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  • Rouvas gorge (and Wood) : The gorge of Rouvas, Agios Nikolao or Gafaris is bounded by the peaks of Ambelakia from east and Samari from west. This is the most important gorge of Psiloritis and central Crete and took its name from the homonymous Byzantine church in the south entrance. It has a total length of 4 kilometres with 2,7 kilometres being well-shaped by the Forest Service for soft activities such as hiking, mountaineering, rock climbing, naturalism and observation of wildlife in a truly unique environment. The forest of Rouvas, in the gorge of St. Nicholas, is an important ecosystem of holly trees of national interest. The trees of the area are very old, the diameter of their trunk in some cases exceeds 1 meter and their height can reach 15 meters. They grow in very dense formations, thus they constitute a unique forest biosociety, with many species of shrubs to complement the vegetation. The forest area covers about 121 square kilimetres.
  • Tripiti gorge : The gorge of Trypiti is formed at the range Asterousia, to the south of the village Vassiliki. The length of the canyon reaches 4 kilometres and a beautiful pebble beach is formed at its exit. At the exit of the narrow gorge and next to the beach there is the cavernous church of Panagia Tripiti (Virgin Mary built in the cave), after which the canyon takes its name.
  • Arvi gorge : There are several places in Crete that are beautiful, but only a few of them can be described as winders of nature. A place that is a real wonder of nature is the gorge of Arvi that tears Arvion Mount in two, over which the shrine of Zeus Arveios was sited. The gorges of Arvi and Cha are two most impressive canyons of Crete. The gorge of Arvi is located north of the homonym village (south of Heraklion prefecture) and is formed by limestone of Mount Dikti. Crossing it is impossible without canyoning equipment and lights as there are many consecutive waterfalls.
  • Portela Gorge : Portela Gorge is located at the south of the prefecture of Heraklion, where the canyon starts from Hondros village and its exit is in Keratokambos. It is one of the most dangerous canyons in Greece. During winter and early spring it has large quantity of water. The canyon has 25 technical descents and the highest is 30 metres, the altitude difference between entrance and exit is 340 metres. It is a very beautiful and yet wild gorge, that’s why it is a legend of the region and considered as one of the most known canyons of Crete alongside with Cha and Arvi.
  • Agiofarago gorge : Agiofarago Gorge (meaning Gorge of Saints) is located in south of Odigitria Monastery and has been shaped near the beds of two streams. The first stream starts north – northeast of Gyalomonochoro and the other starts northeast of the Odigitria. The two streams meet, near Agia Kiriaki and after following a relatively smooth path, west and south of Church Agia Kiriaki, it arrives in Porofarango, where the main gorge of Agiofarago starts and ends at the Libyan Sea, at a small but amazing beach. Its name indicates that it was used by many hermits who stayed here because of the isolation of the area. According to a legend, three hundred hermits lived here in absolute isolation from each other. They met only once a year at “Goumenospilio” and then they were aware of those who had died the previous year. The place is isolated, wild and rugged. All this with the fact that it is too far from populated areas made Agiofarago the first center of ascetic life not only of the region but of the whole Crete, in the earliest Christian times.
  • Aposelemis gorge : The gorge Aposelemis exits at the settlement Agrianá. It is the longest and most important geological canyon in the northern part of the prefecture of Heraklion. It is crossed by the river Aposelemis, but despite the long size, easy walk and its proximity to Heraklion it still remains unknown to most locals. This important ecosystem hosts waterfowl birds and raptors, but the real surprise is a hidden riparian wood especially in its upper part. The mixed forest is composed of characteristic old trees with huge trunks, real monuments of nature. There are plane, holm oak, oak, holly, carob, osier and other trees.
  • Kounaviano gorge : Kounaviano canyon is the richest (in vegetation) gorge in the prefecture of Heraklion. The name comes from the village Kounavi. It is a tributary of the river Karteros and runs parallel to Astrakiano gorge, with which in merges at position Kaki Rachi by Skalani and then form the Gorge of Karteros. It is part of the Eco Park of Youchtas and the whole area is included in the network of Natura habitats.
  • Astrakiano gorge : Astrakiano gorge starts at the position Kolomodi and runs through the village of Astraki, after crossing the scenic bridge of Astrakiani Kamara, in Astraki village. The hiking trail crosses the ruined village of Kato Astraki (next to Myrtia) and the ruined chapel of Agios Georgios, while some steps soon lead into the canyon riverbed through the site of Neraidospilios, (with a cave with spring and beautiful ponds).
  • Psoraris gorge : One of the most impressive and longest canyons of the entire island of Crete is the canyon with the cacophonous name Psoraris (Greek: someone who suffers from scabies). Its exit is located at the mountains of Dikti, above the village Geraki and it starts from the plateau Parasyrta. There are three different mountain roads, all of unique beauty: from Lassithi plateau (village Kaminaki), from Geraki and Katofygi by Viannos. The water that flows from the snowmelt for millions of years has eroded the limestone and created a spectacular gorge. Psoraris stream is a tributary of the river Baritis, that then meets Anapodaris river. The walls of the canyon consist of vertical cliffs up to 400 meters high. Inside there is a forest of oaks and maples, while its last part has plane trees. The folds of the limestone are among the most impressive in Crete, while in its middle part they are purple. Despite being such a spectacular place, it remains completely unknown to all. The main reason is that it remains well hidden and away from the tourist routes. Crossing the gorge is only possible with canyoning equipment for six rappels, not very difficult, and then follows some walking on smooth riverbed. We overall need four hours to cross Psoraris at any time of the year.
