Sightseeing


Sightseeing

Spinalonga
The island of Spinalonga (official name Kalidon) is located in the eastern part of Crete, near the town of Elounda. Harking back to the Venetian occupation, the name Spinalonga is Italian, meaning “long thorn”.

History

In 1579, the Venetians built a fortress on Spinalonga over the ruins of an acropolis. They kept control of the island until the Ottoman Empire took possession of it in 1715.
The island is notable for being one of the last active leper colonies in Europe, being used in this manner from 1903 until 1957. The last inhabitant, a priest, left in 1962. This was to maintain the religious tradition of the Greek Orthodox church, in which a buried person has to be commemorated 40 days, 6 months, 1, 3 and 5 years after their death.
There are two entrances to Spinalonga, one being the lepers’ entrance, a tunnel known as Dante’s Gate. This was so named because the patients did not know what was going to happen to them once they arrived. However, once on the island they received food, water, medical attention and social security payments. Previously, such amenities had been unavailable to Crete’s leprosy patients, as they mostly lived in the area’s caves, away from civilization, eating scraps left over by the wolves who shared their caves.

Spinalonga Today

Today, the unoccupied island is one of the main tourist attractions in Crete. In addition to the abandoned leper colony and the fortress, Spinalonga is known for its small pebble beaches. The island can easily be accessed from Elounda and Agios Nikolaos. Tourist boats depart from both towns on a daily basis. There is no accommodation on Spinalonga, meaning all tours last only a few hours. Boat trips from Elounda take approximately fifteen minutes while trips departing Agios Nikolaos can take upwards of one hour.
The book “The Island” by Victoria Hislop is set on Spinalonga and shares the fictional story of a family’s ties to the leper colony.

Ancient Olous
Olous or Olus is an ancient, sunken city situated at the present day town of Elounda.
This place was settled in an organized fashion from Minoan times. Olous was one of the most important of the hundreds of cities of ancient Crete with more than 30,000 inhabitants. It was located on the Isthmus where the island of Hersonissus, opposite, unites with the main land mass of Crete. During ancient times, the isthmus was wider and at a higher level. It was cut off during 1897-98 by the French during their command of Mirambello, shortly before Crete became self governed. The governmental system, or rules of law, of Olous, was a type of democracy. Here they worshiped the gods Tallaios, Zeus, Apollo and Vristomartis, the latter to whom a temple was dedicated. To honor them, they used to do the “talladutes” games in the nude, and also the “vristmatia” games. They also worshipped Hesculapius who had saved the town from an unknown disease that had plagued the Oloudians.

According to the narrations of various travelers of ancient times, we learn that the inhabitants had a social and professional level of development. From inscriptions that have been found, it is suggested that they were engaged in trade, with maritime affairs and in crushing shells to make colours and paints. They were also involved in the mining of whetting stones.
Olous disappeared either because of a landslide or as a result of the large earthquake of 780 A.D. Many ancient artifacts and inscriptions have been discovered from here, most of which are on display in the archaeological museum of Aghios Nikolaos, or at The Louvre.

Olous used to have its own currency. Sborous accounts for eleven different types of coins, most of them depicting Vritomaris Artemis on the one side, and Zeus as an eagle, dolphin or star on the other.

The prosperity of Olounda continued on until the first Byzantine period. This fact is revealed by the church at Poros, with its great mosaic, which can be visited today, and by the church of Kolokytha with its beautiful white marble.

At Leroklis, (the Book of Sinekdinos), you can find Olous under the name of Aligos. Darkness, however, shrouds the following years between the ninth and thirteenth centuries.

Lake Voulismeni
Lake Voulismeni is a former sweetwater lake, later connected to the sea, located at the centre of the town of Agios Nikolaos. It has a circular shape of a diameter of 137 m and depth 64 m. The locals refer to it as just “the lake”. The lake connects to the harbour of the town by a channel dug in 1870. A panoramic view of the lake can be seen from a small park situated above it.
According to legend, the goddess Athena and Artemis bathed in it. Every year at midnight turning to Orthodox Christian Easter day, the majority of the population of the town gathers around the lake to celebrate with fireworks, and firecrackers thrown by the people attending that highlight event.

