The western side of the Amari valley is full of World War II war memorials dated one day apart between a series of adjacent villages as they were systematically burned in 1944. This destruction was accompanied by the usual executions of whatever men and boys who were caught. Seven villages were first looted (the booty taken to Rethymnon) and then burned, and finally dynamited --schools, churches and wells, included. It is believed by many that these atrocities were not so much in reprisal for the kidnapping of German General Kreipe but a form of revenge by the German army as it faced defeat at the end of the war, and perhaps insurance against further resistance at the point of retreat. One church to survive the horror (perhaps because it was hidden a field of grain) is just off the road between Vrisses and Kardhaki, with Byzantine painting decorating the altar. The door may well be open. The destroyed villages were all rebuilt after the war. They include: Gerakari, Kardhaki, Gourgouthoi, Vrysses, Smiles, Dryes, and Ano Meros. There's a ruined monastery near Kardhaki,-- Aghios Ioannis Theologos, Photi with remains of frescoes (see above).
Yerakari is famous for its cherry orchards and in Meronas, there are 14th century frescoes in the church of the Panaghia. From Gerakari you can take the road north back to Aghia Fotini near Thronos (having made a full circle if you entered the valley from there) or take the new road west to Spili., the latter with incredible views along the way. It begins as a dirt road at the end of Yerakari's main street (up hill), but soon turns into a modern highway.
Coastal Aghia Galini (left) This village, sitting at the western end of the Messara Gulf is a good example of what happens to lazy Greek fishing villages when package tourism hits, this one wasn't even inhabited by Greeks for very long before tourism first arrived during the 1980s. Villagers from Melambes and Saktouria moved down here less than a century ago, and the population grew to about five hundred. With a harbor hemmed in by mountains, there isn't any good beach, but that hasn't stopped the construction of hotels and apartment buildings Though an expensive place in general you can find some good tavernas with good prices, and there's a campsite on the east side near the river mouth, to which you can walk from the beach or reach via dirt road a little outside of the village. Sleeping on the beach becomes the only option for many, as it can fill up in July and August. The Paximadhia islands, with good beaches, lie offshore, and to the west of the village are the beaches of Aghios Yiorghios and Aghios Pavlos, accessible on foot (two hours to the first), or via boat . Aghios Pavlos, is in a nice bay Needless to say, these places have tavernas and some rooms. To the east of Aghia Galini there is a main road going first north a little ways and then southeast to the Messara plain in Heraklion province.