1. Zaros Village
In the summer Zaros is a cool refuge for rare birds and people alike
Zaros is a particularly attractive, refreshingly unspoilt village famous for its spring water, which is now bottled and sold all over Crete. Various excavations in the region indicate that the Minoans and the Romans settled here, lured by the abundant supply of fresh water.
The focal point of Zaros is the small lake that forms part of a wetland where a number of rare birds and other wildlife take refuge. Some cafes front the lake, which has become an ideal refuge for people as well, especially on hot summer evenings.
For the lovers of action, the Agiou Nikolaou Gorge is the ideal choice. The path starts at the Zaros lake and passes by many interesting places, starting with the Agiou Nikolaou Monastery, 900 metres further down.
About 2,5 kilometres down the path you will find the entrance to the canyon which leads to the amazing forest of Rouvas, one of the few oak forests in Greece.
2. Vori Village
Vori is an interesting village with an acclaimed Ethnology museum
Vori is a beautiful village in the Messara Valley, 60 km south of Heraklion. The village stretches on a slope, by the side of a small river. Due to its unique beauty and historical importance, in 1978 it was characterized a traditional protected village by the Ministry of Culture of Greece.
The archaeological site of Phaistos is 2 km to the south and the coast of Messara 4 km to the west. Not to miss at Vori is the Exquisite museum of Cretan Ethnology which offers a well-rounded exhibition of traditional life in Crete. In 1992 the Museum exhibition won the European Museum of the Year Award (ΕΜΥΑ) from the Council of Europe.
The exhibits are organized thematically, with the most important themes being rural life, food production, war, traditions, architecture, music, etc. It is undoubtedly the best folk museum on the island, following strictly the principles of modern Museology.
3. Agia Varvara Village
Visit Agia Varvara, a true ‘balcony’ into the region of Malevizi
Agia Varvara is a town built along the road connecting the Messara plain and the Malevizi region at an altitude of 580 m. The town enjoys a unique location with a splendid view into the Malevizi region, and a cool climate, particularly pleasant during the hot summer months.
It is exposed to winds coming from every direction and gets a good share of rain during the winter months. It produces first-rate fruit and vegetables. Nowadays, there are all kinds of amenities in the village and a variety of accommodation choices, among which wonderful rent-a-villa projects.
In the summer do not miss the special ‘tsikoudia’ (local strong alcoholic drink) feast, organized by the Cultural Association of the town. Close to Agia Varvara, in the village of Prinias, are the remnants of the ancient city of Rizenia.
Excavations have revealed two archaic temples and findings also include carved representations of human figures and animals which are now exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
4. Matala Village
Matala retains the charm and character of a small fishing village
Matala is a secluded resort near the southernmost point of Crete, the preferred haunt for those who prefer no-frills beaches with a sensation of remoteness.
Although it has become a popular tourist destination, it still retains the charm and character of the quiet fishing village it started as at the beginning of the 20th-century, and the laid-back lifestyle of the hippies of the 60’s and 70’s lives on.
Half the beach is fringed by tamarisk trees, leading the eye on to impressive formations of sandstone rock cliffs with their famous caves sliding into the sea at an odd angle, creating one of the most unusual beachscapes on the island.
Nobody knows quite who started caves but it seems likely that they were first hollowed out as Roman or early Christian tombs. Matala it is one of just over 400 beaches in Greece that have been awarded a Blue Flag.
Many people make this village their base for Cretan holidays, as it is so central on the south coast, and away from the over-development of the north coast. There are numerous accommodation choices in the area, including exquisite villas to rent.
5. Archanes Village
Do not miss Archanes, a village that won an award for its beautiful restoration
The lovely village of Archanes,14 km from the capital Heraklion and only 7 km from the Palace of Knossos in central northern Crete, sits on rolling hills surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. The village is also very famous for its typical Cretan architecture.
Most of the houses have been restored recently and Archanes has won a second award as “the best restored village in Europe”.The local agricultural co-operative is one of the oldest in Greece, and to this day produces some acclaimed Cretan wines. There are four important archeological sites, one in the village (a fenced excavation), at Anemospilia and Fourni (at the edge of the village – a Minoan graveyard).
Vathipetro on the way to Houdetsi, is worthwhile not only for the local archeological finds, but also for some of the most magnificent views of Crete from the site. Archanes is serviced by a variety of taverns, cafes and good accommodation choices, among which stand out rent-a-villa offers in the wider area.