The imposing Minoan palaces and the rest of the constructions developed between 2000 BC and 1400 BC. Around 1700 BC, the Minoan cities were levelled by an unverified factor, probably the eruption of Santorini volcano. The palaces were rebuilt, but the destruction of the large Minoan centers by the Mycenaeans around 1400 BC was the starting point for the decline.
The Minoan superpower was irreparably shaken, could not recover and eventually faded in the following centuries, allowing the Achaeans and the Dorians to conquer the island.
The residents of the coastline, who for the first time felt that an external enemy threatened their island, were withdrawn in the most inhospitable and craggy peaks. This was the outset for the so-called Dark Age (1200 BC - 800 BC), when towns were built in the most inaccessible, naturally fortified locations.
Even today, archaeologists have not confirmed what forced the Minoans to leave their fertile land and build impregnable cities atop windswept peaks, such as the imposing settlements at peaks Karfi, Flektro, Kastro near Kavoussi, Azorias, Vrondas, Kastrokefala, Kyrimianos, Fratiani Kefala, etc.
Karfi (i.e. nail) is a big rocky hill on a top of the Diktaean Mountains, with incredible views to the north coasts of Crete and Lassithi Plateau, near the Monastery of Kera Kardiotissa. Atop of it, at an altitude of 1200m, traces of a Minoan peak sanctuary have been found.
Atop a steep peak, naturally fortified and close to Kalo Chorio, we meet the ruins of the Late Minoan settlement of Vrokastro. This settlement belongs to the dozens of settlements of the darkest period of Crete (1200BC), after the destruction of the Minoan civilization, when settlements were founded on the most inhospitable and inaccessible peaks of the Cretan mountains.
Anavlohos is rocky and steep hill east of the gorge of Selinari. At this inhospitable place no traces of post-Minoan settlement (9-6th century BC) with tanks, walls, tombs and sanctuary have been identified.
At the top of the rocky hill of the Prophet Elijah (Profitis Ilias) near Smari, at an altitude of 590m, there are the ruins of a citadel with a strong defensive wall. The place has panoramic views across the fertile planes of Kasteli and Smari. According to the archaeologist Hadji-Vallianou the citadel was the actual site of ancient Lyttos mentioned by Homer. The city was inhabited from 1800 BC till 630 BC, before being abandoned by its inhabitants.
The Late Minoan settlement of Azorias is situated on a hill with two peaks 1km southwest of the village Kavoussi. The town flourished in the Archaic Period (7th - 5th century BC).
The Late Minoan settlement of Kastro is located on a steep hill, 3km south of Kavoussi, which is accessed via an ancient trail. The view of the bay of Mirabello, the wild gorge of Mesonas, Malavra mounts and the island of Psira are unique.
The Late Minoan settlement of Vrondas is located in an elevated position, 2km south of Kavoussi. It was inhabited during the setting of the Minoan Civilization by Minoans who moved to the peaks of the Cretan mountains so as to protect themselves from the Dorians who occupied the island.
At (E)llinoperamata of Heraklion and at a short distance from the beach of Ammoudara, you will find the stone steep hill of Kastrokefala. The pyramid-shaped hill raises to an altitude of 355 meters from the sea level and has breathtaking views of the sea, the settlement of Rogdia, the once sacred pyramid mountain of Stroumboulas and the fertile plains of Heraklion.