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Category: Forest
Prefecture: Lassithi
Address: Vrachassi
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Azilakas is a rare tree, and something between oak tree and holly tree, that occurs in the mountains of Crete and some Aegean islands. In Vrahasi at relatively high altitude at the foot of Selena, is one of the few forests may Azilakous.To forest is dense and virgin and trees beyond a height of 5 meters. Azilakas the Cretan name of the tree Quercus ilex in the rest of Greece called Aryan Oak or Holm oak. The Holm oak (or Aryan Oak - Quercus ilex), oak species is able to develop a wide range of soil types and occasionally present in the form of dense forest. This species is resistant to extreme conditions, with excellent adaptation to the ecological conditions of the Mediterranean. Today, however, a few forests Arias in "staircase vegetation, ie dense forest of 12 to 15 meters. In this type of forest, the Holm oak plays a leading role in building a series of rich wood composition, as is the species through microclimatic constraints define the structure and composition of the undergrowth (Arbutus unedo L., Phillyrea sp., Rhamnus sp. , Viburnum sp., Clematis sp., Lonicera sp., Smilax sp., Tamus communis).Like all species of oak, the Holm oak is not resistant to shading. They are perennial trees that can be dominated for hundreds of years in an undisturbed forest. However, their presence is most common form of scattered trees with a well developed maquis (Juniperus sp., Cistus sp., Genista sp., Pistacia lentiscus, Spartium junceum, Rosmarinus officinalis, Lavandula sp.) And more open spaces phryganic vegetation.In Crete, except Vrahasi, we found  populations in the forest of Rouvas in the area of Georgioupolis. Forest with no arias in Ikaria, the forest of "Radha" and arias found in other islands. There are also the presidential residence and the National Garden in Athens

Places near Azilakodasos

Mesa Potamoi
Mesa Potamoi 2813 hits

Exo and Mesa Potamoi are two villages next to each other with altitude from 840 to 880 m, 9km before the Lassithi Plateau and 51 km from Agios Nikolaos city and 32 from Neapoli. They are built on the slope of mountain Selena between oaks, chestnut and plane-trees that offer coolness during the summer months. 

Coming from Agios Nikolaos, enables visits to various little villages hidden in the Lassithi mountains, such as ‘Mesa Potamoi’ and Exo Potamoi’ From these villages you could hike to ‘Selena’ following an old path and admire the embattled works made during the German domination and gaze at the magnificent view of Heraklion up to Milatos coastal village.

That’s why they are beloved destination for the summer but snow during winter also offers the chance for games. The water from the springs of the area gives life to gardens and vines that the locals attend with care.

The road has many turns and continues after Mesa Potamoi to ascend towards Lassithi Plateau and to the location called "tou Patera ta Selia", 1100 m high, where the highest location is before the plateau. The view is magnificent, as we leave the wild beauty of the valley behind, whilst in front of us the imposing Plateau lies with its beautiful white windmills. 


Mesa and Exo PotamiThe most mountainous village of the region is Potami, and is composed of a number of settlements all named after their first inhabitants.These settlements are built on the ravines and on the slopes of Selenas, the local historical mountain which probably owes its name to “Selini” or “ Selina” or “moon”. Hundreds of large and smaller springs of crystal-clear fresh water irrigate the plains where vegetables, apple-trees, walnut-trees and vineyards are cultivated. 

Exo Potamoi
Exo Potamoi 2796 hits

Mesa and Exo PotamiThe most mountainous village of the region is Potami, and is composed of a number of settlements all named after their first inhabitants.These settlements are built on the ravines and on the slopes of Selenas, the local historical mountain which probably owes its name to “Selini” or “ Selina” or “moon”. Hundreds of large and smaller springs of crystal-clear fresh water irrigate the plains where vegetables, apple-trees, walnut-trees and vineyards are cultivated.