It was reported that the German army during their withdrawal from the area at WW2, disposed parts of their weaponry and/or vehicles into the deep lake.
A local urban legend has it that the lake is bottomless. Based primarily on locals noticing disturbances at the surface of the water during the Santorini earthquake of 1956, many assume a possible geological relation of the two locations.

Panagia Kera
The most popular Byzantine monument in Crete (13th- 14th A.D.), it is located in Logari, one kilometre east of Kritsa. This triple-nave Byzantine church is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, to Saint Anthony and Saint Anna. It is adorned with superb wall paintings on particular themes like the representation of Saint Anna, other icons of the saints, and the fourteen scenes depicting the secret life of the Virgin Mary.

Characteristic of all the wall paintings is their vividness, expressiveness and aesthetic perfection. Their existence had been hidden for hundreds of years by earlier Christians to avoid their destruction by the Turkish occupiers. It also has three aisles and a dome construction.

Each aisle contains paintings from a different period, representing a different religious theme. The central aisle, dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin, contains the oldest paintings which reflect a mixture of styles. The other two aisles were added on in later periods. The south aisle has the best-preserved paintings. In contrast to the more stylized paintings of the period, these paintings display a tenderness and humanity in their rendering of the story of Anna, the Virgin Mary’s mother. The north aisle is dedicated to St. Anthony and has pictures representing the Second Coming. Although the Venetians occupied Crete during the period, they allowed the Cretans to decorate their churches as they desired. The rare fresco techniques used and the subject matters make the Panagia Kera particularly interesting to visit.

Lato
The ancient city of Lato is 3km from the village of Kritsa. The Dorians built the city in the seventh century B.C. This area owes its name to the goddess Lito (or Lato) who was the mother of Apollo and Artemis. The walls and buildings visible today, however, date mainly from the fourth and fifth centuries B.C. Towers and two acropolis fortified Lato. It was one of the strongest cities on Crete. Lato was destroyed about 200 B.C. During the Roman times its port, Lato Etera at the side of Agios Nikolaos, became an important city. Lato was the birth-place of Nearchos, the admiral of Alexander the Great.

The main gate is to the west of the site where a stepped road leads to the agora, or market. On the right were workshops and shops. On the left, the road leads to a ground entrance leading to the main part of the city. The centre of the town is at the top of the hill and from here the view down to Lato’s ancient port, Agios Nikolaos, is magnificent. The agora is a pentagonal building at the top of the road between two hills. It was not only used for trade but for political and cultural activities as well. Southwest of the agora are the remains of a large temple and seats of a theatre. Near the temple is an altar where a fire burned continuously as a sign of the continuity of the city with its past. The prytaneum (administrative building) and the nobles’ dining hall is behind the theatre area. Lato is one of the best excavated Greek cities in the island.

Beaches
Magnificent beaches can be found on the coasts of the municipality of Aghios Nikolaos, most of them awarded the Blue Flag Status.
The coasts are full of enchanting coves and idyllic beaches with crystalline waters.
Here are some of those little paradises:

Elounda Beaches

Elounda Public Beach Blue Flag Awarded
Location: just next to the port of Elounda
Description: It is a fully organized facility, ideal for water sports, with restaurants and cafes nearby, where thousands of visitors gather every year.
Nearest village: Elounda

Plaka Blue Flag Awarded
Location: 7km from Elounda
Description: pebble beache with pristine waters, uncrowded near the good quality fish restaurants of Plaka, with amazing view to Spinalonga.
Nearest village: Plaka

Aghios Nikolaos Beaches

Kitroplatia Blue Flag Awarded
Location: In the town of Agios Nikolaos
Description: A wonderful sandy beach in the center of town, surrounded by restaurants and hotels.
Nearest village: Agios Nikolaos

