Travel to Akrotiri, Chania

Above: Aptera, Akrotiri

Akrotiri is a peninsula and part of the municipality Chania. Its ancient name was Kiamon while the Byzantines called it Charaka. The seat of Akrotiri municipality was Pythari.

Satellite view of the Akrotiri peninsula. Chania Airport shown in centre.
Satellite view of the Akrotiri peninsula. Chania Airport shown in centre.

Coordinates: 35°33′N 24°8′E

Aptera, Akrotiri, Crete
Aptera, Akrotiri, Crete

Akrotiri is a rocky cape on the northern side of the island of Crete, in the Sea of Crete. It is roughly circular in shape, connected to the rest of the island by a wide causeway between Chania and the town of Souda. To the south, Souda Bay is found between the peninsula and the island. Most of the peninsula is a plateau somewhat elevated from the sea. There is a string of hills along the northern coast.

The earliest history of the local area is related to the founding of the nearby ancient city of Kydonia, one of the most powerful cities of ancient Crete.

Monastery chapel at Aptera, Akrotiri, Crete
Monastery chapel at Aptera, Akrotiri

Aptera is a site a kilometer inland from the southern shore of Souda Bay, about 13 kilometers east of Chania in the municipality of Akrotiri. It is mentioned (A-pa-ta-wa) in Linear B tablets from the 14th-13th centuries BC. With its highly fortunate geographical situation, the city-state was powerful from Minoan through Hellenistic times, when it gradually declined. It was destroyed by earthquake during the 7th century. By the 12th century, a monastery of St. John Theologos had been built on the site; it continued in operation until 1964. The hilltop, about 150 meters above the sea, gives views of Souda Bay and the Akrotiri Peninsula to the north, the Lefka Ori (White Mountains) to the south, and Kalives and the Turkish Itzendin Castle to the east.

Monastery of Gouverneto, Akrotiri, Crete
Monastery of Gouverneto, Akrotiri
Monastery of Gouvernetou, Akrotiri, Crete
Monastery of Gouvernetou, Akrotiri
Arkoudiotissa ruins, Akrotiri, Crete
Arkoudiotissa ruins, Akrotiri

Three monasteries are found in the hills to the north. Aghia Triada dates from the 17th century. The imposing buildings are visible across the plateau and from planes arriving at the airport and are set in olive and orange groves. A little way into the hills, accessible by car through a small gorge, is the Gouvernetos Monastery, 5 km north of Aghia Triada. Here the buildings appear fortress-like, with a large square building around a central courtyard, in which stands the church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Arkoudiotissa cave, Akrotiri, Crete
Arkoudiotissa cave, Akrotiri

From Gouvernetos, the path is only accessible by foot and leads to the cave of the Arkoudiotissa (“she-bear”), where a stalagmite is said to look like a bear. This cave is believed to have been used for worship since ancient times (as there is evidence for cults of Artemis and Apollo), but was dedicated to the Arkoudiotissa Panaghia (Our Lady) during the Christian era. Ascetics lived in the caves in the area. Further along the path, after a descent of 140 steps, is the Katholikon (monastic church), the third monastery, now abandoned. It is believed to date from the 5th or 6th Century, founded by St John the Hermit. It is built into the cliff, with a unique church largely carved into the rock-face. This striking set of buildings is now overgrown with fig trees but retains significant charm.

 Stavros Photos
The Gouverneto monastery (ruins)@TripAdvisor

Things to do

Chania region, Crete

Hiking: Among the 115 caves and 5 small gorges of the promontory, the small verdant gorge of Katholikou or Avlaki Agiou (‘the saint’s way’) distinguishes itself in its wild beauty. After reaching the Convent of Gouvernetou, situated at an altitude of 260 m. and a distance of 16 km from Chania, you start walking northwards on a pathway and, after 10 minutes, you meet the Cave of Panagia Arkoudiotissa, as well as the chapel of the Virgin Mary and the sanctuary of Artemis. After walking for 10 minutes downwards, you can see the monastery of Saint John the Hermit, who lived during the 14th century in the 151 m long and very nice cave that is situated in the vicinity of the chapel.
A little further downwards, after walking over an unusually big bridge, you enter the gorge. You then walk on the streambed for about half an hour and reach the coast. The sea is very clear and perfect for swimming. You can see a Venetian well, a construction where the monks of Katholikos used to keep their small craft, and the stone portion that was cut off for the building of the Convent.

Agrotourism in Greece

Agrotourism: Milia is an authentic 17th century mountain settlement which has been transformed into and eco-friendly tourist complex; it seems to have sprouted from the lands of Crete. A glorious location boasting exceptional rugged beauty in the area of Kissamos. Placed among platains, chestnut trees, and mountain tops reaching the skies, the area overwhelms visitors with its unique diversity.
The philosophy of “back to basics” has found true meaning here.
Milia Mountain Retreat website

Akrotiri, Chania region, Crete, Seitan Limania Beach
Seitan Limania Beach