Caves in Crete

Arkoudospilios

Chania

Arkoudospilios Cave
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Arkoudospilios (Bear Cave) or the Cave of Panagia Arkoudiotissa is located in Avlaki gorge of Akrotiri (Chania), 2km north of the Gouvernetou monastery, in the gorge connecting Gouvernetou with Katholiko Monastery. The cave is known for the bear-shaped rock that made the cave a place of worship of the ancient goddess Artemis.

The cave is an old riverbed that no longer exists and consists of a large room with some special partly-damaged decoration and smoke-blackened roof. There is a smaller second room where one enters through a very narrow passage. After this the cave continues, but the opening is very narrow to fit a human body.

The name Arkoudospilios (Bear Cave) comes from the stalagmite in the form of a bear that is ready to drink water, located near the entrance of the cave. In front of the "bear" there is a small pond with water. According to legend, Virgin Mary petrified the bear that was stealing the hard-to-find water by the monks living in the cave, who were suffering from thirst.

In the cave inscriptions have been found depicting the gods Apollo and Artemis. According to archaeologists, the cave operated as a temple in ancient Crete, dedicated to the goddess Artemis, which was transformed into a bear.

Today, a chapel is housed inside the cave is dedicated to the Panagia (Virgin Mary) of Arkoudiotissa. The church celebrates on February 2 (the Visitation of Christ), with many locals flocking to the cave and spending the night around fires. For this reason, the roof of the cave is smoked.

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Additional Info

  • Prefecture: Chania
  • Type: With archaeological importance
  • Water: Generally dry
  • Accessibility: Walking

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