Kitroplatia Beach EOT Blue Flag Awarded
Location: In the town of Agios Nikolaos Description: A pristine sandy beach with shallow water fully serviced and has all the amenities and facilities for enjoyable bathing and water sports.Also has the only mini-golf course in town, food services, snooker, ping-pong, a nearby football pitch and basketball court, an athletics course and a competition-sized swimming pool.
Nearest village: Agios Nikolaos

Ammos Blue Flag Awarded
Location: In the town of Agios Nikolaos
Description: A wonderful sandy beach in the center of town, also close to the central shopping area.Nearest village: Agios Nikolaos

Ammoudi Blue Flag Awarded
Location: In the town of Agios Nikolaos
Description: A small sandy and deep water beach, fully organized, with sports facilities and food services.
Nearest village: Agios Nikolaos

Havania Blue Flag Awarded
Location: 2km outside of Agios Nikolaos, along the beach road to Elounda
Description: A wonderful sandy beach, fully organised offering all desirable beach facilities.
Nearest village: Agios Nikolaos

Havania Beach Almiros Blue Flag Awarded
Location: 2km outside of Agios Nikolaos, along the road to Kalo Chorio
Description: One of the most significant seaside resorts in the area. The entire area is wooded with eucalyptus trees, reeds and rushes which grow in the source waters of the fresh water river which runs into the sea. The endless sandy beach of Almyros is magical and offers the visitor all the comforts and facilities expected of a fully organized beach resort.
Nearest village: Agios Nikolaos

Ammoudara Blue Flag Awarded
Location: 3km outside of Agios Nikolaos, along the road to Kalo Chorio
Description: A small well-organized sandy beach, it is ideal for diving and water sports, and located next to restaurants and shops.
Nearest village: Agios Nikolaos

Kalo Chorio Beaches

Voulisma Blue Flag Awarded
Location: just outside of Kalo Chorio
Description: This is the largest well-organized municipal beach of Kalo Chorio. Its immense and extremely clean sandy beach is ideal for relaxing and having fun in the sand. Surrounded by tavernas, cafes and supermarkets at a short distance, it gathers thousands of visitors every year. It is an ideal place for sea-sports and beach fun.
Nearest village: Kalo Chorio

Karavostasi
Location: just before the entrance of Kalo Chorio
Description: This well-organized municipal beach is ideal for a cool swim and fun in the sand. Surrounded by locust trees and olive trees.
Nearest village: Kalo Chorio

Aghios Panteleimonas
Location: in the center of Kalo Chorio
Description: It is an enchanting, well-organized municipal beach that is ideal for relaxation and fun, and a meeting place for lovers of water-based activities. It is surrounded by reeds and local trees, and on the sand hills grows the self-promulgated Minoan sea-lily.
Nearest village: Kalo Chorio

Blue Flag Status
A beach with a blue flag means:
– A beach with crystal-clear waters
– Good organization and safety
– An environmentally – friendly place

The “Blue Flag” is the international symbol of quality of a well organized beach.
The “Blue Flags Program” is a Program for Environmental Sensitivity and Protection of The Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) that occurs every year on a grand scale in over 35 countries in Europe and other places around the world.
In Greece, the representative for the program is the Greek Environmental Society for Nature Protection, the oldest environmental organization in our country that has been active in environmental education and the protection of nature since 1951.
The awarding of Blue Flag status to a beach is no easy task. The beach must fulfill 27 strict criteria in relation to the cleanliness of the sea and the beach itself, the organization of the beach and the safety of its visitors, the protection of nature and the environment.
For a marina there are 22 criteria.
The municipality of Agios Nikolaos has had to this day, the largest number of awarded beaches in the region, and for the first time this year (2004), the marina was also awarded the Blue Flag.
The managing organizations of the awarded beaches and marinas are the Public Enterprise for Tourism Development of Agios Nikolaos (DETADAN), the Community of Elounda for Tourist Development (KEPANEL), the Public Enterprise of the Marina Agios Nikolaos (DEPAMAN) and also the many excellent hotels in our area.

