Neraidospilios cave - Astrakiano Gorge image

Astrakiano Gorge

At ‘Astrakiano Gorge’, north of the Astrakoi Bridge, there is the cave called Neraidospilios. According to archaeologist Paul Faure, this was the sanctuary of Tritogeneia Athena.

Neraidospilios legend

This adjective is due to the ancient Greek name of the River Karteros, i.e. ‘Triton’, who was born in the sanctuary of the goddess. In the cave, there is one of the springs of the Astrakoi aqueduct, which supplied part of the water necessary for the city of Heraklion at the beginning of the 20th century.
Legend has it that this cave, deeply set in the gorge with its numerous springs, clear running waters and lush vegetation, had been chosen by the Fairies (neraides, ancient Greek mythology Nereids) as their home! One night, a young lyre-player, heard their song and his curiosity led him to the cave. He saw the fairies there, dancing and singing bathed in light and dressed in transparent veils! Enchanted by the sweet melody in the air and their dance, he picked his lyre and accompanied their dance.

Astrakiano canyon

The canyon Astrakiano (Astraki - Kali Rachi) is approximately 7km long and hiking takes 3-4 hours.
Astrakiano canyon
starts at Kato Astraki. You can park the car and after Agios Georgios church there are stone steps leading to ‘Neraidospilio’ [Fairy-cave]. This is where the trail starts, running alongside the creek, with some basic crossing infrastructure at the difficult points along the way. The old Ottoman aqueduct is visible along the trail. Pay close attention during the first kilometre after Neraidospilio, as the river and wild vegetation have destroyed some crossings.
You also need to observe markings on the rocks so as not to miss a detour in the trail due to the crossing ahead having been completely destroyed. The trail runs parallel to the riverbed until halfway along the route. After that point, it runs high along the eastern slope of the gorge. The trail ends where the path meets the country road to Aitania, but you can continue to Karteros if you so wish.

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