Lasíthi Plateau

The Lasíthi Plateau, located in the Prefecture of Lasithi in Eastern Crete, is one of the highpoints of Crete, both in altitude and atmosphere, for it is unique: a green carpet hemmed in on all sides by the Díktean Mountains, snowcapped into April and irrigated in summer by windmills. The picturesque windmills work regularly to water the fertile plain which covers an area of approximately 25,000 sq. km. As the excavations carried out on various sites have shown, this inaccessible area, encircled by high mountains ranges has been inhabited since Neolithic times. The plateau was farmed by the Minoans and later by the Dorians of Lyttos, but in 1293 it was such a nest of resistance that the Venetians forced everyone out, demolished the villages, set up guard around the passes and persecuted anyone who drew near. Only in 1543 were Greek refugees from the Turkish-occupied Peloponnese permitted to resettle the plateau. To reestablish the orchards, the Venetians built 10,000 white-sailed irrigation windmills. Although very few windmills are in use today, it still makes a splendid sight against the mountains. The uncanny cave where Zeus was born in Psychró, 63 ½ kms. from Herakleion, is the chief attraction.

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CoastlineBird's eye view of the northern Crete coastline on the way to the Lasíthi Plateau. "Unprocessed" Feta CheeseGoats along the northern coastline of Crete. That feta cheese we ate on all those Greek salads had to come from somewhere... Stone WindmillsA row of stone windmills at the Séli Ampélou Pass marks the northern entry to the plateau, a flat agricultural area lying 800 m (2,600 ft) above sea level and encircled by mountains.
Stone WindmillsThe windmills belong to individuals and some of them have been restored while others still remain half-ruined. Stone WindmillsThe stone windmills are still used for grinding wheat. Today 24 out of the original 26 windmills are preserved. Stone WindmillsDetail of one the stone windmills at the pass.
WindmillsModern mechanical windmills pump water for fields of potato and apple and almond orchards. Lasithi PlateauThe Lasíthi Plateau - a fertile checkerboard divided by drainage ditches and dotted with windmills in a bowl of barren mountains. This picture was taken from outside the entrance to the Cave of Psychró located at an altitude of 1025 meters above sea level on the northern slopes of Mountain Dikti. Cave of PsychróThe entrance to the Cave of Psychró (Diktaean Cave) is through an enormous opening which lights up the deepest recesses of the cave. The cave consists of a large chamber divided in its lower part into four smaller areas, all adorned with stalactites and stalagmites.
Cave of PsychróOnly rediscovered in the 1880s, the cave contained cult items from the Middle Minoan I period (around 1800 BCE), if not before, through the Geometric and Archaic periods. It was also visited later on in Roman times. A wealth of artifacts have been unearthed here including votive offerings, double axes, and bronze statuettes, now in the Herakleion Archeological Museum. Cave of Psychró A strong tradition has it that Minos came up here to receive the law of Zeus every nine years and that Epimenides, the most renowned seer, wonderworker and poet of ancient Greece, who was also connected with the cult of Orphism, "slept" in this cave for many years and had various divine visions. Epimenides is considered to have been a historical person. Cave of PsychróThe cave's role as the birthplace of Zeus  was confirmed by the discovery in Palékastro of the Hymn of the Kouretes (the young men who banged their shields to drown out the baby's cries from his cannibalistic father, Kronos).
DonkeyThe ascent to the Diktaean cave is via this one-kilometer rocky, stepped path. Sure footed donkeys are available so, of course, I had to take a picture with one before we left. J

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