Crete : Regional Interest
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at 27.4km (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.
Pediada, North - East Iraklion
at 27.9km (E)
The most popular tourist resort in Crete. Nice beaches, sights and facilities for all tastes and ages. Together with Malia, are the party places for young visitors. Close to Hersonissos there are three small traditional village, those of Piskopiano, Koutouloufari and Old Hersonissos.
Lyttos ancient town
at 27.9km (E)
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 28.8km (SE)
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 29.1km (E)
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.
at 29.3km (SE)
Amariano, a charming small village of 321 inhabitants, (census 2001), lies in the western foothills of Afendi mountain, at an altitude of 530m. It is located at 7, 2 km east of Kastelli and can be found on the road axis; Kasteli -Xidas- Kastamonitsa-Amariano.
With the traditional, century old plane tree in the middle of the village square, with the fountain, surrounded by kafeneions (traditional cafes) serving refreshments; raki (or tsikoudia, the traditional Cretan spirit) and mezedes (tit-bits), Amariano is a typical Cretan village, well worth a look. Until recently, the leather tannery was a main activity among the villagers. The main produce today are olive oil, raisins and grapes, although there is also livestock.
Close by is the church of Agios Giorgos Kefaliotis with good quality wall paintings.
The cultural centre of Amariano organises a great feast on August 15th, the Dormition of Theotokos and on September 20th, day of the patron saint, Aghios Eustathios. This can be a great occasion for any visitor to live an authentic cultural experience, to meet the people and taste the traditional Cretan cuisine.
The first mention of the village -Amariano and Mariano- is to be found in inscriptions dating back to 1394-1399. Fr. Barozzi also mentions it in the region of Pediada in 1577.
The name is significant: Amari is an area close to the town of Rethymnon, therefore the first inhabitants were originally from the Amari region. During the second Byzantine period, this region was known as Apano Syvritos and the name Amari is first mention in Venetian times. This would imply that the village was first founded during the Venetian conquest of the island. The first spelling, Amarianos, is the correct one and the family names Amarianos, Amargianitakis and Amariotis first appear in the 16th century, in the 1583 cencus.
at 29.3km (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.
Agioi Deka town
Messara, Iraklion South
at 29.4km (S)
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.
at 29.5km (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.
Gortyn Ancient town
Messara, Iraklion South
at 29.6km (SW)
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.
at 29.7km (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.
Lychnostatis Folklore Museum
Hersonissos, Iraklion, Crete
at 29.7km (E)
The Cretan Open-air Museum 'Lychnostatis' aims to promote the understanding and awareness of the Cretan folk cultural heritage. Its scope lies on the Cretan Folk Tradition and Ethnology, the Cretan Nature and Environment and the Cretan Folk Culture. Located in Hersonissos, one of the principal tourist areas in Crete, the museum is, apart from a valuable tourist asset, an exemplary self - motivated conduct on tradition, culture and environment of the island.
Rethymnon North coast
at 29.8km (NW)
Bali is a small fishing village, about 40 km west of Iraklion and 37km east of Rethymno easily accessed from the international road.
It has a small picturesque harbour and lots of small coves with wonderful clear beaches.
Recent years Bali has been developed to a popular tourist resort but it is still preserves its traditional character.
Ideal place for family holidays, with small hotels and lovely taverns serving fresh fish and local specialties.
Not far from Bali is the Monastery of Saint John a place worth to visit.
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