The existence of numerous caves is inextricably linked to the rugged topography of Crete. People lived in caves thousands of years ago, as evidenced by the prehistoric carvings in the cave Skordilakia by Asfendou. Moreover, today's religious tradition in the caves, which hosts cavernous chapels, is an evolution of the worship of ancient gods inside caves.
Originally, the Minoans worshipped their major deities, such as Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, in caves. Later, they placed the birth and upbringing of the king of the gods, Zeus, in the Diktaean and Idaean caves, turning them into important religious centers. During the Byzantine era, caves which according to tradition hosted Saints, such as Saint Paul, Gerasimos and John Xenos, were converted to important ascetic communities. Many pages of Cretan history were also written in the caves of Crete, such as the massacres in the caves of Melidoni, Milatos, Krionerida, Xotikospilios and Tigani at Gramvousa.
Many caves are of very high speleological and ecological significance. Caves with rich decoration which are open to visitors are the Diktaean Cave by Psychro, Gerontospilios by Melidoni and Sfendonis by Zoniana. Besides the caves of religious or historical value, Crete has more than 4.500 mapped caves and sinkholes, available to each experienced speleologist who wants to enjoy their rich decoration and fauna. Areas that host a large number of caves, ideal for cavers, is mount Stroumboulas by Heraklion, the Geopark of Sitia, the Geopark of Psiloritis and Melidoni area in the White Mountains. The three deepest explored sinkholes in Greece are all located in Crete.
The cave of Vreiko is located about 2km north-east of the village. It is a cave and gulch and the known depth is 25-30 metres. The Entrance is an open and flat place that looks like a threshing floor. In the entrance there are stairs that make the entry and exit to the cave easier. A fig tree has grown at that place and its bouches cover a big gallery which is about 60-70 metres long. At the entry and the end of the gallery there are signs from the Neolithic Era.
One of the very beautiful caves that characterize this region is the cave near the exit of the wild gorge of Sfakias. The marine cave of Sfakias is not simply a sea cave but a system of holes and rooms. It has 6-7 different entrances and a few meters inside the cave, all the corridors are merged to a common cave.
The cave Drakolaki is a long underground river located on the southern slopes of Peak Thodoris at White Mountains, at the upper part of the canyon Aradena. It is actually the starting point of one of the basic ravines that merge and form Aradena Gorge.
It consists of two rooms with different levels and relatively rich cave decoration. Both surveys revealed pottery of Neolithic and Minoan era. Specifically, the main use of the cave as a residence focuses on Neolithic period (3650/3500 - 2900 BC) and is was reused as shelter during the Late Minoan (1300-1250 BC) period.
The Cave of Marathokefala or Marathospilios is located next to the village of Kynigiana, 29km southeast of Rethymno. In Mylopotamos area, where it is located, several caves have been found.
Cave Lavyrinthaki is located 50km south of Heraklion, on a small hill between Plouti and Moroni. It is a small ancient quarry, with an approximately large room of 300 sq. meters, while the height at some point reaches 4m. There are several columns for supporting the roof.
Cave Sarhos, Honos or Nychteridospilios is located west of the village Sarhos, at an altitude of 276m. It is one of the largest and most important caves of Crete, which is particularly loved by cavers because of its complexity and large length. The total paths in the cave exceed the length of 1500m, while the depth of the cavern reaches 230m.
The cavern of Hosto Nero is found in the region Selia of Youchtas mountain near the road that leads to the top of Afentis Christos. It is located at an altitude of about 720 meters in the southern top of the holy mountain and in order for anyone to see it he/she has to enter through a narrow hole. This cavern has 3 rooms and many corridors that connect them all with the first room of 7 meters length that has enough light because of its big opening.