Because of its geological and tectonic evolution, Crete Island has an extensive complex of underground cavities and gaps which have been created in calcareous rocks thanks to the erosive activity of water.
The Hellenic Speleological Society (Department of Crete) has reported more than 5.000 caves. In fact, the real number of these caves is believed to be vast. Crete has some of the deepest and longest caves in Greece. Tens of them have a vertical depth of more than 100m, while others have a length of at least 1000m. The longest, called “Tafkoura” on the mountain of Psiloritis, is 6.500m long and 860m deep, while the deepest one called “Gourgouthakas” (Lefka Ori Mountains, Chania) has a vertical depth of 1208m!
Since the Neolithic era many of these caves have been used occasionally by humans to protect themselves, or to inhabit. Some other times they were used as graves, shelters or even as place of worship. There are numerous caves of archeological interest some on the top of the mountains and others virtually by the coast of the island.
Some of the most famous are:
- “Ideon Antron”
- “Kamaron”: A very big cave located at 1780 m, under the summit of Mavri (1950 m). It became important when a great number of fine pottery was discovered, which are dated back at 1700 BC.
- “Dikteon Antron”
- “Pelekita” or "Sykias Spilios" : Located north east of the small village of Kato Zakros. The height at the entrance is 105m from the surface of sea.
- “St. Paraskevi Cave”
- “St.Antonios” in the gorge of Patsos.
Some caves in Crete have spectacular speleothems. Some of the most impressive caves are:
- “Pelekita” and “Dikteon Antron” in the region of Lassithi.
- “Kamilari”and “Marmarospilios” in the region of Irakleion.
- “Trypa tou Sfentoni” in the region of Rethymno: It is found in the mountain of "Psiloritis", 1km north-east from the village of Zoniana. A big enough cave with address of North-south, length of 145 metres and extent 3.000 square metres roughly, with a lot of booths that succeed the one the other.
- “Gerontospilios” in the region of Rethymno.
- “Agia Sophia” and Kournas caves in Chania.
As a source of valuable information (geological, paleontological, biological and archeological) as well as places which are indisputably related to our civilization, the caves of Crete are an important part of natural and cultural inheritance.