Crete Off the Beaten Path: 35 Pictures to Ignite your Wanderlust!


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This is a visual guide to encourage you to visit one of Greece’s most beautiful islands. And it was born out of necessity: As I explore the island, I keep accumulating photos of stunning places that I don’t always include in every article or even of places I don’t write about. I have thousands of pictures that you don’t usually see… So, I’ve decided to choose some unusual pictures to show you a Crete off the beaten path. I hope they can inspire you to discover the hidden side of Crete!

Disclaimer: Posts include affiliate links to products or services. I might earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you.

Crete Off The Path

Crete off the beaten path

Let’s Start by Getting Ready for Crete!


Book your flight: I use Skyscanner to compare prices before booking a plane ticket.

Book your ferry: When ferries are more convenient than air travel, I use Ferryhopper.

Book your accommodation: I’ve tried many different platforms for accommodation, but none of them beats the advantages of

Book your car: The best way to find an affordable car to rent is to use a powerful search engine that compares all the rental companies in the market. I use Discover Cars.

Book your tours: Live unforgettable adventures and cultural experiences with Get Your Guide. For instance, you can Visit Elafonisi, discover Balos Beach, hike Samaria, or explore Knossos.

Don’t forget travel insurance: Things can go wrong at times, but travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. I recommend Safety Wing for peace of mind.

A quick guide to the best hotels in Crete
Budget: So Young Hostel 
in Heraklio, Cocoon City Hostel in Chania, Matthias Hotel Apartments in Rethymnon, and Villa Galini in Agios Nikolaos.
Mid-range: Capsis Astoria Heraklion in Heraklion, Porto Antico in Chania, Archipelagos Hotel in Rethymnon, or Hotel Port 7 in Agios Nikolaos.
Luxury:  Galaxy Iraklio Hotel in Heraklion, Hotel OFF in Chania, Avli Lounge in Rethymnon, or Minos Beach Art Hotel in Agios Nikolaos.
Check more: Where to stay in Crete.

Best Off-the-Beaten-Path areas to Discover in Crete

Check the following photos and venture to discover the lesser-known areas on the island!

Sunset in Akrotiri, Chania

Crete off the beaten path
One of the many sunsets I have the privilege to witness everyday on the island.

This is one of the many pictures I am able to take from my balcony. Yes, since I moved to the island, I’ve been blessed with some spectacular sunsets without having to move from my chair.

The good news is that you can enjoy these views too from some of the beaches in the Akrotiri peninsula, mostly the ones facing the bay of Chania.

>> Read about the best beaches on the Akrotiri Peninsula <<

Things to do in the area

  • Check the local beaches of Akrotiri or discover the best tours in the area.
  • Visit the Tombs of Venizelos and the Monastery of Agia Triada.
  • Enjoy a coffee and the views of the harbor from Carte Postale.

>> Find the best Airbnbs in Chania <<

Gorge of Aradena

Crete off the beaten path
The imposing bridge that crosses the gorge is 138 meters high. One of the scariest things I’ve done on Crete is to cross it by car

There are over 200 gorges all over the island of Crete, some are famous, such as Samaria. Others are tremendously dangerous, like the gorge of Ha close to Ierapetra, and some are simply unique.

This is the case of the gorge of Aradena, in the area of Sfakia (Chania region). From that bridge, you can practice bungee jumping… if you dare!

>> Read more about the gorges on the island or about the Southern beaches of Crete <<

Things to do in the area

  • Hike the gorge of Aradena, it’s not considered among the most difficult ones on Crete. If you want, you can also hike the gorge of Samaria on an organized tour.
  • Visit the beaches of Marmara and Glyka Nera, close to the exit of the gorge.
  • Taste a Sfakian Pita, the traditional dish of the region, in any local taverna.

Theodorou Island

Crete off the beaten path
Theodorou island and the peninsula of Rodopou in the distance.

The small islet of Agios Theodoros, or Thodorou, is located right in front of the area of Platanias, very close to the center of Chania.

Photo from Koum Kapi, Sunset chania

The island is uninhabited but it has a huge importance when it comes to maintaining Crete’s delicate habitat.

The protected Cretan wild goat (locally known as kri kri) lives on the island, one of the few places dedicated to the conservation of this species.