  • Venerato gorge : The unknown canyon of Venerato is located 17 kilometres south of Heraklion, just next to the village Venerato and Paliani Monastery. The deep part of the gorge is very short in length (about 500 metres), but its beauty does not leave the visitor unaffected. One can take a short walk in the canyon and to combine your walk with short tour in Venerato village, where the Venetian nobles used to have their villas. The Venetians used to call Venerato “Little Venice” because of the beauty of the landscape. Inside the gorge flows the river Apollonas, which has water all year round. The name Apollonas (Apollo) comes from the ancient city of Apollonia, which was located here. There are some remains surviving near the gorge. Continuing in the gorge, the vegetation and the platan trees become lush and mix very nicely with one large old watermill.
  • Vorizia gorge : East of Voriza village, at the foot of Psiloritis, starts an arid canyon with holly trees that leads to the plateau of Nida Plateau and the cave Ideon Antron. The gorge is very steep at the beginning with small waterfalls coming from the brecciated steep limestone cliffs, but it soon sufficiently widens into a nice valley with Kermes Oaks and rich flora with many endemic plants of Crete like the Cretan Dittany or “erontas” (Origanum dictamnus), or the Rock Lettuce (Petromarula pinnata). Trekking in the gorge is not difficult, but it is very likely that you’ll struggle to find and follow the correct paths without the guidance of an experienced guide. In some points of this path, even Gavdos is visible (with clean air), the southernmost part of Crete and Europe.
  • Almiros gorge : Almiros Gorge is the nearest gorge to Heraklion, a natural oasis close to the bustling city, formed between the hills of Keri and Kastrokefala. It is a very important habitat and the main reason is because in the middle of the east side is the largest wood of holly (Phillirea Media) in Crete, unknown to most of us. There are many other species, such as platan trees, carob and olive trees despite overgrazing. It is the only gorge in Crete with 7 names: Gorge of Keri (due to the homonym hill nearby), Almiros (due to its adjacency to Almiros river), Ellinoperamata (it finishes at Ellinoperamata area), Porofarago (a common name throughout Cretan gorges), Three Churches (due to the three chapels of Agia Marina, Agios Antonios, Agia Paraskevi), Strouboulas (as it starts close to Strouboulas peak) and Ghosts’ gorge (because for many years the site of the canyon used by groups of Satanists and rumors about ghosts walking there).
  • Tsoutsouras gorge : The canyon of Tsoutsouras is located in Tsoutsouras village and is one of the many inaccessible canyons of the area. It starts at position Sfakias and it’s exit is located near the settlement, in Larinaki area, and at first glance it causes awe. The canyon, although it is quite short (1.5 kilometres), is an ideal place for canyoning for beginners.
  • Troulla gorge : Just a few meters to the west of Tsoutsouras gorge, the very narrow and smaller gorge of Troulla is formed. Being shorter than the Tsoutsouros canyon, it has attracted the attention of the canyoners and is very impressive with more than 15 beautiful waterfalls along its bed, the largest being 15 metres high. Because it is next to the Canyon of Tsoutsouras is is geologically similar and the first team that crossed it, jokingly named it Tsoutsouraki, i.e. small Tsoutsouras. Its entrance is just west of the impressive dome (troulla) of Tsoutsoura at the area Meli Lakos (Honey’s Pit) and it’s exit at the area Staoussa next to the village.
  • Mindris gorge : The gorge of Mindris starts near the village Filippi and ends at the port of Tsoutsouras, after running a distance of 6 kilometres. It is a open canyon without vertical walls, which’s riverbed is dry in summer and very easy to walk. On the riverside traces of ancient settlements, ranging from the Minoan to Roman Era have been found. At the middle of the canyon, at Perdikoneri, there is a spring with potable water. Inside the canyon and near Tsoutsouras, archaeologists have identified traces of the ancient town Inatos (Roman Baths and a trail) and some other buildings dating back to the Minoan era.
  • Achendrias gorge and Lichnistis fall : Achendrias gorge is located about 50 kilometres south of Heraklion, is approximately 8 kilometres long and ends on the beach Maridaki. Throughout most of its length it is easily accessible, apart from the last part, which is only passable by experienced canyoners. Just before reaching the sea it creates a waterfall of 60 meters, called Lihnistis, stopping our course abruptly. The canyon hosts a large number of raptors and vultures. It is noteworthy to mention that the gorges of Asterousia are home to the largest population of these birds in Europe.
  • Kroussonas gorge : The gorge of Kroussonas is located 3 kilometres west of the village Kroussonas and crosses the mountain Psiloritis. Starting from ancient Zominthos, near Anogia, it ends at Kitharida village, near Kroussonas. The canyon is pretty wild and spectacular, while in the winter it carries a small quantity of water. At one point, near Livadi plateau, it forms small waterfalls. It hosts a large number of prey birds and several animals.
  • Agios Antonios gorge : West of the village Ano Asites the river that initially is the gorge of Agios Charalabos and then crosses the village soon turns into a deep and spectacular gorge, the gorge of Agios Antonios. You can locate the downhill trail heading to the canyon bed next to the picturesque Byzantine church of Agios Antonios, where there is a spring of drinking water.
