Lassithi Plateau

Lassithi Plateau

The wonderful Lassithi Plateau is located about 25km south of Malia and 70km west of Heraklion city. Located in a peaceful and fertile region, it is surrounded by the wild mountains of Dikti and several smaller plateaus. The views of the surrounding mountains of Selena and Afendis Hristos are majestic.

The altitude ranges from 800 to 850m, making Lassithi one of the few residential areas in the Mediterranean at such high altitude. Indeed, every year the plateau is covered by snow and then thousands of Cretans arrive to admire the white landscape. In most years, snow remains in the mountain peaks till mid-spring.

The 18 villages of the plateau are built at the foot of the surrounding mountains, leaving the plains free to cultivate, and they are connected by a 23km long circular road. Actually, this beautiful circular route is ideal for cycling as there are no large hills and, along this, you’ll have the chance to visit all the attractions of the plateau.

ATTRACTIONS
Lassithi plateau is famous for its windmills with white cloths, a trademark of the area. These were water- and flour mills, made most by the Peloponnese settlers that arrived here in late 19th century, to irrigate the plateau. Unfortunately, today young people have abandoned their homeland because the Greek state does not provide incentives, and the villages look deserted, with elderly population. Thus, the landscapes of 12000 whitewashed windmills, which once drew water from wells to irrigate cultivations, can be now seen on old card postals. But still, you can see several windmills, since many of them have been restored in the last years. Moreover, at the entrance of the plateau, at position Ambelos, we still see the largest stone windmill park in Greece.

Another attraction of the plateau are linies, ie the linear drainage projects that were built by the Venetians to transport water across the plateau. Indeed, when the Venetians conquered Crete, they turned Lassithi to the largest “garden” of Crete, which still supplies Crete with excellent quality potatoes and vegetables. On a walk at any point of the plateau, you will find linies i.e. large ditches carrying water.

Within a short distance from the village of Agios Konstantinos and the nearby artificial reservoir with the goldfishes, you’ll meet the imposing and rugged canyon of Havgas, carrying the water of the highest Katharo Plateau in Lassithi. The plain is crossed by the Great River that leads water into a large sinkhole, Honos, on the opposite side of the plateau, from where it finds its underground way to Aposelemis River through the springs of Fleges (by village Kastamonitsa). Honos is full with water till spring and you can visit it next to Kato Metohi.

Next to the village of Agios Konstantinos it is worth visiting the historical Monastery of Kroustalenia (Our Lady Crystal - 16th century), built on a lush green hill, which played an important role in the Cretan revolutions against the Turks and was destroyed twice in 1823 and 1867. On the other side of the plateau, you’ll find the restored Monastery of Vidiani (1841), where a small museum of natural history is operating. In Agios Georgios village, you can visit the Museum of Eleftherios Venizelos and the Folk Museum.

Moreover, it is worth visiting the small Plateau of Nisimos (next to Tzermiado) and visit the Church of the Holy Cross or walk to Karfi Minoan settlement, atop a towering rock called the seat of Ariadne. From there, overlooking the northern coasts of Crete is really shocking. Another plateau that you can also visit is the small plateau of Limnakaro, near St George with the beautiful woods of walnut and the chapel of the Holy Spirit. Lastly, you can visit the plateau of Katharo (easily accessed from Kritsa) where paleontologists found traces of elephants.

If you visit Lassithi in summer, you can take part in the local festivities of "Potato Day" in Tzermiado, the "Festival of the marrow" in Avrakonde, the "Day of Baking Bread" in Kato Metohi, etc. Furthermore, every year the local authorities organize the international "Diktaean Games” (long distance running), in which athletes run around the plateau (23km).

Finally, the most important attraction of Lassithi is the Cave of Psychro, near the homonym village. Mainly known as Diktaean, the cave has played an important role in ancient times, due to a myth that put the birth of Zeus here. Hence, Lasithi is also known as “Bethlehem” of Greek Mythology. Also, according to the tradition, inside that cave, Zeusmated with Europa, who gave birth to Minos, the King of Knosos. In the village of Marmaketo, there is the smaller, but still significant cave of Trapeza, known as the Cave Kronio.


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Date

30 June 2019

Categories

Places in Crete, Archaeological sites
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