Crete : Regional Interest
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Minoan Megaron at Vathypetro
at 3.2km (NW)
The Minoan villa at Vathypetro was most likely the residence of a local ruler. Its architecture is comparable to that of a "Little Palace": it has a central and west court, a small tripartite shrine, a three-columned portico, storerooms and workshops. It seems that the construction of the building was never completed. Interesting elements of its architecture are the installations of a wine-press in the south wing and an oil-press in the courtyard.
at 5.1km (N)
A small traditional town (~4000 people) 15 km south of Iraklion on the foot of the sacred mountain Yiouhtas. Renowned for its excellent wine (from the varieties: vilana, kotsifali and madilari) and the archaeolocical sites and caves.
In 1912, Xanthoudides noted the importance of Archanes, but Sir Arthur Evans was the first to characterize the site as palatial, declaring that Archanes was likely a Summer Palace for the Knossos kings. Spyridon Marinatos and N. Platon excavated minor areas in the region, but nothing supported Evans' theory. In 1964, J. Sakellarakis dug trial trenches at the Tourkoyeitonia site and uncovered the first evidence of a palace site. Since 1966, Archanes has been excavated by the Greek Archaeaological Society under the supervision of John Sakellarakis and Efi Sapouna-Sakellarakis.
Nikos Kazantzakis Museum
at 5.4km (NE)
The Nikos Kazantzakis Museum is dedicated to the great Greek writer, poet and philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis. It was founded in 1983 and it is located at the village Myrtia in Iraklion, next to his father's house.
The museum contains some of his personal belongings (pipes, glasses, pens, etc.) and a rich collection of his manuscripts and letters, first Greek editions of his books, documents from theatrical productions of his works, copies of TV series and movies based on his novels, portraits of Nikos Kazantzakis, copies of press releases and articles on his life and work.
Phourni Archaeological Site
at 6km (N)
Excavations at Phourni have brought to light 26 buildings, most of which had funerary use. The cemetery was used from 2400 B.C. until 1200 B.C. and each complex had more than one architectural phase. Most of the funerary buildings were used for many decades and contain successive burials. Excavations were begun in 1964 by Efi and John Sakellarakis and have been continued until today (1995) with short interruptions. Most of the buildings are preserved in good condition.
Prophitis Ilias Town
at 7.3km (W)
The town of Profitis Ilias (GR: Προφήτης Ηλίας), or Roka for the locals, is found 20km south of Heraklion It is built on the top of two hills offering an unforgettable view to the surrounding areas. A natural fortification, due to its position, it has been suggested that ancient Lycastos was built here. It is also known as Kandli Kasteli due to the castle located at the summit of a rock southeast of the town.
Nikiforos Fokas built the Byzantine castle of Temenos in the same location in 961 when he freed the island from the Saracens. His objective was to bring the city of Hantaka (Heraklion) into the castle of Temenos. However, this did not materialize and the city remained were it was. In the thirteenth century the castle of Temenos was occupied by the Genoese Pescatore, and later by the Venetians. The name Kanli Kastelli in Turkish means blood-painted castle, and took its name from a massacre of Turks by the Venetians and Greeks that took place here in 1647.
at 7.3km (NE)
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.
Anemospelia Archaeological Site
at 7.6km (NW)
Anemóspilia (GR: Aνεμόσπηλια). A rectangular building with three narrow chambers, each opening into a long corridor to the north, which extends along the whole width of the building. The area is enclosed with a stone wall and the whole structure has been interpreted as a shrine; in the central room was found a "xoanon" (statue) of the deity worshiped here. In the west room, where the altar stood, was uncovered, according to the excavator, the first human sacrifice to have ever taken place in Minoan times. The building at Anemospelia was used for only half a century, as it was suddenly destroyed by an earthquake in the middle of the 17th century B.C. The site was excavated in the summer of 1979 by John Sakellarakis.
Minoan Religion (Foundation of the Hellenic World)
at 9.1km (SE)
The town of Arkalochori (GR: Αρκαλοχώρι) with a population of 2.881 is located 33km away from Heraklion, on the provincial road linking Heraklion and Viannos, at 395m above sea level. Its inhabitants are mostly involved in agriculture, but in commerce and arts as well. Arkalochori is one of the most developing towns in the prefecture of Iraklion both in economic and cultural sectors and is the administrative center of the area. Events such as the Pancretan Agricultural and Commercial Exhibition, that takes place here are of great significance and interest for the whole island. The town offers a full range of modern facilities to its residents and visitors.
