Astrakiano - Kounaviano Gorges of Karteros
Astrakiano and Kounaviano canyons are two lush green gorges by Heraklion that merge near the village Skalani and carry on their united course till Karteros. The total length of the two canyons is about 21 km.
The gorges are located east of Heraklion city and belong to the wider area of Jiouktas and the gorge of Agia Irini (Natura 2000 protected area) in Arhanes. They all are very easy for walking, ideal for children and families.
The longest canyon, Astrakiano, starts at the position Kolomodi and runs through the village of Astraki. The hiking trail starts from the ruined village of Kato Astraki (next to Myrtia) where steps lead into the canyon riverbed through the site of Neraidospilios, (with a cave and beautiful ponds). From here actually starts the path in the river of Karteros along a lush green path, well structured with wooden bridges and railings. After passing the bridge of Aitania we arrive at the area Kali Rahi where Astrakiano joins the Kounaviano Gorge (the latter starts from Peza). From Kali Rahi the united most gorge continues its way to Karteros through very well organized path. This part, known as Karteros Gorge, runs next to old water mills and the very old church of St. Nicholas. At the exit of the gorge of Karteros, at Mesa Karteros, there is an old inn and another chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas. This place is an ideal resting place for picnics and can be accessed with car from Karteros.
The canyon Astrakiano (Astraki - Kali Rahi) is approximately 7km long and hiking takes 3-4 hours, through a very well-maintained trail. Similarly the part of Kounaviano Gorge (Kounavi - Kali Rahi) is approximately 4km long and trekking takes about 2 hours. The common part of the gorge Karteros (till the second chapel of St. Nicholas (Kali Rahi – Mesa Karteros) is approximately 6km.
The route in the canyons is rich in natural, morphological, aesthetic, historical and cultural features. It is a landscape of outstanding natural beauty, with springs, ponds, rivers, small waterfalls and lush vegetation. Before the Second World War in the canyon operated 10 water mills, while the locals were fishing eels and crabs, some still exist.