Neraidospilios (Fairy Cave)

Neraidospilios Cave: A mystical place where legends and mysteries coexist

Neraidospilios is located just 23 kilometers from Heraklion city, close to the abandoned village of Kato Astraki and next to the village of Mirtia, where Nikos Kazatzakis was born. It is a small cave inside the greenery of the Astrakian gorge, which is 12.5 kilometers long. Emitting its mystical aura, it attracts adventurers, nature enthusiasts, and those seeking to delve into the secrets and legends of Crete. This article unveils the captivating story of Neraidospilios Cave, unveiling its natural splendor, cultural significance, and the enchanting experiences it offers.


In ancient times, according to the archeologist Paul Faure, the area served as a temple honoring the goddess Athena Tritogeneia. The surname Tritogeneia comes from the ancient name of the river Karteros, which runs along the Astrakian Gorge and means “the coming of Triton“.

In modern times, in the 20th century, it served as a water reservoir for the nearby village of Astraki and part of Heraklion city. The waters of the reservoir form the little lake of Astraki in the area.

Nowadays, it serves as a destination for people to go and merge themselves with nature, for relaxation and to fantasize about the local legends that were born here. The combination of running waters, the chipping of the birds and the images of the area emit a tranquility like a soul soother.

Mythology and Legends

The cave has cultural and mythological significance in Cretan tradition. Its name, “Neraidospilios,” translates as “Fairy Cave,” and evokes a sense of supernatural awe. Caves were frequently thought to be the dwellings of nymphs and magical beings in Greek mythology. The ethereal ambiance of Neraidospilios Cave, as well as its connection to old stories, make it a location of curiosity and interest.

There is a local legend or story called “Fairy and the Lyre Player‘. It is said that the phenomena that happen in the area and sometimes sounds are connected to this legend.


kazatzakis museum

The museum of the famous writer Nikos Kazatzakis is in the nearby Mirtia Village. Melina Merkouris, the then-Minister of Culture, launched the museum on June 27, 1983. Every day, dozens of visitors from Greece and abroad come to learn about the author’s personality through his letters and diaries, personal items and souvenirs from his travels. The collection also consists of rare photographs, stage models and costumes from performances of his works. Also rare audiovisual material and works of art inspired by his literary world complete the exhibit.

Saint George church remnants

In the widest area there are so many destinations to explore. As we previously mentioned the nearby village of Kato Astraki is abandoned. You can roam around the abandoned buildings and you can visit the the remains of the Saint George church. Siting at highest point of the deserted village it is said that the church was very rich with a golden bell and precious sacred vessels. They say that it was so rich, that the monastery of Saint George Apanosifis was built at the expense of the temple. All this treasure, according to tradition, was buried somewhere nearby to protect it from the Turkish raids.

panagia of kato astraki

The Church of Panagia (Virgin Mary) in Kato Astraki is a single-aisled 16th-century church dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos, with fresco remains. On the west side, there is also a coat of arms with the date 1555, featuring a double-headed eagle. We observe a tomb with a coat of arms within the cathedral.

church of archangel michael

The small Venetian chapel of Archangel Michael is located at the ruined village of Kato Astraki. Its interior bears impressive frescoes. Out of them stands out the representation of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Arch of astraki

The bridge of Kato Astraki is called Astrakiani Kamara (Arch of Astraki) and is located on the banks of the River Karteros, a few meters away from the deserted settlement. Astrakiani Kamara is a spectacular and well-preserved 16th-century arched stone bridge that is one of Crete’s most beautiful. The bridge was erected to connect Astraki with Sgourokefali and the communities on the Karteros River’s eastern bank.

paterikos watermill

Just a few meters south of the Astraki stone bridge, we find the stunning Paterikos watermill, which has been well preserved. It is one of the very few mills that existed in Crete and was double, meaning that the water carried through the stone channels was divided into two different fall-towers and so on. Similarly, the millstones were moved by two distinct rotors. A big rock adjacent to Kamara and near the mill once housed an ancient sanctuary. However, the altar was stolen a few years ago, and there is now nothing there.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN neraidospilios and the nearby area

Hike through the Astrakian Gorge
Explore Neraidospilios
Walk at the Ghost Village of Kato Astraki
Visit Saint George Church
Visit the small Church of Panagia
Visit Archangel Michael chapel
Walk on the Astrakian Arch
Climb the Paterikos Watermill
Visit the museum of Nikos Kazatzakis

Photos featuring neraidospilios and the nearby attractions

How to Get There

The Ghost Village of Kato Astraki is not far from Heraklion city but there are no public trasportation to acces the area. The most convinient way to access the area is by taxi, tours to the gorge and the nearby areas or even better a rental car. Make sure you use gps so you can find your way and not get lost.


Hidden amidst the rugged beauty of its landscape, lies a gem that whispers the secrets of time. The Neraidospilios of Astraki, with its mystical allure and ancient history, invites travelers on a journey through nature’s wonders and human heritage. A great destination to merge with nature, appreciate the tranquility of the area and explore the so many attractions the area has to offer.


Comfortable Clothing!
The trail on which you are going to start your journey requires proper footwear and breathable clothing.
Snacks and Hydration!
You are likely going to need to pack some snacks to replenish your energy during your trail-tracking. Make sure you are equipped with plenty of water to stay hydrated especially in summer.
Group journey!
It is a good idea to have someone local guide you through the Astrakian Gorge and the widest area.
Exploring the Surrounding Area!
The wider area has so many attractions to discover. If you feel adventurous, venture out and explore the nearby area to search for the sights we mentioned above.
Safety First!
Make sure that you have a fully charged phone with you, just in case something happens. Be mindful of your surroundings and avoid doing something too extreme.
Respect the Nature!
We plead with you to respect nature. Don't ruin the fauna by picking it up, and don't litter. Help us maintain this mystical place so the next generation can appreciate its tranquility and balance.

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