Walking & Cycling
Agios Nikolaos, located in a strategic position on the road network of Crete, is the ideal starting point for daily excursions in all directions of the island by car, bus or motorcycle.
Some of the most memorable trips can be made on foot or by bicycle. A sunhat and sunglasses, the right shoes and some water are all that is needed to enjoy a walk in paradise.
This area appears green even in Wintertime because of the olive trees, and in Springtime nature bursts through from the mountainsides to the coast filling the area with red poppies, white margaritas and other multi-coloured wild flowers. Glancing around one can see a wild olive tree, dictamus, narcissi, chrysanthemum, capers, cuclaminus, thyme, and wild orchids.
Over 6000 species of plants and flowers thrive in Crete, and of these 170 species are endemic to Crete.

Along the coast at the beginning of Autumn, one can spot the “Sea Lily” which is represented in Minoan and Thiraean wall paintings. In the mountains, partridges, blackbirds, badgers, weasels and hares provide company. At great heights one can spot one of the rarest species of eagle. At Almyros Beach, turtles, herons, eels and waterfowl can be observed. The preservation of this wildlife diversity is dependant upon our environmental awareness and sensitivity.

Rock Climbing Field
Rock Climbing Field “PEZAS” Kalo Chorio 12 km from Aghios Nikolaos
Climbing field “Peza” with trails for all levels. The location field is ideally climbing even the hottest summer days. Because of their position, the rocks Talos and Minos have shade all day. When you found in the field over the beautiful landscape, will be impressed by the steep and high cliffs around you.

Located at an altitude of 300 meters and beyond the other has a unique view of Mirabello Bay. It is for all levels and for those who want to raise their adrenaline pumping. At every level climbers deserve excellent training opportunities. You will always find countless, exquisitely crafted routes and problems to work on.

The field can be accessed by car and the distance from the car to the bottom of each rock is less than 5 minutes walking.

Names of Rocks
1. Talos
2. Minoas
3. Istronas
4. Panas

Contact number: +30 6974 891725 Dimitris Koulougousidis

Museums
Archaeological Museum

The town is home to the finest archaeological museum in Crete founded in 1970 and consisting of eight rooms. The collection contains recent finds, mostly from eastern Crete. The finds are in chronological order beginning with the Neolithic era, Minoan remains, and ending with Greco-Roman finds. One of the museum’s most famous exhibits is the Goddess of Mirtos. This libation vessel is in the form of a female figure and was discovered at the Bronze Age settlement at Fournos, near Mirtos. The museum also contains important specimens of the Daedalic Period (seventh century B.C.) when, for a brief period of time, Crete led the Greek world in setting the foundations of the great art of sculpture for the next centuries. The head of a clay statue of a woman, considered to be one of the masterpieces of Greek art, is displayed in the museum.

Folklore Museum of Aghios Nikolaos

A window onto the recent past of Crete opens up for the visitor at the Folklore Museum of Aghios Nikolaos.
Established in 1985 by the Cultural Association of Eastern Crete, it is housed on the ground floor of the Port Authority building, one of the oldest buildings in town, which is located by the lake.
There are many displays of traditional Cretan handcrafts, unique to the region such as textiles, woven goods and embroidery of intricate detail and imaginative designs.
A model of a traditional Cretan house, equipped with household goods and cooking implements has also been set up here. Books, manuscripts, old photographs, paintings, weapons, coins, multi-coloured woven rugs and examples of traditional Cretan costumes complete the collection.
These items have been donated to the Folklore Museum in recognition of the valuable role it plays in the preservation and display of the rich traditional heritage of everyday life in Crete.

Folklore Museum of Istron

The Folklore Museum operates in the Istron area and offers a detailed exhibition of life in the past. It was built in 1999 by The Folklore Association. This museum declares a great love of and attention to the local popular culture. It is an important source of information of folklore and the history of the inhabitants of the Mirambello Gulf.

