at 0km (N) from Smári village
The village of Smári (GR: Σμάρι) is a traditional Cretan village, only 10 km away from Kasteli and has 375 inhabitants. In it you will find beautiful old stone houses that have been restored, picturesque little alleys, ruins of older buildings and pottery workshops where you can purchase copies of Byzantine and Minoan ceramics. There are also some interesting churches with wonderful frescoes like the one dedicated to Sotir Christos, the Koimisi tis Panagias and Agios Giorgos. The earliest reference to the village of Smari dates back to 1375. There is a lively Cretan feast on July 20th in honour of Profitis Ilias, with much rejoicing, singing and dancing.
at 2km (E) from Smári village
Smari has a very long history and was inhabited, according to reliable sources, from the proto-Minoan period onwards. The archeological relics in the Akropolis of the hill called Profitis Elias, excavated under the direction of the Archeologist D. Hatzi Vallianou, indicate a continuous human presence from the Middle-Minoan period to about 630 B.C.
at 2.6km (E) from Smári village
To the east of Smari, at 400 m above sea level, with 99 inhabitants, Lagou (GR: Λαγού) is first mentioned in the Turkish census of 1671 with 4 haratsia (head tax). The journey to the village is charming getting you through areas of impressive wild landscape, and the typical old stone houses of Lagou, through the combined efforts of the members of the cultural centre, are being restored to their original traditional form so as to get the well deserved honour of being considered a protected traditional settlement.
at 3.2km (S) from Smári village
Apostoloi (GR: Αποστόλοι) is a village in the area of Kasteli, 360 m above sea level. It has about 490 inhabitants, and is located on the 32 km of the road leading to Kasteli in the NW part of Apostolianos Kampos, among vineyards and olive groves. Until recently tannery was a main activity among the villagers. The earliest reference to the name is to be found in a contract drawn in 1279, where Sancti Apostoli et Sophoro were lands belonging to the Venetian lord Leonardus Gradonicus, who gave them and leased them to Petro Quinino. There is another mention of the name in a document dated to 1378. It is also quoted by Fr. Barozzi in 1577 as forming part of the Pediada district. The name of the village finds its origins in the name of an old church dedicated to the Saint Apostles. The present church was built on the same site in the 19th century, in 1876. The church of Agios Giorgos is Byzantine and has wall paintings. According to village tradition, on the night of Easter in 1841, the Turks caught the Cretan leader of the revolution for the Eastern part of the island, Giorgos Vassilakis, or Vassilakogiorgi and hanged him from a fig tree.The village kapheneions serve particularly good raki and on June 29th there is a great feast in the honour of the Saint Apostles, Peter and Paul.
at 4km (N) from Smári village
Vorou (or Voritsi) lies at a height of 230 m. above sea-level and counted 62 inhabitants in 1981 and 48 in 2001. It is 25 kms away from Heraklion. To get there, you follow the National Road to Aghios Nikolaos and at kms 17.7 turn right, taking the road Gouves-Skotino- Vorou. Nowadays it is known as Voritsi but this name is not official. The name Vorou, on the other hand, in the district of Pediados is mentioned by Barozzi in 1577. At the beginning of this century there lived a wise man and a healer in the village of Voritsi. His name was Giorgos Konstantoulakis and people flocked from all over to Crete to seek his advice.
at 4.2km (N) from Smári village
Kyra Eleoússa (GR: Κυρά Ελεούσα) Monastery is located close to the village Voroú or Voritsi. Due to its historical value the monastery and the outside area which covers 1000m has acquired protected status. Kyra Eleoussa is built according to feudal architectural style, and despite some interventions over the years it maintains many original architectural features. It is first referred in a document dating from 1606. At first it belonged to the monastery of Agia Ekaterini of Sinai but later it became part of Agarathos monastery.
