If you really want to get off the beaten track during a visit to this diverse and extraordinary island head into the dramatic sprawling hills of the Messara Plain
The road climbs high amongst these majestic hills and then descends to the sea between picturesque hill villages that survive, as they have for centuries, from the agriculture of this fertile region. As you leave the plain and the last village behind, Lentas, positioned almost in the centre of Cretes' south coast, suddenly appears below you. The village clusters around a pretty bay that's dominated by an enormous rock resembling a lion's head that juts into the sea on one side of the resort - (the name 'Lentas' is derived from the Greek word "leontas" (Λέοντας) for lion). Like many beachside villages Lentas began as a typical Cretan fishing village and, as travellers slowly began to discover the place, the locals saw the advantage to building a few rooms here and there.
The village offers most facilities you might need during your stay; a choice of tavernas, three or four directly on the beach, two or three bars, mini-markets and even an Internet café. There is a sand/shingle beach and the sea is crystal clear and perfect for snorkelling.
On the other side of the 'Lions head' there is another long shingle beach, Dyskos
, popular with naturists, which can be reached on foot in about ten minutes. If you're adventurous and prepared to explore even further off the beaten track, you can discover other attractive coves such as Vathy, Agiofarango , Trahoulas and Trypiti, situated both east and west of Lentas. If you prefer to explore the regions beaches the lazy way it's not hard to find an accommodating fisherman who will transport you by boat for a small charge.
Lentas could be the ideal location for those who simply like to get away from it all where the most difficult decisions of your stay will be where and what to eat each day! However, we also believe it makes a great base for those who really want to discover a little bit more of the 'real' Crete as well as the richness and diversity of its rugged landscape that abounds in all directions.
Lentas has a rich past and there are evidence that it had been first habitated from the Neolithic and Early Minoan period (3rd millennium BC). Lentas (Levin or Lebena)
is also known to be one of the two harbours of Gortys, which became the most prominent city of Crete after the fall of Knossos. 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. Lentas was destroyed and subsequently rebuilt. Gortys later was the Province's capital during the Roman era, which also comprised Cyrnaica (ancient Libya). In the early Christian and Byzantine periods, a small settlement developed and a basilica was erected. The small Byzantine church of St. John was built in the 14th century. The archaeological investigation of the site started after the first visit of the English captain H. Spratt, in the middle of the 19th century. Excavations were carried out by the Italian Archaeological School at Athens in 1900, 1910 and 1912-13, and revealed the sanctuary and other buildings. Since then no excavation had taken place in the ancient city until recent years, when the investigations of the Greek Archaeological Service brought to light the Minoan settlement and graves.
Today in Lentas there is an archaeological site
of the sanctuary of Asklepios (Greek Ασκληπειός) and the Byzantine church of St John
. It is believed that Levin during the Roman occupation became a sanitarium were sick wealthy Romans mainly from North Africa received treatment. The treatment consisted of a diet with mineral water from an ancient spring near the temple of Asklepios, which was believed to have therapeutic properties, and local fruits. Today Lentas is a popular tourist destination and has rural and stock farming activities.
[Area of photos]