Crete : Regional Interest
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at 0km (N)
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.
Lagou traditional village
at 0.6km (NE)
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 2km (W)
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 3km (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 3.3km (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.
Kalo Horio Village
at 3.4km (N)
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.
Epano Karouzana village
at 4km (SE)
A beautiful small settlement, with 48 people, Epano Karouziana (GR: Επάνω Καρουζανά) lies at an altitude of 380m and is located at 40km from Herakleion. It is mentioned for the first time in 1842, its name was taken by a family name "Karouzos" common in the village.
The village offers a spectacular view, 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.
at 4.2km (SW)
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 4.3km (S)
Polythéa (GR: Πολυθέα) is located 500 m NE of Kastelli at an altitude of 335m.N Nowadays Polythea has become part of Kasteli and it has 364 inhabitants.
Fr. Barozzi mentions it as Apigaiduri in 1577, belonging to the Pediada district and it continues to be known with that name until 1940, when it is re-baptized with its current name, Polythea.
The previous name of the village, Pigaidouri, is originated by the word ‘pigaidi', which is Cretan for ‘pigadi', which means ‘a well'. It is a nice name that propably has been changed due to the fact that people thought it was a reference to ‘gaidouri', which means ‘donkey'.
Apart from the ubiquitous raki and mezedes served at the kapheneions, you can also find rooms for rent.
A typical Cretan feast is held here on August 15th for the Virgin Mary (Assumption).
at 4.4km (S)
Kastelli (GR: Καστέλλι) is a small town in the countryside of the province of Pediada. It has over 2000 inhabitants and provides all the modern facilities and public services its residents and/or visitors may need. Many events are organized through the year by the municipality, the school and the cultural centre. In August a special festival, known as the Feast of Xenitemenou (ex-patriot feast) includes concerts, folklore, exhibitions and theatre plays.
Kyra Eleoussa Monastery
at 4.7km (NW)
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 4.8km (NW)
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.
at 5km (S)
Diavaide (GR: Διαβαϊδέ) has 120 inhabitants and lies very near to Kasteli (700m to the SE) at 355m above sea level.
The earliest reference to the name is found in the Ducal Archives at Chandax in 1378. Another document in the same archives mentions a certain G. Dochiano, inhabitant of Diavaide.
In an inscription, found in the Byzantine church of Agios Georgios Sfakiotis, the name of the village is clearly mentioned, indicating that Diavaide existed well before the Turkish occupation. In that church there is a unique fresco of Byzantine art that represents Saint George and Saint Demeter passing through the sea on their horses, while at their feet lie various sea creatures; crabs, lobsters, and other fish, a strange phenomenon indeed, considering that the village is so far away from the sea. There is also the church of Agios Nikolaos in the village dated to the same period.
The village took part in all the main fights by Crete against the enemies of its freedom, while during German occupation the high college of Kastelli continued to operate in Diavaide houses.
The cultural association of the village, one of the first in this area, strives to maintain the cultural traditions and the continuity of village history through the years.
at 5.1km (S)
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.
Lyttos ancient town
at 5.6km (SE)
The ancient city of Lyktos or Lyttos (GR: Λύκτος / Λύττος) was one of the most ancient and powerful towns in Crete.
Although the excavations in the area reveal traces of habitation from the Hellenistic years onwards (630 B.C.), the archeologists Georgios Rethemiotakis and Angeliki Lempesi have excavated traces of habitation from the time of the destruction of Lyttos by the Knossians (219 B.C.) in excavated residences of the Hellenistic period.
From the Roman period, the city was subject to new workings as testified by the architectural remnants and the many inscriptions and statues discovered.
Numerous vestiges of ancient structures, objects, and broken marbles are seen, as well as an immense arch of a Roman aqueduct, by which the water was carried across a deep valley by means of a wide marble channel. Traces of the aqueduct which brought its water supply from Kournia, near Krasi village, are still visible today in the rural road to Kastamonitsa village. Lyktos had also a theatre, built in the slope of the hill the design of which we know only from the drawings of Belli (1586).
Finally, the most important discovery is that of a room of nearly 14 metres by 11.40 metres, with marble flooring and a series of four stone platforms along its two longer sides. The room was erected, according to the inscription that was found at the site, at the beginning of the second century B.C. This room was identified as the chamber of the Roman deputies of the city and was very probably destroyed by an earthquake at 365 AD.
Lyktos appears to have still been inhabited in the 7th Century AD as indicated by the excavation of late-roman shops in the area. (Late Roman Empire, 284-610 AD)
at 5.6km (SE)
Built at 510 m with 319 people Ksidás (GR: Ξυδάς) also known as Lyttos, is located at 3 km from Kastelli in the foothills of the site of the ancient town Lyttos. The first mention of the village goes back to 1368AD, with the name Ksidas.
A burial site was discovered when the road was being constructed, at Chomatolakkos, belonging to late Roman period.
Two gold rings have also been found here, the one with stone, showing the portrait of an emperor holding a spear, and the other with a hoop, showing two interlocking hands. A bronze ring with a Greek inscription, along with golden plates and bronze coins, were also found at this site.
at 5.9km (N)
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.
at 6.1km (SE)
Askoi (GR: Ασκοί) is small village in the municipality of Kasteli has 315 inhabitants. It lies in the foothills of the Dikti mountain, 11 km to the east of Kasteli and 8 km from Lyttos.
Fr. Barozzi mentions it as Ascus, in the Pediada district, in 1577.
Recently a ritual clay figurine of the Mid-Minoan period was fortuitously unearthed on a peak close to the village. The remains of a large building belonging to a peak sanctuary have been excavated at Amygdalokefalo to the NE of the village.
A reference in a contract of 1271, mentions how Petri Comarii from the village (casali) Maski owes Ruggerino Temisano, resident in Chandax, 25 «mistata» of good Cretan wine from his vineyards in Maski.
Among other natural beauties, the ravine at Aski is well worth seeing.
On December 4th the village has a typical Cretan feast to honour Agia Varvara. And as in every Cretan village, raki and ‘mezedes’ are always available at the kafeneions.
Agia Paraskevi Cave
at 6.9km (NW)
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 6.9km (S)
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"
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