Archanes or Arhanes is a small vibrant town with meticulously restored old houses and pleasant squares a truly remarkable job has been done here.
An agricultural town with a long history of 5000 years and important archaeological sites, while excavations conducted in the last 50 years have brought to light a lot of sites dating back to the Minoan period.
Archanes is so close to Heraklion in time and in distance, so much pleasure too. You pass through Kato Archanes and climb a short distance to the main (Epano) Archanes village.
The large village (and a large agricultural center as well) has little in the way of places to stay but has been restored and beautified with European Union funds, as well as a private initiative. A truly remarkable job has been done here, the place looks great but retains as much atmosphere and as many original features as possible, it is a model for such projects in our opinion.
One of the most famous traditional settlements of the Cretan land, Archanes, is waiting for you to teach you about its sacred history and to demonstrate the true Cretan lifestyle.
Arhanes Village is surrounded by endless vineyards and cool springs and the town itself is full of colorful houses, and vibrant flowers that decorate the yards and the streets.
This rural settlement has deep roots in Minoan antiquity and a long wine-producing tradition. At an altitude of 400 meters, Archanes embraces a fertile plain with olive groves and vineyards, from where the locals have always produced olive oil and some of the best wines of the island.
Wandering in the town's narrow streets, the smell of Cretan food is in the air, and do not be alarmed if the locals show you their hospitality by treating you raki and any traditional delicacies they have on disposal.
Among the must-visit town sites, is the unique Archaeological Museum of Archanes, housing a rare exhibition of artifacts from the surrounding sacred Minoan sites.
Archanes has won awards - 2nd best-restored village in Europe and 1st in long term development prospects. Streets have been newly stone-paved, there are more splendid displays of blooming flowers, fruit trees, and plants in the yards, terraces, and balconies of the houses - a walk around the back streets is a pleasure as a result.
How to get there
By car (please check our sister website Crete-Car-Rental.com) the route to take is past Knossos, a few kilometers further a sign-posted right turn to Archanes and in about 5 km you are there. Drive time: 25-35 minutes.
Buses leave Heraklion from bus station A at the harbor. There are buses at least every hour (on the hour), less though on Sundays.
In a booklet about the restoration of Archanes, the mayor lists his requests and solicits the civic pride of residents - his list includes the proper disposal of litter, parking of cars in proper places, and several other specifics toward maintaining an aesthetic appeal and thus an appealing village to visit and to live in. We can only hope that others in Crete and Greece are inspired in the same vein.
Where to stay
- Kalimera Archanes, three village houses, with warm charm, in the center of Arhanes (Archanes). Near the small archaeological museum, with a walled garden, two-story maisonette-style houses, with 1 or 3 bedrooms, living room with fireplace and well-equipped kitchens.
- Eliathos Residence Houses building complex is a unique destination of refined beauty, superbly located just 500m south of the historic village, outlooking the grand historical mountain of Youchtas and to the wide blue of the Gulf of Heraklion.
What to see & do
- Just scroll around the village and explore it, its unique architecture. In addition, enjoy the various restaurants and tavernas at the central square to discover the world-famous Cretan cuisine or the exquisite Arhanes wines.
- Discover how locals used to produce their precious products, wine, and olive oil, by visiting one of the traditional olive and wine presses. One of the oldest wine press (Vathipetro) in the world has been found in Arhanes.
- There are four archaeological sites - one in the village (a fenced excavation) and three close by, at Anemospilia and Fourni (on the edge of the village - a Minoan graveyard). Vathypetro on the way to Houdetsi is worthwhile not only for the finds but also some of the most magnificent views of Crete which you can see from the site - a unique vantage point.
- Anemospilia, at position Anemospilia, on the north slopes of Mount Jiouchtas, the archeologists Giannis and Efi Sakellarakis located in 1979 a small sanctuary of the Minoan era that surprised the global archaeological community, since this small sanctuary offered the first indication of human sacrifices in Minoan Crete. The two-story building was built in the 17th century BC and was destroyed by a massive earthquake a few decades later. So far four sites have been revealed, but maybe there are more.