Aghios Georgios Vrachassotis Monastery
Aghios Georgios Vrachassotis Monastery 2717 hits
The monastery of St. Georgios Vrachasotis appears to have been set up in the second Byzantine period, flourishing in the Venetian period when the abbot was elected by the ruler of the Venetians in Crete (Papadakis 1986, 115), while in the years of Ottoman domination it participated actively in the revolution against the Turks. Today it is uninhabited, but big parts of the monastic complex have been restored, including apart from the church, the refectory, some cells, the olive press, an oven and other buildings. The church is a double-naved, vaulted and in the north aisle it bears frescoes dating to the 14th-15th century (1972 Platakis, 116). The entrance opens towards the south aisle, which was built later, and the lintel bears an inscription with the date 1592 (Gerola IV 1936, 520). Furthermore, in the attached three-storey belfry there is an emblem in carved relief with the date 1558 (Gerola IV 1936, 518). 
The historic monastery of Agios Georgios Vrahassotis is placed in a very beautiful and wooded area, 4km away from Vrahassi and 5km from the national road Herakleion – Agios Nikolaos. Although the asphalt roadworks are still pending, the mud road is in a quite good condition and the route is ideal for walking as there are no heights. Agios Georgios Vrahassotis is definitely one of the most important places to visit in this area. In 1540, the north part of today’s Agios Georgios church was built by Gedeon, the superior of the monks, on top of the ruins of the previously burnt down church (part of which is spotted nowadays). The south part of Agios Dimitrios church was built in 1558. From that period on, monks settled down and the monastery started to flourish.

A few centuries later, during the times of the Turkish occupation some very dramatic events take place in the monastery. According to the tradition, at the time of the Daskalogiannis revolution (1770), in the area of Campi, further up from the monastery some Turkish postmen raped the sister of Gabriel, who was the superior of the monastery at the time. Later that day, due to heavy rainstorms they decided to spend the night at the monastery. Superior Gabriel, who knew of his sister’s rape, at first welcomed the visitors and lead them to the cheese cellar to treat them. Always according to folklore, the superior, in order to take vengeance for his sister’s rape, arrested them and with the other monk’s aid boiled them in hot stock.

Thereafter, in his attempt to vanish any signs of his actions and get rid of the bodies, he threw them in a huge pot on Kolokyntha mountain.

Superior Gabriel, feeling guilty confessed his sin to the superior of Agios Georgios Epanosifis monastery, which belonged to Agios Georgios Vrahassotis monastery. The Turks were looking for the offender and whilst investigating the disappearance of their postmen they abused and tortured the superior of Epanosifis monastery, who was eventually forced to speak out the truth.

Numerous Turkish troops besieged the monastery of Agios Georgios Vrahassotis in order to arrest superior Gabriel causing a lethal battle. During that battle, the stone piece that was placed on the belfry, depicting St. George killing the lion, got shot. The mark left by the bullet can be seen today on the picture. According to the folklore, the bullet that hit the stone picture casted back killing the Turk that shot it in the first place.

The Turks managed to arrest superior Gabriel and delivered him to Maydani in Herakleion, to have him hanged. According to Dim. Kiriakakis, just before Gabriel’s execution, the hangman asked the superior how many Turks he had killed. Pretending he didn’t hear clearly, Gabriel managed to make his hangman get closer to him and by distracting his attention he hit and killed him, answering then: “I ‘ve killed ninety nine Turks so far and now one hundred”. Superior Gabriel could not escape his execution and was eventually hanged on the famous oak tree of the big Castro (castle). Afterwards, the Turks destroyed all the parts of the monastery, except the church, confiscated all the plots of land around it and gave them to public auction. The people of Vrahassi then, bought most of them so they could return them back to the monastery in time.Nevertheless, the monastery of Agios Georgios Vrahassotis remained a rock cradle for the always revolutionary Cretans. Inside the monastery, a laboratory using watermills used to produce gunpowder for the needs of the struggle for freedom. In 1820, another battle against the Turks took place at the monastery. In that battle, 18 monks were killed and their superior managed to run away. He was chased beyond the monastery, around the mountains of Vrahassi and in the area called “tou patera ta katsoprinia”(translating as the father’s small oak trees) he was shot dead.

The twentieth monk of the monastery was safe as he was away to Agarathos monastery and so he became the next superior. In 1823, in a battle close to the monastery, Ioannis Mihelidakis Sfakianakis died, father of the later chieftain Konstantinos Sfakianakis. In 1859 a monk from Vrahassi, called Manidopateras became the next superior of the monastery and a radical refurbishment took place in the monastery. Then, the people of Vrahassi, returned the pieces of land they had bought in the auction a few years ago, back to the monastery. In 1866, when the next Cretan revolution broke, superior Manidopateras blessed the weaponry of the rebels of east Crete and of their vrahassian chieftain Konstantinos Sfakianakis, inside the church of Agios Georgios Vrahassotis. A few years after the end of the revolution, superior Manidopeteras invited an artist from Lassithi, called Manolis Makrakis to do the chancel screen of the monastery. He provided him with the best materials and the result was magnificent.