at 4.4km (SE) from Smári village
Bizariano (GR: Μπιτζαριανό) is a traditional small village of about 24 inhabitants in the area of Kasteli Pediada, 320 m above sea level and about 3 km to the north of Kasteli on the road to Hersonissos. A pretty village with stone houses, graphic lanes and courtyards covered in flowers. It is first mentioned in 1881, as Bizariano, Municipality of Kasteli, with 55 Christian inhabitants. In 1951, it changes its name to Pigi. Its first name is that of a family, Bizariano. Close to the village, in a beautiful spot full of lush vegetation, evergreen plane trees and gushing water, stands the ancient church of Agios Pandeleimonas, with its three naves. Two rows of arches supported by columns without capitals separate the naves. Another column is made exclusively of capitals, apparently brought in from other churches or temples. Practically all the middle outside wall is decorated with inscriptions, Byzantine reliefs and crosses.
The artistic highlight of the church of Saint Panteleimon are its fresco scenes painted on the walls which are among the oldest in Crete, although very few frescoes remain. In the lower section of the arch, there is the representation of the three Hierarchs, shown on full length, with vertical inscriptions on it. On the two side walls there are the representations of Saints in a colossal size. These scenes were designed to be a source of biblical education to the faithful, who would have been illiterate at that time.
at 4.4km (NE) from Smári village
At a height of 320 m above sea-level, Kalo Chorio (GR: Καλό Χωριό) λιεσ 25.7 kms. from Heraklion, to the right at the cross-roads at km 16.7 on the National Road to Agios Nikolaos and on the road to Gouves- Koxare- Kalo Chorio. The present name does not figure in old Venetian documents, though there is a reference in the 1367 Duke’s archives of Chandax to a Kalo Horio, without however naming the district. The villagers maintain that the village was called Stravorina in the old days, and indeed there is a reference by Barozzi in 1577 to a village Stravorina in the district of Pediados. In the 1583 Register, the village Stravorina is mentioned as having 76 inhabitants and in the Turkish census of 1671 Istavrine is quoted as having 21 "charatsa" (A Turkish word referring to a tax paid by the head of each family; hence 21 families). However, Chourmouzis Vizantios in 1842 mentions Kalo Chorio, the present name was therefore given in the decade 1830-1840. The village counted 298 inhabitants in 1981 which is also the current population. The Maza hill-top, south-east of the village, is 457 metres high. According to archaeologists (among them the famous N. Platon) and on the basis of recent finds, the name Maza comes from pre-Hellenic years and means Mother Earth. The pile of stones on the hill was, according to N.Platon, a town from the 10th to the 8th c. BC. The highest part was undoubtedly used as a shrine in Middle-Minoan years, and clay figurines and offerings were found there. The shrine lay quite close to the town. The shrine stopped being used in Proto-Geometric years. Northeast of the village, by the country road that leads from Kasteli to Hersonissos, traces of ancient installations have also been found along with remnants of water tanks by a source that is still in use today. These water tanks, probably belonged to Hersonissos aqueduct, parts of which are still visible today in Aposelemi valley. There is as well an interesting gorge close to Kalo Chorio, in the valley of Aposselemis river, worth seeing for nature lovers.
at 5km (SE) from Smári village
Anbother beautiful small settlement, with 38 people, Kato Karouziana (GR: Κάτω Καρουζανά) lies at an altitude of 300m and is located at 49km from Herakleion and 1km from Epano Karouzana. It offers a spectacular view to the Kastelli plain, picturesque paved lanes, traditional kafeneia and taverns and is a popular with tourists, especially in the summer when many Cretan evenings are organized with local music and dance.
at 5.1km (SE) from Smári village
Kastelli (GR: Καστέλλι) is a small town in the countryside of the province of Pediada. It has over 2000 inhabitants and provides all the modern facilities and public services its residents and/or visitors may need. Many events are organized through the year by the municipality, the school and the cultural centre. In August a special festival, known as the Feast of Xenitemenou (ex-patriot feast) includes concerts, folklore, exhibitions and theatre plays.