Documented walks around the Greek island of Rhodes

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A Circular Walk to the Monastery of Prophet Elias

View from the Chapel

A 2 mile circular walk from Pefkos village to the Monastery of Prophet Elias

Sitting high above Pefkos is a tiny monastery of Prophet Elias. This walk provides a simple circular route to reach this 12th century chapel. There is quite a climb for the final ascent but nothing that an average fit person can achieve and the views from here are well worth the effort exerted.

Pefkos to Chapel of St Elias Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Pefkos View in Google Map
End Point
Chapel of St Elias View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
11.3 km (7 miles)
Walk difficulty
Reasonable for any one of average fitness
Terrain
Steep steps, goat track and roads
Obstacles
The steps to the Chapel are steep in places but there are handrails.

Maps:

The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. The links include published hard copy as well as online plots and downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.

Online OpenStreetMap Route
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Online Google Route
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ViewRanger App Route
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GPX data for route (download)

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2016-10-13
Walk Time
10:45 to 12:00
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Hot

Walk Notes

Anyone who has visited Pefkos would most likely have seen the large cross that stands aloft the mountain behind the village. Although not as prominent during daylight hours, as darkness descends it is lit up and presides over the village like a guardian angel. The hill, for it is not really a mountain, that it stands upon is the location of the monastery of the prophet Elias, or Elijah in Latinised tongue. It is this tiny chapel that this walk is concerned with. It may look daunting to the uninitiated, but given time and effort, the climb is not as severe as it may look and is rewarded with the magnificent panorama of the coast from Lindos all the way to Plimiri.

This walk is a great way to introduce oneself to exploring the island of Rhodes or for those who are perturbed at the prospect of exploring the wilder side of the island where tracks and paths can be confusing. With this simple meander one is never far away from civilisation and the directions and navigation is simple, using roads and a little track to give a flavour of something a little wilder. For the more experienced Rhodes explorer, this is a pleasant way to pass a couple of hours and pay homage to the the Prophet Elias.

The route heads out of the village from the cat feeding station and after 10 minutes walk one comes to an old goat track up the hill. This leads through a grove of pine trees which is what Pefkos is famed for and indeed whose very name is derived from, the Greek for pine being πεύκο, which is latinised as Péfko . The trees offer welcome shade for this small and easy climb, and provides a hint at the wildness of Rhodes with the aromas of wild herbs and the rocky scrub and even the chance encounter of wild goats.

The track leads onto a road above and then follows this around, via a brief section of the main highway, to a small car parking area with an arch that leads onto the steps that ascend the rocky hill to the monastery. A simple sign hangs above the stone wall bordering the area which clearly states in both Greek and English, Prophet Elias Monastery 12th century. The Greek for this uses the word Εκκλησάκί for monastery, although this is probably misleading as according to wiktionary.org the word translates as a church, a congregation or an assembly, which is in accordance with several other translation dictionaries. Certainly, this small building is probably better described in English as a Chapel rather than a monastery. Therefore, do not continue under the assumption that there will be a grand building full of silent praying monks as you will be sorely disappointed. In truth, I am confused as to why some chapels are translated as Chapels whilst others are termed as Monasteries.

Before beginning the ascent it is worth taking in the view of the coast to Lindos. Then take ones breath and slowly start the climb. In recent years a hand rail has been added to the steps which makes the going a little easier and less daunting for those who are not keen on heights. The start is easy but soon the steps get steeper and one quickly gains height with the last part being the steepest although this does not last long before the Chapel appears above.

On reaching the summit, the view is amazing and one is immediately transfixed by the amazing panorama. One can see tiny Pefkos below and the coast stretching around to Lothiarika Beach with the hills of Xortis Wildlife Refuge beyond. Then in the distance is Kiotari and Gennadi, with the coast disappearing into the horizon somewhere around Plimiri. Stepping out towards the cross will reveal the flat peninsula that stretches out from Pefkos. For those a little braver, one can step behind the chapel and look out across to Lindos. Be wary though, for there is a sheer drop beyond. Finally it is time to enter the tiny Chapel and admire the artwork and sign the visitors book, and if one wishes, to sound the bell that hangs by the door. IT really is worth spending more than just a glancing few minutes up here. Soak oneself in the views, the sanctuary of the chapel and the beauty of it all.

Return is back down the steps, returning on the road from whence one came and then continuing on the main road back into Pefkos. But there should be no rush for there is the Chapel of St John to view on the right hand side of the main road before it starts the descent back into town. On the right is the Pefkos Blue hotel which provides a welcome refuge to take a drink whilst taking in the view and pondering over the achievements just completed.

Return down the steep hill that the road uses to descend back to Pefkos. But even here there is plenty to see. To the left in the scrub are the ruins of what were probably shepherds huts. The crumbling arches make a great frame for a photo over the bay. There is also a simple wooden cross marking Lillian, 1977-2007. Whoever Lillian is or was, they certainly have a magnificent resting place even if it is just a mark of remembrance.

