“The other day, the three friends went a trip to a fine village known for its vineyards, about two hours from Kastro. It was on the foot of the Holly Mountain, Giouchtas, where the father of gods and people, Zeus, is said to have been buried…” Nikos Kazantzakis, Anafora ston Greco (i.e. Report to Greco).
The awarded Epano Archanes have been described – justifiably- as the most beautiful town in Crete. It is built in the Zeus’s embrace, in the north-eastern side of the valley that is shaped by the Giouchtas Mountan, 380 meters above the sea level and about 16 kilometers from Heraclion.
The Archanes traditional settlement has been awarded twice, taking the award of “Complete and Fine Sustainability”, in October 2000, during the competition that was held by the E.E. and the Red Union (Ruralite Environment Development) for the Rural Development and the Upgrading of villages, and, in 2001, the Golden Award of Environment “Eleftheria Plataki” of the University of Crete, for the interventions made for the protection of the natural and concrete environment.
Archanes connects the architectural beauty with the magnificent landscapes, the myths and the legends of the area and the alternative activities.
The Open University is sheltered in a neoclassical building in the entrance of the town. The Environmental Education Center works also in the settlement.
Traditional oil and wine presses are in Archanes and so the visitors can learn how the residents produced their wine and olive oil.
There are many taverns in the square of Archanes where the visitors can enjoy traditional Cretan plates.
Administratively, the town is under the Archanes-Asterousia Municipality and the settlements of Vathipetro and Kanario is under its district. The residents are famous for the crop and production of the wine grapes.
An archaeological museum, a folklore museum, a sculpture workshop, a Minoan palace and the E4 European path are in the settlement.
The sacred Giouchtas Mountain
Giouchtas is a very beautiful village and of a high archaeological importance. The Sacred Mountain is in the north of the valleys of the central Heraclion prefecture, in the west of the Silamiano gorge and the valley of the Giofiros River, near Ano Archanes. Everything can be seen from its top that is 811 meters high.
The design of the mountain reminds a person (from its north-west side) and that created many myths. According to mythology, the grave of Zeus is in Giouchtas. Its name came from the Latin word “Jupiter” that means Zeus.
It was central for the Minoans as it was the first mountain seen as they reached Crete by boat. That is why they built two Minoan Sanctuaries, the one on the highest place of the mountain and the other in Anemospilia.
Anemospilia was possibly a place of human sacrifice as a human skeleton, lying on the altar with a knife stabbed in its body and under the roof of the collapsed building, was found.
Important worship objects were found in the caverns of Chosto Nero and Spilios Stravomitis.
The Afentis Christos church (with four aisles) is on one of its tops maintaining its worship feature till today.
Giouchtas is protected as an archaeological site and is in NATURA 2000 for the maintenance of the natural places and the flora and fauna. The 61% of the bird fauna of the mountain is protected by the international agreements and the 8% is under the Red Book of the Species in danger in Greece.
360 species of flora (e.g. the Cretan orchid etc) and 40 bird species (e.g. hawks, vultures etc) are recorded.
According to archaeological findings, the history of Archanes began 5000 years before. It was very important in the Minoan Era and later.
The first reference of the village was in a 1271 contract. After that many other references of the settlement exist.
During the Turkish Occupation, the town of Archanes was an aim of the Turks as it was a Christian camp. Archanes played an organizational role in the Cretan Revolutions.
During the World War II, the Center of Governing the Greek Forces moved in Archanes and the first spy team in Crete was also organized in the town.
The name is possibly a modern form of the name of the ancient city “Acharna” where the temple of the Archos god (the people of Knosos and Tilisos worhiped him) was.
The cathedral of the village is dedicated to Panagia. It is said that her icon was found there.
Old churches like that of Agia Triada with interesting frescos from the 14th century, Analipsi, Gennisi of Theotokos and Agia Paraskevi (of the same period) are in Archanes.
There is also the church of Asomatos from 1315 with frescos that included one with the portrait of the owner, Michail Patsidioti, with his wife. The ruins of a settlement are in the area of the church and that settlement was mentioned with 26 residents, in 1583.
The Afentis Christos church (with 4 aisles) is in the second highest top of Giouchtas. It is dedicated to Metamorfosi of Sotiras, Agia Zoni, Agioi Apostoloi and Agioi Anargiroi.
It is in the rim of the cliff and has an amazing view.
A desolated building with three floors is very near the Afentis Christos church. It is said that it was the cells of the catholic nuns of the Sotiras Monastery.
Various cultural events take place during the summer.
“Charavgi”, a society of nature, and the Touring Club are in the town and organize many events.