Documented walks around the Greek island of Rhodes

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Kiotari to Asklipio

The track twists through the scrub

A 5.5 mile walk up into the hills behind Kiotari to the village of Asklipio

A scenic walk meanders up into the hills behind Kiotari to the sleepy little village of Asklipio with its folklore museum, enchanting church full of medieval frescos and above it all, the castle. There is a broad track throughout and navigation is easy. Return is by the road but this has some equally spectacular views that would be missed in the fleeting glimpses from a car.

Kiotari to Asklipio Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
KiotariView in Google Map
End Point
AsklipioView in Google Map
Total Walk distance
5.5 miles
Walk difficulty
Broad track followed by paved roads

Transport:

Rhodes Public Transport - bus Service
Service Number
Rhodes Town to Kiotari via Pefkos - Rhodes Public bus service from Kiotari to Rhodes town.
Timetable

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2015-10-08
Walk Time
11:00 to 14:00
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Warm but overcast inland

Walk Notes

This walk starts at the Carrefour. Now I was under the impression that Carrefour was a district of Kiotari. Get off the bus at Carrefour was the instruction from someone who had previously undertaken this walk. There is a signpost for the scenic walk at Carrefour they related. Even the bus driver acknowledged 'Kiotari, Carrefour' when we requested the specific stop and dutifully alerted us when Carrefour was approaching. Carrefour sounds like a district. It sounds like a village or suburb to Kiotari. But its not. It is a supermarket. One could easily make a fool of oneself if not armed with this information, returning home to tell all and sundry about the highlights of a trip to look around the historic sights of Carrefour. That is like going to see the history of the local supermarket. It is just not done. I can categorically state that I have never ever seen a single studious visitor parading the aisles of the local Co-op peering at the shelves and imagining just what they would have been like in the 15th century when silver plated knights trudged up and down looking for their favourite jar of mead.

Enough of this foolhardy talk. One gets off the bus at Kiotari, by the Carrefour supermarket and then just a few yards back, opposite the Rodos Maris hotel, is a road that heads up the hill away from the coast. There is no sign pointing to a scenic walk at this point. The sign is somewhat further up, where the road bends around to the right and a track heads straight ahead. It is here that one finds the sign, hanging as if it was an entrance to a taverna and clearly stating 'Scenic Route' under which is bracketed (towards Asklipio Village). I was somewhat hoping that it would actually take us all the way to Asklipio village.

Even at the altitude where the track begins, which is only just above the buildings that line the main road below, one can view the coastline all the way back to Pefkos, with the mountainous backdrop and scrubby foreground covered with wild herbs and pines. Out at sea, on this occasion appearing as if it was floating in the sky, is an island. Google maps labels this as Παξιμάδα which translates as Paximada although if a Google search is employed to try to find out information about this island, it then places it as a small island off Sitia on the north-east coast of Crete! Maybe it is a wandering island. Maybe it really is in the sky and flight is the preferred method of navigation employed by small islands to wander around the Greek seaways.

The track swiftly gains height and more pine forest is encountered. The air is fresh. The scent of a thousand herbs hangs in the air, and even a person such as myself whose nostrils have had their sense of smell severely curtailed over the years, can gather the fragrance in abundance. The path bends around a solar farm. Beyond, electricity pylons cross the landscape but there is seemingly no connection to this hoard of silent black panels. The track continues to climb, then descends briefly only to ascend to newer heights. It is uncertain just how far one needs to traipse along this track as there is no indication of civilisation lurking in these hills at this point. Even the Rhodes maps are not particularly informative when one navigates away from the main roads. Just keep going, the route is obvious so it is difficult to get oneself lost. Eventually, after another ascent the track merges onto a paved road. To the left, there is a football ground. A full size football ground, laid out flat in this mountainous area, it must be the only flat area for miles around. A football ground complete with dugouts, clubhouse, and floodlights. The only thing it lacks is a pitch, unless one is prepared to extend such a definition to an area of sandy scrub interspersed with herbs and other hardy vegetation. It would certainly make the game of football more interesting to play on such a surface. Although I am sure the over-glorified professionals that grace the English national game would soon be falling over, feigning injury caused by antagonistic weeds, or declaring that a local shrub had called them names and a court-case should be made of the incident.

