Agia Paraskevi Villas
Hidden away on the south coast between Agia Galini and Moni Preveli and a good 2 hours drive from Chania Airport, the tiny hamlet of Agia Paraskevi, stands high on the hillside looking out over the Lybian Sea. Virtually abandoned for 25 years, the village has over the past decade been slowly restored and brought back to life and now provides the setting for a unique holiday experience and the ultimate place to unwind!
Ag Pag, as we affectionately call it, has two churches and a score of houses, dotted haphazardly over a wide area of the hillside demarcated by rocky bluffs and olive groves sloping downwards towards the sea. All the houses are built in traditional style from local stone and wood, with terracotta tiled roofs, but all are different shapes and sizes and have their own particular character, based on the lie of the land and the vision of their individual owners.
Apart from the very occasional passing car, Ag Pag is amazingly peaceful and by day you can clearly hear the tinkling of goat bells on the hillside a kilometre away. By night its even quieter and the sound of silence is almost tangible, save for the occasional soft hoot of a Skops Owl, or the distant murmur of the sea breaking on Ligres beach, 2km away down the hill.
With no large villages let alone towns nearby, the sky at night is a further revelation with a vast and dazzling canopy of stars, seemingly close enough to touch.
Finally, it is important to appreciate that Ag. Pag is not a new, purpose built holiday village, but a wonderful old village, that has been restored to life by the enthusiasm and dedication of some of its younger sons and now acts like a magnet to all whose lives it has previously touched. A recent champion of Ag Pags renaissance is Kyriakos, who appeared out of the blue a couple of years ago. returned from the island of Ios together with his wife and young son and built a taverna with a few rooms and a swimming pool just below the village (10 mins walk from the square). Kyriakos who speaks good English, is quietly spoken but with a hugely infectious laugh, he’s a real man of the people and loves company so all our customers will be made very welcome.
Local Information: The sandy Ligres beach, well served by two tavernas, is just five minutes drive away, whilst a ten minute drive will bring you to an excellent fish taverna on the little harbour in Agia Fotini. Twenty minutes further west of Agia Fotini the unsurfaced road follows the coast to Swallows Canyon where a palm fringed fresh water lagoon backs the sandy beach below the spectacular hilltop monastery of Moni Preveli.
Ten minutes drive to the east, are the superb beaches of Trio Petra and beyond, Agios Pavlos. All the beaches on this stretch of the south coast are sandy and relatively quiet even in high season, with a good half dozen strategically placed tavernas. For bakers, mini markets, banks and a little more civilisation, the hill town of Spili, with its handsome Venetian fountains, is a good 40 minutes drive, so it’s worth stocking up whilst you’re there (we found the delicious bread from the traditional wood fired oven baker froze very well ). Several tavernas offer enticing coffee or lunch stops to make the trip worthwhile.
N.B. Car hire is essential and although metalled roads now link most of the small villages and beaches, hiring a 4-wheel drive vehicle gives you the exhilarating option to explore the myriad tiny roads and tracks.
Walking – In spring and autumn the area is excellent for walkers and there are footpaths to Ligres and Trio Petra beaches and also to Agia Fotini and even distant Moni Prevelli.
A Tale of Two Villages
Agia Paraskevi or (St. Friday) is named after the villages 13th century church which until 1979 was cared for by two Greek Orthodox nuns who had lived permanently in the village since the last World War and built a second small church where the square is now located.
For hundreds of years the land around the village had been farmed by the villagers of Ardaktos, which stands inland at the head of a precipitous gorge leading down to Agia Paraskevi. From October until June the villagers would stay in Agia Paraskevi, gathering olives and growing wheat before returning to the cooler climes of Ardaktos, during the hottest summer months.
Up until the early 60s Agia Paraskevi could boast a population of 30 to 40 inhabitants but Greek rural life was undergoing dramatic changes and by the end of the 60s the village was deserted, save for the two nuns. In the course of time, the village boys of the 60s became men, took up professions, married and had families. Many of them moved to other towns and cities in Crete, but from time to time, especially when they got together at weddings, baptisms, funerals and so on, they would remember their simple and carefree childhood in Agia Paraskevi.
In the early 90s eight of these men formed a loose co-operative and obtained a grant from the Greek Government to restore some of the original dwellings on condition they were rebuilt in traditional style. Later others joined the project and today Agia Paraskevi is a village St Friday would be proud of.