Ta Σπηλια Χαρακας

Ta Spilia Harakas - Cave of Zoures - Σπηλαιο Καραλη - Caves of Karali


Useful Information

Location: South-east of the village of Azogires. Go to kafenion Alpha first for a map and explanations.
(35.270063803822694, 23.72235192785777)
Open: Monastery: All year daily.
Cave of Zoures: no restrictions, electric light daily 8-18
Caves of Karali: no restrictions.
[2021]
Fee: free.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave SpeleologyTectonic Cave SubterraneaCave House
Light: electric/bring torch
Dimension: Harakas cave: A=380 m asl.
Cave of Zoures: L=100 m, VR=23 m.
Caves of Karali:
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:  
Address: Ekklisia Agii Pateres, Kantanos-Selino 730 01
Εκκλησία Άγιοι Πατέρες, Κάνδανος Σέλινος 730 01
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

1864 monastery Agioi Patheres Azogyres errected.

Description

This place is completely dedicated to the story of Saint Agios Ioannis Eremitis (John the Hermit). There are numerous sites, which all take part in the complicated and confusing legend.

Around the year 1600, 99 ascetic monks led by Saint Agios Ioannis Eremitis (John the Hermit) arrived in Azogyres to bring the good word. Originally from different regions of the Mediterranean, Egypt and the Middle East, they embarked in Cyprus. They shipwrecked in Gavdos and finally reached Crete near the beach of Anidri. After a long journey they arrived at the Cave of Harakas. After some time 98 Holy Fathers took refuge on the other side of the valley in the Cave of Zoures to continue their asceticism. Saint John the Hermit left them and went alone to the north of the Akrotiri peninsula towards the Avlaki gorge. He was killed by a hunter who had mistaken him for an animal, because he was wearing a wide coat made of fur. Upon their departure in Cyprus, the 99 had agreed, that upon the death of one of them, the others would also die. The 98 Holy Fathers who remained in Azogires all died in a few hours after his death.

The small village Αζογυρες Παλαιόχωρας (Azogires Paleochoras) is located north of the city Palaiochora. Follow the road to Kandanos north, after 2.5 km is a turn off on the right side, from here it is 5 km up the valley. Right after the town sign is a turn off to the right signposted with Holy Monastery of the Holy Fathers. It leads to the Naiads Spring, the monastery Agioi Patheres Azogyres, and the cave church Ekklisia Agii Pateres. Here is also the location of the Σπηλια Χαρακας (Harakas Cave) which originally consisted of three separate chambers. The chambers were used in ancient times as burial places of official dead. The cave is not visible any more, as the monastery was built on top of the cave.

The Cave of Zoures is located on the opposite side of the valley, high above the village. Go back to the main road and continue to the restaurant and the kafenion Alpha, which are a sort of town center. Right before the restaurant is a turn off to the left with a sign Σπηλαιo - Cave. Follow this sign uphill in zigzag for more than a kilometer. At the end of the roads its a 10 min walk to the cave, you cant miss the cave because there is a cross above the cave on the rock. This cave is quite strange, it looks like a cleft in the rock, most likely its a tectonic cave created by a landslide. It is almost straight, only 2-3 m wide but at least 50 m long. There is a trail through the cave with an iron staircase at the steep part. In the section where the walls above meet and the gorge actually resembles a cave, is a place which is equipped with an altar and some icons and candles, which forms a very simple chapel. The dark parts have electric light which is solar powered, but sometimes fails. The light works between 8 and 18 every day, but there are nor restrictions to the cave visit and there is no gate. Despite the light system it is recommended to bring a torch. The cave is sometimes called Cave of the 99 Holy Fathers or Cave of 99 Saints.

And finally there are the Σπηλαιο Καραλη (Caves of Karali), which are located high above the village and above the monastery The trail to the Karali caves starts at the cave church and is about 20 minutes walk. Alternatively you can take the car, follow the main road north and take the first right, a narrow paved road leads uphill, after 800 m turn right on a single lane gravel road for 500 m. Then its just five minutes to the caves. The caves are artificial caverns in two levels, obviously once used as cave houses and hideouts during times of danger. The upper level caves have a now dry well which was probably used as a cistern for rain water. Access is not restricted. There is an iron ladder to the lower lever and a stone staircase with a rope railing. Both are exposed and require surefootedness, definitely not for people with a fear of heights.

A celebration to honor Agios Ioannis Eremitis and the 98 Holy Fathers takes place each year around 07-OCT. It is accompanied by a traditional festival which has been perpetuated, according to the locals, for more than 300 years. The monastery contains a small museum which is dedicated to religion, local history, and the resistance. For a visit check in at the kafenion Alpha.