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

Arolíthos

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. 

Tílisos

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.

Fodele

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.

Anoyia

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

  • Lonely Planet Crete is an excellent and thorough guide of almost 300 pages to the largest of the Greek islands.

    Lonely Planet Crete

    Lonely Planet Crete is an excellent and thorough guide of almost 300 pages to the largest of the Greek islands.

  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Irakleio, the capital of Crete, including nearby beach resort hotels and accommodation in the city centre.

    Where to Stay in Irakleio

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Irakleio, the capital of Crete, including nearby beach resort hotels and accommodation in the city centre.

  • The Dalabelos Estate offers luxury eco-tourism accommodation on Crete in the hills near Rethymnon with its own farm, vineyard and olive groves.

    Eco-Tourism Accommodation on Crete

    The Dalabelos Estate offers luxury eco-tourism accommodation on Crete in the hills near Rethymnon with its own farm, vineyard and olive groves.

  • 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.

    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.

  • Greece Travel Secrets visits Crete and learns about making rakomelo from Jorgos Kourmoulis in Agouseliana.

    Making Rakomelo on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets visits Crete and learns about making rakomelo from Jorgos Kourmoulis in Agouseliana.

  • Greece Travel Secrets’ potted guide to Eastern Crete and why you should consider it for a holiday, including seeing Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Vai Beach and Zakros.

    Eastern Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets’ potted guide to Eastern Crete and why you should consider it for a holiday, including seeing Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Vai Beach and Zakros.

  •  Rethymnon is the third-largest city in Crete and has a Venetian fortress, Archaeological Museum, Old Town area and Venetian harbour,

    Rethymnon in Western Crete

    Rethymnon is the third-largest city in Crete and has a Venetian fortress, Archaeological Museum, Old Town area and Venetian harbour,

  • This Amari Valley drive in southern Crete starts and ends in Ayia Galini, takes four to five hours and cover 100 kilometres or 62 miles.

    Amari Valley Drive

    This Amari Valley drive in southern Crete starts and ends in Ayia Galini, takes four to five hours and cover 100 kilometres or 62 miles.

  • Greece Travel Secrets suggests where to stay in Eastern Crete with our favourite hotels in Zakros, Elounds, Sitia, Agios Nikolaos, Istron Bay, Myrtos, Neapolis.

    Where to Stay in Eastern Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets suggests where to stay in Eastern Crete with our favourite hotels in Zakros, Elounds, Sitia, Agios Nikolaos, Istron Bay, Myrtos, Neapolis.

  • Crete’s wildlife and landscape are two of the island’s attractions, including gorges for hiking, rare raptors like the lammergeier, wildcats and ancient trees.

    Crete’s Wildlife and Landscape

    Crete’s wildlife and landscape are two of the island’s attractions, including gorges for hiking, rare raptors like the lammergeier, wildcats and ancient trees.

  • 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.

    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.

  • The Diktean or Diktaean Cave, also known as the Psychro Cave, near the village of Psychro in eastern Crete, is said to be the birthplace of Zeus.

    Diktean Cave, the Birthplace of Zeus near Psychro on Crete

    The Diktean or Diktaean Cave, also known as the Psychro Cave, near the village of Psychro in eastern Crete, is said to be the birthplace of Zeus.

  • This Rouvas Gorge walk starts and ends in Zaros in southern Crete and should take three to four hours with a distance of eight kilometres or five miles.

    Rouvas Gorge Walk

    This Rouvas Gorge walk starts and ends in Zaros in southern Crete and should take three to four hours with a distance of eight kilometres or five miles.

  • Greece Travel Secrets visits the Zacharioudakis Winery near Ancient Gortina in southern Crete, and does a vineyard tour arranged by our guide from Go Crete.

    Zacharioudakis Winery

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Zacharioudakis Winery near Ancient Gortina in southern Crete, and does a vineyard tour arranged by our guide from Go 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.

    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.

  • Greece Travel Secrets page on  Phaistos or Faistos, the site of one of the finest Minoan palaces on Crete and is where the mysterious Phaistos Disc was found.

    Phaistos Minoan Palace on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets page on Phaistos or Faistos, the site of one of the finest Minoan palaces on Crete and is where the mysterious Phaistos Disc was found.

  • Keramos Studios in Zaros on Crete is an inexpensive two-star hotel/guesthouse with one of the best breakfasts on the island using food from the family’s farm.

    Keramos Studios in Zaros

    Keramos Studios in Zaros on Crete is an inexpensive two-star hotel/guesthouse with one of the best breakfasts on the island using food from the family’s farm.

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

    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.

  • 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.

    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.

  • 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.

    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.

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

    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.

  • 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.

    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.

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

    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.

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

    Arkadi Monastery

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

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