The “Bethlehem of antiquity”
Birthplace of Zeus. It’s in this cave he had been hidden to be sheltered from the devouring frenzy of his father, Cronus, who wanted to eat him just like he had done with all his siblings before him. It’s this very cave that the Nymphs and the Fairies meticulously turned into a bridal bed for the king of all gods and goddesses, Zeus. And it’s the same place where the king, in the form of an omnipotent white bull, brought the abducted beauty of Europa the princess, to fill her with the seed of his love.
Wedged in the rocky northern sides of mount Dicte and at the altitude of 1025m, the cave is not far from the village of Psihró, by whose name it is commonly referred to by the locals. It once spawned myths. Now it is one of the top visited archeological sites of Crete, not to mention a very important cave.
Stalís, Hersónissos or Mália your staring point may be, you just take the meandering road up to the Lassithi plateau and the village of Psihró. Wild herbs and the smells of the mountain will perfume your way, as the panorama will keep on taking your breath away. Oak trees stand like vigilant guards on both sides of the stony path that leads to the preamble of the cave. Rock doves and bats in the moist silence along with the striking fall of the temperature create an uncanny ambience. But the thrilling adventure is yet to start: walk down the well-marked and perfectly safe path to the bowels of the cave. It takes 250m to get to the central hall, where the divinities of the cave have designed a unique gorgeous image with stalactites and stalagmites popping out of the floor and ceiling and standing magnificently to defy time. A stalactite recalling a creasy piece of cloth hovers above the impressive lake of the cave: it is “the cloak of Zeus”. Foundation of an altar, niches in the rocks with votive offerings and other archeological findings prove the importance of the cave as a place of worship in the ancient times. Most of the ritual objects found here are now kept in the Archeological Museum of Heráklion.
Several other caves on the plateau are worth to be paid a visit, mostly by the spelunking lovers: cave Crónio or Trápeza in the area of the village of Tzermiádo, Peristerá in Avrakónte, the cave of Áyios Harálambos and the Trýpa tis Selénas (=Hole of Selena).
Places of interest:
• Linies, the extensive irrigation ditches made by the Venetians.
• The remains of a late Minoan settlement and the Neolithic tombs close to Tzermiádo.
• The village of Pinakianó with the monastery of Zodóhos Piyí Vidianí of the 15th century.
• The village of Áyios Harálambos with the cemetery cave.
• The monastery of Panayiá Kroustallénia of the 16th century and the gorge of Havgás nearby the village of Áyios Constantínos.
• The Folk Art and the Elefthérios Venizélos Museums in the village of Áyios Yeóryios.
• The traditional ecotourism settlement of “Lássinthos” (not far from Áyios Yeóryios) where one can stay in traditional guest houses.
• Mountain Bike
• Off road jeep rides
• Spelunking / Caving