>> Read more: Beaches of West Crete: Platanias <<

Things to do near Thodorou

  • Check the beaches of Platanias and Agia Marina.
  • Book a glass-bottom tour of Thodorou in the old harbor.
  • Eat at The Five Restaurant in Nea Chora Beach.

Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete

Crete off the beaten path
One of Crete’s staple products, grapes.

This is another must when in Chania, a visit to the Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete.

The park is on the way to the Omalos Plateau, at the foothills of the White Mountains.

Crete off the beaten path

The park has a fantastic array of different gardens, some of them with local plants. The vine is one of them!

A visit to the Botanical Park can take from 2 to 3 hours, and it’s an enjoyable trip into a lush and refreshing environment.

Things to do in the park

  • Observe the diversity of indigenous flowers and trees that grow on the island.
  • Check out some of the weirdest plants in the world that this park features.
  • Head to their taverna and taste the delicious fresh dishes made of organic products from the park itself.


Crete off the beaten path
The strange formations of Komolithi, in Mithimna.

Take a wonderful detour from your way to Elafonisi and reach the spectacular formations of Komolithi, in the area known as Mithimnis, about 25 minutes from Chania.

It’s not hard to spot them from the road (on your left if heading to Elafonisi). Stop for a fun climb!

>> Read the complete guide to Elafonisi Beach <<

Things to do in the area

  • Climb the formations and experience the soft soil they’re made of.
  • If you love photography, you can create really bizarre compositions.
  • Move on to Elafonisi, the pink sand beach awaits…! You can do it on your own or you can book a tour that also takes care of your transport.

Balos Lagoon

Crete off the beaten path
Ok, this is not off the beaten path, but it’s still worth the feature!

There’s nothing I can say that has not already been told about this exotic shore, one of Crete’s most famous. In any case, it’s impossible to complete any visual guide of the island without including Balos.

If you visit off the main season, you’ll be enjoying more empty roads and a unique sense of quietness.

>> Read more: Complete guide to plan your Balos Trip, including a guide to drive there <<

Things to do in Balos

  • Go for a swim in the pristine waters or hike up to Cape Tigani.
  • Take funny pictures of the local goats.
  • Soak in the views!
  • If you don’t feel like driving to Balos, take the most popular day cruise in Crete!


Crete off the beaten path
The beautiful chapel of Agios Antonios, at the end of the path into the sea.

The beach of Georgioupolis is located on the eastern side of Chania, rather close to the next region we’ll see, Rethymnon.

One of the most beautiful views of this laid-back seaside village is the chapel of Saint Anthony, which you can only reach walking the rocky path into the sea.

At sunset, it’s usually deserted and even prettier.

>> Read more: Check the beaches of Georgioupolis here <<

Things you can do in the area

  • Visit the second beach of Georgioupoli and swim where the river mixes with the sea.
  • Eat at the family traditional Babis Taverna.
  • Walk to the chapel… of course!
  • Do something different! This safari tour in the surrounding area is super value for money!

Patsos Gorge

Crete off the beaten path
An old wooden bridge crosses one of the beds of Patsos gorge.

One of the nicest walks in the region of Rethymnon is the one you can take in the gorge of Agios Antonios, or Patsos, less than 10 kilometers from the historic Arkadi Monastery.

The trail is well-marked, and extremely green, like the whole valley of Amari, where the gorge is located.

>> You can also read this article about the beautiful Moni Arkadi, a few minutes from Patsos <<

Things to do in the area of Patsos Gorge

  • When walking along the Patsos trail, stop at the church of Agios Antonios and then walk until the waterfall to taste the most refreshing water you can find.
  • Enjoy the walk with the whole family as this gorge is quite easy and kid-friendly.
  • If you don’t feel like walking, admire the views from the panoramic point at the entrance of the gorge.

Road to Plakias Beach

Crete off the beaten path
Scenic drive on the road from Frangokastello to Plakias.

One of the prettiest beaches on the southern coast of Crete, in the region of Rethymnon, is Plakias.

To visit the area you can reach from the north, driving through the wonderful Kotsifou gorge after which you can see the coast of the Libyan sea.

Crete off the beaten path
Going through Kotsifou Gorge.

