Caving in Crete



Tzanis Cave
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Tzanis Cave or Katavothra or Chonos, is located in Omalos Plateau in Chania. Its explored part reaches 3000m, but is expected to increase in later expeditions. The cave has raised the interest of foreign tourists since 1865. Since 1961 caver groups of different nationalities explore the cave. Tzanis is actually accessible to expert cavers, as its exploration requires caving equiment and experience. It forms a underground stream and during its course one meets rich cave decor, ponds, wells and steep descends.  

Cave Tzanis has taken its name from the legendary chieftain of Lakki, Markos Tzanis or Fovos (meaning Fear). He was distinguished for his battles against the Venetians in the late 17th century and later against the Turks. After the conquest of Crete by the Turks, he fled to the island of Souda. From there, he attacked against Turks and killed many of the most brutal ones. He inspired fear to the Turks, who named him Fovos (which means Fear in Greek

The parallel cave

As it is actually impossible to explore the main cave of Tzanis for an ordinary tourist, one can explore the parallel smaller gallery formed on the side of the cave, which is rich in cave decor and access is quite easy.

An interesting legend about the cave is often told by the locals. They say that a young shepherd, an excellent lyre player, called Tzanis got lost in the area. He was abducted by the fairies of the cave in order his lyre to accompany their dances. Since then, during some moonless nights, a sound comes out from the cave. This is the music for the dancing fairies, the elves that keep in their hands, infants as white as the foam of the sea. Infants are the fruit of their love with some mortals. They swirl with their loosened, long, silky hair. At the same time, Tzanis accompanies their dance, by playing skillfully an unsurpassed melancholic but magnificent melody of his beloved lyre. They also tell that during that night, the song echo that can be heard on the mountains and the plains is very sweet and sad. The fairies sing lyrics for their love, while Tzanis nostalgically sorrows for his lost life, which he once lived happily among humans. Therefore, there was a tradition among the lyre players of Crete, telling that only those who are taught by Tzanis may become perfect in lyre. For this reason, many people used to visit this cave during moonless nights, to take the high quality lessons. They gathered and sat circularly, experimenting with their lyres. At first, however, they were taking precautions: There were fairies in the cave, but the cross inscribed in the middle of the circle, provided the appropriate protection against them.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Chania Prefecture
  • Type: Sinkhole
  • Water: Water all year round
  • Length (m): 2500
  • Accessibility: Paved road
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