Halfway from Paleochora to Kissamos is the Topolia tunnel which has only one lane and is therefore controlled by traffic lights. These are often out of order, so that traffic jams occur frequently on this busy route to Elafonisi, the supposedly most beautiful beach in Crete.
Looking at the extensive road construction work behind the tunnel there is certainly the question why the traffic lights have not been repaired first.
Directly behind the tunnel is the stalactite cave from Topolia.
In the cave of Agia Sofia near Topolia
With its rock church this large cave in the middle of a mountain high above the road is really worth a visit. An easily accessible natural stone staircase (there should be about 200 steps) leads up to the stalactite caves of Aghia Sofia. It starts with a mighty cave to enter through a gigantic fig tree. After the eye got used to the darker light conditions, the real size of the cave with its ceiling height of 20 m and a diameter of 70 m is an impressive view. An arrow indicates the direction for a small tour, along the little church of Aghia Sofia on the rock wall passing up to 5 m long stalactites (stalactite: grows down from the ceiling, stalagmite: grows up towards the ceiling).
The front of the cave is open, the view from here to the Topolia gorge is fantastic.
It’s still dripping from the ceiling – summer and winter -, whereby the calcareous water is working on the stalagmites and stalactites shaping this bizarre beauty as it does since thousands of years ago.
And if you are already in Topolia, you should also visit the wood workshop in Manolis (picture above). Unique in Crete. It is located at the southern entrance to the main street.
It’s best to go counterclockwise.
Non-slip shoes are an advantage. As well as a flashlight so that you can also see the rear part of the spacious, high cave.
Dive into a magical world! Place your hand on one of the cool, smooth stones and wait for the next drop to fall off the ceiling. This way, for a fraction of the time, you will be part of this great natural work of art.
The finds from the Neolithic period provide evidence of the use of the cave in ancient times, and of course, it is also connected with many legends. The best known is that of Saint George, whose horse is said to have left a hoof print here.
Every year at Christmas time, the birth of Christ is celebrated in the cave of Aghia Sofia.
Entry to the cave is free. The ascent to the church and stalactite cave takes about 10 minutes. If this is too difficult for you, you can wait for your loved ones at the start of the stairs in a little restaurant. From here you also have a beautiful view of the Topolia Gorge and the mighty mountains all around.
Traffic jams in front of the Topolia tunnel during summer time.