The walk ends where it starts, but take note on the left where the chapel of St Nektarios sits. That is the final chapel for the day. I told you it wasn't to difficult. I bet you cant wait to do it again!

This is such an exhilarating little walk and one we undertake on every visit to Pefkos, to such an extent it has almost become a pilgrimage. It is encouraging that more people are making the effort and exploring this little chapel. I strongly recommend any visitor to drag themselves away from the sunbeds and beach towels and discover something a little wilder. There should be no excuses.

Crumbling arch of an old Shepherds hut
Crumbling arch of an old Shepherds hut

Directions

From the centre of Pefkos the route takes a track up the hill behind the village onto a road, then uses the public steps to the monastery

Start at the crossroads in Pefkos, at the bottom of the hill by the taxi rank. Facing towards the coast, take the road to the left following the low wall, which is characterised by the cat feeding station, and continuing past the Nostalgia restaurant. Keep to this road as it slowly rises out of the centre of the village and beyond the restaurants and tavernas. Keep going for a total of 800m along this road which is about 10 minutes walking.

Where the road gently curves to the right with Anixis Taverna on the left continue for approx 80m past this and on the left there is a rough path leading up through the scrub. This is just an opening into the scrub but fairly obvious. Take this track which leads through the shade of the pine trees and ascends to the road above.

Turn left onto the road and continue gaining height. After 700m, the road passes Pefkos Blue hotel on the left with the road diverging as two separate routes. Take the right fork out onto the main road to Lindos.

There is 100m of walking along this road. Take care as this is the main coast highway. As the road sharply bends to the left, there is a parking area on the right with signs for the Prophet Elias monastery and an archway which leads to stone steps ascending up the steep hill.

Ascend the steps to the top. This is quite a climb but there are handrails and a flat area with a simple bench partway up where one can catch ones breath and admire the scenery.

Return down the steps, and back along the main road towards Pefkos. On the right, at the junction from whence one came, is the Agios Ioannis, Chapel of St John the Baptist. Continue along the main road as it curves around and down to Pefkos. There is plenty of room on the left hand side of the road for pedestrians.

As the road descends to the crossroads in the centre of Pefkos, on the left is Agios Nektarios. The crossroads is where the walk started.

Monastery of St Ionnis
Monastery of St Ionnis

Tavernas

Pefkos Blue Hotel View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Pefkos Blue Hotel
Website

Although not specifically a taverna, this hotel has a bar with an amazing view and it is well worth visiting to take in the panorama of a quiet drink.

Review

The bar in this hotel makes a convenient stopping point when returning from the monastery. There is nothing better than a long cool beer overlooking the coast with such a view as is had from here.

Panorama of bay in front of Pefkos
Panorama of bay in front of Pefkos

Features

Monastery of Prophet EliasView in Google Map

Sitting above Pefkos, this Chapel is said to date from the 12th century and is dedicated to the Prophet Elias, commonly known as Elijah in latinised form. Such dedicated chapels are traditionally located at the highest points of hills and mountains in Greece. There appears to be several explanations for this although there is no common agreement on the definitive interpretation. Some state that Elias is associated with Helios, the personification of the Sun in Greek mythology or Zeus who was associated with rain, thunder, lighting, and wind, both of whom reside on high. Another idea is that Elias is simply the patron saint of high places. Maybe a better explanation is that, according to the Bible, Elias rode in his chariot of fire to heaven (2 Kings 2:11) and as such his Chapels all sit on the highest point possible.

Sitting alone, high up on the hill, this little chapel is certainly not unused for each year on Maundy Thursday a midnight procession brings the most sacred icons from the church at Lindos, up to the chapel. The Saints day for Elias is on 20th July when a festival of dance and music is held, albeit at the Chapel of St John that is located below the hill, oon the way down to Pefkos.

Monastery of St IoannisView in Google Map

Located on the road from Lindos, just before it descends down into Pefkos is the chapel dedicated to St John the Baptist, known as Agios Ioannis in Greek. The sign that accompanies this compact chapel declares it to date from 13th century although the MyPefkos website uses a date circa 1600s. The saints day is the 6th January.

Monastery of St NektariosView in Google Map

St Nektarios is probably a Saint little known to those from Britain. Born in 1846 at Silivria, which is modern day Turkey, he went from poor and humble background to become the Bishop in Cairo before returning to Greece in 1891 where he established Holy Trinity Monastery on the island of Aegina, where from 1908 he lived the rest of his life out as a monk, dying at the age of 72 in 1920.

The Chapel dedicated to this humble man is located in the centre of the village and is the location for the Pefkos Festival of Tastes and TRadtions which is held in September.

View from the top
View from the top

Gallery

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

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: 2017-12-02

Location: Pefki, Greece

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