  • Anapodaris gorge : Anapodaris Gorge is formed at the final part of the longest river of Crete, Anapodaris, that collects the waters of Central Province Heraklion and South Dikti Range. It is worth noting that the river empties to the sea about 40 million cubic meters of water annually. At Dermatos, the largest and most important delta of Crete is formed, occupying several square metres of standing water and several streams surrounded by aquatic vegetation. The delta of Anapodaris is one of the most important wetlands in Crete and hosts many kinds of birds. The river silt over the years have created the valley of Dermatos and its wonderful beach.
  • Ambas gorge : The gorge of Ambas is located in Asterousia Mountains. Starting from the small plateau formed near the village Paranymfi, it ends at the beach of Treis Ekklisies. This is a large (4 kilometres long) and beautiful canyon with many narrow passages, which is accessible only by experienced canyoners. The main feature of the gorge is a waterfall formed near its start, with a height of 145 metres! This inaccessible point of Asterousia hosts the largest colony of preying birds in Europe.
  • Mesosfini gorge : The wild and inaccessible canyon of Mesosfini is located 55 kilometres south of Heraklion city, in an isolated area west of the seaside village of Treis Ekklisies. Its entrance is located at a height of 450 metres, near the villages of Mournies and Prinias, in the Asterousia Mountains. At its exit, 2 kilometres south, it is formed the majestic beach of Voidomatis, which can be accessed via a dirt track from Tris Ekklisies. The canyon is very narrow in the beginning and then opens. The vertical descents are very large, forming waterfalls in the winter and full with huge rocks that make it inaccessible. Mesosfini Gorge is the only one in Crete with two such high descents of 70 and 80 metres.
  • Eligas gorge : The gorge of Eligas is a monument of natural beauty located on the west side of the mountain Koupa near the village Miliaradon by Embaros. It is actually a high waterfall with nine rapels, ideal for canyoning. The difference of altitude between the entrance and the exit is about 230 metres. Eligas is one of the many waterfalls in the surrounding area, having a total height of 150 metres (water fall) which is broken into 5-6 steps with the largest being 50 metres.
  • Roza gorge : The gorge of Roza starts from a point near the rural road that crosses the gorge of Ambelos and has east-southeast direction, leading to Kera. The slope of the is very high, but there is a path on the sides ideal for hiking. Moreover, the sides are impressive, with visible geological formations that attract the eyes of the visitors, with their special beauty special. The name Roza is taken after the pinkish (roz means pink) colors of the walls. According to another version, the gorge served as a place for disposing the sterile animals (e.g. donkeys) in the past. Thus, the locals refered to the gorge as “Stira Za” (i.e. sterile animals) that was later paraphrased to “Sti Roza” (e.g. in Roza).
  • Martsano gorge : Martsalo gorge has a length of about 2 kilometres and is located in the south coast of Asterousia Mountains, in Heraklion Prefecture. It starts from the north and ends at the Libyan Sea, in the small picturesque beach of Martsalo. Apostle Paul is said to have stopped in Martsalo, during his journey to Rome. In the middle of the gorge, you’ll find the amazing cavernous church of the Virgin Mary, dating from early Christian times. This is believed to have served as a catacomb, where Christians took refuge to escape the persecution from occupiers of Crete. Around the church, someone can see the carved cells-caves in the rocks and traces of old buildings. Moreover, a characteristic of Martsalo is the large colony of Cretan date palm trees, that is one of the most important in Southern Heraklion.
  • Santorinios gorge : A few minutes away from the city of Heraklion, close to Agios Panteleimonas Monastery by Fodele, there is the canyon of Santorinios. The canyon is short but has not been exploited yet due to its quite difficult access, because of the dense vegetation and many ponds. The name of the gorge comes from the fact that the soil is reminiscent of the soil of Santorini island, that was formely used for building houses in Crete.
  • Goniano gorge : The Goniano gorge is the unique passage which connects Sklavokampos and Gonies with Tylisos. Its length is 3 kilometres and is relatively wide and straight.
  • Goula gorge : The gorge of Goula is a technical canyon starting south of Kapetaniana village and ending at Agios Ioannis seaside settlement. Like the rest gorges of the area (Koumos, Gerakias, Valahas), it is impassable without canyoning equipment. The gorge has 18 rapels with the highest being 55 metres. The length of the gorge reaches about 1700 metres and it is generally dry.
  • Knossano gorge or gorge of Agia Eirini : The Knossano Gorge is the continuation of Mount Giouchta. The area of the gorge, which is also named Paradise, has been characterized as a place of particular natural beauty and has been included in the network Natura 2000.
  • Xerofarago gorge : Xerofarago Gorge is located south of Kalami village (Viannos area), 75 kilometres southeast of Heraklion. It is a small gorge ideal for canyoning (known to the canyoners as Kalami II) that terminates close to the old church of Panagia Keralimeniotissa, where another gorge, Kalami Gorge The gorge Xerofarango has eleven consecutive descents, the largest being 16 metres high, and is usually dry. The narrow walls (3 – 7 metres width) and the sculptured natural rocks in the canyon make it a favorite canyon for lovers of easy canyoning.
