Archanes – a Charming Village with Great Archaeological Treasures

A short drive from Heraklion you will find the charming village of Archanes. The area around the village is filled with archaeological treasures perfect for lovely walks.

Archanes village is connected to Heraklion city by a 16 km long road. View of Archanes village from the road that leads to the old Town Hall, Crete Greece
View of Archanes village from the street leading to the old Town Hall

Where is Archanes village?

Archanes-Asterousia is since 2011 a municipality in Crete with around 4,500 inhabitants. One of the most interesting places in this area is the village of Archanes, located in the mountains south of Heraklion, the capital of Crete. Walk through this beautifully restored village and visit its four main archaeological sites. At the excellent archaeological museum, you can see the best findings made at these sites before going for a walk in the nearby mountains. Relax by eating food and enjoy a glass of wine at one of the fine coffee shops at the old town square.

Archanes-Asterousia on a map

Map of Heraklion and Lassithi region – Click to enlarge map

Why visit Archanes village?

Church of Virgin Mary in Archanes, Heraklion Crete - Photo by Y. Skoulas
The church of Virgin Mary in Archanes village – Photo by Y. Skoulas

Stroll the narrow streets enjoying the colorful flowers and fruit trees growing along the sidewalk. Walk to the nearest archaeological site, which is an ancient Minoan cemetery on the outskirts of the village. There are three other archaeological sites nearby and important finds have been made in all of them. A trip to Archanes-Asterousia should include a visit to the Archaeological Museum where you can see ancient Greek pottery, artefacts, and utensils. Visiting the museum is free of charge and it is open daily except on Tuesdays.

Archanes-Asterousia, Lasithi, Crete
Street in Archanes village

Follow the E4 hiking trail up Mt Juktas. This route starts in the middle of the village and leads up to the old chapel Afentis Christos on top of the mountain. Here you can see sheep and goats grazing along the uneven path. These animals are livestock living in the wild, so be sure to close the gates you walk through. In this area you can enjoy the breathtaking views of Heraklion and surroundings.

A sheep standing on it's rear feet is trying to reach some fresh leaves over an iron fence to eat. Picturesque scene on a sunny summer day in Archanes town, Heraklion prefecture, Crete island - Greece
A sheep standing on it’s rear feettrying to reach some fresh leaves over an iron fence to eat. Picturesque scene on a sunny summer day in Archanes town.

Where to stay and eat in Archanes village?

Summernight with wine in a Greek restaurant

Where to stay in Archanes?


On a trip to Archanes-Asterousia, you can enjoy a wide range of cafes and restaurants serving typical Greek food: seafood, dishes with goat meat, flagged pastries, yogurt, and olives. For your Cretan meal you can drink an excellent wine, which is grown in the vineyards around the village.
Archanes is less than a 30-minute drive south of Heraklion. It makes it a comfortable place to go on a day trip. There are a limited number of rooms to stay overnight, so be sure to book in advance if you want to stay longer.

Archanes-Asterousia, Lasithi, Crete
Archanes village

Ancient Archanes and Mt Juktas

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 – a 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.

Unique panoramic aerial view of Archanes rural region landscape. Green meadows, olive tree groves, and vineyards, in spring. Heraklion, Crete, Greece
Unique panoramic aerial view of Archanes rural region landscape. Green meadows, olive tree groves, and vineyards, in spring

“The Theatre Area”

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.

Mount Juktas

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

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.

Mt Juktas in Minoan times

Kofinas, the highest peak of the Asterousia mountains, at sunset. Crete, Greece
Kofinas, the highest peak of the Asterousia mountains, at sunset

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.

The temple of Anemospilia

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.

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

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

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.

Archanes – What to do?

Hiking E4

View of the Asteroussia mountain range, in southern Crete in Heraklion region, Greece
View of Asteroussia Mountain Range in Heraklion region

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.

red wine - wine tasting greece

Gourmet Wine Tour


Weather and climate in Archanes

The climate in the Archanes-Asterousia area is typical temperate Mediterranean, with mild winters and warm summers. Winter is almost unknown on the southern shores of the Asterousia mountains since the low temperatures last only a very short period. Rainfalls, usually taking place between November and March are average. Due to the small amount of rain the streams in the area are small and torrent-like. Therefore, if you are canyoning in the mountains here you must be careful if it rains, as torrents may appear suddenly where you least expect them.
Snow is limited, even in the mountains, as the winds affecting the Asterousia mountain range are affected by the Libyan Sea. Particularly during winter, there are strong south-southwestern winds blowing. During summer, the northern Meltemia winds pick up speed as they descend the mountains.

Archanes village in Heraklion region, Crete Greece
Overview of Archanes village

The area of Archanes-Asterousia is perfect for outdoor activities all year round, due to the mild climate and the low altitudes. The spring and autumn months are perfect for hiking and cycling. During the hot summer days, the temperatures get very high on the treeless mountain paths of Mt. Juktas and the mountain range of Asterousia.

Travel to Greece by plane

Flights Worldwide