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Hike to the Church of Saint John in Douliana

Round-trip distance is 5 kilometers

Hike to the Church of Saint John in Douliana
Entry Gate, Church of Saint John, Douliana. Luka Tica, Foundation for Gavalochori.
Entry Gate, Church of Saint John, Douliana. Luka Tica, Foundation for Gavalochori.
Entry Gate, Church of Saint John, Douliana. Luka Tica, Foundation for Gavalochori.
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If you spend any time at all in the Gavalochori area, you are likely to drive past the village of Douliana (Ντουλιανά) many times. But it can also be accessed on foot via a trail from Gavalochori. The trail is 2.5 kilometers (1½ miles) long each way and lets you out near the middle of the village of Douliana. The trail passes through a variety of interesting landscapes and past a church built into rocks that form a cave.

Much of the trail to Douliana has been marked by the Chania Trails Project, but at key points, some of the signage appears to be missing. So while the Chania Trails Project markings are useful along much of the trail, be aware that some key directional decision points along the trail are not marked.

Much of the route is easily traveled using walking shoes; however, there are some segments of the trail that contain loose rocks and very rough rock stairs. You might appreciate light-duty hiking shoes on these segments.

You’ll begin the hike in the main square in Gavalochori, and you want to follow the signs to the museum.

Go past the Folklore Museum and the large church (the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus) on your right. Continue on the road as it crosses a small bridge and then begins to rise.

When the main road veers left toward the old school, keep walking straight ahead on a smaller, less used road. Follow this road as it winds past houses and open fields.

Stay on the road as it travels down a steep hill toward a large stream bed. Before you get to the stream bed, you will see a small road on your right. It leads to Saint Anthony’s Church (the church isn’t visible from the main road). You might want to stop here and have a look—the trail into the church isn’t very long. This is a church you can enter because the key is usually left in the lock on the door.

A very old church dating back at least to the 17th century, the Church of Saint Anthony incorporates a small cave in its construction and was where Christians prayed secretly during Turkish rule. In the late 17th century, a group of nuns settled around the church, and nuns continued to be associated with the church over the next two centuries. One report states that between 1850 and 1865, three nuns lived at the church, keeping goats, hens, and turkeys and spinning wool, cotton, and linen. The church was renovated in 1865 with funding from two Gavalochori residents in memory of their fathers, both of whom were named Antonios.

Saint Anthony’s Church is named for a Christian monk born in 251 AD in Egypt. He spent much of his life living an ascetic life in the desert, often in solitude, although he did devote several years to the instruction and organization of a group of monks, thus helping to spread the concept of Christian monasticism. Saint Anthony is appealed to by people who are seeking cures from infectious diseases, particularly skin diseases.

After a visit to St Anthony’s church, return to the main road and go the short distance down to the stream bed. Here the stream bed is composed of large rocks and also functions as a road.

Turn right at this point and follow the stream bed/road until you reach a large gray abandoned building on your right. At that point, look for a road on your left. Take this road, which turns into a trail, and you will pass through areas of stream-bed rock and forest.

You will come to the Church of Saint John, which isn’t one of Gavalochori’s 12 churches but is located between Gavalochori and the village of Douliana. This church marks the beheading of the saint and is hundreds of years old, evidenced by the ancient olive trees nearby. On the feast day of this church, August 29, villagers in Gavalochori and Douliana refrain from eating all food. If they eat any foods, they supposedly will get goosebumps or feel a tremor. The goosebumps also may be attributed to the fact that Saint John is known for healing people from the shivers of malaria. Because the end of August often marks the change in climate from summer to fall, the goosebumps also could be due simply to the change in climate. This church is usually open, so feel free to go inside and see this unusual church built inside a cave.

After visiting the church, continue on up the hill on a path and steps made out of jumbled rocks.

There is only one junction that may tempt you on this part of the trail, and that is a path to the left that will take you to Vamos. The path is obviously smaller than the path to Douliana. A sign has been posted there to remove any doubt about which path to take.

