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Gortyn Ancient town
Messara, Iraklion South
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.
Messara plain, South - East Iraklion
The administrative center of the Messara Valley. Moires (GR: Μοίρες) is the biggest town in the Messara Valley with a population of approximately 5000 people. It has a police station, magistrate's court,post office, public PTT office, health center, and offices of most Greek major banks.
Agia Varvara town
Agia Varvára (GR: Αγία Βαρβάρα) is a town built along the road between the Messara plain and the Malevizi region at the highest point (580 m).
The town enjoys a unique location with a splendid view into the Malevizi region, and a cool climate, particularly pleasant during the hot summer months. It produces first-rate fruit and vegetables.
Because of its strategic location on the main north-south axis, the town was often exposed to fierce battles. A famous warrior, Mathiou Kapitakis or Mathioudakis was born here: he fought side to side with Karaiskakis and was killed at Faliro. His comrade-in-arms, Logios, was the hero of Aghios Thomas.
As you reach the village, on the north side there is a rock with a chapel dedicated to Profitis Ilias. On this rock -which used to be twice as large but part of it fell off at the beginning of the 19th century- there used to be an ancient temple.
Nowadays, the visitor can find every kind of commodity and facility on hand at the modern town of Aghia Varvara. In summer a special 'tsikoudia' feast, and in early spring a carnival feast are organized by the Cultural Association of the town.
At the centre of the town, there are two churches - one old and one new - both dedicated to the patron saint, Aghia Varvara. Three Byzantine churches are also well worth a visit: Profitis Ilias, Aghios Giorgos and Aghios Ioannis, and of course the old monastery of Aghia Pelagia by the cemetery.
Messara, Iraklion South
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.
The monastery of Panagia Kaliviani is located at the 59th km on the road Iraklion-Phaistos. The monastery was built during the second Byzantine period. The small Byzantine chapel was painted with frescoes but most of them are today destroyed. The chapel was deserted until, during the Turkish occupation in 1873, an old small icon of the Annunciation of the Holy Mother was miraculously found there.and the monastery became a place of worship.
Vreli (Agios Antonios) village
Mires, Messara Valley
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
Voriza, South - West Iraklion
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.
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.
Messara plain, South - East Iraklion
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.
South - coast Iraklion
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.
Agioi Deka town
Messara, Iraklion South
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.
Kenouriou, South Iraklion
Zaros (Greek: Ζαρός), at an altitude of 340 metres, is a town with a lake and gorge nearby. It has a couple of hotels and it is 44 km from Heraklion at the southern foothills of Mountain Psiloritis. The population of 3,400, produce olive oil, sultanas, vegetables and spring water. There are a couple of fish farms that serve both trout and salmon.
In Zaros, there are cafes near Lake Votomos, as well as a tavern that serves fresh trout called I Limni (The Lake). Close by is Rouvas Gorge, which is part of the Psiloritis mountain range and is on the hiking route known as the E4 European Walking Path. Nearby Zaros are traditional water mills which have been working since the 16th century, as well as archaeological sites and monasteries.
Zaros is also famous for its water "ZAROS" bottled by a company called Votomos SA.
Léndas or Léntas (GR: Λέντας), positioned almost in the centre of Cretes' south coast, 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 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 snorkeling.
Beach in South Iraklion
Tripití (or Trypití GR: Τρυπητή) is a 400m long beach on the southern Asterousia coastline. It is located 57km from Heraklion (west gate, Giofyros) via Agioi Deka - Vagionia - Vassiliki - Trypiti road. The last 10km, from Vassiliki to Trypiti, is a dirt but in fairly good condition road. The road passes over the gorge of Agios Savvas, with spectacular rocky walls, then through a forest of olive and carob trees and finally via the gorge of Trypiti through a very narrow passage reaches the beach. This is a very interesting route with breathtaking views and fantastic scenery.
