.
It is quite unexpected to find a tavern here. The village has been forgotten for almost 20 years and the tavern has given it new life. The Mill Valley tavern has an idyllic location, and the prices are reasonable making it a clean and beautifully constructed resting place and an oasis for anyone travelling thorough the gorge. The tavern is by the trail, and no road leads to it. The transportation of goods and groceries is solved with a cable running from the tavern to the roadside over the valley. An electronic engine moves two plastic carriages back and forth between the road and the tavern making it possible for the tavern to operate and offer its services. There are plenty of hungry trekkers at the tavern as hiking the trails and exploring the mills and the village is quite energy consuming. There is also a modest room for two to be rented at the tavern.
Rethymno is visible from the other end of the gorge. There is so much to see inside the verdant plantation that a couple of hours just isn’t enough for a good visit. The oldest mills of the valley are from the medieval times, perhaps even earlier. There are dozens of mills or mill remnants around the valley.
There is a lot to see in the Mill Valley
The whole Mill Valley can be explored by foot. The more you step of the main trail the more you will see and experience.
If you go further from the tavern you pass a few earlier inhabited caves and reach a small church with a tiny cemetery. There is a fresh water fountain springing from the rock by the church. There are numerous fountains all around the bottom of the Mill Valley.
The water springing from the ground is clear and clean. Good footwear is essential in the area. The Mill Valley is a different kind of an attraction, and many who have explored there will come back again. For now the valley is untouched and original, but an environmental plan is under planning and the valley awaits coming back to life again.
The drive from Rethymno to Myloi Gorge takes just some fifteen minutes. First you take the road to Amari and turn to the direction of Chromonastri. After going under the Heraklion-Chania main road you will reach a group of signs including the “Myli Gorge” sign (picture above). From here you go right.
After the hike through the gorge there are decent signs to the villages east of Rethymno, in case you don’t want to return to the starting point. The taxi from Rethmyno to Myloi Gorge starting point is about 10 Euros. The route from Rethymno via Roussospiti to Myloi is about 8 km on an asphalt road.
The hike through the gorge and into the eastern end of the Rethymno Boulevard by the beach takes about 3-4 hours from the roadside parking place. Water bottle and decent footwear are required.
Approximate timetable for the Myloi Gorge hike:
Starting time from the parking place 10:20
The second church in the gorge 12:00
Descent to the Chromonastri road 13:40
Walk to the eastern end of the boulevard (El. Venizelous) 14:00
Marja Tuominen-Gialitaki, “Kreeta – vieraanvaraisten jumalten saari”