Crete : Regional Interest
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at 11.5km (W)
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 12.1km (W)
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.
Lagou traditional village
at 12.1km (W)
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.
Kalo Horio Village
at 12.5km (NW)
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.
at 12.6km (W)
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.
at 12.8km (E)
Neapolis is located 15 km westwards of Agios Nikolaos on the way to Heraklion from where it is roughly 50 km far. Neapolis is built in the green valley of Mirabello.
In the period of the Venetian domination its two settlements were named "New Village". But when the seat of the Prefecture was transferred from Fourni to the “New Village” this last was renamed to Neapolis. Neapolis was maintained as the capital of the prefecture of Lasithi till 1904. After that date Agios Nikolaos became the new capital.
at 13km (SW)
Armacha (GR: Αρμάχα) lies at 490 m above sea level, at a distance of 7km from Kastelli, with 110 residents (census 2001) and is first referred to by Barozzi in 1577. Armacha is rich in the production of agricultural and livestock products.
The Metropolitan Bishop, Tirnovos Voulgaria Ilarionas Kabanaris Sinitis was born, and is also buried here. A man of advanced learning, he wanted to translate the Bible to Demotic Greek.
at 13.6km (W)
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 13.6km (SW)
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.
at 13.8km (SW)
Geraki (GR: Γεράκι). This lovely village of 375 inhabitants is located on the western slopes of the Lassithi mountains between the peaks of Afendi (1578 m) and Sarakinos (1588 m) in a beautiful glen, 520m above sea level and only 9km SE of Kastelli.
It features an interesting Byzantine church, dedicated to the Archangel Michael (Archangelos Michail) with wall paintings that have not been maintained and some interesting (movable) icons by the local painter, Sepis.
The active cultural centre of Geraki organizes many events during the summer season. Twice a year the village has a typical Cretan feast in honour of its patron saints: Agia Paraskevi on July 26th and Michail Archangelos on 8th November.
The village produces agricultural products and great cheese that led to a specific cheese celebration.
From Geraki you can also reach the lovely chapel of Agia Anna, driving through a particularly beautiful landscape with a spectacular view over the Geraki glen and fresh running water, a place ideal for a picnic.
Agia Paraskevi village
at 14km (SW)
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.
at 14.6km (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 15.2km (W)
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 15.5km (W)
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.
Kyra Eleoussa Monastery
at 15.7km (W)
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 16.1km (NW)
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 16.2km (W)
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.
Gouves (Pano) Village
at 16.4km (NW)
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).
Agia Paraskevi Cave
at 17.3km (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 .
Lato - Archaeological Site
at 18km (E)
Lato (Gr: Λατώ) was an ancient city of Crete, the ruins of which are located approximately 3 km from the small town of Kritsa. The Dorian city-state was built in a defensible position overlooking Mirabello Bay between two peaks, both of which became acropolises to the city. Although the city probably predates the arrival of the Dorians, the ruins date mainly from the Dorian period (fifth and fourth centuries BC). The city was destroyed ca. 200 BCE, but its port (Lato Etera or Lato pros Kamara), located near Agios Nikolaos was in use during Roman rule.
There is some suggestion that the city was named after the goddess Leto (of which Lato is the usual Doric form) and may be mentioned in Linear B tablets as RA-TO. Lato also minted coins in antiquity, bearing the likeness of the goddess Eileithyia who appears to have been the one particularly worshipped at Lato.
Nearchus, admiral of Alexander the Great, was born at Lato.
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