Around Central Crete

This tour around central Crete lists some of the area’s highlights such as the traditional village of Arolithos, Minoan remains at Tilisos, and Agioi Deka.

Arolithos Traditional Village in central CreteArolithos Traditional Village


The ‘traditional village’ of Arolithos, about 12 km (7.5 miles) west of Irakleio, was actually purpose-built for tourists and centered on a hotel, but it’s charming all the same. Its name means ‘a natural hole in a rock which collects rainwater’, and so too does this village aim to gather up the folkloric traditions of Crete.

You can watch weavers, potters, icon painters and other artisans producing traditional crafts, enjoy Cretan food and music, or learn how raki is made in the agricultural history museum. 


The remains of this ancient Minoan town sit right within the village of the same name, a delightful example of the continuity of life through the ages. This small peaceful spot beneath shady pines is little visited and makes a refreshing change from the larger archaeological sites. It centres on three Minoan villas, which are thought to have been part of a larger community.

About 16 km (10 miles) west of Irakleio, Tílisos was one of the first Minoan sites to be excavated, prompted by the discovery of three giant bronze cauldrons; these and other finds are now in the Iráklio Archaeological Museum. The ruins are well preserved, and you can wander among the stone walls and through doorways into small rooms and courtyards. Tílisos is surrounded by olive groves and vineyards, where sweet, dark Malmsey wine has been produced since Venetian times.

Agioi Deka

The name of this village, just to the east of the ancient site of Gortina (Gortys), translates as the ‘Holy Ten’ and refers to ten early Christian martyrs who were beheaded here in AD 250 by order of the Roman emperor Decius. They are still highly revered today.

Two churches in the village are dedicated to them. The Old Church, 14th-century but Byzantine in origin, is a lovely stone building with a tiled roof; it is signposted off the main road, a five-minute walk. Inside are frescoed arches and beautiful wood carvings, including one of Christ with the martyrs’ heads. Two painted icons depict their decapitation, and there is a stone block said to have been used for the execution.

The New Church, at the west end of the village towards Gortys, is a simple chapel. Below is a crypt, visible from the outside, where you can peer through an iron gate to see six of the martyr’s tombs.


This pleasant village is a 30-minute drive west from Irakleio along the coast. It’s surrounded by orange groves and claims to be the birthplace of the artist El Greco. It’s a peaceful place with a shady town square, where a memorial plaque to the painter is on display. Across a small bridge spanning the river is the church, which has many copies of El Greco’s works. 

To see his alleged birthplace, walk along the path (signposted) out of town beside the orchards for about 15 minutes. The house is greatly restored and contains a few displays on the painter’s life.

Opposite the house is the delightful church of the Panayía. Built in the early 14th century, it incorporates the nave of an earlier 8th-century basilica. The baptismal font beside the church (set in the floor for total immersion) also dates from this period. The partially restored frescoes depict angels, saints and scenes from Christ’s life.


The mountain village of Anoyia is about an hour’s drive west of Irakleio. It has suffered greatly at the hands of foreign invaders. It was twice destroyed by the Turks after rebellions in 1821 and 1866. Then, in 1944, German troops shot every male in the village and burnt the houses to the ground in retaliation for the abduction of the German General Kreipe. A statue commemorating the freedom fighters stands in the square in the upper part of town. 

Anoyia is known for its woven goods and embroidery. The streets of the lower town are draped with brightly coloured textiles, and you can often watch the local women at work inside their shops.

Behind the café tables in Platía Livádhi, notice the odd wooden sculpture of Elefthérios Venizélos (1864-1936 and eight times the Prime Minister of Greece) with his arm in a sling. It is the work of the late local artist Alkibíades Skoúlas, whose son has opened a museum to display his father’s works. Anoyia is also renowned as a centre of lyra music, and many top musicians have come from here.

Where to Stay on Crete

Other Crete pages

  • Maleme and the German War Cemetery on Crete

    Maleme near Chania is where the people who died during the battle of Crete are buried, in the German War Cemetery with the Commonwealth War Cemetery nearby.

  • Where to Stay in Western Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in western Crete, including both luxury and inexpensive hotels in Chania, Rethymnon, and Paleochora.

  • Where to Eat in Western Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Western Crete with tavernas and restaurants in Chania, Rethymnon, and Paleochora.

  • Olive Grove Walk

    This olive grove walk from Limnes to Vrises on Crete also takes you through orchards and gives close-up views of some of the island’s windmills.

  • Sir Arthur Evans, archaeologist at Knossos on Crete

    Sir Arthur Evans is the archaeologist famous for the excavations he made at the royal palace of Knossos on Crete.

  • Eastern Crete in Five Days

    How to see eastern Crete in five days, with its beaches, Minoan palaces, timeless villages, unique churches and mountain and coastal scenery.

  • Arkadi Monastery

    Visiting the Arkadi Monastery near Rethymnon is one of the best things to do on Crete.

  • Our Hire Car in Crete

    The travel tale Our Hire Car in Crete describes what it’s like when you go driving in Greece and get off the beaten track, resulting in kindnesses.

  • Elounda and Spinalonga, setting for The Island by Victoria Hislop

    Elounda on Crete's north coast is a popular holiday town with a pretty harbour, from where you can take day trips by boat to see the island of Spinalonga.

  • Art Courses on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets visits Visual Arts Crete who offer accommodation and run art courses at their home and studio in the village of Kastellos near Rethymnon.

  • West Coast of Crete Drive

    This drive along the west coast of Crete and inland from there will take a whole day and starts and ends in Kastélli Kissámou, west of Chania.

  • Irakleio

    Crete's capital and largest city is Irakleio, also called Iraklion or Heraklion, a large and busy place with good restaurants, museums and historical buildings.

  • The Icon Painter

    Icon painting is a centuries-old tradition in Crete and the rest of Greece, and Greece Travel Secrets meets a modern-day icon painter in Elounda on Crete.

  • Goules Taverna Crete

    The Goules Taverna in Goulediana, south of Rethymnon, has been called one of the best tavernas on Crete and Greece Travel Secrets recently visited them.

  • Hiking the Samaria Gorge

    Hiking the Samaria Gorge on Crete, one of the best things to do on Crete, by Greece Travel Secrets.

  • Best Things to Do on Crete

    The best things to do on Crete and top things to see include the Samaria Gorge, the Minoan Palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, the towns of Chania and Rethymnon.

  • Cretan Writers and Artists

    The most famous Cretan writers and artists include the painter El Greco and the author of Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis.

  • Chania, in Western Crete

    Chania is the main city in Western Crete with a lovely setting and a beautiful harbour as well as several museums.

  • The Snails House on Crete

    The Snails House in Plouti near Phaistos in southern Crete serves the Cretan delicacy of snails, cooked in several different ways.

  • Lasithi Plateau Drive

    This Lasithi Plateau drive on Crete starts in Neapoli and ends in Malia, covering a distance of 80 km (50 miles) and taking two to three hours.

  • Malia and its Minoan Palace on Crete

    Malia on the north coast of Crete is renowned for its nightlife and beaches but also has the Minoan Palace of Malia, one of Crete's many archaeological sites.

  • Dining at Vegera

    Greece Travel Secrets eats at Vegera in Zaros and finds a cheap but wonderful feast of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes cooked daily with fresh local food.

  • Hiking in Southwest Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets goes hiking in southwest Crete with Ramblers Walking Holidays based in Paleohora and hiking the E4 footpath and to Anidri and Azogires.

  • Agios Nikolaos

    Agios Nikolaos is a pretty and popular town on the north coast of Crete and this page on Greece Travel Secrets covers its history, museums and beaches.

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