The first picture is taken from the road that arrives into Plakias from Frangokastello, on the Southwest of Crete. The second one, instead, is taken on the way from Rethymnon, from the gorge.

>> Read also about the best naturist beaches in Crete, Plakias is definitely included <<

Things to do in the area

  • Spend a day at the beach of Plakias, you can try subaquatic sports in the area.
  • Check the local food at Harakas.
  • Take off your swimming suit on any of the naturist beaches of this coast.


Crete off the beaten path
The springs in Argyroupolis.

If you’re driving from Chania to Rethymnon or vice-versa, it’s my suggestion to get off the road, climb a little up in the mountains, and reach the village of Argyroupoli.

The springs that come down from the wall of the mountains create a green and refreshing landscape all year round.

>> Read more about Argyroupoli in the section I dedicated to Crete’s most traditional villages inside the article Where to stay in Crete <<

Things to do in Argyroupolis

  • Enjoy a dish of local trout or Cretan lamb in any of the different tavernas.
  • Visit the remains of ancient Lappa.
  • Don’t forget to admire the mountain landscape other than the waterfalls and springs. It’s a remarkable scenario! This organized day tour takes you to discover the springs, the pottery village of Margarites, and the wonderful nature in the area.

Mount Psiloritis

Crete off the beaten path
The sun setting on the Psiloritis.

Since I’m mostly used to photos of the Psiloritis covered in snow, this picture is one of my favorites in the Rethymnon collection.

The photo was taken one afternoon in late September, from a taverna overlooking the Valley of Amari, just as the sun was setting on the slopes of Mount Psiloritis.

>> Read more about our adventures in Amari and the bread-baking experience <<

Things to do in the Amari Valley

  • My kids learned to make bread, fed farm animals, and we all enjoyed a spectacular Cretan lunch in a local taverna called Aravanes, I totally recommend a visit.
  • Go for a walk to discover the beautiful small village of Thronos and the magnificent Byzantine church of the Panagia.
  • Visit the nearby Patsos Gorge if you’re in the mood for a walk.


Crete off the beaten path
Old houses of the village, winter time.

Known as the pottery village of Crete, Margarites is a delicious, picturesque village located in the center of the region of Rethymnon.

It’s usually full of tourists during the season, so you’ll be better off exploring it in less busy months.

>> Read more about the area in the day-trips section of our guide to the best things to do in Rethymnon <<

Things to do in and close to Maragarites

  • Check out the beautiful ceramic workshops and enjoy a lunch with a view of the local gorge.
  • Drive to the nearby village of Asteri and visit the folk museum Poliou house.
  • Check out the fantastic ruins of Ancient Eleftherna and their modern, interactive museum.

Check out this wine pairing and brunch in Margarites!
A unique and romantic journey including a Cretan brunch a visit to Margarites pottery village, the nearby beautiful gorge, and a winery tour to explore their vineyard, the cellars, and other production facilities! Check the experience here.

Ligres Beach

Crete off the beaten path
Sunset on the south beach of Ligres.

The beautiful beach of Ligres is practically unknown and really worth a visit. If possible, at sunset.

Ligres is a wonderful wide bay, also very long so it’s fairly easy to avoid the crowds. If you can stay overnight, you’ll be able to marvel at the sunset on the pebbles.

>> Ligres is another nudist-friendly beach in Crete which you can check here <<

Things to do in the area

  • Climb the rock formations on one of the extremes of the beach to discover the small waterfalls that end on the sea.
  • Walk on the shore at sunset.
  • Don’t miss the hippie-style Ligres Beach Taverna, located on top of the beach, the food is simply delicious, and the atmosphere… pretty 70’s! They also have rooms to rent if you decide on an overnight stay.

Triopetra Beach

Crete off the beaten path
Rocks in Triopetra dropping right into the sea.

One of my favorite beaches on the southern coast of Rethymnon is Triopetra. It’s a super extensive shore with pristine waters and an imposing trio of rocks on one side of the coast.

The road to Triopetra from Rethymnon takes you on a winding journey among the beautiful valleys and mountains of Crete, don’t miss it.

