at 0km (N) from Geráki village
Geraki (GR: Γεράκι). This lovely village of 375 inhabitants is located on the western slopes of the Lassithi mountains between the peaks of Afendi (1578 m) and Sarakinos (1588 m) in a beautiful glen, 520m above sea level and only 9km SE of Kastelli. It features an interesting Byzantine church, dedicated to the Archangel Michael (Archangelos Michail) with wall paintings that have not been maintained and some interesting (movable) icons by the local painter, Sepis. The active cultural centre of Geraki organizes many events during the summer season. Twice a year the village has a typical Cretan feast in honour of its patron saints: Agia Paraskevi on July 26th and Michail Archangelos on 8th November. The village produces agricultural products and great cheese that led to a specific cheese celebration. From Geraki you can also reach the lovely chapel of Agia Anna, driving through a particularly beautiful landscape with a spectacular view over the Geraki glen and fresh running water, a place ideal for a picnic.
at 1.4km (N) from Geráki village
Armacha (GR: Αρμάχα) lies at 490 m above sea level, at a distance of 7km from Kastelli, with 110 residents (census 2001) and is first referred to by Barozzi in 1577. Armacha is rich in the production of agricultural and livestock products. The Metropolitan Bishop, Tirnovos Voulgaria Ilarionas Kabanaris Sinitis was born, and is also buried here. A man of advanced learning, he wanted to translate the Bible to Demotic Greek.
at 2.5km (NE) from Geráki village
Mathia is 11 km to the SE of Kasteli, has 215 inhabitants and lies at 590 m above sea level, in the foothills of the Afendi mountain (1578 m), with the Dikti mountain in the background. The earliest reference to the village can be found in several contracts of 1271 where the notary of Chandax P. Scardon mentions commercial exchanges of grain and wine with residents of the village ‘Mithie’, possibly a misspelling for Mathia. The name derives from the common first name for girls, ‘Mattia’, which in Crete is pronounced ‘Mathia’. Burials in jars of the middle Minoan period were discovered in 1957 close to the village, in a place known as Stavroplaka. To the NW of the village, at Katalimata, a Late Minoan site with important finds and, 200 m further off, a settlement with large walls still in place were also found.There are wonderful Byzantine wall paintings in the two churches of this traditional village, the church of Koimisi tis Panagias (Dormition of Our Lady) and the church of Agios Giorgos. At Metochi, in beautiful surroundings where the historical holm-oak of Ismail Pasha stands among plane trees and running water, there are camping facilities. You can also visit an old factory and several ruined mills. The village boasts of several kapheneions where they serve raki and ‘mezedes’ (tit-bits). There is an active cultural centre, that organizes events especially in the summer, with evenings of Cretan music and theatre plays. The most important and traditional feast is held on the Sunday of Agioi Pantes, 50 days after Easter.
at 2.7km (NW) from Geráki village
Village of the area of Kastelli with 115 residents, Agia Paraskevi is situated 5 km northeast of Kastelli at an altitude of 400m. It is first mentioned in the Turkish census of 1671 as Agia Paraskevi tou Xourdou with 17 haratsia (head tax). It is very possible that Santa Venerata, a village mentioned in 1463 by Cardinal Bissarion, is the name by which Agia Paraskevi was known at that period.
at 4.1km (NW) from Geráki village
At an altitude of 380m, with 63 inhabitants, Liliano (GR: Λιλιανό) is first mentioned in the Turkish census of 1671. The Basilica with its three naves, dedicated to Saint John, was built in the 12th -13th centuries and is one of the oldest and the most interesting in Crete. The stones used in its construction came from earlier buildings. The three naves, with the middle nave higher than the other two, are supported by columns in Ionic style. The narthex in front is lower with wider arches, whereas the door and windows have pointed arches.
at 4.2km (NE) from Geráki village
Amariano, a charming small village of 321 inhabitants, (census 2001), lies in the western foothills of Afendi mountain, at an altitude of 530m. It is located at 7, 2 km east of Kastelli and can be found on the road axis; Kasteli -Xidas- Kastamonitsa-Amariano. With the traditional, century old plane tree in the middle of the village square, with the fountain, surrounded by kafeneions (traditional cafes) serving refreshments; raki (or tsikoudia, the traditional Cretan spirit) and mezedes (tit-bits), Amariano is a typical Cretan village, well worth a look. Until recently, the leather tannery was a main activity among the villagers. The main produce today are olive oil, raisins and grapes, although there is also livestock. Close by is the church of Agios Giorgos Kefaliotis with good quality wall paintings. The cultural centre of Amariano organises a great feast on August 15th, the Dormition of Theotokos and on September 20th, day of the patron saint, Aghios Eustathios. This can be a great occasion for any visitor to live an authentic cultural experience, to meet the people and taste the traditional Cretan cuisine. The first mention of the village -Amariano and Mariano- is to be found in inscriptions dating back to 1394-1399. Fr. Barozzi also mentions it in the region of Pediada in 1577. The name is significant: Amari is an area close to the town of Rethymnon, therefore the first inhabitants were originally from the Amari region. During the second Byzantine period, this region was known as Apano Syvritos and the name Amari is first mention in Venetian times. This would imply that the village was first founded during the Venetian conquest of the island. The first spelling, Amarianos, is the correct one and the family names Amarianos, Amargianitakis and Amariotis first appear in the 16th century, in the 1583 cencus.
