The mysterious town of


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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.

Next to this arid and inhospitable place, several Minoan refugees settled after the descent of the Dorians in Crete, so as to continue their lives free (1200BC). Thus, they built a small town on the northeastern slopes of Karfi, at a point protected from wind. However, extreme weather conditions in winter seem to have forced residents to look for a new place of residence elsewhere in 1100BC.

John Pendlebury and the British School of Archaeology started systematic excavations in 1930s. In the region, they identified several single-storey houses and a large building which served as a sanctuary. In the sanctuary clay figurines depicting a Minoan goddess with upraised hands were found. Generally, the findings from the settlement are not rich, as residents abandoned Karfi, taking also their belongings with them, unlike other ancient sites that where destroyed by an earthquake or fire. At lower altitudes, near the spring Vitzilovrysi, traces of an archaic temple have been found.

Also in Karfi several vaulted tombs have been found, many of them looted. The looters come when the snow starts melting so as to locate the graves. In places where there are graves, the snow melts more quickly, because the air beneath raises the temperature. It is said that one resident of the Lassithi Plateau, whose family now has a vast fortune, became wealthy when he found a golden sow and piglets in one of these graves.

Karfi surely deserves a visit, not so much for the archaeological site, but for the nice walk and the stunning views of the surrounding areas. It can be accessed either from Kera or by following the steep trail from the church of St. Ariadne on the plateau of Nisimos (accessed via Tzermiado). The second option is easier and the walk takes about 15 minutes.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Heraklion Prefecture
  • Type: Ancient Settlement
  • Peak Period: Dark Age (1200 BC - 800 BC)
  • Accessibility: Walking
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