Located in the valley of Messara, Gortys or Gortyn (GR: Γόρτυς or Γόρτυνα) is a must visit for all visitors to Crete. It was inhabited during Bronze Age times, but its rise to glory came almost a millennium after the downfall of the 'Minoans'. Gortyn was a prosperous city from around the middle of the 5th century BC through to the early 9th century AD, when it was finally destroyed by the Saracens (824AD), never to be rebuilt.
This is one of Crete's most famous monasteries. It played an important role during the years of the Cretan Renaissance, both in the letters and the arts, and, during the last centuries of Venetian rule, it was known for its many scholars, artists and venerable monks.
The monastery of Odigitria is a monastery of great importance and historical value and one of the oldest in Crete. It is located at the west edge of the Asterousia mountains at an altitude of 250 m. The monastery was surrounded by walls, part of them still stands. The temple of the monastery is dedicated to the assumption of Holly-Mother and to the Saint Apostles (Peter & Paul). Inside the temple there are valuable frescoes, icons of famous painters and iconostasis. The monastery is connected with the legendary freedom fighter 'Ksopateras' (1788 - 1828) In the area of the monastery at Agioi Eftihianoi was found an ancient (Early Minoan) cemetery.
Agiofaraggo (GR: Αγιοφάραγγο the gorge of Saints) is a small gorge at the southern shores of Heraklion close to the village and the beach of Kaloi Limenes and 6 kilometers south of the Monastery of Odigitria.
Close historical bonds link this monastery to that of Vrontisiou. The Varsamonerou Monastery lies in the surrounding fields of the village Voriza, 54.5 kms from Heraklion. The monastery is abandoned and, though its cells have been destroyed, its church has some of the most remarkable wall paintings in Crete.
Agioi Déka (GR: Αγιοι Δέκα) is a town with 820 inhabitants in the plain of Messara, 170m above sea level, 43 km from Heraklion town and very close to the archaeological site of Gortyna. Its people are occupied mostly in agriculture - vines and olive trees. In the area there is is the oldest olive grove in Crete. The town is built on the ruins of the ancient town of Gortyn where the Holy Ten Martyrs have been martyred.
The first habitation of the site dates from the Neolithic and Early Minoan period (3rd millenium B.C.). In the late Classical period (beginning of the 4th century B.C.) the Gortynians established the sanctuary of Asklepios at the harbour. During the tremendous earthquake of 46 B.C. the city was destroyed and subsequently rebuilt. In the Early Christian and Byzantine periods, a small settlement developed and the basilica was erected. The most important monuments of the site are: The Temple of Asklepios., the "Treasury"., the Fountain, a large, three-aisled basilica, an Early Minoan settlement (2600-2000 B.C.), the West Stoa, the North Stoa, the Nymphaion and two large, mud-brick cisterns.
Gallia is one of the oldest villages of the area. It is mentioned as a location in the Venetian records as early as 1577, and as a village with 120 residents since 1583. The renaissance tower in the village (still imposing although rundown) and the water fountains in the Kapeloniana area are proof of the passing of the Venetians. Part of the village, called Monohoro, is mentioned as early as 800 A.D.
It is located north of Mires close to a small gorge, with springs and covered with trees. There are many churches in the village the most important one being the church of Agios Nikolaos, a domed church dated to the 13th century. The walls of the temple are hand painted with biblical scenes and pictures of saints
Saint Titus church at Gortyn bears the name of the Apostle Titus, attendant of Apostle Paul, who was appointed as the first Christian bishop of Crete. It is one of the most important Byzantine monuments in Crete. The name was given to the ruined church by the excavators in the beginning of the 20th c., as they considered it to be the site of the saint’s martyrdom. After the discovery of the new Great Early Byzantine Basilica, just outside the village Mitropolis, its excavators have proposed that as the original bishopric basilica, as it is a century earlier than this, which in the local tradition is named and celebrated after Virgin Mary, “Kera”. The church has the plan of a three aisled inscribed cross with a low vault. It has been built of ashlar limestone. It has a narthex to the west and five entrances three of which form the trivelum with two columns. There were pillars instead of columns. Its architectural features date its foundation in the 2nd half of the 6th c. AD.