Mili Gorge Crete: A lovely short hike near Rethymno

A short, scenic hike down a valley full of historic ruined mills near Rethymno, Crete

Mili Gorge Image of Mili Gorge Rethymno Crete
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This is my guide to Mili Gorge Crete, 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?

Image of sign at entrance to Mili Gorge in Crete
This way to the Mili Gorge

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

Image of Agios Antonios Church Mili Gorge Crete Greece
Agios Antonios Church, near the start of the walk

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.

Image of the interior of Agia PAraskevichurch Mili Gorge Crete
The simple interior of Agia Paraskevi Church

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.

Image of Agia Paraskevi chuirch Mili Gorge Rethymno Crete
Agia Paraskevi

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

Image of a wooden bridge on the Mili Gorge hike Crete
One of the intact bridges on the Mili Gorge walk

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.

Image of flower pots in a ruined mill in the Mili Gorge Crete
Flowers in one of the ruined mills

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.

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 beaches in this wonderfully picturesque seaside village

Getting To The Mili Gorge

Image of Mili Gorge Crete
Looking back up 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

Image of Canteen Banana sign Mili Gorge Rethymno Greece
The Canteen Banana marks the end of the walk
Image of table at Cantina Banana in the Mili Gorge Greece
Cantina Banana has tables right above the river – which was dry when we visited

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 that 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.

Mili Gorge Crete – Final Words

I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to the Mili Gorge, and that you find it helpful.

Check out my article on things to do in Rethymno, the city closest to this Crete countryside walk. If you’re planning to explore the area, then also take a look at my guide to 20 Rethymno beaches around the province of the same name.

Take a look at my individual guides to Spilies Beach Crete, Geropotamos Beach and my Panormos Crete Destination Guide. This quiet former fishing village away from the busy hotels and resorts makes a good alternative base to Rethymno.

If you’re heading further along the coast towards Heraklion, then check out my Bali Crete Beaches guide. This covers all five beaches in this wonderfully picturesque seaside village.

I also recommend exploring further west in Crete. Take a look at my guides to the best things to do in Chania and Chania Old Town to help plan your trip to the most beautiful city in Crete.

And beyond there, you’ll find three of the best beaches in Crete. Check out my individual guides to Balos Beach Crete, the pink sand Elafonissi Beach and Falassarna Beach.

Check out more of my Crete articles by following the links below:

Image of David Angel found of Delve into Europe Travel Blog / Website

David Angel

David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 25 years.  His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.

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