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 Hainospilios Cave is located near plateau Gournes in Lefka Ori, in the area of the village Kares, in the province of Apokoronas. It is a sinkhole, in which refugees and rebels found shelter in the past. Access is possible by hiking half an hour from Gournes, where a dirt road from Kares stops.
Egglezos Cave or Cave of the Guerillas is located in an isolated area of the cypress wood of Tsivi, at position Asfendami. In this small cave, during the Second World War, British soldiers and local allies were hiding.
Agiasmatsi Cave is located northeast of the village Kapsodasos, on a steep slope at an altitude of almost 300m, with an impressive view of Frangokastelo plain. It can be accessed initially through a dirt road and then through a trail (15-20) starting from the position Xylou Seli.
Cave Stratomytis or Lykastos Cave is located north of the settlement Karnari, just at the point where the solid limestone of Yiuhtas Mount meets the soil grounds of the region. It is very easily accessible via a short path and its location is easy found, as its numerous entrances can be seen from afar. The cave actually consists of a complex network of galleries, which exceed the length of 400 meters.
The cave of Xanthos is located on a slope above the beautiful beach of Obrosgialos in province Apokoronas, West Crete. The area has many caves with rich cave decoration, from which Xanthos cave stands out.
The Cave of Eileithyia is formed very close to the point where the road from Heraklion meets the coastal road of Tsoutsouras, at the site of the ancient town Inatos. Its entrance, which is sealed for safety reasons by the Archaeological Service, is accessed via a very short path with stairs starting from the main road.
Below the Old National Road is the large sea cave of Kako Oros, a special geological formation relatively unknown to most locals. There is a big hole in the roof of the cave, creating an impressive stone arch and a natural skylight.
The Mavro Skiadi cave abyss is one of the most famous precipices in Crete, mainly because it has the highest known descent in Greece and one of the highest in the world. It is located in position Atzinolakkos at an altitude of 1600 meters in the heart of the White Mountains.