Arkalohóri Exhibition Centre & Theatre
at 10.4km (SE)
A modern exhibition and congressional centre offering 8000 square meters of total space, 1500 of them being indoors. Among many events that take place in this centre is the Pancretan Agricultural and Commercial Exhibition of Arkalochori held every two years at the end of August. The exhibition attracts a large number of enterprises, manufacturers and services participating and is being visited by over 30,000 visitors from all over Crete. It is considered to contribute essentially in the rapid commercial and cultural development of the wider area.
The Municipal Open Theatre
Located in the area of the exhibition centre the theatre is of semicircular shape with a capacity of approximately 1000 seats. The facility offers also a canteen, toilets, dressing-rooms for the actors, store room of scene and backstage.The cultural events that the Municipality organises every summer, attract visitors not only from the wider area but also from Iraklion city.
at 11.1km (E)
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 11.5km (SW)
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'.
Palace and Archaeological site
at 11.7km (N)
The famous Palace of king Minos and the centre of the Minoan civilisation 5km south of Iraklion. The Great Palace covered an area of 20.000 sq. meters and had 1.400 rooms. Every section of the Palace had a specific use. In the west side of the Palace were the chambers of the ceremonies, of the administration and of the public storehouse...
at 11.9km (E)
Evangelismos (GR: Ευαγγελισμός) at 360 m above sea level, with 365 inhabitants, lies to the SW of Kasteli, distant only 5 km from the county town and about 35 km from Heraklion.
In earlier years, the village was called Mouktari or Mouchtari and its name figures in a 1381 contract for the buying and selling of grain.
The Byzantine church of the Panagia is worth a visit. On August 6th the village celebrates the feast of the Metamorphosis.
Evangelismos is the seat of the newly (2010) created municipality, according to the National "Kallikratis Project", by uniting the former municipalities of Kastelli, Thrapsano and Akalochori. The name of the new municipality is "Minoa Pediada"
at 13km (E)
330 m above sea level, just out of Kasteli (1.5 km) to the east, lies the village of Archangelos (GR: Αρχάγγελος) with 433 residents.
It was founded in 961 by the military forces of Nikiphoros Phocas and was originally named ‘Varvaro’, and was still known by that name in 1583, where the Chandax Register puts it down as a village of the Pediada district with 37 inhabitants.
Its name was changed only recently, in 1961, to Archangelos, and the main village church in the square is dedicated to the Archangel Michael. There is another smaller and older church, that of the Panaghia, with Byzantine wall paintings. Remains of ancient mills can still be seen.
In a location known as Trochalos, archaeological finds have brought to light a series of Minoan tools dating back to the first and second Late Minoan periods.
As in every Cretan village, raki and ‘mezedes’ are always available at the kapheneions.
The feast of Michail Archangelos on November 8th is celebrated with much feasting in the village.
at 13.1km (NE)
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.
at 13.7km (E)
At an altitude of 380m, with 63 inhabitants, Liliano (GR: Λιλιανό) is first mentioned in the Turkish census of 1671.
The Basilica with its three naves, dedicated to Saint John, was built in the 12th -13th centuries and is one of the oldest and the most interesting in Crete. The stones used in its construction came from earlier buildings. The three naves, with the middle nave higher than the other two, are supported by columns in Ionic style. The narthex in front is lower with wider arches, whereas the door and windows have pointed arches.
Agios Thomas village
at 14km (W)
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.
Agia Paraskevi village
at 14.1km (E)
Village of the area of Kastelli with 115 residents, Agia Paraskevi is situated 5 km northeast of Kastelli at an altitude of 400m. It is first mentioned in the Turkish census of 1671 as Agia Paraskevi tou Xourdou with 17 haratsia (head tax).
It is very possible that Santa Venerata, a village mentioned in 1463 by Cardinal Bissarion, is the name by which Agia Paraskevi was known at that period.
Agios Myron town
at 14.3km (W)
Agios Myron, with 708 inhabitants, lies 18 km from the city of Iraklion to the south west. Its one of the most important villages of the area with interesting town planning and impressive samples of traditional architecture. Built between two hills it commands a panoramic view and the school's clock, its main characteristic, is visible from almost everywhere in the area of Malevizi.
at 14.3km (NW)
Petrokéfalo (GR: Πετροκέφαλο) lies 16km from Iraklion and 3km from Agios Myron at 340m a.s.l with 248 inhabitants.
It is built on a rocky hillside. The hill' shape resembles to a human head and it is supposed that the village owes its name to this (petrokefali = stone head) .
The settlement was fortified and lately were discovered significant ancient findings.
The patron Saint is "Agia Paraskevi" and there is a village feast on the 8th September in her honour.
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