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 Ano Peristeras is one of the many underground rivers of the area of Karidi, Sitia province. It is located at an altitude of 650 meters, the length of routes exceed 5500m and its depth exceeds 220m.
At the most remote part of the east Crete there is the cave Alogaras. The name is taken after the word Logari (treasure). It is located next to the village Tso, today called Agia Triada. The cave is located on the road to the deserted beach Livari and 400 feet above it, where there are remains of the ancient harbor of Ziros.
South of Kroustas we meet the historic cave-pothole Tafos (Tomb) where the rebels of EAM (Greek guerrilla Army during the World War II) found shelter during the German Occupation. As usual, the place was revealed by betrayal and the Germans arrested them and executed all them at this place.
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.
A few meters south of the entrance of cave Chainospilios, we meet the cave Hamoto Spiliari (i.e. Low-roof Cave), which has a length of 32 meters, a maximum width of 6 meters and a height of 6 meters. It is a very small cave, but it has its charm and deserves being explored!
This cave was discovered incidentally in 1976 during road construction works. This burial cave was used mainly during the Neolithic and Minoan period. The cave was mainly used for disposing dead from above, as evidenced by the numerous bones and skulls found here. Archaeologists have also found many offerings.
Cave Kato Peristeras is located east of the village Karydi at position Kato Platyvolo (altitude 560m). Ti takes about 5 minutes to walk from the car parking point to the relatively distinct path.
One of the many Neraidospilios caves (Fairy Caves) in Crete, and probably the most beautiful, is located by the village Astritsi. The name comes after the folk tradition of fairies that lived in the cave and charmed everyone that happened to pass by there and hear their songs. Whoever met the fairies, lost his speech.