WELCOME TO THE MUNICIPALITY OF ARCHANES - ASTEROUSIA
A Municipality with an exceptionally versatile landscape, thanks to the two mountain masses, namely, Mt. Juktas and the Asterousia Mountain Range, and the fertile plain of Mesara, the seat of great cultures since antiquity, as well as the hills, torrent beds and gorges that carve through the landscape, forming ideal habitats for rare fauna and flora species.
The beauty of the nature and fertile land of the Municipality of Archanes-Asterousia have attracted people since ancient times. Looking at the area from above one can fully understand why the ancestors of current residents chose this land to create significant cultural centres and places of worship. Endless fields for farming, high mountains appropriate for grazing and rich waters have offered a perfect combination for the development of great civilizations throughout all historical periods.
The Municipality of Archanes-Asterousia has adapted to modern times, while keeping the atmosphere of tradition and its unadulterated inland character. The agricultural orientation of its economy and social organisation are the safety valve preserving an authentically agricultural landscape, interspersed with traditional villages, full of life, endless olive groves, vineyards and pastures, and a total of 55 villages that, literally, spring out of nowhere.
However, the region of the Municipality has gained most of its recognition from the fact that this is where some of the most renowned musical tradition, architectural heritage and cultural centres are located. Some of the best known names are: Archanes, one of the most beautiful listed traditional hamlets in all of Crete; Ethia, a typical example of a Cretan mountain village and a listed traditional hamlet; Myrtia, the family village of Nikos Kazantzakis and the home of the museum dedicated to this great literary figure; Houdetsi, home of the globally recognised Labyrinth Musical Workshop; Astritsi, home to the renowned Cultural Camping of youth theatre groups.
It is true that it may be difficult for one to imagine how a region so close to the urban centre of Heraklion can offer so many outlets for such a wide range of specialised interests. Adventure lovers will find the ideal playground for a number of outdoor activities, such as mountain climbing, canyoning in the well known gorges of the Asterousia, mountain biking, which has become very popular in recent years, walking – hiking on more than 15 trails in the Municipality and sea canoeing in the rock caves of the southern shores.
Gastronomic and wine tourism are also gaining ground. The climate and landscape have determined production activities and produce throughout the Municipality. At high altitudes and in the mountain ranges with the dry and infertile lands, animal raising is favoured, which provides meat and exceptional dairy produce. In the plains there are farmlands, the most important products being grapes and olives. This is where more than 70% of all branded Cretan wine is produced.
Noteworthy industrial wine maturing and bottling plants take advantage of the unique grape varieties in the region, e.g. Kotsifali, Vilana, Mantilari, and produce and bottle some of the best known wines on Crete. Thus, hundreds of locals and international visitors tour the wineries and oil mills of the Municipality, to see the wonderful exhibition premises and taste the excellent flavours on offer, as well as to participate in the renowned cultural activities organised every summer in the framework of the ‘wine routes’ programme.
All these factors and many more are what make the Municipality of Archanes–Asterousia a frequently visited destination for both local and international visitors. This land may not offer luxurious hotels and services that usually come with mass tourism infrastructure, but it has shaped its very own tourism product, a fact that has made it a top choice for many special interest groups. Nature lovers, hikers, mountain sports lovers, religious and cultural site tourists, families, groups of young people and students, know that they will find nature at its most unspoiled here, an endless source of cultural wealth and genuine hospitality, as expressed through the exuberance of the locals, their gastronomic culture, their customs, traditions and feasts.