at 5km (NE) from Geráki village
Kastamonitsa (GR: Κασταμονίτσα) is 7 km away from Kasteli, has 356 inhabitants and lies at 520 m above sea level, in the foothills of the Afendi mountain (1578 m), with the Dikti mountain in the background. The village is not mentioned in the Venetian registers of the 16th and 17th centuries, nor in the Turkish census of 1671. It is possible that the name is related to that of Kastamoni in Asia Minor: refugees, driven out of their land by the Turks, may well have come and settled here, giving their new home the same name as their old one. But it is impossible to establish a precise date. The Church of the Koimisi tis Theotokou (Dormition of Our Lady), located in the cemetery of the village, has wall paintings of the 14th century and points to a settlement here during the Venetian period. However, as we said before, the village is not mentioned in any Venetian census. The first reference is to be found in an Egyptian census conducted in 1834, where the village of Kastamonitsa is said to have 35 Christian families. And again in 1881, the village is said to have 320 Christian residents; no Turkish families are mentioned. The location of the village on the way to the natural fortress of the Lassithi plateau which protects all of Eastern Crete, turned the area into a battlefield during the last century. The Egyptian Pasha Hassan tried to invade the Lassithi plateau in 1822. The rebels cut him off between Krassi and Kastamonitsa, fighting him so well that he was forced to change his strategy and invade the plateau through its south side (Viannos and Ierapetra). Other fierce battles took place in and around Kastamonitsa during the 1866-67 rebellions. Finally Omer Pasha, known as the Attila of Lassithi, found a way up through the glen at Geraki where an betrayer showed him the way. A clay cast has been found in Mesarmi. It is elliptical in shape and has a width of about 0.25 m, and has a plaited decoration. A round glass vessel was also found at Xidiano Seli. 4 km out of the village you get to a lovely spot known as Mesada, where traditional celebrations take place on Easter Tuesday.The village boasts of several kapheneions and a taverna in the main square. There is an active cultural centre, that organizes events especially in the summer. The most important and traditional feast is held on July 7th in honour of Aghia Kyriaki.
at 5.4km (NW) from Geráki village
Evangelismos (GR: Ευαγγελισμός) at 360 m above sea level, with 365 inhabitants, lies to the SW of Kasteli, distant only 5 km from the county town and about 35 km from Heraklion. In earlier years, the village was called Mouktari or Mouchtari and its name figures in a 1381 contract for the buying and selling of grain. The Byzantine church of the Panagia is worth a visit. On August 6th the village celebrates the feast of the Metamorphosis. Evangelismos is the seat of the newly (2010) created municipality, according to the National "Kallikratis Project", by uniting the former municipalities of Kastelli, Thrapsano and Akalochori. The name of the new municipality is "Minoa Pediada"
at 5.7km (N) from Geráki village
Built at 510 m with 319 people Ksidás (GR: Ξυδάς) also known as Lyttos, is located at 3 km from Kastelli in the foothills of the site of the ancient town Lyttos. The first mention of the village goes back to 1368AD, with the name Ksidas. A burial site was discovered when the road was being constructed, at Chomatolakkos, belonging to late Roman period. Two gold rings have also been found here, the one with stone, showing the portrait of an emperor holding a spear, and the other with a hoop, showing two interlocking hands. A bronze ring with a Greek inscription, along with golden plates and bronze coins, were also found at this site.
at 5.8km (N) from Geráki village
Diavaide (GR: Διαβαϊδέ) has 120 inhabitants and lies very near to Kasteli (700m to the SE) at 355m above sea level. The earliest reference to the name is found in the Ducal Archives at Chandax in 1378. Another document in the same archives mentions a certain G. Dochiano, inhabitant of Diavaide. In an inscription, found in the Byzantine church of Agios Georgios Sfakiotis, the name of the village is clearly mentioned, indicating that Diavaide existed well before the Turkish occupation. In that church there is a unique fresco of Byzantine art that represents Saint George and Saint Demeter passing through the sea on their horses, while at their feet lie various sea creatures; crabs, lobsters, and other fish, a strange phenomenon indeed, considering that the village is so far away from the sea. There is also the church of Agios Nikolaos in the village dated to the same period. The village took part in all the main fights by Crete against the enemies of its freedom, while during German occupation the high college of Kastelli continued to operate in Diavaide houses. The cultural association of the village, one of the first in this area, strives to maintain the cultural traditions and the continuity of village history through the years.