Crete : Towns & Villages
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at 22.6km (SW)
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 22.7km (SE)
Kastamonitsa (GR: Κασταμονίτσα) is 7 km away from Kasteli, has 356 inhabitants and lies at 520 m above sea level, in the foothills of the Afendi mountain (1578 m), with the Dikti mountain in the background.
The village is not mentioned in the Venetian registers of the 16th and 17th centuries, nor in the Turkish census of 1671. It is possible that the name is related to that of Kastamoni in Asia Minor: refugees, driven out of their land by the Turks, may well have come and settled here, giving their new home the same name as their old one. But it is impossible to establish a precise date.
The Church of the Koimisi tis Theotokou (Dormition of Our Lady), located in the cemetery of the village, has wall paintings of the 14th century and points to a settlement here during the Venetian period. However, as we said before, the village is not mentioned in any Venetian census. The first reference is to be found in an Egyptian census conducted in 1834, where the village of Kastamonitsa is said to have 35 Christian families. And again in 1881, the village is said to have 320 Christian residents; no Turkish families are mentioned.
The location of the village on the way to the natural fortress of the Lassithi plateau which protects all of Eastern Crete, turned the area into a battlefield during the last century.
The Egyptian Pasha Hassan tried to invade the Lassithi plateau in 1822. The rebels cut him off between Krassi and Kastamonitsa, fighting him so well that he was forced to change his strategy and invade the plateau through its south side (Viannos and Ierapetra).
Other fierce battles took place in and around Kastamonitsa during the 1866-67 rebellions. Finally Omer Pasha, known as the Attila of Lassithi, found a way up through the glen at Geraki where an betrayer showed him the way.
A clay cast has been found in Mesarmi. It is elliptical in shape and has a width of about 0.25 m, and has a plaited decoration. A round glass vessel was also found at Xidiano Seli.
4 km out of the village you get to a lovely spot known as Mesada, where traditional celebrations take place on Easter Tuesday.The village boasts of several kapheneions and a taverna in the main square.
There is an active cultural centre, that organizes events especially in the summer. The most important and traditional feast is held on July 7th in honour of Aghia Kyriaki.
Agia Varvara town
at 22.9km (SW)
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 22.9km (SE)
Mathia is 11 km to the SE of Kasteli, has 215 inhabitants and lies at 590 m above sea level, in the foothills of the Afendi mountain (1578 m), with the Dikti mountain in the background.
The earliest reference to the village can be found in several contracts of 1271 where the notary of Chandax P. Scardon mentions commercial exchanges of grain and wine with residents of the village ‘Mithie’, possibly a misspelling for Mathia. The name derives from the common first name for girls, ‘Mattia’, which in Crete is pronounced ‘Mathia’.
Burials in jars of the middle Minoan period were discovered in 1957 close to the village, in a place known as Stavroplaka. To the NW of the village, at Katalimata, a Late Minoan site with important finds and, 200 m further off, a settlement with large walls still in place were also found.There are wonderful Byzantine wall paintings in the two churches of this traditional village, the church of Koimisi tis Panagias (Dormition of Our Lady) and the church of Agios Giorgos.
At Metochi, in beautiful surroundings where the historical holm-oak of Ismail Pasha stands among plane trees and running water, there are camping facilities.
You can also visit an old factory and several ruined mills.
The village boasts of several kapheneions where they serve raki and ‘mezedes’ (tit-bits).
There is an active cultural centre, that organizes events especially in the summer, with evenings of Cretan music and theatre plays. The most important and traditional feast is held on the Sunday of Agioi Pantes, 50 days after Easter.
at 23.6km (SE)
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.
at 25.5km (SW)
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.
at 25.6km (W)
Anogia is a mountain town with 2500 permanent residents and is 55 km away from Rethymnon and 36 km from Iraklion. The name Anogia, means "high place - Ano Gi", is connected with the location that is built, in altitude of 700 m. Hospitable and pleasant residents have to tell a lot of old stories that have marked the tradition and the culture of the village. Anogia is a well-known village historically for its resident's resistance to the conquerors, Turkish and Germans.
Pediada, North - East Iraklion
at 27km (E)
The famous tourist resort with all types of accommodations. Great beaches and a lively party atmosphere particularly in August. Becomes pretty quiet and peaceful during the rest of the season and there is a nice and picturesque part of the old village that preserves the traditional character. Malia has also a significant agricultural production and is famous for its bananas, potatoes and bottled water.
at 28.5km (E)
Krassi is a small village 47 Km's from Iraklion and 17 km from Malia at an altitude of 600 m.asl, on the way to Lassithi plateau, and is administratively part of the Municipality of Malia. The village is one of the prettiest in Crete, with a lot of springs. Due to the free running water , it is covered with walnut trees, plane trees and all kinds of vegetation. Next to the spring in the middle of the village is one of the oldest and biggest plane trees in Crete (its root has a circumference of 22 meters!).
Kenouriou, South Iraklion
at 29.9km (SW)
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.
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