We decided to drive to Agios Nikolaos, with a stop at the monastery on the way. Previously, you could only take what is now the "old road" which twisted and turned up the mountainside, but with the building of the Vrachasi tunnel, and several years' worth of rock blasting the new road now cuts a swathe through the Selinari Pass, with the monastery sitting on the right side as you head east towards Neapoli, bemeath the peaks of Anavlohos and Fonias o Detis.
There was a Byzantine monastery here as early as the 12th century but this was razed to the ground by the pirate Barbarossa in 1538. Tradition tells that following the conquest of Crete by the Turks, a monk named Nikolas was led to the spot at Selinari where he found an icon of St George, whereupon Nikolas founded the new church which stands to this day.
Cretans consider it unlucky to drive through the gorge without stopping to give thanks to St George ( Agios Georgios) for their safe passage, this would stem no doubt from the time prior to the new road having been built when that passage would have been rather more hazardous.
The Monastery itself is a fairly new addition on the site, dating from the 1960s, having replaced an earlier one that was destroyed by the Turks. It is therefore in wonderful condition but generally, very crowded with visitors.
This crowding has resulted in a permanent change to the road set up there; so many cars, coaches and motorbikes now stop there, that it became a serious hazard for other road users, and for the visitors themselves, dodging the speeding traffic. So, you can now only access the site if you are travelling eastwards as a one way system has been implemented which means if you are travelling west, you get diverted onto the old road for several kilometers which bypasses the monastery and rejoins the new road to the east of Milatos. So, if you are travelling from the east, you have to effectively drive a large loop to get to the monastery.
It was indeed very crowded on the day of our visit which does detract from the experience somewhat, but the monastery is well worth an hour or so if you can put up with the thronging masses.
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