This municipality is located in the centre of the Heraklion prefecture, and according to some, in the centre of Crete. It is surrounded by 8 different municipalities: to the north, Gorgolaini, Tetrachoriou and Temenos; to the east, those of Nikos Kazantzakis and Asteroussia; those of Kofinas and Gortys to the south and finally, to the west, the municipality of Rouva.
This municipality includes seven of the former communities: Aghia Varvara, Aghios Thomas, Moulia, Douli, Larani, Megali Vrisi and Prinias.
The municipality covers a surface of about 10.000 ha., from Malevizi to Monofatsi and the Kenourio province; it has over 5.000 inhabitants.
Geographically, the municipality lies at the foot of the Psiloritis mountain, at 530 m above sea level, and is one of the main thoroughfares leading up the mountain. It forms part of the mountainous landscape of the island.
The main sources of production are agriculture (olive trees and vineyards) and cattle raising (sheep).
Other activities in the region are the following: olive oil production, cheese and dairy production, distillation of `tsikoudia` or `raki`, as well as commercial activities and public services.
Aghia Varvara is the chief town (seat) of the municipality with the same name. It has a population of more than 2.000 inhabitants and is 30 km away from the city of Heraklion, by the road that leads from Heraklion to Aghia Varvara, Moires and Phaistos, one of the main highways crossing the island from north to south.
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Fax: +3 0894 23743
The municipality has a rich archaeological and cultural past. The ancient city of Rizinia was located on a conspicuous height (686 m) near the settlement of Prinias. This height, also known as 'Patela of Prinias', is only accessible from the west.
The panoramic view extends as far as the island of Dia in the Cretan sea to the north, and to the Paximadi island to the south, in the Lybian sea.
It was the Italian School of Archaeology that excavated in 1906-1908 the ruins of ancient Rizinia, a city of importance from Post-Minoan to Hellenistic times (1600 to 67 BC). Its most notable monuments belong to the Classic period of the 7th and 6th centuries BC.
The location was highly strategic: Rizinia lay half way between Knossos and Gortys, the two largest cities in Crete, one to the north, the other to the south, and from the Patela height, the town commanded a large area.
The ruins of an imposing Hellenistic castle have been found (330-70BC), built from stones cut out of more ancient buildings and tombs. Some of the stones bear inscriptions and are incised with different shapes: on one there is a female figure wearing a long chiton, holding a spindle and with a half-filled distaff on the lower part.
On another, a warrior, with helmet, shield and lance. These stones come from a burial site belonging to the first Hellenistic period. A great number of sherds, votive clay objects and figurines have been found among the ruins of ancient Rizinia, as well as the remnants of two temples.
One of them, to the east of the site, was dedicated to the goddess Rhea and from the charred bones that were excavated, it seems obvious that animal sacrifices were held there.
Many sculptures in porous stone were found in and around the temple, and are now in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
Close by, the cemetery was excavated, bringing to light interesting objects found in the tombs.
According to many archaeologists, the ancient town of Panona was located not far off, where the village of Aghios Thomas now stands. Around the village there are many caves, cisterns and a beautiful wine-press, all cut out of the rock.
A visit to the municipality of Aghia Varvara is indispensable for those who want to get to know Crete, especially the hinterland. There are many sites of interest for the visitor.
Ancient Rizinia and the cemetery at Prinias. Tombs carved out of the rock and the wine-press at Aghios Thomas.
The valley of Prinias, the Perdikokorifi at Prinias, the Acropolis at Rizinia, the unique 'forest' of oleanders in Crete, and the drive from Moni Kardiotissa to Aghios Antonios in the Aghios Thomas area.
The height of Taga with the Aeolian park, between Aghia Varvara and Moulia, and the hill at Anemomilos.
CHURCHES AND CHAPELS
The churches of Aghios Ioasaf, Spiliotissa, Kardiotissa, Aghios Antonios in Aghios Thomas.
Byzantine churches of Profitis Ilias, Aghios Giorgos in Aghia Varvara and Aghios Ioannis in Megali Vrisi, and the old monastery of Aghia Pelagia.
The church of Zoodochos Pigi in Ano Moulia, those of Armiri and Aghia Anna in Megali Vrisi, and the church of Aghios Nikolaos in Douli.
The municipality of Aghia Varvara has a unique richness in flora and fauna, of great interest and beauty.
The municipality has good paved roads linking all the villages to each other and making access easy to all the sites.
There is a bus service from Heraklion to all the villages in the municipality, leaving every half hour from the square Machis Kritis at the Chanioporta in Heraklion.