>> You can also read about Triopetra and other beaches in the South <<

Things to do when visiting Triopetra

  • The food options on the beach are limited, so if it’s the peak of the high season and you don’t intend to wait in line for a meal, pack your lunch.
  • Explore the fantastic rocks, the caves, and the opposite side, the rocks are slippery when in contact with the sea, be careful!
  • On your way to or back from Triopetra, stop in the mountain village of Spili and visit the 25 identical Venetian fountains that have made this village a well-known destination in Rethymnon.

The Queen Megaro in Knossos, Heraklion

Crete off the beaten path
A different picture from the usual Knossos, Fresco of the dolphins.

You and me… yes, both of us know that Knossos can be described as anything but off-the-beaten-track. In fact, it’s probably the most visited place on the island, in any given season.

However, I wanted to share this picture that shows the lesser-known Queen Megaron, a room sometimes overlooked (since everyone focuses on the bull fresco). I find the Minoan fresco of the dolphins, particularly refined and full of details!

>> This is a complete guide to visiting Knossos that you cannot miss if you’re preparing your visit. If you want to do it with a group, compare here all the available tours <<

Things to do in this area

  • Well, if you’re in Knossos, visit the site at a relaxed pace, and don’t rush end explore areas that are less crowded.
  • Schedule a visit to the Archaeological Museum before or after seeing the site.
  • Stop in the nearby bar Pasiphae to enjoy freshly-made orange juice.

Krasi-Mochos Road

Crete off the beaten path
The sun had just gone down behind us on the road between the villages of Krasi and Mochos.

Maybe it’s my fault because I was really engaged in a conversation while driving on this road, but all I can tell you is that’s somewhere on the road that connects the village of Krasi with the mountain settlement of Mochos, in Heraklion.

But the real purpose of this photo is simply to show you the beauty of the Cretan roads, no matter what way you’re going.

>> Be prepared for the Cretan road experience with this guide about driving in Crete <<

Things to remember when driving in Crete

  • Crete is 80% mountains, which means steep cliffs, bendy roads, and awe-inspiring landscapes. Take it easy if you’re easily impressed.
  • Cretans are not the best drivers in the world and have a hard time respecting speed limits and overtaking rules. Be careful.
  • Relax and enjoy… and don’t forget to admire the landscape!

Psaromoura Beach

Crete off the beaten path
The natural arch on Psaromoura Beach.

The small beach of Psaromoura is located west of the main beach and village of Agia Pelagia, in the region of Heraklion.

It’s a pebbled beach not as crowded as others in the area, with this unique rocky formation a few meters from the shore. Kids love to swim under it, and if you’re brave enough, you can try jumping from the top!

Things to do in and near Psaromoura

  • The beach is known for the variety of water sports you can experience, from SUP surfing to canoes, and boat rides.
  • Get in your car and visit the tranquil bay of Ligaria.
  • Drive in the opposite direction to spend a day on the well-known Mononavtis Beach.

Kalamaki, Southern Coast of Heraklion

Kalamaki Beach
Sun setting at Kalamaki Beach.

A great memory of my first-ever trip to Crete was an afternoon visit to the beach of Kalamaki, after having grown a bit tired of the crowds in the close-by and popular Matala beach.

We spent a very relaxing afternoon just looking at our kids playing on the sand, having cold coffees, and witnessing an unforgettable sunset.

>> Read more in this complete guide to Matala Beach <<

Things to do in the area

  • There’s plenty to do in and near Matala. First of all, visit the caves.
  • Hike for about 25 minutes to reach another of Crete’s magnificent shores, Red Beach.
  • Take a car and discover the wonderful Minoan Palace of Phaistos, just a few kilometers from the area.

Inside the Koules, Heraklion

Crete off the beaten path
The exhibition inside the Fortress of Heraklion, Castello a Mare (or Koules).

I bet you’ve seen countless photos of the Venetian fortress of Heraklio, also known by the name of Koules, or Rocca a Mare, but if you’ve never been inside, you might have missed this impressive view.

Crete off the beaten path
Cannonballs inside one of the passages of the fortress.

These amphorae, probably containing wine and oil, were inside a Rhodian shipwreck discovered in the depths of the Mediterranean.

In another corner of the Koules, instead, there’s an impressive amount of cannonballs reaching the end of a narrow tunnel.

