The greatest hermitage in Crete was the naturally isolated, and impassable range of Asterousia in current southern Heraklion prefecture, where Saint Paul is said to have stayed for two years. Many caves from Saint Nikitas to Cape Lithino still host hermits. Relations between them were so limited that in Agiofarago and Martsalo they gathered only once a year, in cave Goumenospilios and counted how many of them survived each year.
On the west of Kali Limenes, on the hill, you will meet the chapel of St. Paul, built on site of an earlier church of 1700, in honor of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew that visited Kali Limenes on November 15, 1992.
The name of the gorge Agiofaraggo means “Saints’ gorge” and indicates that it was used by many hermits who stayed here because of the isolation of the area. According to a legend, three hundred hermits lived here in absolute isolation from each other. They met only once a year at “Goumenospilio” and then they were aware of those who had died the previous year.
Agios Ioannis (Saint John) settlement is named after the small monastery of Saint John, which is built inside a two-level cave and has very old frescoes, dating back from 1360.
From the Byzantine monastery still stands the church of Agios Dimitrios (Saint Demetrius) with very old frescoes. In the churchyard there are the remains of the monk cells.
The former monastery of St. Paul (13-14th century) is located near the village Paranimfi near a spring. All around, we see traces of an ancient temple, which was looted. The church is a basilica with single nave and there are traces of frescoes.
The Monastery of the Saints Eftychiani was located at hill Raxos and was dedicated to the local Saints Eftychianos, Eftychios and Kassiani. Near the ruins of the first temple, a new was inaugurated in 2009. In 2011 the monastery restarted its operation as a nunnery.
Between the village Sternes and the Monastery Koudoumas, on the wild and arid range of Asterousia, we meet the abandoned village and the church of St. Nicholas (celebrating on December 6th). The church was a dependency of the monastery Koudoumas.
At the beginning of the route in Martsalos Gorge you will find the lovely church of Panagia Martsaliani, dedicated to the Annunciation. The church, built in a cave, was used as a catacomb at the time of Christian persecutions. Just a few centuries earlier, it came back to light by chance, when a shepherd found it and realized that it was covered by rocks.