Heraklion – Knossos – Spilia – Archanes
Beginning at the exit of the city of Heraklion, we take the Knossos Avenue (Leofóros Knossoú) and reach the archaeological site of Knossos. Not far from the Palace, other important Minoan monuments are to be found, such as the Royal Villa, the Little Palace, the Caravanserai, the House of the High Priest, the Temple Tomb and the Roman Villa of Dionysus.
The Minoans were very skilled vine-growers and winemakers, and they traded wine all over the Mediterranean. According to Homeric poetry, Cretan wines were famous thousands of years ago. Next, we go along the beautiful valley which lies south of Knossos and reaches the first vineyards.
At a short distance, in Spilia, we distinguish the Venetian aqueduct of Morosini; this was part of a system which used to channel the spring waters of the Archanes area to the city of Heraklion, 15 km away, along the Gorge of Knossos. We then reach a side road that leads to the village of Skalani, on top of a hill thick with vines. If we choose to continue south, following the road that goes through a small valley where the little village of Patsides is located, we shall have the chance to admire a marvelous rural landscape, with vineyards covering the sides of the valley all the way to the village of Kato Archanes. Continuing south, we reach Archanes, one of the most flourishing agricultural settlements of Greece, which has deep roots in Minoan antiquity and a great winemaking tradition.
The summit of Yiouchtas, the sacred mountain of Zeus, dominates the view west of Archanes. A Minoan peak sanctuary, as well as other scattered antiquities such as a Minoan cemetery at Fournί and a sanctuary at Anemospilia, are to be found on the sacred mountain.
Archanes – Vathipetro – Houdetsi
Following the road south of Archanes we reach the abandoned village of Vathipetro, where there is a Minoan villa with a wine press, one of the most important monuments of the Minoan era. This is considered the most ancient installation for treading grapes in the world (3.500 years old), and a great proof of the exceptionally long-standing winemaking tradition of the region.
Archanes – Peza – Agies Paraskies – Agios Vasilios
Back at Archanes village, if we follow the uphill road and pass the hilltop in an easterly direction, we distinguish the region of Kounavi, which is full of vineyards. We arrive there having passed through the village of Katalagari. Continuing south of Kounavi, we reach the valley of Peza, which is the largest wine-producing centre of Crete. The Peza Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (Énosi Pezón) is based here, and the traditional wine-producing villages of the region, Agies Paraskies, Kalloni and Agios Vassilios, can be seen on the hillsides. Following the road north of Agies Paraskies we reach Mirtia, where one can visit the recently renovated, and modern Nikos Kazantzakis Museum which is dedicated to the great Cretan writer.
Agies Paraskies – Alagni
Passing through a beautiful hilly landscape, the road south of Agies Paraskies leads to the valley of Melesses village. Then, further south, it leads to Alagni, where the vineyards surrounding the village make up one of the most beautiful agricultural landscapes of Crete. From Alagni we can continue south, pass through an extensive agricultural area where mostly olive groves dominate with a few vineyards, and reach Arkalokhori and then Kastelliana, where the ancient town of Priansos used to be.
Peza – Agios Vassilios – Houdetsi
Setting off from Peza, we follow the road that passes through the villages Kalloni and Agios Vassilios and then reach Houdetsi, a well-hidden settlement on the slope of a beautiful valley. “Labyrinth”, the well-known musical workshop established by Ross Daly is located at Houdetsi. Seminars and master classes of traditional music are organized here, and the Houdetsi Festival, one of the most important musical festivals of Crete, is held in the village every summer. There is also an exhibition of musical instruments open to visitors. A hilly landscape with vast vineyards opens up south of the village, towards the south of the inland area of the Heraklion Prefecture.
Road trip distance: 38 km
Region: Heraklion, Archanes-Asterousia, Minoa