The real Cretan spirit lives in the villages. Some of them consist of just a few houses, whereas others have taken the form of large agglomerations. All of them have life. Here, in the Cretan inland, economic and touristic growth has not yet managed to destroy the natural environment nor Cretans' traditions, morals and mores.
Here, you will experience the real Cretan hospitality.
The best way to cruise around the villages of Crete is by renting a car, since it grants you the independence, the convenience and the safety you need.
There are many stories about how this little village acquired its name and unsurprisingly enough almost all of them include daisies (= margarites)! No matter which story you like best, it is certain that you will find much of the same beauty in the village itself.
The village is famous for the art of pottery, which constitutes a local tradition since the Minoan days. The main reason behind the development of this art is the grounds' high concision of argil (clay). Today, the settlement constitutes one of the most important centers of pottery and ceramic art in Crete. It counts 17 workshops that operate as exhibitions, giving visitors the chance to watch experienced and skillful artificers making all sorts of ceramic items and imitations of ancient Minoan potteries.
What's more, in Margarites lays one of the most important monuments of Rethymno, the Late Minoan Vaulted Grave dated back to 1350 B.C.. It is a really special building in terms of architecture, a long downhill corridor with big sculptured stones conveys to the circle chamber of the central vault which is the main section of grave. In this grave, researchers have discovered the bones of four adults and two children. According to the findings, they belonged to individuals of upper society and religion hierarchy.
You can also visit the church of Saint Ioannis "Theologos", the oldest church in the village. Buried in the church yard there are some heroes of Arkadi. Indulge in the spirituality and the views of this village and feel you mind empty.
If there is one village that is equally popular both inside and outside of Crete this is Sfakia. A synonym for the generosity that lays in the true Cretan soul, Sfakia not only played the leading part in all of Crete's revolutionary battles over the centuries but is probably the only village which was never conquered.
Through the years, the people of Sfakia stayed true to all these values features that make Crete what it is: hospitality, generosity, open heart, bravery, kindness, and honor. A conversation with the locals is all it takes to really understand what all these mean.
Apart from the beauty of its people, Sfakia also features unique natural beauty, which starts from the wild mountainous landscape and reaches the Libyan Sea in the south, where Chora Sfakion, i.e. the "port" of Sfakia, is located.
The route from Sfakia to Chora Sfakion is difficult but also charming. It first gives you the chance to admire the beauty of Lefka Ori (White Mountains) and the deep gorges of Imbros in the east – one of the most spectacular gorges of Crete – and Sfakiano in the west, to reward you with wonderful views down to the Libyan Sea, after it takes you through some dangerous turns.
Do not leave Sfakia without tasting the famous Sfakiani Pita (cheese pie), made with traditional dairy products – locals' main profession is cattle-breeding.
Patsos is a small village of Rethymno Prefecture, with a unique natural heritage. It is located on the foothill of Soros height at an altitude of 490 m, in a verdurous and well-watered environment that will steal your breath.
The main feature of the area is the Gorge of Agios Antonios and the homonymous cave, "Kranaio Antro". Various aesthetic modifications by the Forestry Department have ensured that the gorge is accessible not only to nature lovers but also to worshipers, since the huge rocks give shelter to the little Church of Agios Antonios built literally in them.
Walking though the gorge is relatively easy. There are also amenities for pic-nic under the shadow of gorge's rock roof and hyper age-old plane trees. The river's water is poured in the Stem of Rivers, a monumental project worth seeing at your departure. The taverns in Patsos village and in the gorge area are ideal for those who want to have a taste of the authentic Cretan cuisine.
Apart from its rich natural environment, Patsos offers has a rich archaeological heritage as well. As researchers have characteristically mentioned, Patsos is built on an ancient settlement, as gold byzantine and Kydonian cupreous coins of Domitianos testify.
Roussospiti is considered the "balcony of Rethymno". It is located just 9 km from Rethymno City. Here, on the slope of mountain Vrissinas at an altitude of 300 m, the view to the Cretan Sea is amazing.
This settlement was built in the 12th century by the Venetians, as someone can easily guess from all the Venetian constructions of the village (arches, gates, fountains).
Some say that at that time, a red house was built in the village which lent its name to it (red = russo). But there is a second version as to the origin of the name, saying that a Russian (in Greek Roussa) woman settled there to recover after her doctor's recommendation. She liked the village so much that she built a house and spent the rest of her life there.
The main feature of the village is the Venetian fountain dated from the 17th century, with a faucet in the form of a lion head. In addition, impressive wallpaintings such as the Crusifixion can be found in the Temple of Virgin Mary.
At about 500 m south of the village the cave of Lygeri is located. In the cave, there are stalagmites and stalactites with a diameter of 250 m! This cave was used as a "crypt" where habitants took shelter when they were in danger.
About 360 m above sea level, on the foothill of Vrissinas Mountain and just 12 km southeast of Rethymno, there is a beautiful settlement, Chromonastiri. The village has preserved numerous buildings with Venetian architectonic features, which led to its designation as a "Preservable and Traditional Settlement of Medium Cultural Value".
If you look at the way it has been built but also at the fortresses surrounding the area, you will realize that Chromonastiri should have the role of a "fortress". Well, it did, especially during the Turkish Domination. The most popular building-monument is Villa Clodio, located east of the village, which was used as a holiday home by the Venetian family Clodio. During the Turkish Domination, the palace used to be the house of Turkish Aga, hence known as "konaki" (house in Turkish language). Today it has been restored and hosts the Army Museum.
Just outside Chromonastiri, Panagia Kera is located, a church of rare architectonic features. It has cross-like shape, a dome and two additional arches on the north and south walls. Even though it was built around 1.000 years ago, the wall paintings are preserved until today, with the one of Parthenos Maria's being the most important of all.
Around the settlement one can also see the byzantine temple of Agios Eftihios in Perdikis' Metohi. It is a beautiful temple with wall paintings dated back to the 11th century, perhaps the oldest in Crete. The main characteristic of all those paintings is that all idols have huge eyes, especially Jesus, which complicates their dating process. The temple has joined a program of protection and promotion of middle byzantine monuments.
Also, it is worth visiting the folklore collection in the center of village, at Prinaris' Milos.
Argiroupoli is one of those villages you really want to visit before you leave Crete. It is located 25 km southwest of Rethymno, at an altitude of 260 m, between Mousselas and Petres rivers. Its privileged location next to rivers has given the village its most attractive feature, the 10 Founts of Mousselas River or Agia Dinami (Holy Power). The area owes its exotic character to these waters. Many small waterfalls, wild flora, age-old plane trees, ponds and many streams which once moved watermills (today only one has survived), all are the direct result of Agia Dinami.
In this unique natural environment you will find many taverns and coffee shops to enjoy your food or your coffee. You can also visit the little church of Saint Ioannis which is literally built inside a cave from which water gushes all year long.
The area is mainly characterized by Venetian architecture, while there are several traditional Cretan houses built during the Turkish Domination.
Argiroupoli is built on the ruins of the ancient city of Lappa which has special archaeological interest. The cemetery of Ancient Lappa is preserved in a very good condition. It is located northwest of Argiroupoli, in the area of Pente Parthenes (Five Virgins). There lays the small church of Pente Parthenes which is devoted to five holy women, who lived and martyred during the pogroms of Emperor Dekios at around 250 A.D. according to the local tradition. There are also sculptured graves from the Roman period. The graves reach the gully, where a natural monument of Crete is located: an impressive plane tree aged 2000 years.