Omalos, Crete – an authentic rural village in south Chania in a magnificent natural environment.
Omalos, Crete, is a tiny village in the middle of the homonymous Omalos plateau, located about 40 kilometers south of Chania city. Omalos is one of the most especial places in the island of Crete.
Omalos is the ideal place to spend the night, if you want to get up early in the morning and descend through the famous Samaria Gorge apart from the tourist crowd. The entrance of Samaria Gorge, the biggest gorge in Europe, is only 5 kilometers away from Omalos village.
The village of Omalos has some rooms for rent and some traditional taverns, but it is a very small village, so you shouldn’t expect too many amenities for the traveller. However, this means that you get the rare chance to experience the genuine rural Crete.
Regarding ease of access, the last half of the road from Chania city to Omalos after Fourni, and especially after Lakki, is narrow and winding, with some sharp turns. As the road is also used by the local bus service, which takes visitors to Samaria Gorge, you should drive carefully. Also, in winter, you should be extra careful, as there is a possibility of stones on the mountainous road.
Omalos, Crete – a village in magnificent natural settings
The plateau of Omalos is situated in really unique settings. It is a circular piece of land between the high peaks of Lefka Ori, or White Mountains, ranging between 1.000 and 1.250 meters. It is 15 square kilometers in area.
Geographers believe that the plateau of Omalos was in the distant past a lake, which lost its water through the cave chasm of Tzanni.
In the fertile ground of Omalos plateau, the locals are growing vegetables and fruits, especially apples, cereals and potatoes, which are hard to grow in lower altitudes and warmer climate.
Regarding stock farming, Omalos is well known for its “mitata”, small traditional structures where the famous local cheese is produced, using old and natural methods. Equally known are the local “madares”, as well. These are structures in high altitudes, on the sides of Lefka Ori, where the shepherds bring their sheep during the warm spring and summer seasons, from their autumn and winter “base” in Omalos plateau.
Omalos, Crete – a place full of historic events
The plateau of Omalos, during the 19th century, was one of the main bases of the Cretan revolutionists against the Ottoman occupation. During this occupation, that lasted about two and a half centuries, Omalos plateau was most of the times a free place, as the Ottoman army avoided fighting the strong army corps of the local revolutionists.
Perhaps the most well-known revolutionist of West Crete, Hatzimihalis Yiannaris, was born in the plateau of Omalos, and more specifically in the nearby village of Lakki. Hatzimihalis Yiannaris had a central part in the uprisings of 1855 and 1856, and the revolution of 1866-1869. He had been captured several times by the Ottoman occupation army, but he always managed to escape. His most spectacular escape was from Firkas fortress in the Venetian Harbor of Chania city, something that was considered impossible at the time. He spent some time in exile in Odessa, then part of the Russian Empire.
In 1912, Hatzimihalis Yiannaris became a member of the parliament, and, finally, in 1915 he was present at the official ceremony of the reunion of Crete with Greece. The following year, after watching his dream of a free Crete coming true, he died. He was 85 years old.
Hatzimihalis Yiannaris was buried in his home fields in Omalos, according to his wish. Today, opposite the entrance of the chasm cave of Tzannis, stand the tower and the church that have been dedicated to him, as a monument of the everlasting revolutionist.
Omalos is a village and a plateau full of the authentic flavour of mountainous rural Crete. Although access and amenities are not as good as in the north part of Chania region, Omalos, Crete, has an eternal appeal for its unique atmosphere.