  • Agios Charalampos gorge : The gorge of AgiosCharalambos is a small, but beautiful canyon located south of village Ano Asites. It takes its name after the church of Agios Charalambos located at its beginning. Till the middle of spring, the gorge has water, forcing hikers to traverse (to hike along its walls).
  • Spiliotissa gorge : Spiliotissa gorge is located about 24 kilometres south of Heraklion. It is a lush ravine that runs from the village Houdetsi, crosses Agios Vasilios, and ends in the valley of Peza.
  • Goumenospilios cave : Goumenospilios is a very small cave located in Agiofarago Gorge, about 80 kilometres south of Heraklion. Its entrance is very small, but the inner is very spacious, with a lighting hole on the roof. The cave has no decor, but is nonetheless legendary. The place of Agiofarago has always been used for asceticism. According to the legend, 300 are hermits were living here, who did never communicate with each other, except for the day of Resurrection. On that day, they gather all together in the cave and sat on the 300 stones that were around. Afterwards, they counted how many stones were not occupied, so as to estimate how many of them had died during the last year.
  • Skotino cave : The cave of Agia Paraskevi is located in Gouves area, northwest of the village Skotino, with its entrance located at an altitude of 225 metres. In thıs cave the worshıp of Goddess Artemıs (Diana) Vritomartis took place. The pre-entry area is a sinkhole at the end of which there is the Byzantine church of Agia Paraskevi, dating back in the period of Venetian rule in Crete. Near the entrance there is a large room called ‘Great Temple’, which hosts impressive complexes of stalagmites and stalactites. The next room, the ‘Altar’ is where evidence exists that sacrifices took part here. The length of the cave is 170 metres, with a total area of approximately 2500 square metres and a touristic path of 450 metres.
  • Agia Fotini cave : The cave of Agia Fotini is on located on Mount Louloudaki, 7 kilometres south of Avdou village, at an altitude of 760 metres. The entrance of the cave is shaped into a spectacular and steep rocky cliff, formed by the sharp collapse of the limestone. The view from the entrance to the valley of Avdou, known as Langada, is magnificent. According to tradition, Saint Fotini looked to find a quiet and secluded part, so as to dedicate the rest of her life to God alone. Because she could not find the place she wanted, Virgin Mary appeared and made a miracle: she created this cave inside the rock, so as Agia Fotini could live there. Moreover, according to tradition, women who cannot become pregnant, come to pray in the cave and drink the holy water dripping from the roof. Then, they can stay pregnant and they always bear sons.
  • Neraidospilios cave : Neraidospilios of Astraki is situated about 23 kilometres from Heraklion, near the village Astraki. According to the archaeologist Paul Faure, it has been the temple of Athena Tritogenia, whose surname is derived from the ancient name of river Karteros, that is Triton (Tritogenia means “coming from Triton”). The cave is one of the springs of the aqueduct of Astraki, which still supplies Heraklion city with water, since the early 20th century. Around Neraidospilios of Astrakoi, there are many sources of water, from where water comes out, accompanied by a slight noise, like a crying. After each rain, the water is blurring. This phenomenon has inspired the imagination of the locals to create the myth of the crying fairy.
  • Sarhos cave : Cave Sarhos, Honos or Nychteridospilios is located west of the village Sarhos, at an altitude of 276 metres. It is one of the largest and most important caves of Crete, which is particularly loved by cavers because of its complexity and large length. The total paths in the cave exceed the length of 1500 metres, while the depth of the cavern reaches 230 metres. One characteristic of the cave is the alternating rooms and spacious corridors/galleries. The decoration of the cave is limited, old and disintegrated. Prevalent decor items are stalagmites, stalactites and some corallines. The cave is home to three major species of bats in Crete. Thus, this is why locals call the cave Nychteridospilios, which means “cave of the bats”.
  • Labyrinth cave : Among the most important caves in Heraklion Prefecture, and significant monuments for the whole of Crete, are the artificial caves of the Labyrinth and the Little Labyrinth. These were once the quarries of ancient Gortyn, cut into the south and north sides of the smooth hill south of Moroni village. The Cave of the labyrinthine tunnels and the dead ends has raised the interest of many researchers, who place the mythical Labyrinth of the Minotaur in that cave, and not at Knossos. According to the famous legend, Theseus killed the monstrous Minotaur through the dark maze with the help of Ariadne, which gave him a string to avoid getting lost and find the exit again. Thus, Theseus managed to kill Minotaur and free himself and the other people that Athens was obliged to send in Knossos every nine years, in retaliation for the death of King Minos son by the Athenians. Many believe that the myth of the Minotaur symbolizes the suffering and the poor conditions under which slaves worked in the quarry, most of them dying in this dark and damp prison.
  • Chainospilios cave : The Cave Chainospilios is located 200 metres away from the village Kamaraki. Its length is 200 metres and there is a parallel gallery with a length of 120 metres, which is richly decorated. The cave is developed in limestone of the Miocene (12 million years ago). Massive stalagmite columns with more than 6 metres height, but also many small and large stalagmites, adorn the cave. The roof of the cave has strong marks from the corrosive effects of the ancient river water. Chainospilios means the Cave of Chainides, the Cretan rebels, who used it as their base.