Above this out-of-place sports ground, atop a rocky hill, stands the ruins of a castle. Asklipio castle dating from the 14th century AD. And below, the road drops down into civilisation. Whitewashed buildings. A road side oven. The compulsory wandering cat. Pretty soon one reaches what looks like the centre of the village. It may be described as a village square apart from it isn't really square but is more of a triangular area. Even so it is a meeting of roads with tavernas and multiple alleys and the hub of the village. The first taverna, whose open frontage gives a view across the triangular square is the Traditional Nikolas Taverna where the host was standing on the veranda. He certainly was not reticent when he observed two lost souls wandering into his village. "Time for coffee" he declared in good English and invited us to step up and provide custom to his empty tables. Yes it was time for coffee. Well, a beer even. Even so it was worth a sneaky preview of what was beyond before we took up the offer. There was not much beyond. This was not a large village, and judging by the sports ground, its population could not even field a football team.

So, we took our seats and gazed across this isolated little Greek gem of a village. Watched life go by on this lazy lunchtime. A car drew up. The car departed. An elderly man with a walking stick slowly climbed up from an alleyway then, after taking a breath, disappeared into a house. A cat wandered by. The beauty about such a village as this is that one needs the intention of going there. It is not a village one passes through to get to somewhere else and as such it is so laid back and peaceful and out of the hubbub of the beach side villages. Some say it takes its name from the Greek God of medicine, Asclepius, who was the son of Apollo and his wife Koronis. The legend goes on to say that Koronis died in labour and Apollo cut the child free from her womb as she was laid on the funeral pyre.

The road in front of the taverna leads into a car park with the church on the right. The gates are locked. A museum adjacent appears to be the only way in. It costs one Euro each. Worth it after the journey up to the village, and we are treated to a feast of ancient wonders such as exquisite medieval books that lay open underneath glass panels, and religious icons and paintings that adorn the walls. A Euro is worth it to gaze at such artefacts, and the curator even allowed us to take photos.

Adjacent to the museum is the church and a door leads out onto the paved grounds where a separate bell tower stands behind the main building. The church is free to view, with a gate at the back to allow access. Inside is a little wonder with brightly coloured frescoes across the walls and ceilings. Photography is not allowed, probably to prevent any degradation of these well preserved ancient artefacts from a million flash cameras.

The original intention of the walk was to take the track down the dry river bed back to Kiotari but it is uncertain where this track departs from the village. A guide book provides instruction from the opposite direction. 'Head for the bell tower as the route is not clear', it clearly states. That is not very useful to anyone who is standing at the bell tower wanting to head in the opposite direction. The alternative is the main road back down to Kiotari. This may sound like an undesirable walking route, especially when one sets out along this modern wide twisting highway that negotiates the contours up the hills. However this road only goes to Asklipio. There is no through route. Just Asklipio. And apart from a local derby football match then there is little traffic, and judging by the state of football pitch the last local derby was many years ago. The road does provide some fine views along the coast to Genadi which would otherwise be missed in the fleeting glimpse of a car window and indeed would not be seen from the river valley.

There is a chapel on the route back down, a whitewashed chapel on a bend in the road with a sign 'ΑΓΙΟΣ ΝΕΚΤΑΡΙΟΥ' which translates as 'SAINT NEKTARIOU' St. Nectarios, was born in 1846 in Selymbria and became known as the Wonderworker of Aegina and Pentapolis. He died in 1920 and was officially recognized as a saint by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1961. We wandered up to the wall, intrigued as whether we could enter. A man, stooping down, appeared to be tidying or tending the flower beds around the perimeter. A cat sat and watched him. A notice on the gate declared 'Please close the door for the animals' which implied that the animals have the ability to open the doors but lack the agility or comprehension of closing doors. We waited for the cat to come and open the gate. It didn't. We left, disappointed that we could not close the gate for the cat.

