Crete : Regional Interest
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Agia Paraskevi Cave
at 0km (N)
This is one of the three largest caves in the prefecture of Heraklion. It lies at half an hour distance to the north-west from the village of Skotino and is at a height of 225 m. above sea-level. The entrance to the cave is impressive: a large arch, 27 m wide and 10 m high. To the right one can see the ruins of an ancient chapel on which the modern chapel dedicated to Aghia Paraskevi was built. There is a feast held in front of the chapel on July 26th .
at 1.2km (SE)
At a height of 140m. above sea-level, this village has 142 inhabitants and is 22.5 kms away from Iraklion. According to the villagers, the name comes from the church of Aghios Nikolaos Skotino at the entrance of a cave. It was built at the end of the Venetian period. Today an extra wing has been added, dedicated to Aghios Charalambos. This church of Aghios Nikolaos Skotino presumably functioned as a "Hedge School" (or "Hidden School") under Turkish rule when education had been banned. When the locals said: "We are going to Skotino (which also means "darkness")", they meant they were going to school.
Turkish administration refers to this place as Skotino Perasma in 1671.
Very close to the village (1.5 km) the cave of Aghia Paraskevi draws crowds of tourists and is well worth a visit.
Gouves (Pano) Village
at 1.6km (NE)
Pano Gouves (GR: Πάνω Γούβες) is a village of the district of Pediada in the prefecture of Iraklion at a height of 100 metres above sea-level. It lies twenty kms away from Iraklion, to the right at 17.3 kms on the National Road to Aghios Nikolaos. The village is built on the western flanks of the Ederi hill (322 m.). The name comes from "edera" which means ivy and symbolises affection.
The name Gouves, on the other hand, comes from Gouva and means a hollow in the earth. It also means, in Crete, a hole in which during the middle ages, people stored their wheat.
The earliest reference we have of the village is that of "Guves" in 1387 documents of the Duke’s archives in Chandax. Later on, in 1577, Fr. Barozzi mentions "Guvos" in the district of Pediados, and then "Guves" in the 1583 Register, with 252 inhabitants. Finally, in 1630, Vassilikata refers to "Vuves’.
This is the birthplace of the poet Ioannis Konstantinidis.
There are several outstanding churches in the village, among them: Zoodochos Pigis, Aghios Giorgos, Aghios Ioannis and Panayia (dedicated to the birth of Our Lady).
Kyra Eleoussa Monastery
at 2.2km (S)
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 2.3km (S)
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.
Institute of Marine Biology, Biotechnology and Aquaculture (IMBBC)
at 3.1km (NW)
A modern competitive organisation, IMBBC (part of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research - www.hcmr.gr) is widely recognized as one of the leading institutes in the Mediterranean. Its installations are located at Gournes, near Heraklion, Crete, where its laboratories, administration, library and conference facilities cover 1.500 m2. It has a wide range of state-of-the-art facilities needed to carry out its basic and applied research.
at 3.3km (NW)
The CretAquarium - Thalassocosmos (GR: Θαλασσόκοσμος) was officially opened in December 2005. It provides its visitors with a special experience, a trip to the underwater world of the Mediterranean Sea and its creatures. It is a unique park whose focus is on science, education, culture and recreation and whose goal is to promote, share and spread knowledge concerning the marine environment.
Gouves Beach, North - East Iraklion
at 3.5km (N)
Káto Goúves (GR: Κάτω Γούβες or simply Gouves) is a modern tourist resort with a complete tourist infrastructure to meet all demands. Organised beaches, large modern hotels, family apartments, restaurants, small tavernas, recreation centres, sports centre, shops, car and motorbikes for rent, small ports (marinas) for small boats, in a word Kato Gouves provides everything the visitors require to spend an agreeable and carefree holiday, enjoying the sunshine by day and the thrilling night-life in the numerous bars in the area.
Just a few kilometers inland there are picturesque traditional villages, historic monasteries, caves and other natural beauties.
North - East Iraklion
at 4.7km (NW)
Kokkíni Cháni (Kokkíni Háni - GR: Κοκκίνη Χάνι) is a beach resort located 14km east of the city of Heraklion, on the old national road from Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos.
The beach from Vatheianos Kambos, to the west, to Gournes, to the east, is protected by small piers that in some places form small lagoons. It has fine sand and it is clean and well cared, with umbrellas and sun chairs, lifeguards and sea sports.
The central street is lined with taverns, restaurants, bars, shops etc while the seaside street is less busy and ideal for walking.
Kalo Horio Village
at 4.9km (SE)
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.
Nirou Chani, North - East Iraklion
at 5.1km (NW)
A Luxurious, two-storey house, built of large ashlar. The walls were strengthened by timber-frames and covered with a thick layer of plaster and marble slabs. The building has a paved courtyard, a shrine, storerooms for agricultural products, a staircase, and rooms with benches. It has been interpreted as a High Priest's house, due to the numerous ceremonial vessels it contained.
The house was probably built in the 16th century. C. (MM III period) and, after its destruction by fire in the 15th century BC (LM IB period), was finally abandoned.
The "Minoan Megaron" at Nirou was excavated in 1918 by St. Xanthoudides. In 1960, under the supervision of the Ephor of Antiquities N. Platon, the site was fenced and the building restored. The monument is consolidated and cleared at intervals by the 23rd Ephorate.
Daily: 8:30-15:00, Monday: closed
Entrance Fee:Free Admission
at 6.4km (S)
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.
Lagou traditional village
at 6.8km (SE)
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 6.9km (SE)
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.
Pediada, North - East Iraklion
at 8.6km (E)
The most popular tourist resort in Crete. Nice beaches, sights and facilities for all tastes and ages. Together with Malia, are the party places for young visitors. Close to Hersonissos there are three small traditional village, those of Piskopiano, Koutouloufari and Old Hersonissos.
at 9.4km (W)
This 2 km long sandy beach was for years and still is the favorite beach of the people of Heraklion town. It is named after the river "Karteros" which outflows at the west end of it near the airport. The water is clean, the seabed is sandy with smoothly shelving and swimming is safe. The access is free in most parts except for some areas that are reserved for military personnel and the municipal beach "Akti" where visitors should pay an entrance fee in order to use the facilities. At the east end there are some very good taverns offering fresh fish among their specialties and are very popular with locals and tourists alike.
at 9.5km (S)
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 9.7km (SW)
The monastery of Agaráthou (GR: Μονή Αγκαράθου), dedicated to the Virgin, stands at an altitude of 538m, on "Soros Panteli", a rocky hill between the villages of Sgourokefali and Sabas, 23 km from Heraklion.
During the period of Venetian rule it was a centre of learning, producing many famous churchmen including the Patriarchs Cyril Lucaris, Meletius Pegas and Sylvester the Cretan.
The church was rebuilt in 1894 and flourished once more after the end of the Turkish occupation. Young, educated monks with university degrees have recently settled in the monastery, restoring it to its former glory.
at 9.9km (SE)
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.
Agios Panteleimon (External)
Agios Panteleimon (External)
Agios Panteleimon (interior)
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.
Kato Karouzana village
at 10.2km (SE)
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.
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