  • Hosto Nero cave : The cavern of Hosto Nero is found in the region Selia of Youchtas mountain near the road that leads to the top of Afentis Christos. It is located at an altitude of about 720 metres in the southern top of the holy mountain and in order for anyone to see it they have to enter through a narrow hole. This cavern has 3 rooms and many corridors that connect them all with the first room. Deeply in the cavern, there are small stalagmites and small basins of water. Water runs from the stalagmites all the time in small quantities. The source took its name from the cavern, it was named thus (Chosto nero means “hidden water” in Greek) because nobody can easily locate the spring.
  • Kamilaris cave : The cave Kamilari is an easily accessible and impressive cave of Psiloritis Mount. It is located just 200 metres from the 13th kilometre of the old road connecting Heraklion with Rethymnon, near Tylisos, at an altitude of 267 metres. It is a very impressive cave because of the large size of the rooms. The air stream inside the cave indicates that there is another point connecting the cave with the cave extrerior. According to a written testimony, the cave was probably used as a place of worship during the sub-minoan period (1100 BC) and the roman period (69-395 AD).
  • Fragantonis cave : The Cave of Fragantonis is located 700 metres south-southwest of Malia, at the foot of the mountain Volakias, at an altitude of 20 metres and below the new highway. The cave has two entrances. A low and another from its roof.
  • Maria’s cave : The cave is located west – southwest of Malia at an altitude of 106 metres above the trail that leads from Malia to Mohos. The orientation of the cave is south east and the temperature of the cave is high given the are Its length is about 30m several narrow passage.
  • Kamares cane : The cave of Kamares, also called Kamaraiko, is located at the southern foot of Psiloritis. In particular, it is situated on the slopes of Mount Soros, at an altitude of 1700 metres and northeast of the homonym village of Kamares. It is not important in terms of speleology, but the Minoan findings made the cave a very important archaeological site.
  • Mount Jiouchtas : Jiouchtas is located west of Archanes, about 10 kilometres south of Heraklion. It’s a small lonely mountain with a maximum height of 811 metres, but it occupies a special position in the heart of the Cretans. Located in a unique landscape with vineyards and olive groves, it is bounded by fertile valleys on the north, the green Sylamiano Gorge on the east and the valley of the River Giofiros on the west. In the ancient times it was considered a sacred mountain, mainly because it resembles a human face that looks to the sky from the northwest. According to the legend, this is the face of Zeus and the mountain is his tomb. Indeed the name Jiouchtas is a corruption of the Latin word for Zeus, Jupiter. The mountain was very important for the Minoans since it was the first mountain they saw while their ships approached the shores of Crete. Here they built two Minoan shrines, the one at the highest point of the mountain and the second at the position Anemospilia. It is interesting, that a human skeleton was found in the latter shrine, lying on the altar with a knife thrust into its. This is the first evidence of human sacrifice by the Minoans, that survived in time probably because the building collapsed, possibly due to an earthquake, right at the time of sacrifice. The Minoan civilization was later destroyed, but the worship of Jiouktas remains till today. The mountain vegetation is low, but there are small clumps of cypress and pine trees in many areas. The inaccessible vertical cliffs of Jiouchtas are a unique haven for eagles and vultures.
  • Asterousia range : Asterousia Mountains are the southernmost range in Greece, located on the south side of Heraklion Prefecture. It is a narrow range, shaped between Messara plain and the Libyan Sea. Starting on the east from Anapodaris river, it ends in the tip of Messara, Lithino Cape. The average altitude of Asteroussia is not very high (less than 1250 metres), but access is quite tough because the terrain is very rugged, with many gorges and canyons. Asterousia main features are the warm temperatures, rare rainfalls and very low vegetation. Bare mountains, sharp rocks and steep cliffs, falling in the sea, give an eerie character to the entire region making these landscapes unique in Europe.
  • Aposelemis dam : The dam of Aposelemis river was a very tough project that was eventually completed in 2012. At the bottom of the lake there is the village Sfendyli, the few residents of which were moved to another place. The waters of the lake of Langada area come mainly from the Plateau of Lassithi.
  • Tourkou Lakos lake : South of Ahendrias village there is the lake of Tourkou Lakos or Kolimbas. It is the only one natural lake of Asterousia Range, being the most important wetland in the area. It has quite large quantities of water in winter. The name means the lake of the Turk, taken after a legend according to which a Turk was drowned here.
  • Almiros spring : Almiros spring is located at the northeastern side of Psiloritis, a few hundred metres far from the sea and the city of Heraklion, and it runs off the highest water quantity in Crete directly into the sea through the homonym river of Almiros. The water of the spring is brackish because somewhere quite deep it is mixed with seawater. Water resources come from two areas. The Psiloritis mountains and the surrounding plateaus from where winter rainfall can reach the spring in 9 hours, and also the hills which are nearby. However, the largest amount of water comes from Psiloritis sinkholes and the underground rivers (caves) and after a deep route arrives at the spring. A big fault located at the mountain side traps the already brackish water forcing it to come out from the spring.
  • Zaros lake : The artificial lake of Zaros or Votomos, located on the southern slopes of Psiloritis, just 1 kilometre north of Zaros and 45 kilometres southwest of Heraklion. The area was a small wetland before 1987, which was shaped in the crater of Votomos spring. It took its current form in 1987, when the Forest Service created an artificial lake where the spring water is stored. “Zaros” in Greek means a place with a lot of water.
