Local lithology does not allow for the formation of extensive caverns, like in other regions on Crete, which feature large speleological parks. In the Municipality of Archanes-Asterousia, the only caverns located to date are:
11 caverns on Mt. Juktas, four of which were used as sacred places – one for every point on the horizon. In the Minoan Era (and possibly earlier), they were used as places of sacrifice (even human sacrifice), rituals and food storage. They are:
The cavernous chasm of Juktas sanctuary: (a long, narrow chasm about 12m deep, which communicates with secondary cavernous cavities at its ends. It is in the ‘Tou Zia to Mnima’ [Zeus’ tomb] location, at the centre of the sacred Minoan peak sanctuary, at an elevation of 720m.
‘Chosto Nero’, at an elevation of about 720m, on the southernmost peak of the sacred mountain. This cavern comprises three chambers and many corridors connecting all of them to the first chamber, 7m in length, which has adequate light due to its wide passage. It seems that the calcareous outcrops and anthropomorphic stalactites and stalagmites of this cave also attracted Minoans to worship their gods.
The ‘Stravomitis’ cave, also called ‘Karnari’, after the nearby settlement, ‘Spiliaridia’ because of its many openings on the slope of the mountain, and ‘cave of Lykastos’, due to the assumption that the ancient city of Lyksastos, mentioned by Homer, used to be nearby. It is the most typical cavern on Mt. Juktas in terms of morphology, featuring a number of forking ducts, chambers and passages on at least two levels, reminiscent of…Swiss cheese. It is believed that its passages are 400m in total length, although the cavern remains unexplored.
Finally, Anemospilia. Although its name implies a cave [‘…spilia’], it is an archaeological site.
The remaining (unexplored) caves on Mt. Juktas are ‘Kroustallospilios’, ‘Diportos Spilios’, ‘Moutoupaka’, ‘Spiliarotrypa’, ‘Aneragdospilios’, the Sopata Pit (-70m), and the ‘Anonimo’ [unnamed] pit (-20m).
Their common morphological feature is multiple linked chambers and passages, which resemble Swiss cheese, especially in the case of Stravomitis. It is an impressive and interesting morphology, since it offers insight into their formation: they were probably completely submerged in water, which patiently eroded the mountain’s calcareous rocks for millions of years.
To the southwest, in the Astrakianoi Gorge, there is the small cave of ‘Neraidospilio’. Its entrance is covered in water. This cave’s importance lies in its water spring and the multitude of legends surrounding it, about fairies and sprites (from which it gets its name – neraido-: of the fairies), which locals believed inhabited the cave and all aquatic features.