>>Read about the city of Heraklion: 3 things not to miss<<

Things to do in the area

  • Discover the stunning views of the city and the port from the roof of the fortress.
  • Well… here you are, so go ahead and explore the city of Heraklion!
  • Eat the best bougatsa in town at Kirkor, in Lions Square.

Vorias Village, Heraklion Region

Crete off the beaten path
The wine region of Vorias, and the Libyan sea in the distance.

Crete’s wines have had a leading role in some of my most popular articles, both on this blog and in other media. And one of the island’s main wine regions is located in the heart of Heraklion.

This particular photo was taken on the road to the village of Vorias, on my way to the local winery run by Nikos Gavalas, one of my favorite places on the island.

>>Wine tasting experience at Gavalas Crete Wines<<


Crete off the beaten path
Hidden beach under the castle of Paleokastro

One of the highlights of my trip to Heraklion was discovering that the beaches of Crete are simply stunning, no matter which region you explore.

Crete off the beaten path

Both pictures were taken a few miles away from Agia Pelagia, on a boat trip we took to explore the sea caves close to Paleokastro. Jumping from the boat into that sea was fantastic!

>>Agia Pelagia and Paleokastro in my Heraklion itinerary<<

Things to do in the area

  • Hire a boat and do the trip on your own. You’ll find that many companies in the area offer boat rentals without any need for special licenses.
  • Or you can also book a guided visit if you don’t feel comfortable venturing into the sea.
  • Look up! You’ll spot lots of goats as well as the ancient ruins of the castle of Paleokastro.

Lasithi Plateau

Crete off the beaten path
Few remaining windmills with sails in the Lasithi Plateau

I knew I was not going to find white sails on the Lasithi Plateau as there used to be in the past. Most of them have been replaced with more modern irrigation systems. And I had heard that most of the remaining ones were out of use.

However, it was awesome to see many of them still working. They produce a gorgeous contrast of colors in the green landscape of the plateau.

>>Check this one-day trip to the Lasithi Plateau<<

Things to do in the Lasithi Plateau

  • Visit as many villages as you can around the plateau, they are 18!
  • Make a point to stop in the village of Psychro to discover the wonderful Cave of Zeus (be ready for the hike!)
  • Drive a bit further to spot the magnificent giant stone mills of Lasithi. You can drive to the plateau or join a tour too!

Ancient Itanos, Lasithi

Crete off the beaten path
Moon on top of the archaeological site of Ancient Itanos, by the beach.

The lunar landscape of the eastern area of Crete is genuinely fascinating. The moon on top of the ancient ruins of Itanos, right in front of the beach, is among my favorite visual memories of the trip.

Crete off the beaten path
The red skies at sunset on top of Itanos.

To reach this area you just need to drive from Vai Beach to Itanos Beach, the entrance to the archaeological site is right next to the parking lot, and the ride is no more than 15 minutes.

Things to do in the area

  • Swim on the beach of Itanos.
  • Surprise at the fact that there are palm trees also in Itanos and not just in Vai!
  • Explore the Mycenaean ruins and the fabulous landscape.

Coastal Road Agios Nikolaos-Sitia

Crete off the beaten path
Coast at the end of the Gulf of Mirabello.

I took this picture when I set on a road trip to explore (and photograph) the beaches along the coast of Mirabello Bay, in the Lasithi region.

The funny thing is that we stopped to take photos of the goats on the opposite side of the road until we saw this!

Things to do in the area

  • Check the nearby beach of Tholos
  • Dive until you reach the village of Kavousi to visit one of Crete’s oldest monumental olive trees.
  • Look both sides of the road not to miss a thing!

Road Toplou-Vai

Crete off the beaten path
Lonely chapel in the middle of nowhere, from Toplou Monastery to Vai Beach.

One of the most beautiful drives on Crete goes from the Toplou Monastery directly to the famous palm tree beach of Vai, in Lasithi.

The road is particularly beautiful during sunset when the fields and the skies turn into a warm shade of yellow, giving the area a majestic look and feel.

Things to do in the area

  • Enjoy the mountain drive.
  • Visit the beaches of Itanos, Vai, and Kouremenos.
  • Go for a wine-tasting afternoon at the monastery. You can learn more about Toplou in the official site of Sitia.

