Preveli gorge with river and palm tree forest, South Chania, Crete, Greece
© borchee/Getty Image
A gorge-ous place to drop in. Prevali Gorge, Greece
Local legend has it that this striking location in southern Crete was a stopover on legendary Greek hero Odysseus’s long return to his home island of Ithaca. There’s certainly no denying the appeal of the palm-lined Preveli Gorge or the enchanting beach where it pours out. Preveli Beach, just out of the frame of this image, was a favourite spot for hippy travellers in the ‘60s and ‘70s and remains an idyllic tourist destination today.
Like most of the ancient, well-trodden Mediterranean islands, Crete - the largest Greek island - has a history which spans epochs. Here on its southern coast, Preveli Gorge is home to an influential monastery with two building complexes: the Lower (Kato) Monastery of Saint John the Baptist and the Rear (Pisso) Monastery of Saint John the Theologian. The holy sites date back at least to the 16th century, and possibly had origins as far back as the 10th century.
During the long occupation of Crete by the Ottoman Empire, Preveli Monastery was a centre of rebellion and patriotism, with monks often serving as leaders and warriors in the many revolts against the occupiers. After more than 250 years, Crete finally won its freedom and joined Greece in 1913. The monastery would again find itself pulled into war when it provided shelter and supplies to Allied soldiers fighting German occupiers during World War II.