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Road Trip Crete Nida Plateau
Heraklion areaRethymnon areaScenic Road Trips

Road Trip Crete Nida Plateau: Sfendoni stalactite cave, Anogia, Ideon Andron cave


    Full day tour (6 – 8 hours)   

Ideon Andron. Τhe cave where Zeus grew up. The Nida plateau. Fantastic scenery, unique, wild and barren, found traveling from Anogia to the cave. I have never seen such scenery anywhere else on Crete.

Road Trip Crete Nida Plateau – Sightseeing en route:

  • Stalactite cave Sfendoni
  • Village Anogia
  • Mitato (also Kumos) traditional shepherd’s hut
  • (Peace Partisan)
  • Cave Ideon Andron
  • (View from the observatory Skinakas)

Mileage: from/to Rethymnon 83km, from/to Heraklion 74km  (plus a detour to the observatory on Mount Skinaka an additional 7km return)

Up/down and to/from the Cave Ideon Antron: 40 min walk (580m one way) / 10 min. by car (not recommended)

Note: the road from the tavern to the cave is bumpy and not paved, may not be suitable for a motorcycle.

Entire duration of the tour:Relaxed 8 hours, both from Rethymnon and Heraklion.

Click the button to print the below map      

Begin the Road Trip Crete Nida Plateau with

A visit to the  Sfendoni cave in Zoniana

Visit the beautiful Sfendoni cave in Zoniana where stalactites and In the stalactite cave of Sfendoni in Zonianastalagmites in various shades result in a psychedelic scene. The “natural air- conditioning” in the cave keeps the thermostat consistently at 16-17 degrees, allowing the first chamber of the cave just after the entrance to be used by the local shepherds in “before electricity” times as storage for their cheese production.

In Zoniana

We wanted to follow the road as it is shown on the map: from Zoniana direction south to Ideon Andron/Nida Plateau and then to Anogia. But as the locals advised us in Zoniana, the road is in a bad condition and we should drive the other way round…so we went east to Anogia first.

Zoniana is known for its freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives in different battles through the centuries. Wherever in Greece, when the homeland was in distress either in the Balkan wars or in the Peloponnese, the men of Zoniana stood ready to help, a proud and freedom-loving people.
The place itself is a typical Cretan mountain village with 1500 inhabitants, who are almost all employed in agriculture. Every year in August, the Cheese Festival is celebrated with local cheeses, local dance groups, musicians and plenty of food. This is certainly worth a visit.

Anogia, the village of the musicians family of Xilouris

We reach Anogia very quickly, widely known throughout Greece due to its musical fame. From Anogia comes the Xilouris family, who are almost all dedicated to the music and the lyre. The most famous member was Nikos Xilouris (1936-1980), whose freedom-loving character and magnificent voice has become a symbol for the whole country. His brother Antonis, also called Psarantonis, with his smoky voice, travels to meet the whole world with his family to convey Cretan music internationally.
Anogia is worth a walk, and in the pastry in the village square there is a wonderful Galaktoboureko (semolina cake in syrup).

From Anogia to the Nida plateau

After Anogia, we continue our Road Trip Crete Nida Plateau driving towards the mountains. You might feel like being on another planet with the vegetation consisting of gnarled trees and low prickly bushes. Here and there we come across a Mitato which are still in use today.

Mitato (or Kumos) - the shepherd’s hut in the mountains of Crete
You can meet them almost in all the mountainous villages of the prefectures of Chania and Rethymno, especially in the villages of Psiloritis (here is the oldest Mitato on the plateau of Nida, dating back to 1841) and the White Mountains.

Mitato: a round stone building, maximum 2m high, which serves as a stable or as an overnight accommodation for the shepherd. It is usually next to an open stall and has been in existence since Byzantine times.

We walk a bit through the rocky and secluded area. I wonder what it’s like to graze the sheep and stay in a Kumos. It is here that every man is alone with God. How can laws adopted in Athens touch life in these mountains?

Observatory on the summit Skinaka

If anyone wishes a panoramic view of the mountains, during the Road Trip Crete Nida Plateau and about 18 km after Anogia you follow a sign to the left: Skinakas and go towards the observatory Skinakas.

Ideon Antron cave landscape of Nida plateau
The view to the Nida Plateau is unique

Nida plateau

Suddenly the Nida Plateau (1350 m altitude) spreads out before our eyes. Unlike the other high levels of Crete, only sparse grass grows here and in the summer is used as grazing land.

(Photos above,  credits AWI and Olaf Tausch. Thank you.)

The Partisan of Peace (Andartis Monument), a work of Karina Raeck

In the eastern part of the Nida plateau lies a peace monument called “Peace-Partisan” which was created in 1991 by the Berlin-based landscape artist Karina Raeck. The Andartis tis Irinis is its name in Greek. Karina Raeck gathered a total of 5,000 stones together with the local residents to shape them into a monument. The partisans during the second World War spread these stones on the plateau preventing enemy aircraft from landing.

The Peace-Partisan is 3,2 m long and 9 m wide. Its cost of 15,000 German Mark was borne exclusively by the German Ministry of Tourism because, as stated by Karina Raeck, “The Greeks will not even pay one drachma for this work. Each German Mark of their compatriots has an apology and stands for the restoration of friendship between these two peoples.” Since 1991, the Peace-Partisan has been on the Cretan soil, under the rain, wind and sun, and reminds us all of one thing: never again war.

Even if one finds the way to get here, the Partisan is difficult to see because it has been overgrown with bushes and grass.

Road Trip Crete Nida Plateau

Ideon Andron Cave – where Rhea raised her son Zeus

We continue our Road Trip Crete Nida Plateau following the road straight ahead and come to a tavern on the west side of the plateau. You can park the car here and walk 580m to the top the hill on the path that is marked by red paint on the rocks.You can also carefully drive to a parking lot just before the cave entrance directly over a bumpy, rocky road. Before the climb I read on an information sign about the Cretan wildcat, Felix silvestris, that live in this area. However, of course, we have not seen them.

Road Trip Crete Nida Plateau – Useful information:
  • Free admission to the Ideon Andron cave, on the street below the cave is a tavern/café.
  • In my opinion you can only really reach the plateau through Anogia because in some parts the road directly from Zoniana depends on weather conditions and is in very poor shape or even partially absent.
  • Of course you can do this tour in winter as well. Please remember that also here in November it is misty and dark in the mountains very early.

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