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.
This is one of two caves located at Pefkos village, by Makrigialos (the other is Vreiko). The cave hosts beautiful decoration and is easily accessed by a passable dirt road that starts from the village Pefki and heads northwards.
Tafkoura cave is located at Located at Petradolakia at an altitude 1480 meters, approximately 13 km south of Anogia. It is classified as pothole and its explored depth is 860m and the total length is 6570 meters. It is considered as the largest and deepest cavern of Psiloritis Mount and the 3rd in Greece.
The cave Kamilari is an easily accessible and impressive cave of Psiloritis Mount. It is located just 200m from the 13th km of the old road connecting Heraklion with Rethymnon, near Tylisos, at an altitude of 267m. It has 200m long paths, while its entrance has a width of 10m and a height of 4m.
The cave is located north- east of the village Nithavris at an altitude of 700m. at position Kalikas. Its dimensions are 100m x 40m and has a maximum height of 20 meters. Apart from its many names (Onymahos, Kallika Trypa, Notiki Tripa Nithavris, Paul Faure Cave), the impressive entrance with the inscription with the ancient name ONYMAXOC, it hosts beautiful stalactites and hides a rich history that testifies that it was inhabited since ancient times.
Atziganospilios is located within short distance (10 min) from the village of Adrianos, in site Koukistres. It is about 25km southwest of Agios Nikolaos and belongs to the village of Zenia, which you meet as you ascend to the Plateau of Lassithi through the road starting in Neapolis.
On the trail leading from Agios Ioannis to Koudoumas monastery we meet an impressive cave, shaped Δ, in which there is the small church of Saint Anthony. The cave hosts stalagmites and stalactites. One stalactite, has the shape of Saint Anthony, and a pit where there is an icon of St. Anthony. The cave was used as a residence of hermits.
To get in, you have to crawl, cross the first chamber and reach the main space of the cave. It is a very large room with a small lake. Inside the cave flows an underground river, as proved by the rumbling sounds within. The ceiling is adorned with stalactites while the floor is covered with clay.
The precipice Gourgouthakas is the deepest precipice of Greece and the second in the Balkans. Access is almost impossible by anyone and can only be achieved by experienced cavers. The second largest precipice of Greece is also in Crete and is known as Tafkoura. It is located on the site "Atzines" of the White Mountains (Chania) and east of the peak of the Holy Spirit in Melidoni area.