Caves in Crete

Arkoudospilios

Chania

Arkoudospilios Cave
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Cave Arkoudospilios (Bear Cave) or the Cave of Panagia Arkoudiotissa is located above Katholiko gorge of Akrotiri near Chania, 2km north of the Gouverneto monastery, along the trail connecting Gouverneto monastery with Katholiko Monastery. 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 hermits 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 sanctuary in ancient Crete, dedicated to the goddess Artemis, which was transformed into a bear. Today, a chapel is housed inside the cave, dedicated to the Panagia (Virgin Mary) Arkoudiotissa. The church celebrates on February 2 (the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple - Hypapante), 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

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

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