Tráfoulas is a secluded beach, nested in a cove open to the south, at the small promontory of the same name, located between Lendas and Trypiti. You can reach Trafoulas only by boat or on foot via a small canyon. The starting point is around 700m away, to the north, just above the small harbour of Loutras, around 5km east from Lendas, where there is a place for parking. You then follow the hiking path, descending for a while to meet the canyon that leads directly to the beach. The walk takes around 20 minutes and its very nice as there are plenty of oleander and the rocky walls are very spectacular continuing until the sea.
Lentas, South Iraklion
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.
A long beach west of Lendas on the south shores of Iraklion. The name is probably a corruption of Dysikos (GR: Δυσικός) which is the one to the west. There is a small settlement with taverns and accommodation complexes, mostly rooms and apartments for rent. Dyskos used to be popular with nudists and nature lovers in the past and even in present days nudism is tolerated in the western part of the beach. The beach has small pebbles and sand. Those who chose Dyskos for their holidays will have, among other things, the chance to explore the area by small walking tours and enjoy the magnificent sunset.
Agios Thomas village
Agios Thomás (GR: Αγιος Θωμάς) lies at 530 m above sea level. It is 30 km away from Heraklion and has a panoramic view over the whole area to the SE of Aghia Varvara.
Agios Thomas is a very old village and the first reference we have of it, is in a document of 1371, where it is quoted as a feudal property of Petrus de Medio, and again in a document dated 1380. Later, it figures in all the Venetian censi of the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1881, and in 1900, it figures as part of the Megali Vrisi municipality, with 344 inhabitants. From 1920, it figures in all the censi as a community with a continuously growing number of inhabitants. Nowadays there are over 800 inhabitants.
Agios Thomas owes its name to the tripartite domed church, which still preserves part of its original wall paintings. The north nave is dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the south one to Saint Charalambos and the centre one to the patron saint, Saint Thomas; the church is located in the centre of the village.
Of the 40 churches that are said to be in the village, the visitor should make a point of visiting the following: Aghia Paraskevi, with remains of wall paintings, Michail Archangelos, with wall paintings of the 12th century, Aghios Panteleimonas, Aghios Ioannis, and the chapel of Panagia Kardiotissa at the lovely site of Mouzouras.
There are a great many caves and cisterns cut out of the rock in the area; the caves were used as graves.The village of Aghios Thomas boasts of two great personalities born there: Kirikas Chairetis Kalamaras and the empirical doctor and fighter Logios, born in 1771. He fought the Turks from 1800 to 1815. He is buried opposite the ancient town of Phaistos.
The small settlement of Ardachtia or Argathia, lies 500 m from Agios Thomas. The name Argathia figures in all the Venetian censi of the 16th and 17th centuries. As of 1881, through a mistake in the spelling, it is recorded as Ardachtia. On the verge of collapse, the village was abandoned and has been rebuilt as a neighbourhood of Aghios Thomas, at Plaka.
Priniás (GR: Πρινιάς) is a small village located 35km southwest of Iraklion town and 4km from Agia Varvara, at a height of 610 m above sea level. The village of Prinias lies on the border of three regions: Malevizi, Kenouriou and Monofatsi, and is recorded as forming part of all three regions in the censi.
Doúli (GR: Δούλι) is a village in Kenouriou county, located 38 km from Iraklion at an altitude of 440 m above sea level.
The earliest reference to it, is to be found in the Duke's Archives of 1372, where it is mentioned as the feudal property of Nic. Venerio. The name figures in all the Venetian censi of the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as in the Turkish (1671) and Egyptian (1834) censi. In 1881, Douli forms part of the municipality of Megali Vrisi with about 170 inhabitants, and again in 1900 with only 21 inhabitants.
As of 1920, Douli is a commune in its own right, and today Douli has about 240 residents. The patron saint of the village is Aghios Panteleimonas and the feast of the Saint is celebrated on July 27th.A visit to the old church of Aghios Nikolaos is also a must. For those interested in paleontology, there are fossils to be found at the location 'Pirgos'.
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