  • Vourvoulitis pond : If you climb the cliffs on the east side of Agiofarago beach and walk for a while to the southeast, you will meet a hidden saltish lake – cave, called Vourvoulitis, surrounded by vertical cliffs. It is a sinkhole communicating with the open sea by underground passages. You can approach and swim in the lake, but it’s quite dangerous as the sides are steep. Vourvoulitis is one of the two most most impressive precipices is Crete which end up in the sea. A few meters to the east and near the village Kali Limenes there is still quite a similar precipice called Little Vourvoulitis.
  • Ini dam : The dam of Ini – Mahera is located 38 kilometres south of Heraklion and next to Mahera and Ini villages. It was constructed in 2004 and has a capacity of 1.750.000 cubic metres. Since its construction, the lake attracted a large number of birds and developed into an important wetland of Crete. Sometimes, the local of cultural associations organize events, such as rowing races.
  • Skinias dam : The artificial lake of Skinias is located 1 kilometre north of Skinias village, beside the River Baritis, from where it gets supplied with water. The lake was constructed in order to irrigate the local land. With the passage of time it has become an important stop for many migratory birds (including ducks and herons) and other aquatic organisms such as the Cretan frog and tortoises.
  • Livada lake : The pond of Livada is located at the homonym position 1 kilometre north of the village Thrapsano and is one of the favorite places for locals to walk. The small lake covers only 85.000 square metres, but is an important wetland, where more than 130 species of birds have been met. Thrapsano is the Cretan “village of potters”, where pottery tradition holds since the Minoan times, 4000 years ago. Even the creation of the pond has been linked to the tradition of Thrapsano pottery. According to a tale, once the site of Livada belonged to a Turkish aga. He demanded from the potters of Thrapsano to pay the tithe from selling pots made of the soil of Livada region. So, over time, as the soil of Livada was removed, a large pit was formed, the current pond Livada!
  • Partira dam : The dam of Partira is situated 32 kilometres south of the city of Heraklion and west of the village Partira at an altitude of 300 metres. Its construction was completed in 2000 and today the capacity reaches 380.000 square metres of water. The dam gathers the water from Patsideros river, a tributary of Anapodaris river. A very old Byzantine church with old frescoes dedicated to Virgin Mary (Panagia) is located near the banks of the lake, build on a small hill. Around the dam, the local government has placed benches and playgrounds, as the lake is ideal for daily excursions and bird watching. In Partira more than 120 species of birds, especially migratory, have been observed. There are also frogs and tortoises, while the dead trees appearing when the water level is low are also imposing.
  • Faneromeni dam : The dam of Faneromeni is located 7 kilometres west of the village Zaros and about 7 kilometres north of Tympaki. It is located in a scenic location, in a verdant valley at the southern foot of Psiloritis Mount. The artificial lake covers an area of approximately 4 square kilometres and has a capacity of 20 million cubic meters. The dam was constructed in 2005, to meet the increased demand for irrigation of the Mesara plain. In the few years of operation, the lake of Faneromeni has become an extremely important wetland, where rare birds and animals nest. The dam can be accessed through Vori village, near Phaestos.
  • Karavados dam : The small dam of Karavados is located 1 kilometre south of the village Karavados, next to the road leading from Skinias to Viannos. It is fueled by the tributary of Baritis River, which later joins the wide Anapodaris river. The dam was constructed in 1993 and has a capacity of 180.000 cubic meters. Because of its important position and the good preservation of the wetlands around Baritis river, the dam attracts many migratory birds.
  • Stroumboulas pond : At the east sides of the volcano-like peak of Strouboulas, one will meet the small plateau of Strouboulas. It is a typical limestone plateau with limited vegetation due to overgrazing, but it hides wild beauty. At one side, there is the chapel of Agios Georgios and at its lowest place, a small pond is formed in the winter. This small unknown wetland is highly dependant on the rainfalls. The water is reddish due to the grounds that remind of African landscapes.
  • Amourgelles dam : Amourgelles dam is situated at an altitude of 300 metres, 30 kilometres south of Heraklion and 1 kilometre south of the village Amourgelles. It spans an area of 610. Square metres and is one of the major dams in the region of Arkalochori. From the very first moment of its construction, the dam of Amourgelles hosts dozens of species of birds, especially in autumn and spring.
  • Damania dam : Damania village is a small and quiet village at the most fertile part of Monofatsi district, Heraklion Prefecture. All locals came from Minor Asia, just after the disaster in Smyrna. The small dam was built to retain water from the tributary of Anapodaris River. At the west part of the lake there is a small hill called Zaviana, over which traces of an ancient settlement have been identified. We can still discern the bases of the buildings and pottery sherds around.

There are quite a few small rivers that can be found within the Prefecture of Heraklion, such as Almiros river, river Aposelemis, Karteros river, river Appollonas, river Baritis, river Anapodaris, river Giofiros and Patsideros river.

