Ideon Andron Cave - Zominthos. Walk on the footsteps of common Minoan people in the highlands of Psiloritis Natural Park. The subalpine zone to the north of Psiloritis central ridge is the highest archaeological park of Crete, comprising some of the most notable excavated ancient sites of the island. The geological importance of the area is also outstanding and relevant to the nomination of Psiloritis as Geopark, member of Global Geoparks Network by UNESCO. The flora and fauna of the highest mountain of Crete stimulated some of the first scientific missions in modern times.
Initially we visit the Psiloritis Geopark Information Center in the village of Anogia. Then, we drive southwards to Zominthos and from there on we begin our hiking journey to the north face of Psiloritis central ridge. The guided tour emphasizes on aspects of natural and human made environment in the legendary mountain of the Minoan cult of Zeus. We will walk over parts of the E4 European Path and other traditional paths used by shepherds.
Region: Rethymnon Prefecture, Central Crete Mountain Range: Psiloritis Range Geopark
Meeting Point: Anogia
Trail blazing: occasionally marked, easy to get confused without guidance
Path condition: generally good
Path length: 6,5 Km
Duration: 3 hours
Max. Altitude: 1.450 m.
Elevation gain: 300 m.
Difficulty level: easy
● The hiking route features the distinct geological characteristics, typical of the rocky terrain of the Psiloritis Geopark. Caves, sinkholes, rockshelters, dolines, underground rivers and karstic formations, deep gorges, plateaus, superficial fault zones, vertical cliffs and successive geological layers of different color, are some of elements found in the sparsely wooded subalpine zone just below the highest ridge in the island, with five, visible from afar, recognizable peaks, amongst which the highest of the island at 2.456 m. Psiloritis serves as the main water tower of central Crete, storing and channeling huge amounts of winter rainfalls and snowfalls into springs and fountains through its complicated underground network of eroded limestone, from its peak to altitude 0.
● Zominthos & Ideon Andron Cave were sites inside a systematically visited region, part of the Minoan religious system, related to the cult of Zeus until the Roman times. The Minoan mansion of Zominthos was the most important Minoan economic centre of the area and was probably serving as a stop for the pilgrimages to the sacred Ideon Cave and for coordinating the stockbreeding of Psiloritis. These two characteristics - namely the sanctity and the stockbreeding importance of the place - are also distinguishable in the original myth about Zeus' upbringing in Ideon Antron Cave. Cults on upper part of Psiloritis never disappeared, but they were never of the same importance from Christian times onwards. Both Ideon Andron and Zominthos are included in the most important archaeological discoveries of all times in Crete.
● The contemporary human environment is not absent from Psiloritis' subalpine & alpine zone. Remarkable structures using the dry stone corbelling building system are still used for constructing circular stone huts (mitata, Pl.), which are essential for stock breeding economy during summer. The same method has been used recently in order to build the church of Agios Iakinthos (St. Hyacinth), very close to Zominthos site, which is reknown for its annual summer festival. One of the most profound applications of this primitive technique can be seen in Minoan domed tombs where, again, no binding material was used for building the walls.
● The highlands on the north face of the central mountainous ridge of Psiloritis - between them the outstanding Nida plateau - serve as habitat for a rapidly developing forest with the Maple (Acer sempervirens), the Kermes Oak tree (Querqus coccifera) and the Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) being the dominant tree species. Sparse woodland is successed buy grazed mountain meadows or - more often - by shrub land and brushwood, where Berberis cretica and other rare and often endemic species of Crocus and Tulip thrive. Grazing seems to play a crucial role in the process of forestation from the level of bushy vegetation. Among the most important species of fauna on Psiloritis mountain are the Cretan Wildcat (Felix silvestris cretensis), the Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) and the Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus).