Arhanes is a picturesque small village, built at an altitude of 380 meters [1280 ft] in the middle of a basin. It is run through by Kaeratos stream, dividing into two parts. Arhanes is 14 kilometers away from the city of Heraklion and 7 kilometers from the Palace of Knossos. The greater area of Arhanes is most significant for its numerous archaeological sites. During your stay Arhanes you will keep your days full of activities. Strolls through the narrow streets of the old town, visits the Minoan, Byzantine also and Folklore museums to discover the local history. The multitude of traditional and historic buildings, scattered across the town will simply enchant you!
Visit the various restaurants and taverns at the central square to discover the world famous Cretan cuisine or the exquisite Arhanes wines. Discover the methods the people of yester Crete used to produce their precious products, wine and olive oil, by visiting the traditional olive and wine presses. Why not participate in the summer harvesting of grapes during the celebration of the Arhanes Farmer Festival and many more cultural activities. For those of you that prefer trekking and walks in the nature, there’s a lot to choose from: walk up to the sacred mountain, Jioukta, where according to ancient mythology, Zeus, the father of Gods and Humans has been buried. Walk along E4, the European trail to the Silamiano gorge under the thick shade of oaks and sycamores.
Archanes is one of the best kept villages in Crete - 2nd best restored village in Europe - only 10 minutes away from Knossos by car, 16 km south of Heraklion, with a population of about 4000 people.
It is built on the slope of a short hill, with abundant waters, among vineyards full of grapes of excellent quality. The best kind of table grapes in Crete ("rozakia") grows here.
The decade before World War II, the fame of “Rozaki” wine of Archanes spreads both in Greece and in markets abroad, where it is still exported in large quantities. Great quantities of “raki” are also produced here.
Picturesque, narrow, newly stone-paved streets and Neo-classical houses, competing with colour providing blooming flowers and plants, a mix of local and unexpected shops, form the image of Archanes, which retains as much atmosphere and as many original features as possible. A walk around the back streets of the village is a great pleasure for all the senses.
On a Sunday morning, choose one among the many restaurants in the central square to relax and order a glass of “raki” or wine with “meze” (Greek snacks) or a feast with grilled lamb and enjoy the loud conversations of locals which are meaningful even if you don’t speak the language.
The village people are proud of their successful efforts to keep the village alive, clean, traditional and beautiful. They are also genuinely friendly.
When you look south from the city of Heraklion, you can see mount Giouchtas which has the form of an asleep mythical person, resembling to Zeus. It is possible that this strange form of the mountain caused the creation of the fable that Zeus’ grave was there, because ruins of an ancient altar are found in «Psili Korfi». The name «Giouchtas», according to linguists, originates from the Latin word «Jupiter», and as years went by the name slightly changed. In ancient times it was named “Iyttos”, but during the Venetian domination it was given the name Giouchtas.
According to the Greek Mythology, the huge giant Sarantapichos who lived in the gorge of Kapnisti, near Viannos, was throwing enormous rocks from the top of mount Giouchtas and that’s how the hills around Archanes were created. Fairies lived in the caves of the stream which winds its way through them. It is said that in one of these caves Kaiafas who judged Jesus Christ was buried. It is also said that in the middle of the gorge near the village, there is an alley that leads to paradise.
The elements that characterize the area of Archanes are the mount of “Giouchtas” and the gorge of Knosano. The terrain of the region is significantly variable with a natural landscape of mountains and hills, torrents, gorges, ravines and the unique forest park of the region, as well as plains or valleys of great ecological value regarding rare kinds of flora.
A lot of names belonging to rivers and lakes have the root arch-, ach- which is related to water. Archanes has always had abundant water since the antique times. Archanes was part of Knossos in both Greek and Roman years.
A Minoan temple, an altar of worship, was discovered at Anemospilia, about 4 km southwest of Archanes, on the north slope of “Giouchtas” Mountain and ruins of a Minoan Mansion dating back to about 1450 BC., have been found.
Archaeologists have discovered the largest cemetery in Crete at Fourni, 1 km northwest of Archanes.
In the period of Venetian domination Archanes were two separate settlements. In 1834 AD the village of Archanes was inhabited by 160 Christian and 6 Turkish families. In 1881 AD Archanes became a separate Municipality.
Worth seeing is the Archaeological Museum of Archanes which houses a very interesting archaeological collection in a renovated building. The Folklore Museum, in which exhibits from the daily life of Archanes are presented, is accommodated in another renovated neoclassic building.
Heading to Heraklion, 3 kilometers from Archanes, in a spacious area, is the Museum of Cretan History and Tradition, an exhibition of objects presenting the Cretan History and Tradition since the 9th century. This private museum owes its existence to the initiative of Michalis Psaltakis.Among the rich folklore and historical exhibits of the 19th and 20th century are looms, production of wine units, instruments of production of oil etc. The collection of World War II objects, like jeeps, tanks, and German cars as well as personal objects of the German general Kraipe, has an outstanding place.
“Helen” is a renovated oil-processing unit in Archanes built in 1870, where you can get an idea of the traditional way of olive oil production.
It was on Minoan stonework following the particularities of archaeological discoveries.
On the ground floor you can see the 19th century equipment. On the 1st floor, rich audiovisual material presents you with old and contemporary olive oil ways of production. You can also taste traditional Cretan products and Cretan delicacies in the old Venetian hall and have a cup of coffee or refreshment in the courtyard.
A very interesting place for those who are keen of modern art is the Laboratory of the sculpture Manolis Tsompanakis. One of his works is the big cementitious sculpture in front of the Kazantzaki Museum. His art is impressive, although strange for the unversed in modern art, as he has his own original creative way for his sculptures, using as raw material timber and concrete rabbets, as well as iron bars, not only in the interior of the material but also in the external part of it.
The completely renovated church of Virgin Mary of Archanes besides being a place of worship is also a historical, ecclesiastical and national local museum. Old icons and ecclesiastical utensils of great value from Virgin Mary as well as from other Archanes churches, are kept here.
Archanes is a popular destination not only for those who want to visit museums, archaeological sites and historical monuments, but also for a variety of people who love nature and active holidays with alternative ways of tourism.
Driving a distance of about 4 km you reach the top of mount Giouchtas, from where you can walk on paths either towards the church of Lord Christ or towards Psili Korfi where the pagan ceremonies took place. Farther from Psili Korfi is Alonaki and Anemospilia. You can also walk the 4 km distance to the top of Giouchtas in about 1 hour, depending on your physical condition.