Churches
The Church of Aghios Nikolaos

North of the town of Aghios Nikolaos on top of a small peninsula, the church of Saint Nikolaos, the oldest example of classic early Byzantine architecture, is located.
It is quite a small church that was built between the 7th and 9th century, during the Iconoclastic period, as indicated by its schematic decoration. Geometric and natural patterns, and intersecting circles unite to form multi-coloured leaves of bright colours, and schematic tree trunks with branches, in addition to diamond and rosette shapes comprise the interior decoration.
These illustrations had been super-imposed over the originals because of the ban on icon painting in churches imposed by the Byzantine emperors of the Isausus dynasty (712-802A.D.) which, having commenced in Istanbul, spread throughout the entire Byzantine Empire eventually reaching our town. When the church was being repaired during the 14th century, after suffering damage from the earthquake of 1303 that rocked and almost destroyed Crete, it was discovered that the schematic decorations had concealed the Christian paintings.

The Church of Panagia the Brefotrophus

This small one-roomed covered-arch church located in the center of town is dated from the beginning of the 12th century, according to the inscription which was discovered on its floor.
The church, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is named after Brofotrophus because it is believed that she can perform miracles, in particular those relating to childhood iseases. It is one of the oldest monuments in the area.

Church of Saint John the Theologian

This church is located two kilometres from Kritsa on the road to Krousta.
According to experts, it is the most important example of ecclesiastic architecture of the 16th and 17th century, having three parallel naves and one western transverse, which were consecutively built until the 18th century.

Church of Our Lady the Guide – (Panagia i Odigitria)

The pride of more recent residents of Kritsa. A twin-nave domed basilica (6 domes), with peculiar architecture that was founded in November of 1852 (later Turkish occupation). It is dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, (right nave) and to Saint Harambalos. The recent renovation (2001) has revealed the unsurpassed and unaffected beauty of the church.

Cretan Diet
For Cretans, the secret of longevity is very simple. They eat anything that their rich soil produces! They consume a lot of fruit, vegetables, greens, fresh produce, legumes, cheese and bread. They scent the taste with marvelous herbs like oregano, they make desserts with natural sweetening materials, honey and molasses, and accompany their meal with excellent local wine.
In Crete are many restaurants and taverns that offer traditional cretan recipes, using only pure, natural local ingredients. There are also traditional stores, from where you can buy authentic products of the Cretan earth.
So don’t miss, during your stay in Crete, to taste all the island’s traditional recipes.

Nearest places to go
Agios Nikolaos, with over forty years of experience in the tourism industry, is an international and cosmopolitan resort that welcomes thousands of visitors annually.

The lake is its most charming feature. Legend suggests that Athena and Armetis bathed in its waters. This lake is connected to the sea by a straight channel, while its natural surroundings of red rock and trees attract the visitor magnetically.

At a small open-air theatre by the lake, locals and visitors alike can enjoy interesting artistic and cultural presentations. A walk around the shops of Aghios Nikolaos is an enjoyable experience. In the many stores the visitor can find a wide selection of traditional Cretan artwork, copies of pieces from different archaeological museums, jewelry, and embroidery.

There are also many examples of woven goods and Byzantine icons.

There are bustling cafeterias, charming coffeehouses and taverns serving traditional Cretan “mesedes” or tidbits of local food.

You can find innumerable opportunities for night-time entertainment at a variety of bars and discos. Visit the outdoor summer cinema ”Christina” where the surrounding walls are covered by honeysuckle, or find other places of entertainment where genuine Cretan feasts are always accompanied by local wine or strong raki.

A high quality and range of athletic facilities provides professional athletes and sports fans, and local and visiting amateur athletes with the opportunity to get involved in any sports. There is a football pitch, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, beach volley facilities, mini-golf and swimming pools, all providing the opportunity for exercise and fun.