- The archaeological site of Fourni on the edge of the village (the site is not open, but you could contact the guard). In order to access it, you could walk along the Minoan path starting from Kato Arhanes and crosses the beautiful artificial grove of Fourni or ascend the stairs from the Apano Archanes ring road. Here is identified a pre-Minoan cemetery (2800BC-2200BC), which indeed is the largest prehistoric cemetery in the Aegean Sea. However, more graves have been located, belonging to the period 2200BC-1200BC. Moreover, you can see the quarry from which the materials for the construction of the cemetery were extracted. In 1964 the archaeologist Ioannis Sakellarakis started excavations, which have so far revealed 26 buildings, mostly graves. The objects found in the graves indicate that ancient Archanes had strong relations with the Aegean, Egypt, and the East. Fourni, due to the major findings, is considered the most important Minoan cemetery on Crete. The most important finding was the intact - unlooted sarcophagus of the "Queen", with jewelry (over 140 pieces) of immense value and other items that she was thought to take to the next world. Remains of the sacrifice of an ox and a horse were also found. Many of the findings are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion and the Archaeological Museum of Archanes.
- Vathypetro lies some 5km south of Archanes Village at the foot of the southern end of Mount Jouktas and was probably on the Minoan route from Knossos to the Messara plain in the south of the island. The site was excavated by S. Marinatos from 1949-53 and again in 1955-6. Since he intended to locate a local museum on the site the remains were reconstructed and modified, making it difficult for archaeologists to piece together the original structure of the buildings on the site. The Vathypetro complex was constructed around 1580 BCE at the beginning of the Late Minoan IA period and badly damaged around 1550 BCE, perhaps by an earthquake. The south sector of the building, which includes a wine press, was rebuilt as a farmhouse and industrial center after the 1550 BCE destruction and was finally destroyed around 1470 BCE. The Vathypetro complex is not an isolated, independent structure as it forms part of a small settlement stretching over three hills. Unfortunately, vineyard cultivation has destroyed the remains immediately surrounding the site. However, it is likely that the complex was the most important building on the site since this is the only place where ashlar masonry is to be found in the area. According to Driessen and Sakellarakis, there are in fact two buildings on the site which lie east and west of a narrow corridor. Both buildings are orientated north-south which led Marinatos to believe that the building was planned as a palace. Sinclair Hood has suggested that it might have been the summer residence of the King of Archanes. (Summer residences for Minoan kings have been suggested at various sites, including Agia Triada for the King of Phaistos and Archanes itself for the King of Knossos, though the idea seems to have gone out of fashion recently). However, Vathypetro may well have simply been a manor with its own domestic shrines. The site is open all year round and the entrance is free. For visitors to Archanes it is well worth the five-kilometer drive just to see the indoor wine press alone, and of course the spectacular views of the Juktas mountain and the view to the south.
- A lot of very significant finds of the Minoan era came from the broader Archanes area. Therefore Archanes has an excellent Archaeological Museum which displays all these finds from the town and the sites surrounding it. In the Museum of Archanes are exhibited mainly stone and clay objects as well as exact copies of some of the most important archaeological finds of the area Archanes-Yuhtas, which is undoubtedly one of the most important archaeological sites of Crete. Most of the finds are in the archaeological museum of Heraklion but the successful way in which the finds and the copies are displayed gives the visitor a good image of life in Minoan Crete.
- Archanes with its superb nature is part of the E4 hiking path (it goes through Archanes). Using as a starting point the villages' central square and going west, you will meet the path, which leads to the summit of the mountain Yiouhtas.
- The course is impressive, especially in the springtime. The summit, where lies the chapel of "Afentis Christos", offers a breathtaking view of the landscape, but also west to Psiloritis and east to Dikti mountains. The chapel of "Afentis Christos" celebrates on the 6th of August and during these days there is a "Paniyiri" (festival) at the village.
