Crete : Geography & Nature
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Messara, South - West Iraklion
at 0km (NE)
Matala (GR: Μάταλα) was the ancient port of Phaistos and Gortys and a former fishing community which has developed into a modern holiday center. It is located 4 km south-west of the village of Pitsidia and 75 km from Iraklion. It is built on the coast line of the Messara bay inside a small and picturesque inlet. During the 60's the caves of Matala were hosting a hippie commune.
Martsalo Gorge & Beach
South - coast Iraklion
at 6.9km (S)
Martsalo (GR: Μάρτσαλο, Mártsalo) is located on the mass of the Asterousia Mountains between Kefali (Cape Lithino) and Agiofarago. It is an impressive gorge about two kilometers long, which belongs to the hermitages of the Holy Monastery of Odigitria. Inside the gorge there is rich vegetation as well as a small palm forest in the middle of its route. The impressive cliffs are home to a large number of caves (similar to eagles' nests) inhabited by many of the area's ascetics. Gorge Martsalo is particularly steep and rough and ends at the Libyan Sea, where there is a small protected cove with a sandy- pebbly beach.
South - coast Iraklion
at 7.7km (S)
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.
Vreli (Agios Antonios) village
Mires, Messara Valley
at 15.1km (NE)
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
Kenouriou, South Iraklion
at 20.8km (NE)
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.
at 25km (N)
At 1538m above sea level, 20 km. south of the traditional town of Anogia , on the plateau of Nida, of Mountain Psiloritis, lies this sacred cave, where according to mythology, Rhea, Zeus' mother, hid the new born Zeus in this cave in order to protect him from his father Kronos (Saturn), who was in the habit of swallowing his children because he feared they might deprive him of his power. Hidden in that cave Zeus grew up being fed with the milk of the goat Amalthia, while the 'Kourites" covered the child's crying through banging their copper shields.
at 25km (N)
The plateau is located in the center of the Ida mountain range at an altitude of 1400 m. It can be accessed from various sides but the only asphalt road is from the town of Anogeia. It has a roughly triangular shape and is almost flat. Visitors can enjoy the wild landscape, take a walk to the entrance of Idaion cave or to the freedom fighter sculpture, made with boulders from the mountain. An other interesting attraction is the various Mitata scattered all over the area.
Those are circular domed buildings made with stones and used by shepherds for accommodation and storage of cheese.
There is also a tavern with traditional food.
The area of Nida, in earlier times, before the systematic farming and logging damage the flora of Psiloritis, was covered by forests in which mythological and traditional tales put different events. Here Dimitra fell in love with the mortal Iasion.
Agia Varvara town
at 28.1km (NE)
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.
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