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Sfendoni Cave

Sfendoni Cave or Sfendoni’s hole (Zoniana)

Sfendoni Cave is located near the village of Zoniana (Rethymno Prefecture), at a distance of just 43 kilometers from the town of Heraklion and 52 kilometers from the town of Rethymno. It is one of the most important caves in Greece, covering an area of about 3.000 square meters. The cave’s unique and rare beauty mesmerizes everybody, establishing it as one of Crete’s most beautiful caves. Visitors are allowed to explore a route of about 270 m, along which they can admire a variety of impressive formations. Large columns create labyrinthine compartments inside the cave and stalactites and stalagmites of different colours and shapes decorate the cave’s chambers. 

In several spots one may observe water basins and the so-called “cave pearls”, a very intriguing type of speleothem. Finally, the glow coming from the tiny crystals of calcium carbonate that cover the cave walls is particularly impressive. 

Inside the cave, one may meet unique life forms (insects, snails, and bats amongst them) adjusted to total darkness, increased humidity and scarce food. Animals that live in caves are transparent or colourless, blind and usually tiny and delicate.

According to previously realized excavations, Sfendoni cave has been systematically used as a seasonal dwelling during the Protominoan age, while its use continued through the Roman period. Later on, during times of revolution, the cave has also been used as refuge for the so-called “chainides”, which means rebels in the Cretan dialect. Various legends also mention the presence of fairies in the cave, while in the last chamber (the lost child chamber) the skeleton of a young child, covered in stalactitic material, has been discovered and still remains a mystery.

The specially constructed path inside the cave makes visits possible to the disabled too. Sfendoni Cave is part of the Natural Park of Psiloritis, which belongs to the European Geopark Network, a network of protected areas of particular geological heritage, protected by UNESCO.

 

Elizabeth Sathopoulou

Ph.D. in Geology

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