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 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 Sfendoni 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The Anonym Cave of Tylissos is located 16 km west of Heraklion, about 1 km before reaching Voulismeno Aloni, at an altitude of 250 meters. It was revealed in 2010 during the works for the new road connecting Tylissos with Anogia.
The Trapeza Cave has been used as a place of worshiping, something that is certified by the innumerous conches on its ground but also by its flat which is in front of the entrance which both are dated from the middle-Minoan era until the after-Minoan. The most important findings of the cave are two idols of men in worshiping position.
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.