Getting around Central Crete
Aside from archaeological treasures, central Crete has many
other interesting sites to discover. 7km from Heraklion
and south of Karteros is the cave of Eileithyia, the goddess of
childbirth where, according to the myth, Hera gave birth to
Eileithyia. The cave was known during the 1st century BC by both
the ancient philosopher Stabo and the poet, Homer. The monastery
of Angarathou is one of the oldest on the island dating from the
16th century. The wealth of the icons and other artefacts in its
possession as well as its large size gives an indication of its
importance to the island and the Venetian Empire.
The villages of Kastelli Pediadas, the ancient village of Lyttos and also the pottery-making village of Thrapsianos are also worth stopping at.
Heading down towards the southern coastal region of the island is Amiras, followed by Keratokambos, Arvi and Psari Forada. Gradually the lush mountainous scenery gives way to these small coastal settlements with their long sandy beaches and small secluded coves. At Arvi, which is a beautiful seaside village on the Libyan ocean, there is a 454m deep gorge and a 200m long cave with stalagmites and stalactites. These beautiful little villages are popular in the summer season and consequently are well served with rooms and apartments to rent, fish tavernas, cafes and shops.
Psari Forada is a particularly beautiful village. Green and lush it literally hangs of the slopes of Mt. Dikti. There are sycamore trees and an enchanting square where you can relax and refresh yourself. It is remote and there is only limited accommodation to rent but a wonderful place to relax on its big sandy beach and find peace and tranquillity.
Back in central Crete, next to the village of Venerato and just south-west of Iraklio is the Byzantine nunnery of Paliani. This monastery is dedicated to the Assumption and is thought to be one of the oldest in Crete although its exact date is unknown. It has, over the centuries experienced great wealth and also poverty and tragedy. During the times of the Ottoman occupation it was destroyed and the nuns were all massacred. Since then it has built itself up again and is now classified as the richest monastery in Crete.
Further west is the picturesque village of Zaros which lies on the southern slopes of Mt. Ida. Here is the beautiful monastery of Vrondisi which overlooks the Mesara plain and the Libyan Sea on one side whilst the other side looks towards the peaks of Psiloritis. Inside there are wall paintings dating from the 14th C. This monastery played an important role during the struggles against the Turks in the 19th C and both it and its community received stiff reprisals as a result.
Close by in the surrounding fields of the village of Voriza is the monastery of Aygiou Phariou Varsamonerou. The monastery is abandoned today and although most of the walls of its cells are destroyed the church retains some remarkable wall paintings.
Further west again, but still in south central Crete is the village of Kares. There are some important archaeological sites in the area including the Minoan sacred cave. Kamares is particularly famous for its examples of Middle Minoan pottery, dating from around 2000BC which were found in a cave close by. Typical potteries of this era were jugs and cups with a light on dark polychrome design. .