At the end of the trail, you will come out in a small square used for parking in the village of Douliana. As you enter the square, turn left and walk a very short distance to the main square of the village. That square has a public seating area, and you can enjoy refreshments at the taverna there.

If you spend any time at all in the Gavalochori area, you are likely to drive past the village of Douliana (Ντουλιανά) many times. But it can also be accessed on foot via a trail from Gavalochori. The trail is 2.5 kilometers (1½ miles) long each way and lets you out near the middle of the village of Douliana. The trail passes through a variety of interesting landscapes and past a church built into rocks that form a cave.

Much of the trail to Douliana has been marked by the Chania Trails Project, but at key points, some of the signage appears to be missing. So while the Chania Trails Project markings are useful along much of the trail, be aware that some key directional decision points along the trail are not marked.

Much of the route is easily traveled using walking shoes; however, there are some segments of the trail that contain loose rocks and very rough rock stairs. You might appreciate light-duty hiking shoes on these segments.

You’ll begin the hike in the main square in Gavalochori, and you want to follow the signs to the museum.

Go past the Folklore Museum and the large church (the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus) on your right. Continue on the road as it crosses a small bridge and then begins to rise.

When the main road veers left toward the old school, keep walking straight ahead on a smaller, less used road. Follow this road as it winds past houses and open fields.

Stay on the road as it travels down a steep hill toward a large stream bed. Before you get to the stream bed, you will see a small road on your right. It leads to Saint Anthony’s Church (the church isn’t visible from the main road). You might want to stop here and have a look—the trail into the church isn’t very long. This is a church you can enter because the key is usually left in the lock on the door.

A very old church dating back at least to the 17th century, the Church of Saint Anthony incorporates a small cave in its construction and was where Christians prayed secretly during Turkish rule. In the late 17th century, a group of nuns settled around the church, and nuns continued to be associated with the church over the next two centuries. One report states that between 1850 and 1865, three nuns lived at the church, keeping goats, hens, and turkeys and spinning wool, cotton, and linen. The church was renovated in 1865 with funding from two Gavalochori residents in memory of their fathers, both of whom were named Antonios.

Saint Anthony’s Church is named for a Christian monk born in 251 AD in Egypt. He spent much of his life living an ascetic life in the desert, often in solitude, although he did devote several years to the instruction and organization of a group of monks, thus helping to spread the concept of Christian monasticism. Saint Anthony is appealed to by people who are seeking cures from infectious diseases, particularly skin diseases.

After a visit to St Anthony’s church, return to the main road and go the short distance down to the stream bed. Here the stream bed is composed of large rocks and also functions as a road.

Turn right at this point and follow the stream bed/road until you reach a large gray abandoned building on your right. At that point, look for a road on your left. Take this road, which turns into a trail, and you will pass through areas of stream-bed rock and forest.

You will come to the Church of Saint John, which isn’t one of Gavalochori’s 12 churches but is located between Gavalochori and the village of Douliana. This church marks the beheading of the saint and is hundreds of years old, evidenced by the ancient olive trees nearby. On the feast day of this church, August 29, villagers in Gavalochori and Douliana refrain from eating all food. If they eat any foods, they supposedly will get goosebumps or feel a tremor. The goosebumps also may be attributed to the fact that Saint John is known for healing people from the shivers of malaria. Because the end of August often marks the change in climate from summer to fall, the goosebumps also could be due simply to the change in climate. This church is usually open, so feel free to go inside and see this unusual church built inside a cave.

After visiting the church, continue on up the hill on a path and steps made out of jumbled rocks.

There is only one junction that may tempt you on this part of the trail, and that is a path to the left that will take you to Vamos. The path is obviously smaller than the path to Douliana. A sign has been posted there to remove any doubt about which path to take.

At the end of the trail, you will come out in a small square used for parking in the village of Douliana. As you enter the square, turn left and walk a very short distance to the main square of the village. That square has a public seating area, and you can enjoy refreshments at the taverna there.

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