- There are some great churches to discover in Arhanes Village. 1. The Venetian church of the Virgin Mary (Panagia Kera or Faneromeni) is located near the entrance of the town of Archanes. Inside the temple, an important collection of priestly relics and icons is housed. 2. The church of Saint Nikolas stands high at Archanes and it is a double-aisled basilica. It was built in 1857 with a combination of styles inspired by Venetian and Ottoman elements. 3. The church of Michael the Archangelos is located south of Archanes, bearing frescoes of 1315 with some very interesting depictions. 4. The church of the Holy Trinity built in the 14th century. The frescoes of the church have been lately restored. 5. The church of St George or Agios Georgios is a three-aisled basilica with a raised middle aisle built from the 13th to 14th century and it has imposing and large frescos church of Archanes. 6. In the centre of Epano Arhanes, you will find the small square with the small temple of the Holy Cross (Timios Stavros). The church is single-aisled and vaulted, and part of the sanctuary is carved in rock, while its sanctuary is stone-built.
- Visit Koronekes Olive Mill, which offers a tour & tasting about learning how extra virgin olive oil is made...
- Visit the nearby Minoan Palace of Knossos.
- At the crossroads of the old Heraklion-Archanes road with the new National Road, opposite the Chapel of Agiou Sozontos (St. Sozon), there is a monument marking where Nazi General Kreipe was abducted. It is a work by sculptor Manolis Tzobanakis constructed with wire. At exactly this point, on the night of April 26, 1944, a group of British soldiers and Cretan resistance fighters set up an ambush for the automobile carrying the Commander of Eastern Crete, General Heinrich Kreipe, whom they abducted and transported to Egypt as a prisoner.
- At Karydaki location in Archanes Gorge, there is an aqueduct standing in good condition; it is around 65m long, with one large arch and two smaller ones. On the bridge there is a sign in Latin, indicating the year 1627. The aqueduct of Morosini was inaugurated in 1628, on the day of St. Mark’s feast, the patron saint of Venice, at the Lions Square. Morosini’s aqueduct is probably one of the best and most beautiful water supply projects from the era of Venetian rule and relieved residents of Venetian Chandax from long water shortage periods. The aqueduct is around 15km long, starting from the northern foot of Mt. Juktas and ending at the eight-lobe fountain of Morosini, popularly known as ‘the Lions’ (in the city of Heraklion, Venetian Chandax). The aqueduct was standing almost in its entirety, along with later modifications and additions, until the Second World War. Heraklion received its water supply from Morosini’s aquaduct until 1927!
Please have a look at our other superb activities in Heraklion Region.
Where to eat & drink
- A small engaging, thoroughly informative archaeological museum, the outdoor club/cafe Istros, the characterful restaurant "Ambelos" (on the left as you enter Archanes opposite the church) all play a part in the mix.
- At the restored square attractive cafes and tavernas with outdoor seating and tree-shaded terraces are a delight. We delighted over the lamb and salads we ate at "To Spitiko". Just at the edge of the square - on your right - is a fine Kafeneio, walk-in in and see the enormous waterfall poster and mirror (well, we liked it).
- Bakaliko at the square is a great option too. The food is bursting with freshness and flavor, the service is exceptional and quick, and the atmosphere is fun and vibrant.
- Find exceptional homemade food at Agora idyllic little eatery on a beautiful side street and reassuringly popular with the locals. The hosts are friendly, warm, and kind and the food gorgeous; obviously made with real love and care, yet moderately priced.
- For coffee, drinks and a big variety of Greek wines Zelita Wine Bar could be your place.
- Further down this street on your left is a pastry shop where you feel drinking tea or coffee should be, simple acts as they are, most memorable! Do remember to taste the Archanes wines, produced from the vineyards you see all around the village. They are famous - for good reason.
The reviews for the Archanes Village