The region of Viannos covers the south side of Mt. Dikti and
many of the mountain villages in the area have houses built in
the old traditional style and contain many old churches. The
whole region is rich in vegetation due to the small ravines of
running water that are characteristic of the area.
The history of Viannos goes back to mythical times and the name Viennos is purported to come from one of the Kourites who were the first inhabitants of Kriti (Crete) and lived on the summit of Mount Psiloritis. They were half-gods who protected the baby Zeus from being eaten by his father Kronos by shouting and beating their swords against their shields to mask the infant s crying.
Ancient Viannus was an independent city-State which took part in the alliance of the Cretan cities under the rule of Eumenes II, who was the King of Pergamos. It was afterwards conquered by its neighbouring city, the powerful Ierapytna (Ierapetra). the ancient town has not been excavated or explored yet but in the surrounding areas of Galana Harakia, Kefala, Hondrou and Rouses, some Minoan remains have been excavated. During the Second World War and the occupation of the Germans, Viannes was destroyed and all its 1181 inhabitants were executed by the Nazis. There is an imposing monument in the village in honour of these victims.
There are two fine head-villages, Ano (Upper) Viannos and Kato (Lower) Viannos both of which have lovely churches with some extremely well-preserved wall paintings from the C14th. The village of Ano Viannos is the capital of the region and is 560m above sea level. The town today is built on the site of the ancient city of Viannos and, during the Venetian times, was a large and prosperous village. This large attractive village of 1.500 people lies around 66km to the south-east of Heraklion. It is built amphitheatrically on three hills that are shaped by the slopes of the Diktes Mountains. The village overlooks the sea through a crevice in the mountain. The surrounding countryside is lush with many olive, plane and poplar trees and many streams and rivers running down from the mountains. The village itself is charming with narrow rising roads, traditional old houses, stone fountains and small shady squares surrounded by cafes.
Viannos was destroyed twice during the Turkish occupation. Today it still has a wonderful, old world charm about it. Its steep, narrow lanes are lined with traditional style houses, all leading into attractive squares, each with a stone fountain in the centre. It is lush and verdant dominated by plane trees; poplars and myrtle all of which provide a pleasant shade in which to rest in any one of the cafes that exist in the squares. The Agios Nikolaos Archaeological Museum and the Folklore Museum are both worth visiting in the area.
Interesting places to visit in and around Viannos include the church of Agia Pelagias which has murals that date back to 1360 and the church of Agia Yiorgos with murals from 1401. At the excavation site of Galana Harakia there are 30 large burial jars which were unearthed. Also, on the village's main road, is an interesting inscribed Christian tomb. Close by, at Amiras, is the imposing Viannos gorge and, at Kato Symi is the impressive cave of Vigla with its stalactites and stalagmites.