Arkoudospilios Cave

arkoudospilios cave: A Fascinating Journey into Chania's Natural Wonders

Arkoudospilios Cave, also known as Panagia Arkoudiotissa Cave or just Bear Cave, is located 20 kilometers from the city of Chania in Avlaki Gorge, near the northern shores of the Akrotiri Peninsula. It is only accessible via trail trekking on a stone route. The hike is not hard, and it is only 30 to 40 minutes long, 15 if you are only interested in the cave. The trail starts at Gouverneto Monastery, but let’s see why Arkoudospilios is an interesting destination.

Legend and name

Arkoudospilios cave is located 2 kilometers away from Gouverneto Monastery, in Avlaki Gorge, on the “pilgrim’s” trail that connects Gouverneto to Katholiko Monastery.

The cave consists of a large room with stalagmites and stalactites decorating its floor and black ceiling.

Inside the cave, there is a huge stalagmite that has a bear-like shape that is trying to drink water from the source.

Legend says that this was an actual bear that wouldn’t let the near-death thirsty herimites drink water. That is why the Virgin Mary heard the prayers of the monk and petrified the bear.

That is why the cave has a secondary name, “Panagia Arkoudiotissa”. Panagia, which is the Virgin Mary and Arkouda, which means bear in Greek.

Chapel and temple

Inside the cave have been found some ancient inscriptions that refer to Apollo and Artemis. According to archeologists, the cave served as a sanctuary back in ancient times and was dedicated to the Olympian Goddess of the Hunt, Artemis, who transformed into a bear.

Nowadays, in the cave stands a chapel that is dedicated to the Hypapante (the presentation of Jesus by his parents to the temple 40 days after his birth).

It is celebrated on the 2nd of February and people gather and build fires. That explains the blackened roof of the cave.

The journey and attractions

The only way to access Arkoudospilios is by foot. Starting from Gouverneto, where you can park your car, you continue on a stone-carved path that leads into the Avlaki Gorge.

The hike is not challenging, but it would be advisable to wear good footwear. The path towards Arkoudospilios provides stunning views and many attractions, like the abandoned monastery of Saint Anthony.

If you continue the path, you will reach Katholiko Monastery, which is considered the oldest monastery in Crete. At the end of the journey, exiting Avlaki Gorge, is the cove of Katholiko. The form of the small fjords protects the waters from the winds. So don’t forget to pack your beach towel and swimsuit.

Back in the day, when Katholiko monastery was still operable, this path was used by many pilgrims who travelled to pay respect to Saint John the Hermit.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO at arkoudospilios

Pay a visit at Gouverneto Monastery
Enjoy stunning views at Avlaki Gorge
Hike to Saint Anthony Monastery
Visit Arkoudospilios cave
Take pictures of your surroundings
Explore Katholiko Monastery
Visit Saint John's chapel
Head to the Hermits cave
Swim at Katholiko cove

Photos featuring arkoudospilios cave

How to Get There

In order to get to Arkoudospilios, you must first reach Gouverneto monastery. The instructions that follow are for getting to Gouverneto.

Getting to the Gouverneto Monastery in Chania is a lovely drive via Crete’s picturesque surroundings. It is around 20 kilometers (35 minutes by vehicle) from the city of Chania on the Akrotiri Peninsula. Here are the steps to get to this beautiful destination:

By Car:

The most convenient approach to visit Gouverneto Monastery is to rent a car in Chania. Once you have a car, go west out of Chania. Follow the signs to the town of Kounoupidiana. Basically, take the road that leads to Chania Airport. Once you arrive at the airport, follow the signs to Agia Triada. Once at Agia Triada Monastery, follow the signs to Gouverneto (4 kilometers). Keep an eye out for signage pointing to Agia Triada Monastery. The road to the monastery is properly indicated. Then follow them to Gouverneto. When you get to the monastery, there will be a parking place where you can safely leave your car.

By Bus:

Unfortunately, there are no direct buses to the Gouverneto monastery. If you prefer public transportation, take the KTEL bus from Chania to the Agia Triada Monastery. Buses depart from Chania’s principal bus station. Check the current bus timetable, which may change based on the season. Buses typically operate throughout the day.

Taxi or Tour:

Another alternative is to take a taxi or join a guided tour of Agia Triada Monastery, Gouverneto, and Katholiko. This allows you to relax and enjoy the lovely scenery of Avlaki Gorge without having to worry about directions or transportation problems. You will visit the Arkoudospilios and Saint John’s caverns.

Whether you drive, take a bus, or book a tour, the journey to the Gouverneto Monastery is an unforgettable experience that culminates in an investigation of this ancient and magnificent place.


Arkoudospilios Cave, nestled within the wild beauty of Avlaki Gorge, even though an unpopular destination, offers a glimpse into Crete’s hidden wonders. With its rich history, captivating formations, and unique ecosystem, the cave stands as a testament to the island’s natural heritage. Whether you’re a spelunking enthusiast or simply seeking a unique adventure, Arkoudospilios Cave awaits. Remember, when exploring this natural treasure, tread lightly, respect the delicate environment, and leave only footprints, taking only memories.


Wear appropriate shoes!
The path in Avlaki Gorge towards Arkoudospilios and Katholiko Monastery can be uneven, especially in the last part, so wear sturdy shoes with good grip.
First stop!
As a place of active worship, Gouverneto Monastery requires visitors to dress modestly out of respect for the monks and their traditions. Opt for clothing that covers your knees and shoulders to ensure a smooth and respectful entry.
Gouverneto Monastery
Water & Sun protection!
Pack a water bottle and make sure to stay hydrated, particularly during the warmer months. The Cretan sun can be intense, so slather on sunscreen liberally and reapply often. Planning ahead ensures a comfortable and enjoyable visit.
Guided Tours!
Join a group tour! These guided adventures take you on a relaxing hike suitable for everyone, showcasing the region's stunning natural beauty and historic monasteries. With a knowledgeable guide leading the way, you'll discover hidden gems and gain insights you might miss on your own.
Visit on a clear day!
Stand in awe of the breathtaking panorama on a clear day at Arkoudospilios. The Aegean Sea, a vast expanse of shimmering turquoise, stretches towards the horizon. The Akrotiri Peninsula juts out dramatically, its rugged slopes and hidden coves adding another layer of intrigue to the scene.
Respect the environment!
The gorge is a protected area, so please respect the environment, keep noise to a minimum, and do not litter.

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