Walk centuries back in time to Mili Gorge and its atmospheric abandoned mills and churches near Rethymno, Crete.
There are many places in Crete where you feel you’ve left the 21st century behind, and this is true of the Mili Gorge, fascinating gorge in the hills above Rethymno, Crete’s third city. Indeed, you probably skip the 20th century as well.
The flour mills of Mili Gorge once supplied the whole of the Rethymno region. Along with the villages and hamlets around them, they were abandoned by the early 1970s, but the trail down the gorge gives you a wonderful insight into the island’s recent history.
Our Mili Gorge guide tells you everything you need to know about this fascinating place, including getting there and back and what to see along the way. It makes an easy half day trip from Rethymno, the hike taking no more than three to four hours.
Where Is The Mili Gorge Crete?
The Mili Gorge – sometimes written Myli Gorge – is around six miles (10 km) south of Rethymno, the third largest city in Crete. It’s close to the historic village of Chromonastiri, home to two Byzantine churches and an intriguing Military Museum.
The Mili Gorge – What To See
Mills worked the waters of the Mili Gorge as far back as the mid-17th century, when the island was still under Venetian rule. Up to 30 mills – which are in varying states of ruin – were built, and you see the foundations of many of these, and some surviving walls.
You can also see several churches and chapels along the Mili Gorge walk. From the starting point on the Chromonastiri road, it’s a short downhill walk to the first of these, Agios Antonios, which is built into the rock face.
It only takes 5 minutes or so to cross the gorge, and you reach the hamlet of Pano Mili (Upper Mili) where there is a small café with a terrace offering a view back across. It doesn’t take long to see why the gorge wasn’t up to the rigours of modern industry – while we were there, crates of Coca-Cola and food were being delivered from the road by a zip wire across the valley.
The Mili Gorge path winds its way back and forth across the gorge, and the most intriguing section of the walk is over the next 2-3 km (1-2 miles). It’s one of the most enjoyable things to do in Rethymno, taking you to three tiny, remote churches, with the adventure of crossing the trickling stream with the dense tree cover shading you from the harsh Cretan sun.
The most beautiful church in the Mili Gorge is Agia Paraskevi (pictured), a simple, tiny whitewashed chapel next to the east wall of the gorge. Soon after this you reach the scant remains of the hamlet of Kato Mili (Lower Mili).
It’s another kilometre or so from there to the end of the Mili Gorge walk (which we accomplished – see below) so you can either continue the way we did or retrace your steps uphill to the beginning of the walk, from where you can continue on the hop-on-hop-off bus to Chromonastiri or the Convent of Agia Irini. Either way, this is much quieter Rethymno sightseeing than a walk around the beautiful Old Town.
Visiting the Rethymno area? Check out our Rethymno Beaches Guide, or discover one of the most famous places on the island, Arkadi Monastery Crete.
Mili Gorge – Walk Difficulty
The Mili Gorge walk is a moderately difficult 4 km (2.5 mile) hike, criss-crossing the gorge several times. Much of the ground is uneven, so we suggest a good pair of walking boots with ankle support for this one.
It’s predominantly a downhill walk, with some short climbs up from the river onto higher ground before descending again. Some sections have rough steps, others short downhill stretches on rocky slopes.
The Mili Gorge trail crosses the river several times. Some of the wooden bridges were intact, others had been swept away in a recent storm. Whenever we did have to ford the river, the water was no more than a muddy trickle, so easily manageable.
Check locally with your hotel or host on conditions in the Mili Gorge – we were forewarned about the destroyed bridges, so they posed no problem. Parts of the path may well be impassable in the aftermath of a storm. And given the conditions and possibility of flooding, it’s strictly one for dry weather – which is hardly in short supply in Crete.
Discover More Beaches And Villages Near Rethymno:
Spilies Beach Crete – amazing snorkelling beach with great taverna
Geropotamos Beach – fine wide beach with superb coastal scenery
Panormos Crete Destination Guide – quiet former fishing village away from the busy hotels and resorts
Bali Crete Beaches – grab your sunshade and sunbed at one of five beachesi n this wonderfully picturesque seaside village
Getting To The Mili Gorge
One of the entrances to the Mili Gorge is on the Rethymno City Tour open top bus, which takes you through the countryside to the south of the city.
This is considerably easier than driving up there and parking, as there aren’t really any parking spaces. You could park in the road, but then you’re partially blocking it for other vehicles.
Other Places To Visit Near Rethymno:
Pink Beaches In Crete – Three Wonders of the Crete West Coast
Things To Do In Chania – The Most Beautiful City In Crete
Kalypso Beach Crete – The ‘Pirate’s Fjord’ With Possibly The Clearest Water You’ll Ever Swim In
Getting Back From The Mili Gorge
We were tipped off by a local friend that a café at the bottom of the gorge would call a taxi back to Rethymno for you, and his is what we did.
Cantina Banana is a small outdoor restaurant in the shade of the trees, just above the riverbed. After our hearty meal, they called us a cab, and within ten minutes we were back in the bright lights and booming beats of Rethymno seafront.
Alternatively, you can follow paths back to the main road into Rethymno or up to the village of Xiro Chorion, through which the taxi passes on the way back to the town.