Kritsa Village, Lasithi

Crete off the beaten path
Empty square of Kritsa in autumn.

Kritsa is a traditional mountain village in the region of Lasithi that has become a target for tourism in the last few years. For this reason, it has lost a bit of its authentic atmosphere.

However, it’s a pleasant place for a day trip if you’re staying on the coast, or even for a stay if you enjoy life in the mountains. I loved it in November when the main square looked like this!

>>Read about Panagia Kera in my Agios Nikolaos guide <<

Things to do in the area

  • Explore the old alleys of the village.
  • Buy local crafts made by the women of Kritsa.
  • To get away from the summer crowds, jump in your car and visit the nearby village of Kroustas for a magnificent Cretan meal, explore the Katharo Plateau, and discover the Byzantine frescos on the walls of the beautiful Panagia Kera.

Richtis Gorge, Lasithi

Crete off the beaten path
Lachanas bridge, at the entrance of the gorge.

One of the most beautiful day trips you can take when spending a holiday in East Crete is the one that from Agios Nikolaos follows the coastal road until the city of Sitia.

Crete off the beaten path
Wild berries, Richtis.

Not many kilometers before arriving, it’s my suggestion to make a detour to visit the small but beautiful gorge of Richtis, the nature is truly enchanting!

Things to do in the gorge

  • Taste the wild berries that grow close to the river.
  • Walk until you reach the waterfall of Richtis.
  • Not far, you’ll be able to enjoy the solitary beach.
  • This Richtis Gorge tour takes you to explore the stunning nature in the ravine and many other hidden gems in the area.

Exo Potamoi

Crete off the beaten path
Kafenio to Mavro Dimitri freely translated as Black Jim!

This is one of the funniest things I’ve spotted lately while driving around. This traditional taverna is in Exo Potamoi, a small village before the Lasithi Plateau that has a wonderful name in Greek “Black Dimitris”, for which the free version in English has been adapted to the more fashionable “Black Jim”.

Other than that, check their local food and dish of the day!

Things to do in the area

  • Explore the wonderful microscopic villages that stand on the road before reaching the Lasithi Plateau (Exo Potamoi is on the way from Agios Nikolaos).
  • Taste the fresh apples that grow on the side of the road, yummy!
  • Stop for a Greek coffee in any of the local kafenia.
Crete off the beaten path

Pin this Guide to Check the Best Off the Beaten Paths in Crete For Your Next Adventure!

Crete off the beaten path

About the author of this blog:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

Gabi has been living in Crete for the last five years. On the island, she juggles being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours in summer, translating, and freelance writing.
She’s written for Greek Reporter, published several travel guides about Greece, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person would be able to handle.

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Get in touch and let me know!

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16 thoughts on “Crete Off the Beaten Path: 35 Pictures to Ignite your Wanderlust!

  1. James Bell says:

    Lived on the island for about 3 years. My husband was stationed in the Air Force. Lived in the capital of Heraklion. Beautiful island only surpassed by the beautiful people. Lived off base in the town. Rented from the Greeks. Our neighbors were a young couple just like my husband and myself. He was in the Greek Army. Their son was born the day before our daughter. Our children grew up together. Haven’t been back since 1974. If I had to live in another place in the world it would be on the island.

  2. John says:

    Spectacular collection of photos. Wonderful! I found myself thinking, God, I want to go there! Almost forgot I live here! )))

  3. Kelly says:

    I have just added Crete to my bucketlist. All those mountains an beaches….my two absolute favorite things. I’m with you. I would not drive a car on that bridge to cross the gorge!

  4. Nina | Lemons and Luggage says:

    I haven’t been to Crete yet, but I’ve heard so many good things about Balos. And the fact that you included it here even though it’s not so off-the-beaten-path confirms that it must be an absolutely stunning spot! Maybe 2020 will be the year for me to visit this huge island!

    • Gabi says:

      Hi Nina, thanks for this comment. Indeed, Balos cannot miss from any list of things to do in Crete! No matter if it’s a list of things off-the-beaten-path or not, it’s just as you said it, Balos is really stunning. I’m truly glad you’re considering to come over. You will love the island!

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