Neapoli. A historic town with a rich cultural heritage. It was the administrative centre of the area. The impressive Cathedral of the Virgin Mary – “Megali Panagia” is the seat of the Bishop of Petras & Herronisou. It was built during the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

Kritsa. If you wish to get to know the essence of the people from Kritsa, you must first gain an insight into the “soul” of their locality.
Only by understanding their interconnectedness with the natural environment, and the nuances of their actions and behaviour, will you have an appreciation of the character and soul of the Kritsan people. Kritsa is a unique community of people with their own cultural progression, their own tradition, and their own local dialect.
Their locality rises gradually from a place where the sun shines on the sea, to the highest peaks of the Dikti Mountains towards the west, creating two flat geological plains in between, one called the plain of Kritsa where the village is situated at the lowest point, beside abundant water springs and extensive olive groves, and another at the Plateau of Katharo.
The subtlety of the natural climatic changes of the area, and its high altitude shape the soul of its people, a soul that is rough-hewn, yet hospitable; a soul of the mountains… unwrought… fearless, like that of an eagle…, exposed; a soul also of the plain, with refinement and reverence;…a soul akin to the calm blue and restlessness of the foam of the Mirambelo seashores.

Local civilization and tradition

Despite the current spread of contemporary lifestyles into Kritsa, the genuine local traditional way of life is still sustained. It survives in the traditional production of both agricultural and garden produce, in daily nutrition, local habits and customs, in its celebrations and festivals, as well as in the lifestyle and dress code of the older generation.
During a ten year period the representation of The Kritsan Wedding was curtailed, the old traditional Cretan wedding with the wedding party, the wedding celebration to the accompaniment of the lira, but this is now almost the first choice of couples today. During festivals and religious celebrations, the local dances and the old ceremonies of worship are eagerly brought to life again and performed with verve and earnestness.
Kritsa is the typical paradise of living local tradition in Crete, and moreover, the village still maintains a significant proportion of older unchanged architectural facades.

The “Kleftohori”of the Turkish Occupation

Since at least pre-Minoan times, the village of Kritsa has been continuously inhabited. It was reckoned to be in its prime during the Byzantine years. The Arabs devastated it in 823 A.D. and it was rebuilt in 961A.D. Its peak growth was reached during the Frankish period in the 13th and 14th century. It used to be the largest village in Crete during the middle ages. In 1867, it became the headquarters of the municipality which included Krousta, Prina, Kalo Horio, Mardati, Aghios Nikolaos, Mesa Lakonia and Tapes. In 1925 it had its own community, but since 1998 it has comprised one of the 14 precincts of the Municipality of Aghios Nikolaos.

The battle of Kritsa – Kritsotopoula

The people of Kritsa made a huge contribution to the battles for the freedom of Crete. Amongst them, the battles against the Turkish leaders Alexomanolis Koziris, Father Pothos and Captain Tavlas are particularly remembered. In the two-day battle of Kritsa which took place near Lato, the Kritsans suffered heavy losses; the village was set on fire as recorded in January 1823. It was during this battle that the brave female warrior Thriliki Kritsotopoula was killed. When the Eastern sun East daily shines on the land, the places and the people, its rays bless the hallowed ground and bestow upon it innumerable virtues. Every waking day, this blessed place of Kalo Chorio relates and reconnects its existence with the sun and the sea, the mountain, the forests and the plain, to its people and their spirited ways.
Its natural environment, its visual impact, and its physical beauty remain unchanged as many centuries ago.

