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 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 cave of Peristeras is located at the northwestern edge of Limnakaro plateau, south of the village Avrakontes. It was found that in the Middle Minoan period it was user for funerary purposes. Today, the great entrance of the cave is blocked by giant rocks, hindering the tour in the cave.
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!
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.
At position Patelia, about 1 km NW of Sitanos we meet the large cave of Oxo Latsidi, formed in Jurassic limestone. It was originally accessible for 50m. It was later studied by Paul Faure and mapped by Eleftherios Platakis and Ioannis Tsifetakis, who found a long tunnel 360m long. After the entrance we meet a room (34m x 16m) and a chamber on the right (32m). On the left, for 330m extends the tunnel with a width of 2-8 m and a height from 0.5m-1.5m. Recent surveys give the cave a longer length of up to 1.000 m. The different flows of water give the impression that it was once an underground riverbed. Generally the decoration is poor.
The Cave Dadoulas or Maxime is an underground river at Dadoulas area by Vrysidi settlement. It has a total routes’ length of 760m, depth of 260m and ends at a siphon (well). It has very rich decor and is characterized as a "living museum of the geological history” of the region.
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.