Toplou Monastery or Monastery of Panagia Akrotiriani (Our Lady of Akrotiri) is one of the most significant and beautiful monasteries in Crete, located on the northeast tip of the island. With its imposing 33 meter high belfry, Toplou stands in a harsh, almost desert landscape with giant wind turbines turning in the background. Actually this is one of the first wind farms in Crete. Despite the fact that Toplou is at a distance of 2.5 hours from Heraklion, it is definitely worth a visit, that can be combined with the beautiful beaches of the area, the site of ancient Itanos and the famous palm grove of Vai. From afar, Toplou Monastery is very impressive, looking like a small fortress surrounded by a 10-metre-high wall. The monastery itself is a cluster of low and well-preserved buildings. The name Toplou is Turkish for cannonball. That's a reference to the cannon that defended the monastery from invaders in times past. You can see a hole above the monastery gate through which boiling oil was poured on attackers. Toplou monastery houses many works of art and an interesting exhibition of Byzantine icons, books, documents and ancient engravings that reflect Cretan history throughout the centuries.