One of the most beautiful parts of the hinterland of Ierapetra is occupied by the picturesque village of Kalamafka. It is situated on the edge of the Lassithi mountains, an area known for its impressive diversity in landscape. Kalamafka sits at an altitude of 480 meters, 15 kilometers from the town of Ierapetra and 25 kilometers from Agios Nikolaos.
Kalamafka is a picturesque, large, and prosperous village surrounded by unique natural beauty. The springs at Kefalovryso, with its plane trees and lush vegetation, as well as its old historical churches, gorges, and springs, attract visitors due to the oasis-like coolness it offers in this otherwise dry and hot region. The village's wealth lies in its water sources and the vitality of its residents, who resist urbanization. Another reason for Kalamafka's enduring population is its advantageous location, as it is centrally positioned between the north and south coasts of the island, drawing daily visitors from Ierapetra and Agios Nikolaos.
History: The village derives its name from "Kali Afkla," a wooden channel that was once used to transfer water from one riverbank to another at the springs of Kefalovryso. Another explanation for the name is that the rock formation on Kastelos Hill resembles a Greek Orthodox priest's hat (kalymafki). Kalamafka, known as ancient Larisa, has been inhabited since the Minoan era. In the Psathi area, along the road to Ierapetra, archaeological findings such as human skulls, clay pots, spearheads, and various grave goods from the sub-Minoan era have been discovered. The geographer Strabo mentions Kalamafka, ancient Larisa, as follows: "And in Crete there is the city of Larisa, which now is united with Ierapytna, and from which the plain below, called Larision, takes its name."
The god protector of ancient Larisa was Asclepius, and this is why the Medical Association of Lassithi has adopted the figure of a statuette discovered on the Kastelos peak, which overlooks the village and served as a peak sanctuary according to Mr. Michalis Pytikakis. Larisa was conquered around the 3rd century B.C. by Ierapytna, and its residents were relocated as per the terms of the treaty. Evidence from subsequent historical periods suggests that the Kalamafka area has been continuously inhabited due to the presence of the water sources of Kefalovryso. Place names like Kastelos, Mesokastela, and Larisakia attest to its historical significance.
Kastelos Hill, serving as the seat of a feudal lord during the Venetian rule, had 435 residents in 1583. It boasted several notable Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches, along with numerous chapels. During the Turkish rule, it was a breeding ground for prominent chieftains like Nikolaos Foniadakis and Ioannis Baritakis. The village's history is marked by struggles and sacrifices that cannot be easily summarized.
Today, Kalamafka is a vibrant village with a growing population. It has a two-seat school, a nursery school, a cultural association, numerous coffee houses, and seven taverns. The natural landscape, often referred to as "Chinese" due to its small rock pillars with bonsais, stone formations, and Kastelos Hill with its 224 steps, is considered a monument of natural history. Kalamafka offers visitors a wealth of attractions, including caves, rock paintings, the Havgas gorge, an ancient olive press, and the churches of Saint John and Saint Anthony.
The taverns, shaded by plane trees and surrounded by running water, serve traditional and delicious local dishes, including the traditional "klostenios" halva and skyfomakarounes (local pasta). The sounds of the lyra, violin, and lute add to the ambiance, pleasing both locals and foreigners. There are indeed many compelling reasons to visit Kalamafka.
By Toby Robert