Zaros is a small picturesque town of approximately 2000 inhabitants in the south slopes of mount Psiloritis, about 46km southwest of Heraklion. It is a place endowed by nature with many springs with crystal clear water. Indeed, the name zaros means the place where a lot of water flows.
The fertile valley of Zaros has always been an ideal place for humans and therefore has been inhabited since ancient times. A Minoan settlement has been identified at the site of Kourtes, and in several places there are the ruins of the large aqueduct of Roman Gortyn. Water, an endless source of life, is an integral part of the history of Zaros, as the visitor perceives from the many old watermills in the village and from the scenic Lake Votomos. But even today, water brings weakth by mass water bottling in modern facilities, the operation of small trout farms, crops, etc.
The rich religious tradition of Zaros is reflected in the great monuments that one meets in and around the village. Within short distance, the visitor can visit the monastery of Vrondissi, the monastery of Agios Nikolaos, the monastery at Varsamonero, the cave of Saint Efthimios, etc. However, nature is just as interesting as one can climb the gorge of Gafaris gorge to the wood of Rouvas, walk in the E4 path that crosses Psiloritis, descend to the Lake of Faneromeni and visit the many deserted hamlets to the south where time has been stopped for decades.
The gorge of Agios Nikolaos, Gafaris or Rouvas is bounded by the peaks of Ambelakia from east and Samari from west. This is the most important gorge of Psiloritis and central Crete and took its name from the homonymous Byzantine church in the south entrance. This is an ecosystem with rich flora and fauna, smaller canyons and interesting geological formations and cliffs of rare beauty.
The artificial lake of Zaros or Votomos is located on the southern slopes of Psiloritis, just 1km north of Zaros and 45km southwest of Iraklion. The area was a small wetland before 1987, which was shaped in the crater of Votomos Spring. It took its current form in 1987 when the Forest Service created an artificial lake where the spring water is stored.
The dam of Faneromeni is located 7km west of the village of Zaros and about 7km north of Tympaki. It is located in a scenic location, in a verdant valley at the southern foot of Psiloritis Mount. The artificial lake covers an area of approximately 1000 acres and has a capacity of 20 million cubic meters.
The monastery of Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas) is located just off the beautiful canyon Gafaris (or Rouvas), about 48km southwest of Heraklion and 3km north of Zaros village. It is situated at the point where in 1994 a great fire burnt much of the beautiful pine forest of the gorge.
Vrontissi monastery is located 49km southwest of Heraklion, near Vorizia Gorge, between the villages of Zaros and Vorizia. The area has panoramic views of Vorizia village and the plain of Messara. The monastery is dedicated to Saint Anthony and is one of the oldest monasteries in Crete.
Paliamas Olive Tree has been declared monumental by the Association of Cretan Olive Municipalities due to its relief trunk and size. This olive tree dates back to the Sub-Minoan First Geometric period, produces big olives and it’s got a big cavity in its trunk, where three people can fit in. Its perimeter at its foot measures 20.40 meters and at a height of 80 cm from the ground it measures 10.50 meters.
The mountain shelter at position Samari is located at an altitude of 1417 meters on the west side of the gorge of Agios Nikolaos. It's a single-room stone building with a wooden attic that can accommodate up to 20 climbers. It has 2 W.C., fireplace and there is a possibility for cooking. There is water available from a cistern which is not potable.