Dia island : Dia is 5 kilometre long and 3 kilometre wide and covers an area about 12 square kilometres, extending from west to east. North of the Dia, there are two islets with gulls, Paximadi and Petalidi. In the southern part of the island there are 4 quiet bays: the gulf of Agios Georgios, which is the only port of the island, the Gulf of Kapari, the bay of Panagia and the Gulf of Agrielia. On the east, there is the Gulf of Aginara. The island has a maximum height of 220 metres and the landscape is generally characterized by stones and shrubs. There are areas with rocky cliffs that reach 60 metres. Dia played an important role in navigation during antiquity, particularly in Minoan and Medieval times. For the precocious seamen that sailed in the open Cretan Seas, it constituted the best possible natural “signal”, indicating the approach of the Cretan coast with its natural harbours, while at the same time it helped in the anchoring of the ships, effectively blocking the strong northern winds. During Minoan times the island was populated and, near the bay of Agios Georgios, a harbour settlement was established.

  • Knossos : Knossos is the largestBronze Age archaeological site on Crete and is considered Europe’s oldest city. The name Knossos survives from ancient Greek references to the major city of Crete. The identification of Knossos with the Bronze Age site is supported by tradition and by the Roman coins that were scattered over the fields surrounding the pre-excavation site. Many of them were inscribed with Knosion or Knos on the obverse and an image of a Minotaur or Labyrinth on the reverse, both symbols deriving from the myth of King Minos, supposed to have reigned from Knossos. The Romans believed they had colonized Knossos. After excavation, the discovery of the Linear B tablets, and the decipherment of Linear B by Michael Ventris, the identification was confirmed. The palace was built over a Neolithic town. During the Bronze Age, the town surrounded the hill on which the palace was built. The site was discovered in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos. The excavations in Knossos began in AD 1900 by the English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans (1851–1941) and his team, and they continued for 35 years. The palace was excavated and partially restored under the direction of Arthur Evans in the earliest years of the 20th century. Its size far exceeded his original expectations, as did the discovery of two ancient scripts, which he termed Linear A and Linear B, to distinguish their writing from the pictographs also present. From the layering of the palace Evans developed de novo an archaeological concept of the civilization that used it, which he called Minoan, following the pre-existing custom of labelling all objects from the location Minoan. The palace of Knossos was undoubtedly the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. It appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and storerooms close to a central square. The palace was abandoned at some unknown time at the end of the Late Bronze Age, c. 1380–1100 BC. Fieldwork in 2015 revealed that during the early Iron Age, Knossos was rich in imports and was nearly three times larger than indicated by earlier excavations. In the first palace period around 2000 BC the urban area reached a size of up to 18.000 people. In its peak the Palace and the surrounding city boasted a population of 100.000 people shortly after 1700 BC.
  • Phaistos : Ancient Phaistos was located about 5.6 kilometres east of theMediterranean Sea. The name, Phaistos, survives from ancient Greek references to a city in Crete of that name, shown to be, in fact, at or near the current ruins. The name is substantiated by the coins of the classical city. They display motifs such as Europa sitting on a bull, Talos with wings, Heracles without beard and being crowned, or Zeus in a form of a naked youth sitting on a tree. Phaistos was located by Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt, commander of the Spitfire, a paddle steamer, in the Mediterranean Survey of 1853, which surveyed the topography, settlements and monuments of Crete. A village of 16 houses remained on the ridge, but the vestiges of fortification walls indicated a city had once existed there. A half-century later, on removing the houses, Federico Halbherr and his crew began to discover the remains of an extensive palace complex. As he had begun excavation before Evans at Knossos in 1900, he did not have the advantage of Arthur Evans’ concepts of Minoan civilization nor the knowledge acquired after the decipherment of the Linear B syllabary by Michael Ventris. Excavation ended in 1904, to begin again after another half-century, in 1950. By this time it was understood that the palace had been constructed at the beginning of the Proto-Palace Period, along with all the others. No Linear B has been found at Phaistos, and yet tradition and the Knossos tablets suggest that Phaistos was a dependency of Knossos. Moreover, only a few pieces of Linear A have been found. As Phaistos appears to have been an administrative center, the lack of records is paradoxical. However, the lack of an expected event is not an argument for any conclusion. There are many possible reasons for the deficit. Records may yet be found.
  • Kommos : The Minoan town of Kommos was the harbour of Phaistos from 1650 to around 1250 BC. In the 19th century, in an outbreak of imagination and romanticism, the Italian archaeologist Taramelli identified Kommos as the place where King Menelaus was shipwrecked on his way home from Troy after the end of the Trojan war, a deadly accident mentioned by Homer.
