Travel to Archanes-Asterousia

Archanes, Lasithi, Crete
Coordinates: 35°14′N 25°10′E

Archanes is since the 2011 local government reform part of the municipality Archanes-Asterousia. Its population is around 4,500 (2001). It is also the archaeological site of an ancient Minoan settlement in central Crete.

Archanes-Asterousia, Lasithi, Crete
Archanes-Asterousia, Lasithi

The discovery of ancient roads leading from Archanes to Juktas, Anemospilia, Xeri Kara and Vathypetro indicate that Archanes was an important hub in the region during Minoan times. Archaeological evidence indicates that ancient Archanes spread out over the same area as the modern town of Archanes.

Mycenean graves Fourni Archanes, Crete
Mycenean graves at Fourni Archanes

Archanes – summer palace for ancient kings

Sir Arthur Evans was the first to characterize the site as palatial, declaring that Archanes was likely a Summer Palace for the Knossos kings, but it was not until 1964 at the Tourkoyeitonia site that the first evidence of a palace site was uncovered. Since 1966, Archanes has been excavated by the Greek Archaeological Society under the supervision of John Sakellarakis and Efi Sapouna-Sakellarakis.
In the Minoan era, aqueducts delivered water to Kephala Hill from spring water sources at Archanes, which are also the source of the Kairatos River.

You’ll see the man-made enclosure of a spring, where the floor is laid with pebbles and the walls are poros-stone. Evidence indicates that it was built between Middle Minoan IB and Middle Minoan IIIA, destroyed during Late Minoan IA and then restored and in various use afterwards. The Reservoir is within the palace grounds.

A large paved area, is dissected by walkways which in the center form a triangle, is found at the site called “The Theatre Area” or “Agios Nikolaos” (Saint Nicholas). Two stepped altars are found here, one on a walkway and one on the pavement.

Mt. Juktas seen from Iraklion in 1977. Legend says it is the face of Zeus.
Mt. Juktas seen from Iraklion

Mount Juktas

A mountain in north-central Crete, Mount Juktas was an important religious site for the Minoan Civilization. Located a few kilometers from the palaces of Knossos and Fourni and the “megaron” at Vathypetro, Mount Juktas was the site of an important peak sanctuary in the Minoan world.
It is also probably the first of the peak sanctuaries. Archaeologists have studied the site over an extensive period, examining fragments of pottery, remains of walls, and some unique kinds of stone that must have been hauled up the mountain because they do not occur atop the mountain.

Juktas was first excavated in 1909 by Sir Arthur Evans.

Jutkas can be regarded as an adjunct archaeological site to the important Knossos site a few kilometres distant. Among the finds at the Juktas Minoan peak sanctuary were clay human and animal figurines, stone horns, stone altars, bronze double axes, and both bowls and tables with Linear A inscriptions.
Pottery sherds from the site date back as far as Middle Minoan IA.

The mountain remains important in the religious life of the people of the area up to this day – a Greek Orthodox chapel is located about a kilometer south of the sanctuary along the ridge of the mountain. Every year, people from towns down in the plains below Mount Juktas bring flowers in procession to the chapel.

Temple of Anemospilia

View of Anemospilia from the south, Crete
View of Anemospilia from the south

The temple is located on the northern end of Mount Juktas. Modern Heraklion can be seen from the site. The site is in the country side near Archanes, about 7 km from Knossos. It was on a hillside facing north towards the palace complexes of Knossos. Various factors made archaeologists conclude that it was a temple.

The site is in the countryside, Anemospilia means ‘caves of the wind’. It is in the foot hills of Mount Juktas, the legendary birthplace of Zeus.

The temple was destroyed by a volcanic eruption from Thera and the resulting earthquakes. The temple was found in a ruined state with stone walls only reaching hip height. Traces of ash and charcoal were found on the ground, and from this, one can postulate that the building was burnt down.

Finds excavated from Anemospilia are at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.

The temple is set out with three chambers and one annex that leads into them, each chamber has something somewhat unusual about them inside it.

Modern Archanes-Asterousia

Street in Archanes, Crete
Street in Archanes

The economy is focused on grape and olive processing and marketing. Both products account for some 96% of its total agricultural products. The Agricultural Cooperative of Archanes, set up in 1931, is one of the oldest in Greece, and consists of 1119 members. One fourth of the wine production is exported to Germany, France and the Netherlands, and the rest of the production is largely marketed domestically. Since the late 1990s, attempts have been made to convert part of wine making to organic and integrated farming, beginning with the cultivation of table grapes.

Harakas village

View of Charakas Village, Crete
Charakas village

Harakas or Charakas is a village in the municipality of Archanes-Asterousia on Crete with about 1000 inhabitants. It is about 45 km south from Heraklion, the capital of Crete. The village lies on the foothills of Asterousia mountain and near the south coast of Crete to the Libyan Sea, 15 km behind the mountain.

Charakas has a great rock (haraki), 35m high, with a temple and a castle. The rock is accessed only from the east and it is a monolithic barrow. Also in the front of Haraki is the Heroon, a monument of warriors and a church of St Panteleymon with a great bell tower.

Things to do

hikingHiking: The route of the European Long Distance Walking Path E4 passes through the village of Archanes. It will give you the opportunity to see first hand some of the most spectacular views of Crete, but be warned! Many portions of this route include harsh and arid hiking conditions. Carrying supplies and especially adequate water are essential. All appropriate preparations should be made and detailed walking maps are a must.
It is advisable to walk as a group of two or more and to inform someone who can check your progress, where you are and your intended next destination at each stage of the journey.
Some parts of this path might be completely blocked, badly signed (the Sougia – Agia Roumelli stretch is specially bad, not always passable). Ask several local people before starting out and be prepared for having to return to starting point after hours of walking. It is easy to get lost, so proceed with great caution.

External links

The Minoan necropolis at Phourni, Archanes
Iuktas peak sanctuary

A visit to Archanes