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 impressive Cave Kouroupidon is located in the area of the village Kokkino Chorio of province Apokoronas, near the beach of Koutalis; the area hosts dozens of great caves. Detecting the entrance is difficult because it is very narrow and is not discernible.
The cave Faneromeni is located at an altitude of about 770m, above the village Avdou in Louloudaki range. It is hard to access it, due to very steep slopes and dense vegetation. The cave is about 45m long, 9m high and its width varies from 4 to 12m. It has a rich cave decor including stalactites, stalagmites and columns.
Csve Fandaxospiliara (aka the cave with the ghosts) is located next to the quarry of Latzimas, at Rethymnon province. The cave was an underground riverbed, which currently has no water. The length reaches 230m and the depth 11m.
The Cave of Maridon is located about 300m east of Adrianos village and is accessed by a short path. It is a small cave, just 20m long, with a relatively large entrance (5m high and 4m wide). At the first part of the room, it is 4m wide. A stone wall separates the entrance from the rest of the cave, which extends to 6m and is used as a goat pen.
The wider region of the village Alikambos, at Chania, we meet several caves because of the limestone bedrock. One of these caves is Fourni located in the village. Fourni unlike other caves of the region does not bear cave decoration as it is really poor. However it surely has the most important history of all, because it is located inside the village and, therefore, served as a shelter for the locals, especially during the bombardments of the Second World War. Fourni entrance is not easy to access, due to being blocked by rubbish and vegetation.
One of the most well kept secrets of Akrotiri Cape is the cave of Haviare, one of the most beautiful of Akrotiri that has a very rich cave decoration. However, the beauty is not limited inside the cave but continues in the surrounding area. A few meters away from the beautiful and imposing entrance of the cave, we see several crystals.
At Cape Salamias, near the trail that connects Agios Ioannis with the beach of Salamias and almost above the sea level, the big cave of Peristeras is formed, which takes its name from the pigeons (peristeri in Greek) nesting in it.
The Cave Tafkos Giomatas is located near the village of Agia, province Mylopotamos, in the Talean Mountains at position Giomatas. It is one of the most beautiful caves in the prefecture of Rethymnon and was first explored by the Speological Club of Crete (SPOK) in 2003. The decoration consists of imposing curtains, stalagmites, stalactites and columns.