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Wine Route

Roundtrip Knossos – Arhanes – Peza – Thrapsano: a tantalizing day trip that takes you from the splendour of Minoan civilization at the palace of Knossos, through the enchanting wine region of Peza, with its traditional village of Arhanes and some of the best wineries in Crete, to the famous pottery centre of Thrapsano.

Make an early start and allow about 2 hours to see the highlights of Knossos, preferably before the crowds and the tour groups arrive and before the heat of the day. To reach Knossos, take the second exit for Iraklio at the traffic lights over the bridge. Take a right turn at the next traffic lights and follow the signs for Knossos (well signposted) for about 3km.

After Knossos, continue along the same road to Arhanes, a large village with about 4,500 inhabitants. It is situated 16km. south of Iraklio, at the foot of Mt. Youhtas, right in the heart of Crete’s main wine producing district. The ancient Cretans believed that Zeus was buried here; in their eyes the mountain peak resembled Zeus’ head, resting on earth. At the junction where you turn right to Arhanes there’s a modern monument in commemoration of General von Kreipe’s kidnapping that took place here on April 26, 1944.

Epano Arhanes

Two km after Kato Arhanes is the picturesque traditional village of Epano Arhanes, which has been restored and improved with European funds and personal initiative alike; a truly remarkable job has been done here, giving it the charm and atmosphere of times gone by. In addition to the establishment of museums, art and cultural events are encouraged such as the annually held grape festival, (10 – 15 August). The village has won several awards, such as second best restored village in Europe and first in long term development. A stroll through its alleys is a feast for the eye, with displays of flowers, trees and green yards.

Upon entering the village, look out for the Dhidhaktirio, a neo-classical building dating from 1901 that was used as German general von Kreipe's headquarter in WWII. Until recently it housed Arhanes' primary school; today it is in use as a department of the Open University. Right next to it is the Panayia church and its bell tower. Inside a collection of icons is on display, well worth taking a look. The church of Ayia Triadha holds Byzantine frescoes, and the church of Asomaton displays 14th century religious artworks (ask for the key at tavern Myriofillo on the square).

A small, fenced archeological site, that is a palace dating from the Minoan period and which was finally destroyed around 1450 BC, is situated further on in the village. Most of the finds are on display in the Archeological Museum of Iraklio; copies of these finds are in Arhanes' small but neat museum. (Open daily, except Tue, 8.30am – 2.30pm; free entrance). The Aghora, a pedestrian alley, is lined with fruit stalls and nice old shops, with next to its church Ayios Nektarios a well of 1894.

All the taverns and coffeehouses in town have a good reputation, but try mezedhopolio Aghora in the pedestrian area, or Knossos Kafenio. For meals, taverns To Spitiko on the southern main square and Ambelos on the northern main square are excellent options.

To reach Peza, take a northward turn after Arhanes, immediately after the main square over the cobbled road. About 500m after the church turn left following the signpost for Katalaghari; from here it is 4km to Peza Vineyard

Peza

The region of Peza is a region you must walk through, discover and taste its flavours in order to feel the spirit of the wines that are produced here. The Wine Cooperative Peza and the Miliarakis winery of Minos Wines, both located in Peza, offer a wine tour around the region and a presentation about the history of wine making that includes a film, presented in several languages, an exhibition with old winery

equipment and museum artifacts, followed by a guided tour through the winery plus an introduction to the know-how and art of wine sampling. Selected wines are offered, accompanied by traditional Cretan mezedhes. At the wineries there is the opportunity to buy wines of older and recent vintage.

(Minos Wines, winery Miliarakis, Peza, on your right on the way to Ayies Paraskies; Open Mon-Fri 9am – 4pm, Sat 11am – 4pm. Wine Cooperative Peza, Peza, on your left on the way to Ayies Paraskies; Open Mon-Sat 9am – 3pm.)

Leaving Peza, continue your way east, towards Ayies Paraskies over a scenic road that leads through hilly olive groves and vineyards in the direction of the villages Voni, Thrapsano and Kastelli.

Detours

The small village Houdetsi is the base of Irish virtuoso musician and lyra player Ross Daly whose musical workshop Labyrinth is here along with a museum of musical instruments. (Labyrinth, Houdetsi, tel.2810-741 207; Open daily Mar-Oct, 10am – 4pm; Adm.3euro)

In Myrtia, hometown of Nikos Kazantzakis, his nephew Yorgos Anemoyannis founded a museum devoted to the famous writer with personal belongings and editions of his work from all over the world. (Kazantzakis Museum, Myrtia, on the main square; Open daily from Mar-Oct 9am – 7pm; Nov-Feb Sun 10am – 3pm; Adm.3euro)

Thrapsano

This village has been an important pottery centre since the Middle Ages, and had up to 180 pottery workshops in its heyday. Today there are still some 20 workshops active, making the most beautiful pottery and earthenware, the giant pithi in particular Have a look around some of the workshops where you can watch the craftsmen make pottery the traditional way, notably 2 of them: Moutsakis, upon entering the village from Voni, to your right and Minos Cooperative, upon leaving the village for Kastelli, also to your right.

After Thrapsano continue east; passing through the villages of Evangelismos and Archangelos, you reach Kastelli. On Kastelli's main square turn left and follow signposts for Iraklio / Hersonissos. After 20km you enter the New National Road that leads to Malia.