The Foothills of Psiloritis

Taking the old roads east from Rethymnon, through the foothills of Psiloritis range, there are a variety of routes to choose from or combine. The former main road, heading towards Dhamasta, has least to offer, though it’s a pretty enough drive. Striking higher into the mountains is more rewarding. For a combination of interest and relatively easy driving, the best option is the road up through Gonies to Anoya and Axos.

Possible detours along the way include the potters’ village of Margarites and scenic archaeological site of Ancient Eleftherna with its impressive museum. Also the remarkable caves of Melidoni and Sfendoni. Anoya famed for its textiles, is the gateway to the summit of Psiloritis. The northern branch of the E4 footpath winds through this area, offering numerous attractive short walks: from the monastery at Arkadi it heads through Eleftherna to Margarites, and from there via Houmeri to Garazo, and onwards past the Moni Diskouri and Sfendoni cave.

Margarites

A very pretty place on the edge of a ravine, with views back towards the coast, has a long tradition of making pottery. Workshops are scattered throughout the village, and you can buy the results in a dozen or more outlets along the steep main street.

Ancient Eleftherna

Archaeological site

Eleftherna (Greek: Ελεύθερνα), also called Apollonia, was an ancient city-state in Crete, which lay 25 km southeast of Rethymno. Archaeologists excavated the site, located on a narrow northern spur of Mount Ida, the highest mountain in Crete.

The site is about 1 km south of todays Eleftherna, in the current municipality of Rethymno. It flourished from the Dark Ages of Greece’s early history until Byzantine times. The city was founded by the Dorians in the 9th century BC. Current archaeological evidence shows that Eleftherna was one of Crete’s most important ancient cities, a capital city of the Geometric and Archaic periods – that is, the periods when the Homeric poems were disseminated and recorded in writing. According to tradition, the city was named after Eleutheras, one of the Kouretes, who protected the infant Zeus by beating upon their bronze shields thus preventing his father Cronus from hearing his cries and devouring him.

Museum of Ancient Eleftherna

The Museum of Ancient Eleftherna is worth a visit for discovering and feeling the ancient history of the area. It is the first museum inside an archaeological site in Crete, as it is located next to the archaeological site of Eleftherna. The three halls of the museum host the whole history of Eleftherna from 3000 BC to 1300 AD with everyday objects and artworks. It is a modern building opened in 2016, approximately 1,800 sq.m. Which together with the surrounding area occupies 3 acres and remotely resembles ark that emerges from the earth, gazing Ida (Psiloritis). It is divided into two wings with the right one on the ground floor for hosting the guards - ticketing area and the Study Centre in the left area of ​​the exhibition halls of the museum. The architectural project was designed on a human scale, related to the natural environment, while at the same time as modern edifice is absolutely distinct and recognizable of the era in which it was created.

The large surrounding area in front of the museum features gardens and tree planting small parking for people with disabilities and especially paved surfaces with special provisions. In large wide in space on the east side of the museum has formed a natural outdoor theater for the holding of events and for the enjoyment of nature. Everywhere there are trees, plants and herbs typical of the Cretan flora from antiquity to the present day which is also the perfect atmosphere to walk around.

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