  • Royal villa of Agia Triada : A very important archeological site of central Crete, near Phaistos, on the banks of river Geropotamos, with special natural beauty is Agia Triada. The royal villa or small Minoan palace of Agia Triada, as it was named by the Italian archeologists that brought it to light in the beginning of the previous century, was built in around 1600 B.C. on a hill and it is one of the most important monuments of Minoan architecture, rich in finds. It is located 64 kilometres southwest of Heraklion and 3 kilometres south of Phaistos. It is believed that it was used as the summer quarters of the king of Phaistos, while other researchers believed that it was used by the king of Phaistos after the destruction of the palace, but maybe both the palace and the village were used at the same period of time. The Royal Villa was built in the 16th century B.C. After the destruction of the palaces (1450 B.C.) a “megaron” of Mycenean style was built on the northern side of the villa. In the Geometric times (8th century B.C.) the Villa was a worship place. A sanctuary dedicated to Zeus was built in the Hellenistic times (4the-1st century B.C.). During the Venetian rule the church of St George Galatas was built in the yard of the Villa (14th century A.D.). The building complex of Agia Triada is considered to be a mansion or a small palace, like the small palace of Knossos. It consists of two wings forming an L-shape and, although it does not have the dimensions of the palaces of Phaistos and Knossos, it has all the features of palatial architecture. It has “multiple doors”, appartments with lightwells, sanctuary rooms, storerooms, treasuries, laboratories, staircases, stoas, yards, aisles and stone paved roads and yards. The complex is very gracefully and impressively decorated. The walls were covered with stone plats and decorated with frescoes, the number of which is larger than that of the entire Minoan Crete. A series of staircases lead to the first floor. The southern part, which was very simple, a series of rooms faces a long narrow corridor. They were possibly used as auxiliary rooms. In one of them the famous sacramental stone cup was found. In the westeastern part the appartment of the king were located. The floors were covered with red mortar. The central chamber is linked, through two multiple-doors, with a yard with was surround with columns and there was also a lightwell in the north. There is also a room with desks and a smaller one with an alabaster leg that may have been used as a bed. In the northeast of the multiple-door archives were found with a large number of clay seals. Next there is a room with wallpaintings depicting lilies and wild cats. In a nearby room 9 copper coins were found and this is why the room was named a treasury. In the villa of Agia Triada were found, apart from excellent samples of ceramic art, an important archive of Linear B plates, sample of stone art, three stone vessels with carved representations, the sacramental cup, the rhyte of the wrestlers and the vessel of the reapers. One of the most special finds that were discovered in Agia Triada, is a clay statuette of a Minoan goddess in a swing. In a storeroom nine copper coins were also discovered and a treasure of seals. However, the most important and interesting find, is the sarcophagus of Agia Triada.
  • Gortys : The ruins of the ancient city of Gortys with its acropolis and necropolis extend in an area of about 4 square kilometres, from the hills Ai-Giannis, Volakas and Prophitis Ilias in the north to the villages Agioi Deka and Metropolis in the south. The area of Gortys was inhabited already in the Neolithic Times, as finds from this period have been spotted in the plain and the hills, few of which of Minoan origin. At the site Kania, south of the village Metropolis, a late Minoan country villa with remarkable finds has been excavated. In the Geometric Period (1.100 – 700 B.C.) the settlement was built on the acropolis and villages were built at the foot of the hills. In the Archaic Times (700 – 500 B.C.) the city was extended into the area of the later Conservatory and the plain, in the place of the later temple of “Pythian” Apollo. From the city of the classical period the remains of the synagogue in the place of today’s Conservatory have been spotted, the most important monument being the Great Inscription in the northern circular wall of the Conservatory. In the Hellenistic Times (end of the 4th century B.C. – 67 B.C.) Gortys was one of the largest cities of Crete. In the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. it was the head of one of the three city unions and in the 2nd century B.C., when Rome intervened in the internal affairs of Crete, Gortys took the side of the Romans. After the Roman conquest it became the capital of the Roman province of Crete and the Cyrene and experienced great building development. In the early Byzantine period the administrative and urban centre of the city was transferred to the Christian neighbourhood in the modern village Metropolis, while a second centre of the early Byzantine city was located at the church of Agioi Deka. After the Arab conquest, Gortys was ruined.
  • Tylissos : The houses of Tylisos were built in the Late Minoan I period (16th-15th century B.C.). Extensions were made to House A in the Late Minoan II period (15th-14th centuries B.C.) and to the House C during the Late Minoan III period (14th century B.C.). The site was destroyed by fire in the 14th century B.C. and reinhabited in the Historic times, as attested by ruins of later houses over the Minoan ones. Tylisos was excavated by Joseph Hatzidakis in 1902-1913. In 1954, during restorations, parts of a paved yard were revealed in the west and a small “stoa” with five columns north of the Square of the Altar. The Archaeological Authority started restoration and consolidation works on the site in 1954, which were continued until 1962. Consolidation works in all three houses were repeated during the years 1990-1994. Excavation finds have included apithos with Linear A inscriptions, stone horns, and clay human and animal figurines.
  • Malia : Human presence at Malia during the Neolithic period (6000-3000 B.C.) is attested only by potsherds, but habitation was continuous from the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C. until the end of Prehistory. The houses of a Pre- palatial settlement (2500-2000 B.C.) have been found under the palace, and graves of the same period are located near the sea. The first palace was built in around 2000-1900 B.C. The already existing significant settlement, parts of which are preserved around the palace, was then converted into a palatial centre-city. The palace was destroyed in around 1700 B.C. and rebuilt in 1650 B.C. at the same site, following the plan of the older palace, while a few changes were made 50 years later. The new palace was destroyed in c. 1450 B.C., along with the other Minoan palatial centres. The site was reoccupied for a short period in the 14th-13th century B.C. Remains of a Roman settlement cover an extensive area at a site called “Marmara”, where a basilica of the 6th century is also preserved. In 1915, Iosif Hatzidakis started a probe excavation on the hill called ”Azymo” and brought to light the southern half of the west wing of the palace, as well as the tombs by the sea, but he stopped the research. Finally, the French School of Archaeology at Athens resumed the excavations, which are being continued until presently with intervals, at the palace, the sectors of the town and the cemeteries on the coast.