Σπήλαιο Σφεντόνη

Spilaio Sphentoni - Sfentoni Cave - Cave of Sendonis - Cave of Sfedoni - Zoniana Cave

H Tripa Tou Sendoni - The Hole of Sendoni


Useful Information

Location: Zoniana 740 51.
The cave is located at Skafida in the village of Zoniana, on the slopes of Mount Psiloritis. This is 10 km west of Anogia, 52 km south of Rethymno, in the district of Mylopotamos. From the village of Zoniana take the road to Axos.
(35.298284, 24.838879)
Open: Summer Season daily 10-17.
Winter Season Sat, Sun 10:30-14:20.
[2022]
Fee: Adults EUR 4.
[2004]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System LightColoured Light
Dimension: A=630 m asl, L=800 m, Ar=3,400 m², T=16-17 °C.
Guided tours: D=30 min, L=270 m. ελληνικά - Greek English
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Anna Petrocheilou (1984): The Greek Caves, ISBN 960-213-135-7, 160 pages, 135 colour illustrations, p 128-131. Greek English Deutsch - German Français - French.
Address: Σπήλαιο Σφεντόνη, Zoniana 740 51, Tel: +30-2834-061734.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1966 explored by Anna Petrocheilou and other members of the Greek Speleological Society.

Description

A roomy entrance chamber seems to end with a barrier of stalactite columns, but a narrow passage leads into a second chamber called ”The Ante-Chamber of the Harmonium„, this, like the following chambers, is all lavishly decorated with massive spelothems. Frequently massive columns appear to block the passage, but each time a narrow opening gives access to yet another chamber, in fact fourteen chambers in total, all with fanciful names from Greek mythology and nothing to do with the speleogenisis of the cave. The tour takes the shape of three figures of eight in the plan view. The path way criss crosses from one wall of the cave to the other before doing an about turn to exit via the entrance.

The cave has been used as a habitation site since Neolithic times. A series of excavations shows seasonal inhabitation during the Early Minoan Period and random use during the Roman Period. Finally, during the Turkish Occupation the cave was again used as a refuge.

There is a legend attached to the cave of a little girl who's curiosity got the better of her. She found a crack in the rocks and crawled inside. Fascinated by what she found she wandered for days underground looking for the way out. Her family searched for days looking for her, but alas when they found her she was dead. She had such a sweet smile on her face that the villagers said she had been abducted by fairies.


Text by Tony Oldham (2002). With kind permission.

Σπήλαιο Σφεντόνη (Spilaio Sphentoni) is often called the most interesting cave of Crete. It is definitely one of the best developed. Increasing numbers of visitors made the renovation of the entrance area and parts of the cave installation necessary. The path to the cave entrance has been widened and allows easy access and because of its view it is a nice spot to wait for the next tour. The entrance area with the ticket office has a cafeteria with a panoramic view over the whole region.

The cave is home to numerous troglobionts, like snails and insects including pseudoscorpions and millipeds. The isopod Graeconiscus guanophilus is endemic in the cave. Those small animals are colourless and blind. There are also numerous cave visitors like some 400 bats. Their favourite spots are easy to see: the bat guano colours the floor in black.

Like most caves in Greece this cave was well known for millennia. However, it was never explored until finally the Greek Speleological Society was founded and Anna Petrocheilou explored the cave in 1966 with fellow cavers. They listed the cave with the official name Zoniana Cave after the nearby village. They also named the chambers, for example the Sanctuary of the Fairies, Chamber of Harmonies, Chapel, Palace, Metropolis, Panorama and the Chamber of the Lost Child.

Locals call the cave Tripa Tou Sfentoni (Sfentoni's Hole) after a man named Sfentonis. He was a guerilla (Greek: hainis) from Sfakia who had found refuge in the cave. The legend does not explain when this was, but we guess he was a rebel during the resistance against the Turkish occupation. One day he was discovered by a young man while cooking at the cave entrance, and the man asked for something to eat. Sfentonis killed him as he feared, the man might give him away. He kicked him with his stivani, the traditional Cretan boot, so hard that he killed him.

Another legend tells about a beautiful fairy who used to hide in the cave and a shepherd. At a specific time of the day the fairy came out of the cave to drink some water at a neighbouring spring. A shepherd had seen her many times, but when he approached she always ran away into the cave. So one day he used his slingshot to catch her, but although she was hurt and blooding, she ran away. One version of the story tells she managed to escape but left a bloody handkerchief. Another version tells he approached the injured fairy, and attempted to kiss her. The fairy promised to give him a magic reel of silk, which would never come to an end, if he let her go. But the shepherd could not resist kissing her. So the fairy put "the curse of trembling hands" on him and his whole family.

The legend of the little girl as told above by Tony has a real background. The cave explorers discovered the skeleton of a small child at the end of the cave, which was then called the Chamber of the Lost Child. The bones were covered by flowstone, which indicates a rather high age, some sources postulate the bones are 900 years old. There is nothing known how this child came into the cave, probably it was lost, or it was a burial.

The cave is rather unknown, despite being quite well developed with good trails and electric light. Unfortunately the light is yellow, like in many Greek show caves, and there is also coloured light. They explain the yellow light as an attempt to reduce lampenflora, but that's obvious nonsense. The cave has no homepage, even the village has no homepage, although it seems it once had one.

Probably a result of the fact that the area was the drug and weapon dealer center of Crete only a decade ago. There were rumours about the local police being corrupt and finally the police abandoned the area. The area between the villages Anogeia, Zoniana und Livadia was called Devil's Triangle. In an attempt to arrest the drug dealers a force of 40 policemen went to the town but was shot with kalashnikovs before they reached the village. Three police officers were injured. But at the end more than 30 villagers were sued for drug trafficking, illegal weapons, and even murder. As far as we know the Drug-Mafia is history now.