Kalo Chorio. The people of Kalo Chorio are bound up with nature and their land, and from Minoan times they have fought and lived with the unique conditions that the wonders of nature has bestowed upon their bountiful place.
Even today we see the same great effort, the same positive outlook, the same striving of the people for the best.
The people of Kalo Chorio are generous and hospitable, possessing a calm yet decisive soul, with a rare purpose that aspires to quietly achieve the progress of the area as well as their own, just as the quiet waves of the Mirambello seashore caress the northern end of the fertile plain of Kalo Chorio with its white foam.
The well-known archaeological history of the place starts with settlements from the Minoan era found over a large area. Between 1910 and 1912, the American archaeologist Edith Hall uncovered the un-named small agricultural and cattle-breeding settlements on Brokrastre Hill. Next to here there is the settlement of Istrona, which has retained its name over many centuries (from the 6th century B.C. until the 18th century A.D.).
More details have been made available from the 1834 census, when Istrona had 20 Christian and 4 Muslim families.
In Roman times until the 9th century, when the Saracen Arabs reveled in their destruction of all Crete, Istron, later called Istronas, became the only main settlement in the area. A ruined ancient Greek temple is found near Pirgos, which might reveal some elements of the history of the place during its excavations. It could have been a temple dedicated to Bachuus (Dionisus), and thereafter the church of Saint Sergios, as has been reported by historians.
In the Venetian era, the entire valley was cleared and was desolate until 1450-1500A.D., when it was planted with olive trees and covered with watermills. It was in 1639 that the area was first called Kakon Chorion (euphemistically) because of the unfavourable climate and the malaria which was dredged up from the stagnant flood waters in the Kalochorian plain.
From 1680-1720 it appears that the new settlement “Arnikos”was inhabited. From these olden times, it seems that Istronas was the Pirgos of today.
From 1867, Kalo Chorio was a community settlement belonging to the Local Council of Kritsa, until 1925. During the years of Turkish domination between 1669-1898, Kalo Chorio was abound with stories of adventures between the local inhabitants and the Turks. In recent times, the agrarian and tourism industries have been developing, which will hopefully continue as this place is deserving of such progress.
The well-known archaeological history of the place starts with settlements from the Minoan era found over a large area.
Between 1910 and 1912, the American archaeologist Edith Hall uncovered the un-named small agricultural and cattle-breeding settlements on Brokrastre Hill. Next to here there is the settlement of Istrona, which has retained its name over many centuries (from the 6th century B.C. until the 18th century A.D.).
More details have been made available from the 1834 census, when Istrona had 20 Christian and 4 Muslim families.
In Roman times until the 9th century, when the Saracen Arabs reveled in their destruction of all Crete, Istron, later called Istronas, became the only main settlement in the area. A ruined ancient Greek temple is found near Pirgos, which might reveal some elements of the history of the place during its excavations. It could have been a temple dedicated to Bachuus (Dionisus), and thereafter the church of Saint Sergios, as has been reported by historians.
In the Venetian era, the entire valley was cleared and was desolate until 1450-1500A.D., when it was planted with olive trees and covered with watermills. It was in 1639 that the area was first called Kakon Chorion (euphemistically) because of the unfavourable climate and the malaria which was dredged up from the stagnant flood waters in the Kalochorian plain.
From 1680-1720 it appears that the new settlement “Arnikos”was inhabited. From these olden times, it seems that Istronas was the Pirgos of today.
From 1867, Kalo Chorio was a community settlement belonging to the Local Council of Kritsa, until 1925. During the years of Turkish domination between 1669-1898, Kalo Chorio was abound with stories of adventures between the local inhabitants and the Turks. In recent times, the agrarian and tourism industries have been developing, which will hopefully continue as this place is deserving of such progress.
Kalo Chorio now has 1125 inhabitants in its four settlements. The hotels and many rental apartments in the extensive area of Istron and Forti accommodate thousands of visitors every year. During recent years, the local inhabitants, together with their agricultural activities, have been actively involved in tourism, and in the Arts and Literature, and have gained an enviable reputation in matters of culture and athletics.
These include The Cretan and Popular Dance Academy, and their admirable Cretan nights, and sports activities in particular, football, where the youth of Kao Horio have been playing a leading part since 1982 in Lassithi football with their local team, A.S. Pirgos.
This place has been bound together by its country churches with their history and legends and festivals, and by popular stories about the Turkish agas and local heroes, about Venetian rulers and millers, about wonderful clergymen and monks, and with memories of feasts lasting over many days from the golden days of the past.

Villages of the further area
Municipality of Aghios Nikolaos, Crete, Greece is known for the amazing beauty of its villages. The villages of the Municipality of Aghios Nikolaos are: Pines, Plaka, Vrouchas, Skinias, Loumas, Lenika, Limnes, Zenia, Mesa & Exo Potami, Katharo, Tapes, Kroustas, Mesa Lakonia, Exo Lakonia, Prina.

