The village of Archanes is a perfect place for anyone looking for a true village experience in Crete. With only 3900 residents and almost as many cats, the place serves as a tranquil safe harbor for anyone escaping the rush of the city. Archanes will charm you with its small streets and cheerfully painted houses, adorable coffee shops, and fascinating history.
Archanes is a must-see destination for every history enthusiast with ancient Minoan sites surrounding the outskirts of the village. Free from long lines and big crowds, the archaeological sites are open for visitors without charge at any time of the day.
In the middle of the town lay the remains of a far less known Minoan palace. Said to have been as powerful and marvelous as the palace of Knossos, its main purpose was to serve as a place to control the many religious centers of the region.
Mount Juktas (Giouchtas) was a very important place for the Minoans. Located close to Archanes, visitors will have a beautiful view of the mountain that has been said to resemble the profile of Zeus. The mountain is the site of one of the most important Minoan peak sanctuaries, which were places for religious rites.
The Anemospilia temple is located on the north end of Mount Juktas, on a hillside facing north towards the palace of Knossos. It served as a place for sacred rituals, and although some believe this included human sacrifice as well, most archaeologists deny this due to lack of evidence.
To reach the archaeological cemetery of Fourni, visitors must climb up a hill northwest of Archanes and follow the signed path that starts from the village. The view is surely worth the hike – seeing Mount Juktas and the areas around it make it clear why the Minoans decided to choose the location for their sacred necropolis, the city of the dead. The cemetery itself is not open to the public, but it’s possible to hire a guard for a private tour inside the gates.
The cemetery of Fourni was in use from approximately 2400 BCE until 1000 BCE. Long-lasting excavations have revealed numerous graves, buildings, skeletons, and objects in the area, and because of these findings, it’s considered the most important Minoan cemetery in Crete. Most of the findings have been transferred to the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion where they are now on exhibit.
Museums and Workshops
While having a stroll around the city visitors can learn a lot about the village at the various museums and workshops built and run by the locals. The Folklore Museum, the Cretan History Museum, and the Archaeological Museum make sure the village has something to offer to everyone. It’s also possible to join the sculpture workshop of famous sculptor Manolis Tzobanakis or visit the local Koronekes olive oil mill.
How to get there
Renting your own car in Crete is definitely the best way to get around the island, but with a bus it takes only a bit over half an hour to get to Archanes from Heraklion. One-way tickets cost around 2 euros and during the summer, the buses run almost every hour. The village is ideal for a day trip, but it also has a good variety of hotels and traditional houses for those who want to stay a bit longer - try Villa Archanes or Eliathos Hotel.