Caving in Herakleion (Crete)

Crete abounds with caves, and Herakleion is no exception. From the wonderful archaeological site of the Kamares cave (see landmarks), a couple of hours north and decidedly uphill walk from the village of the same, to the famous Matala caves on the south coast and plenty betwixt and between.


This is one for those who like their caves at a high elevation. Situated 1,700 metres above sea level, Kamares, also known as Kamaraiko, is accessable by a trail leading north, and upwards from the village of Kamares.
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Located on the south coast, and were most likely used as dwelling places from neolithic times, before being converted into burial chambers during the Roman and early Byzantine era.
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Aghia Photini Cave, can be found 7 KMs south of the village of Avdou, on the mountain of Louloudaki, and at an elevation of 760 metres. It is 44 metres deep, and has paths covering close to 700 metres. It is still used as a church, hence the name of the feminine saint, Photini.
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Located south west of the village of the same name, and 400 metres above sea-level, is yet another cave of tremendous archaeological importance (see archaeology).
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Lies a kilometre south of Amnissos. Once again the archaeological importance cannot be overstated, and is mentioned on a Linear B tablet in association with offerings of honey to Eileithyia, at Amnisos.
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The "caves" here are actually quarries, probably channelled by children, given their size, and are inaccessible. They are worth mentioning here, as the openings can still be seen, and for many years, this was thought to be the site of the Labyrinth, now accredited to Knossos.
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Some 80 KMs south of Herakleion, in the 3KM long Agiofarago gorge, which is situated close enough to Matala to be easily accessable from there. A small opening leads into a large area beneath ground.
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Located near the Minoan site of Tylissos, and in common with many other caves had been used in the past as a place of worship. Large rooms with stalagmites and stalactites, make this a great place to visit for even those with no great interest in speleology.
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It is found some 25 km from Herakleion, not far from the village of Myrtia. Situated by a river, with highly mythological associations, for the ancients, who believed this to be the dwelling place of nymphs and fairies.
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Also known as ‘Nychteridospilios’ (The original ‘Bat Cave’?), is an extremely large cave close to the village of the same name, and a height of 276 metres. As with others, it was used as a refuge by the Greeks during the 298 year Ottoman occupation and has a exceptionally complex interior.
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Lies at altitude of 225 meters just north of the village of Skoteino near Gouves. Findings here include votive offerings and an inscription dating back to the 4th C BC, but now thought to be fake. There is a Byzantine church close, hence the alternative name of Saint Paraskevi. Skotino means "dark".
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