Pines. Pines sits above Pano Elounda on the road to Neapoli, with its windmills and traditional architecture. It is approximately five minutes from Elounda Schisma by car.

Plaka. A traditional fishing village, with amazing view to the Spinalonga Island. Plaka is famous for the good quality fish restaurants near the sea and small hotels and tavernas. The beaches are small but uncrowded. Tourist boats depart from Plaka to Spinalonga on a daily basis. The one way boat passage requires approximately ten minutes.

Vrouchas. Visiting Vrouchas is rather like stepping back in time – the village is refreshingly untouched by commercialism, and remains largely undiscovered by tourists. Like many small villages on the island, Vrouchas has a beautiful mountain setting, surrounded by olive groves and wooded hills. This part of the island is steeped in history – according to legend, this part of Crete was the birthplace of the most important of Greek gods, Zeus. There are several villas to rent in and around the village and a few traditional tavernas.

Skinias. On the northwestern edge of the municipality is located the district of Skinias which, according to the 1991 census is composed of the settlements of Saint George, Baltos or Bartos, and Hontobolakus.

Loumas. On the plain of Loumas there are the two settlements of Pano and Kato Seles – the name means ‘nape of the hillside’. Views here are superb and take in a magnificent panorama of the Cretan Gulf. From Seles there is a dirt track, which runs down to a small rocky beach, which is excellent for sun bathing – take a blow up mattress or lilo as the compacted sand is very hard!

Lenika Village is located half way (4,5km) between the two seaside towns of Agios Nikolaos and Elounda on the highest point of the road. In the village are the ruins of a temple to Aries and Aphrodite.

Limnes. At the edge of the plain of Mirabello, under “Maha Hill”, the village of Limnes is located. Its name probably originated from the geographical phenomena of the many lakes which form after rainfall, resulting in a fertile and productive agricultural area. It is the village with the greatest number of houses, many of which have been abandoned in recent times.

Zenia. Located at a height of 750m, ten kilometres west of Aghios Nikolaos, beyond the cultivated valley of Drasi.

Mesa & Exo Potami. The most mountainous villages of the region lie on the road to the Lassithi Plateau. These settlements were built in the ravines and on the slopes of Mount Selenas (names for the moon or ‘selini’). Hundreds of large and small springs of clear fresh water irrigate the plains where lush vegetation includes apple and walnut trees, vineyards and a variety of vegetables.

Katharo Plateau. A wonderful place for botanists and bird watchers, this Plateau is reached by continuing to climb from Kritsa. It was here that scientists discovered fossils of elephants and dwarf hippopotamus, although today the visitor will see only large flocks of goats and sheep.
In early summer, the Plateau is covered with the snow-like blossoms of the hundreds of fruit trees planted here and in autumn the vines are weighed down with large clusters of black and white grapes. There are several traditional tavernas.

Tapes. This is one of the oldest villages of the area – it has been continuously inhabited since Minoan times, for proof of this takes a look at the ruins in the Kasteras area.

Kroustas. It is build on a hill 520 meters above the sea level. Kroustas is known for its magnificent view over the Mirabelo bay of the east Crete. It is also known for its traditional cuisine including myzithropites (special cheese pies) and aiga vrasti (boiled goat). Characteristic of Kroustas is the smell of Raki distilery in October, the dry but cool summers, the dry and rocky landscape and the old ladies with the black scarfs and the wrinkled faces. What could you buy from Kroustas? Pure food like honey, almonds, wallnuts, myzithra (soft sour cheese) and raki (localy distilled spirit).

Mesa & Exo Lakonia. Situated at the south end of the municipality of Aghios Nikolaos, the area was inhabited in Minoan times, as can be seen by the settlement ruins at Fioretzides village.

Prina. This village is reached by travelling through a beautiful wooded area of pines, which were included in the Venetian census of the 16th century. In spring time the area is a paradise for orchid lovers.