Zaros is a particularly attractive, refreshingly unspoiled village famous for its spring water, which is now bottled and sold all over Crete, and an ideal base for walkers to explore the beautiful nature.
But Zaros also has some fine Byzantine monasteries, excellent walking, and delicious farm-raised trout served up in tavernas around town and on emerald-green Lake Votomos (actually a reservoir).
The lake is also the kick-off point for the 5km hike trail through the impressive Rouvas Gorge, a major lure for hikers, birders, and naturalists.
The name "Rouvas" comes from an old monastery of the 14th century but still operational by Calendarist monks.
Various excavations in the region indicate that the Minoans and the Romans settled here, lured by the abundant supply of freshwater.
This spring water supplied the great Roman capital of Gortys as well.
In addition, Byzantine Monasteries are nearly as abundant as the spring water. You can visit most of them and live great experiences and of course, you can walk the stunning Rouvas gorge.
Therefore Zaros makes an ideal base for walkers and is relatively close to the nearby beaches of Kommos, Matala, and Agia Galini and the area's archaeological sites.
Hotel Idi has details on treks to the monasteries and the Rouvas gorge.
How to get there
- There are two-afternoon buses daily to Zaros from Heraklion.
- By Air: From May through mid-October there are direct charter flights to Heraklion Airport. Tickets can be bought in advance for almost all flights via our partner website.
- By Sea: The journey is the thing". A superb way of enjoying the journey to Crete is to fly to Athens and take the ferry from Piraeus (Pireas) - the port serving Athens. A still-romantic way to travel by the overnight ferry from Piraeus to Heraklion Port. Tickets can be bought in advance for all ferries via our partner website.
- By Car: If you want to explore the region while you're here, we recommend that you rent a car, other means of transport are limited and/or infrequent. We suggest our sister website, which offers competitive prices and you can collect your car at either airport.
- By Taxi: Book your taxi transfer online easily and safely from the airport or port to any location via our partner website.
Where to stay
- Eleonas Traditional Cottages Inn offers rural simplicity just outside the village and a restaurant and pool. Romance and family holidays both fit in here. In the midst of the nature and beauty of rugged hillsides.
- At the foot of the mountain, near the gorge, in Zaros village... Idi Hotel. Between the interesting central village and the lake of Zaros. This simple hotel is set in gardens with indoor and outdoor pools. Wonderful position for exploring numerous old villages and also a 45-minute drive to south coast resorts and beaches. Here there is and an old watermill and a mini-museum.
- In the heart of Zaros mountain village... Keramos Hotel. Very friendly family-owned and run, with neat rooms, some balconies, and the treat of home-baked and family-produced breakfast pastries! Middle of the village, but they'll show you the gorge and lake and you can explore old villages or be at the sea in 45 minutes.
What to see & do
- Zaros is an ideal base for walkers and not only.
- Starting with a visit to the beautiful Votamos lake overlooked by rocky heights, where you can enjoy your coffee while gazing at its blue-green waters, feed the ducks and fish, or walk around the lake and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
- Or if you are hungry, you can try the amazing food of the local cuisine at the traditional tavern protected by the shade of the plane trees.
- Visit the workshop of Antonis Stefanakis, where you can learn all about the lyra, the lute and many other traditional Cretan musical instruments (www.stefanakis-antonis.gr)
- For the more active lovers, the Agiou Nikolaou Gorge is the ideal choice. The path starts at the Zaros lake and passes by many interesting sights and places, starting with the Agiou Nikolaou Monastary, 900 meters further down.
- About 2,5 kilometers down the path you will find the entrance to the canyon which leads to the amazing forest in Rouvas, one of the few oak forests in Greece.
- There you will find the Agiou Ioanni (St. John) church. The length of the route from the lake to the forest is 5 kilometers and requires about 2,5 hours when hiking uphill and 1,5 hours when hiking downhill.
- Next on the tour of the area’s sights is Moni Vrontisiou, which was an important spiritual center during the 17th century.
- Do not forget to visit Iera Moni Agiou Fanouriou (Valsamonerou), a monastery adorned with beautiful murals. There are many more sights near the area which you can visit, such as the caves and canyon in Kamares in addition to many car routes.
- If you would like to get to know the village better, a walk through the narrow alleys of the village may hold many surprises. You will have the opportunity to admire the traditional, local architecture and find yourselves face to face with the amazing chapel of Agia Kiriaki (St. Kiriaki) which is located next to the church museum.
- Further down in lower Zaros, you will come across one of the village’s ten watermills (up until today two of the ten have been preserved and are open to visiting).
- About 7 kilometers outside the village you will find the manmade Faneromeni Damn, where the rich, natural environment meets man’s work in technology.
Where to eat & drink
- Vengera on the main street of Zaros is a charming rakadiko (raki restaurant) and taverna which is run by Vivian her mother Irini who cooks just traditional Cretan food. Here you could have some cooking lessons as well.
- Votomos, just next to Idi Hotel ( it is affiliated with the hotel ). Trout is the specialty of this superb fish restaurant. You can also see the trout gliding through the huge freshwater reserve.
The reviews for the Zaros Village