What a delightful walk this turns out to be. Asklipio is a secret wonder of the island of Rhodes, probably overlooked by the hoards of tourists and sun-seekers but well worth searching out. But don't take the car, as there is so much one would miss. Take the scenic route and you will not be disappointed. There is the opportunity to make this into a circular route by taking the coast road back to Carrefour. Otherwise, wander back the couple of hundred yards to the main road from the coast roa where there is a bus stop at the junction.

Kiotari beach
Kiotari beach

Directions

The route uses a track up to Asklipio and then the road back down to Kiotari.

The start is opposite the Rodos Maris hotel on the northern side of Kiotari, just back from the Carrefore supermarket. A road leads up the hill and at the point where the road turns sharp right, there is a track that continues straight ahead. A sign at the junction indicates it to be the scenic route to Asklipio. Follow the track ignoring all paths that leads away from it. The track twists and bends and there are several ascents but none that are challenging. The track passes a solar farm on the right and throughout there are some fine views across the surrounding area.

Eventually the track rises to meet with a paved road. Turn left onto this, as if going straight one. A football ground can then be seen on the left of the road, keep straight ahead, keeping the ground to one left and follow the road around and down into the village, ignoring all other side roads. This leads into the village square where there are tavernas and a shop. Opposite the Nikolas Taverna is a road with an adjacent car park. The church and the folklore museum are on the far side of the car park.

To return back to Kiotari, take the road past the car park and keep to this, ignoring all other roads. This twists around out of the village and becomes a broad road that twists and winds back down the hills. Eventually it comes to a cross roads with the main road. There is a bus stop on either side. Continue straight ahead and down to the village. There are tavernas along the coast road at the bottom. From here one can either return to the bus stop, or head along the coast road to return to the start of the walk.

Asklipio bell towerAsklipio
On the left Asklipio bell tower; On the right Asklipio

Refreshments

Tabepna Nikolas, Asklipio View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Tabepna Nikolas, Asklipio

A friendly family run taverna that has received some glowing reports on trip advisor for Nik and Effies home cooked food, some going as far as to state that it is the best food in all of Rhodes.

Review

We only had drinks here on this occasion but the location is what it is all about. Facing the village square allows one to gaze across and watch the slow village life unfold. Very satisfying

La Strada, Kiotari View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
La Strada, Kiotari

Located in a quiet area along the coast road at Kiotari opposite the beach. There are tables both in the restaurant and across the road alongside the beach. Friendly and god service with recommendations from TripAdviser

Review

This taverna was picked at random band the food was very good indeed. A selection of starters with a carafe of wine and a beach view. A worthy end to a good days walk.

A football pitch, Asklipio style
A football pitch, Asklipio style

Features

Asklipio CastleView in Google Map

The village of Asklipio has a superb Byzantine church and a medieval castle to offer as sights to its visitors. Its is a rather small but lively village, with a fairly large population. The heart of the village is the square in front of the Church of the Dormition. You should take a look at the interior of the church, which was built in 1060 and has been recently restored, and admired the extraordinary fine Byzantine wall paintings. Just next door, in the church's old olive press, you will find a small folklore museum.

Legend states that the village of Asklipio takes its name from the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius, who was the son of Apollo and his wife Koronis. The legend goes on to say that Koronis died in labour and Apollo cut the child free from her womb as she was laid on the funeral pyre. The village is centred upon its Byzantine church which takes the splendid name of The Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos and was originally built in the form of a domed cross but has since had extensions added in the 19th century. It is thought that the church dates from 1060. It has a pebble floor and is full of well preserved frescoes that cover the walls and ceiling with scenes depicting the life of Christ as well as old testament stories including the story of genesis and the prophet Daniel in the lions den. These scenes are depicted in a cartoon style in order to relate the stories being told. It is thought the dry arid climate of this mountain village has helped maintain these ancient art forms over the centuries.

Adjacent to the church is the folklore museum which is housed in a former olive mill. The mill stones stand in the car park in front of the museum.

Asklipio Castle stands on the hill above the village with access via a road to this ruin. The medieval fortifications were built by the Knights of Saint John in the 13th century and its locations provides magnificent views of the coastline below.

Asklipio castle
Asklipio castle

Images

Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery

Maps

Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2015-10-24

Location: Asklipiio 851 09, Greece

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