The monastery closed in 1909 and its last superior was called Dinerakis.

During the German occupation the monastery was used as a hideaway for the partisans of EAM ELLAS (the Hellenic Liberating Army). The ceremony during which Vrahassi went back to being a Community was held on 31/12/2006, inside the church, after eight years of struggles for the local people and authorities of Vrahassi and Milatos. The graceful eparch of Petra and Herronissos, Nektarios also attended the touching ceremony.

There has been great effort lately to restore and reconstruct the cells of the monastery by a committee set by Vrahassi community. This effort has given great results as there are celebrations on St. George’s and St. Dimitrios’ Day by the Vrahassi parish to which the church belongs, whilst other ceremonies such as marriages or christenings take place at times in the church.
Chavgas Sellinari Gorge
Chavgas Sellinari Gorge 2705 hits
Near the beautiful village of Vrahasi, on the central road Heraklion - Agios Nikolaos there is the imposing gorge of Selinari, formed by the mountain of Anavlohos (625 m) to the north and the mountain Fonias o Detis (818 m) to the south. 

The symbol of Crete, the Cretan wild goat (Agrimi or kri-kri) and the Griffon Vulture are two rare species that used to reside in the gorge.

The Municipality of Vrahasi intends to establish a center of protection of the local fauna and flora at the gorge of Selinari and to develop a wildlife station, to provide observation of the Griffon Vulture colony at the east side of the gorge of Selinari. The hunting is forbidden in an area covering 10 around the gorge.

The Griffon Vulture colony of Selinari roosts and breads on southeast facing cliffs immediately above the small bridge on the "old road". The colony is around 35 birds. The breeding cycle begins in January with the first chicks flying from the nests in late June.

The chicks continue to be fed by the adults at the nest for at least a further six weeks after the first flight. This means that there is considerable all day activities on the nests during the months of March through to and including August. In the remaining months activity is at its highest as the birds return to roo
Sellinari Monastery of St George
Sellinari Monastery of St George 2679 hits
The active monastery of St. Georgios ‘Selinari’ is on the road connecting Iraklion with Agios Nikolaos, in the ravine of Selinari, which has been created by the sudden cut of the mountains which start at the top of Selena and reach the shores of the Cretan Sea. 
The church of St. Georgios in Selinari is small, single-naved with a sharp barrel-vaulted arch. It dates from the 16th century (1972 Platakis, B, 161) but it is adorned with contemporary frescoes. 
According to tradition, during the years of the Venetian rule and after the subjugation of Rhodes to the Turks in 1552, three brothers from Rhodes fled from their island and settled in Vrachasi. One of the brothers, Nikolaos, embraced monasticism and was tonsured a monk, retiring in the ravine of Selinari. The first establishment containing the small church of St. Georgios is attributed to him. The monk lived in the cave on the opposite side of the ravine and died there. He carved his own tomb, traces of which are found in the area where a great cross was later erected, and is visible from the courtyard of the monastery. 
For a while during the years of Ottoman rule, the use of this place is not known. However, some small cells round the church indicate that it functioned as a coinobium. 
In 1934 construction began establishing new buildings and making use of the surrounding space for the convenience of pilgrims visiting St. Georgios. Today the old church has become a chapel of the contemporary monastery and it bears contemporary frescoes. Within the borders of the monastery there is also a water spring. 

At the side of the gorge of Selinari, at the 42 km. of the national road Heraklion – Agios Nikolaos and close to Vrahassi village is the small old chapel and the newly founded monastery of Agios Georgios Selinaris. In the monastery there is also a home for the aged founded in 1963. The small chapel was probably founded early in the 16th century AD, and ever since it is a place of worshipping. The people passing through the chapel stop to light a candle to the saint.

The chapel is considered miraculous, there are various legends concerning miracles related either with healing of sick people or with divine punishment of people that did not pay the respect due to the saint. 
Karfi 2655 hits
Karfi, Crete, (also Karphi, Greek: Καρφί) is a little-visited archaeological site high in the Dikti Mountains that is akin to Machu Picchu for the Minoan civilization. When the warlike mixed group conventionally referred to as Dorians arrived in Crete from the Peloponnese after ca 1100 BCE, archaeological reconstructions suggest that they would have found the Minoan people living along with the Mycenaeans, surviving as an underclass. 

