Tour ancient Minoan ruins, historic monasteries and picture-perfect villages that paint vivid portraits of life in Crete through the centuries. Below are some of the sights worth visiting while staying at Paralos Irini Mare.
Built atop a hill overlooking the bay of Messara, the once-great ancient city of Phaistos - the second largest Minoan city in Crete after Knossos - gradually lost its power, until it was finally destroyed in 200 BC. Its roots go back to the Late Neolithic period (ca 3000 BC), and the first palace was built here in 1850 BC. The most amazing find from the Minoan palace was the Phaistos Disk, which can be seen today at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. The script on its surfaces resembles hieroglyphs and has not been deciphered yet. Phaistos is near the traditional village of Vori, a 15-minute drive from Paralos Irini Mare Holiday Resort.
The beautiful gorge of Agios Antonios (Patsos, to locals) is in Amari province, in the heart of the Rethymno municipality, and is crossed by a small river. It's 2km long and takes approximately two hours to cross. With its scenic landscape and the small monastery of Agios Antonios nestled inside a cave, it makes for a charming day trip - and is a real treat to bird watchers.
This ancient city dates back to the Neolithic period (7000 BC). It's close to the village of Agioi Deka, approximately a 30-minute drive from Paralos Irini Mare. According to Homer, it was one of Crete's most developed Minoan cities. After the destruction of Phaistos, Gortys became extremely powerful, and it expanded all the way to Matala.
During the Roman period, it became the capital of Crete. Among various finds in the area, such as the temple of Apollo and the Roman Theatre, the greatest is the Gortyn Law Code, the oldest existing example of legal code of the Greek civil law.
One of Crete's most important historic monasteries, Moni Arkadiou lies about 40 km from Agia Galini, and is worth a visit. It was built in the 5th century AD in the honour of Saint Constantine and it became a symbol of the Cretan Resistance against the Ottoman Empire.
This attractive village about 32 km from Agia Galini is well-known for its spring water. It once supplied the Roman capital of Gortys and today is sold all over Greece. Visit the scenic Votamos Lake and relax with a coffee on its quiet shores. Or follow the trail to Agios Nikolaos Gorge, which starts here and leads to the fabulous forest of Rouvas, one of the few oak forests in Greece.
Wedged between two cliff faces at the foot of Mount Kedros (its name comes from "spilia", meaning "cave" in Greek), this traditional village is 26 km from Paralos Irini Mare Holiday Resort. Famous sights include the Venetian fountain of 'Kefalovrissi' with its 19 lion heads and 6 other fountains. It brings crystal clear drinking water down from Psiloritis mountain. Be sure to also visit the Greek Orthodox Church and the charming Cretan folk museum here.
A designated protected area since 1978, this tranquil rural village lies in Messara Valley, 20km from Paralos Irini Mare. Get a taste of history in the Museum of Cretan Ethnology, with more than 2500 exhibits from all over the island or unwind with a Greek coffee under the shade of the plane tree in the main square.