Crete : Regional Interest
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Gortyn Ancient town
Messara, Iraklion South
at 0.4km (SE)
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.
Village in Messara plain
at 1.1km (S)
Mitropoli (GR: Μητρόπολη) is a small village in the archaeological site of Gortyna in Messara plain. The village is mentioned for the first time in the Ducal archives of Candia in 1368 and later in the census of 1577 by Fr. Barozzi and in 1583 by Castrofylaka.
Early mention of the settlement is to document the Ducal Archive of Candia in 1368, also mentioned by Fr. Barozzi in 1577 with the name and the Mitropoli Kastrofilakas in 1583. According to the census of 2001 it has 382 inhabitants.
Main occupations of the inhabitants is the cultivation of vines, olives, vegetables, cereals and citrus fruits. At its north borders are located the ruins of the first cathedral of St. Titus, in which it owes its name.(Mitropoli = Cathedral).
Agioi Deka town
Messara, Iraklion South
at 1.5km (SE)
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.
Vreli (Agios Antonios) village
Mires, Messara Valley
at 5.4km (W)
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
Messara plain, South - East Iraklion
at 6.7km (W)
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.
Messara, Iraklion South
at 7km (W)
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.
at 7km (NE)
Moúlia (GR: Μούλια) is a village in Kenouriou county, located three and a half kilometers away from Agia Varvara town and 32 km from Iraklion at an altitude of 640 m above sea level. Moulia is an old village as we come across a reference to it in a document dated in 1248, where the settlement is recorded as belonging to the archbishopric of Crete. Another reference is found in a legal agreement established in 1411. The name figures in all the Venetian censi of the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as in the Turkish and Egyptian censi. In 1881, it forms part of the municipality of Zaros with about 180 inhabitants, and again in 1900. As of 1920 it is a commune in its own right, and today with the lower village of Kato Moulia it counts over 550 inhabitants. The main church of the village, with wall paintings, is that of the patron saints, Saints Peter and Paul, and there is a village feast on the 29th June, in their honour. The lovely chapel of Zoodochos Pigis is also well worth a visit.
Kenouriou, South Iraklion
at 8.2km (NW)
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.
Agia Varvara town
at 9.7km (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.
at 9.9km (NE)
Megali Vrissi (GR: Μεγάλη Βρύση) lies 32km south of Heraklion, at 620 m above sea level.
In the Barozzi document of 1577, it is mentioned as forming part of the province of Monofatsi and, in the Archives of Megalo Kastro (Heraklion), it is quoted in 1583 as having 71 inhabitants; there is also a reference to the village in the Basilicata document of 1630. The Turkish census records it with 47 families in 1671, and in the Egyptian one in 1834, it figures with 27 families. In the censi of 1881 and 1900 it is mentioned as a municipality in its own right with, respectively, 240 inhabitants and 307 inhabitants.
As of 1928, it becomes a commune and today it counts over 900 inhabitants. Saint Constantine is the patron saint of the village.
The churches of Aghia Anna and of the Panagia Almiri are worth visiting.
The Aeolian Park, one of the islands pioneering projects, has been installed in Megali Vrisi and produces electricity of 5MW.
at 10.3km (W)
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.
at 10.4km (NW)
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.
Voriza, South - West Iraklion
at 11.1km (NW)
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.
at 11.3km (NE)
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.
Palace and Archaeological Site
at 12km (W)
The archaeological site, the palace, the findings - The Festos Disc. According to mythology, Phaistos (or Festos) was the seat of king Radamanthis, brother of king Minos. It was also the city that gave birth to the great wise man and soothsayer Epimenidis, one of the seven wise men of the ancient world.Excavations by archaeologists have unearthed ruins of the Neolithic times (3.000 B.C.).
The Museum of Cretan Ethnology
Voroi, Messara, Iraklion
at 12km (W)
The exhibited objects in the Museum come from all over Crete. These objects show that the folk culture of Crete is characterized by an amalgam of influences in which Minoan (2000-1000 BC), Archaic (1000-500 BC) and Byzantine models prevail, especially in agriculture, stock breeding, pottery and basketry.
Messara, Iraklion South
at 12km (W)
Vori is a beautiful, traditional village of the county of Pirgiotissas in the Messara Valley. It is located 60 km south of Iraklion and in the western part of the Messara Valley. The village stretches in a slope, by the side of a small river. The archaeological site of Phaistos is 2 km to the south and the coast of Messara 4 km to the west.
Agios Thomas village
at 12.2km (NE)
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.
East Ida mountain, Iraklion
at 13.3km (N)
Prinos refuge at Prinos on Psiloritis mountain (Ida), is at 1100 metres. It can sleep 25 people, it has cooking facilities, two wood burning stoves for heating and a rainwater tank. Access is through the village of Ano Assites in Malevizi around 22km from Iraklion. From there a two kilometres of dirt road leads to a place called Melisses and then a one-and-a-half hour walk along a footpath signed with red marks, to the refuge.
Prinos hut was built in 1962 and was renovated around 1992. It is run by the mountaineering club of Heraklion. The view from Prinos to the north and east is great.
Messara, Iraklion South
at 13.5km (SW)
Its 1000 years history comes to life for the visitor, who has the chance to admire its monuments, and old houses, perfectly preserved through the centuries. In the village square , you can sit and enjoy your coffee in the traditional coffee shop, while children can play in the playground next to the school. You can also visit the church of Agios Ioannis in the same square. There are quite few rooms for rent in the village and tavernas serving traditional Cretan dishes.
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