No doubt the Minoan language continued to be spoken by the peasants, though inscriptions, now in Linear B, were all in a form of Greek associated with a Mycenaean upper class (BBC).The Dorians seem to have driven the local people up into the hills; the latest towns with Minoan material culture are in more and more inaccessible places, the last one being at Karfi, high in the Dikti Mountains, though the date range for the site is broad. There are house complexes, a tripartite megaron-type building with hearth and a sanctuary, where votive figures were found.

At Karfi the last of the Eteocretan Minoan settlements retreated to the slopes of this barren mountain, from which they had a view of the Sea of Crete, the valley of Pediada, and the plateau of Lassithi with Iraklion, where the finds from Karfi are now displayed in the Archaeological Museum (Room 11). In the mountains of Eastern Crete a non-Greek language was still being spoken and sometimes inscribed into Classical times, and the people who spoke it were still identified as "Eteocretans"— "true Cretans".The peak of Karfi was originally a peak sanctuary, occupying a typical site on a high shoulder (some 1.1 km above sea level) with a wide "viewshed" (Soetens, Driessen et al.) that connected it with sightlines to other sites, typical of the network developed in the "first Palace period" (Middle Minoan IB–II, 1900–1800BCE) onwards, but probably abandoned, perhaps under increased religious centralization, in Middle MinoanIIIA (ca 1650BCE). The rocky site that the last of the Minoans returned to is dominated by a bifurcated stone outcropping that is unmistakably like the carved and shaped crescent horn stone altars known in Crete and Cyprus.

At this high remote ancient sacred site a fragment of Minoan civilization survived intact for about 400 years after the occupation of Knossos. Several clay religious figurines have been found there including the cylindrical skirted goddesses in cylindrical skirts with their hands raised in the epiphany gesture.

J. D. S. Pendlebury and the British Archaeology School extensively excavated the ruins in 1937 and 1939. Some believe only one third of the site has been excavated (Swindale).Jones declares Karphi a peak sanctuary, while other sources suggest doubt (see Swindale). Finds inventoried by Jones include ceramic loom weights, miniature vases, and the clay human and animal figurines that are ubiquitous among peak sanctuaries.The Minoan town includes a shrine with an altar, single story houses and paved streets. Two Minoan cemeteries with tholos tombs are located near the village. The village dates from Late Minoan IIIc, and if the site does indeed include a peak sanctuary, it was of the Middle Minoan period.
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Nissimos Plateau 2635 hits
Nissimos plateau is located 3km north from the village of Tzermiado, Lassithi Plataeu at an altidude of 920m. The area is totally unknown and there are some routes which start at the plateau and cross interesting landscapes (i.e. Minoan settlement at Karfi). 

The road to reach the plateau starts at the village of Tzermiado. At the western entrance to the village, you will see a dirt road going off to the north (there is a Greek/English sign at the junction which says “To Timios Stavros Church”). Initially there is a small problem on the road (loose gravel on an uphill part) but afterwards it is very passable to the end. After a climb of 2 kilometres, you enter the deserted and very beautiful Nissimos plateau, where you can get an idea of what the landscape must have been like in the B.T. (before tourism) period.

Two hundred metres down the road, you will see a junction where a Greek/English sign tells you to the right is the way to the church of the Holy Cross (Timios Stavros) from where you have a lovely view of the Lasithi Plateau. If however, you want to visit the Minoan settlement at Karfi, take the road to the left.


Nissimos plateau Nissimos plateau Nissimos plateau 

Hiking in the area

From the Naturalist Club Heraklion (

Tzermiado Village (alt. 830 m) - Onesimos or Nissimos plateau (alt. 940 m) - Holy Cross church (alt. 985 m). Walking Hours: 3
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Chamoprina 2623 hits
Approximately 4 km south of Malia, on the Malia-Krasi district road, is the spot known as Chamoprina (meaning "kermes oaks"). As the road winds uphill the landscape changes from cultivated countryside to woodland.


The surrounding slopes are covered with kermes oaks. Next to the district road is a picnic area set up by the Municipality of Malia, from which a footpath leads to Azilakos Forest and the village of Krassi.