If you’re looking for a true Cretan village experience, sometimes it’s best to look beyond the gorgeous coastline. Crete is full of charming villages and lush countryside, and this is often where you’ll discover the authentic beauty of Cretan culture. Argyroupolis is just such a place.
Where is Argyroupolis, Crete, Located?
Argyroupolis is in the Rethymnon prefecture, just inland from the beaches that lie midway between Chania and Rethymnon town.
How to Get to Argyroupolis
It’s very easy to reach Argyroupolis. If you’re arriving at Chania’s International Airport Ioannis Daskalogiannis, you’ll find a car rental agency directly there and you’ll be on the road in no time. If you’re arriving at Souda Bay by ferry, a car can be waiting for you as you disembark. The drive to Argyroupolis from Chania Airport is just an hour, and from Souda Bay, it’s only around 40 minutes.
There is also a car rental station at Heraklion Airport. From Heraklion Airport, the trip is just an hour and a half. Here too, a car can be waiting for you at the Heraklion Port. If you wish to use public transportation, you’ll find the KTEL public bus schedule here.
The History of Argyroupolis, Crete
Argyroupolis is one of the most interesting historic areas of Crete as it has things to see from various periods of Cretan history. The village was built on the site of Ancient Lappa, which is one of the oldest places in Crete.
This ancient city was thought to be founded not by the Minoans, but, according to legend, by the Mycenaean hero Agamemnon. In the Roman civil war, Lappa supported Octavian against Marc Antony (with, of course, Cleopatra). Upon Octavian’s victory, Lappa gained status and wealth, as evidenced in the rich architectural findings and excavations. During the Byzantine era, the city was raided and destroyed by the Saracen pirates who plagued the island.
The Byzantine family of Hortatsis held it, then Kallergis, who was loyal to the Venetians, took the town. Later of course, in the 19th century, the city like the rest of Crete fell under Ottoman control. Its strategic central location made it an important base for revolutionaries, and in fact here in Argyroupoli, in 1867 and 1878, were held the general assemblies of the Cretans, determining to unite with modern free Greece. This is what makes Argyroupoli particularly interesting – it gives insight to many historical eras of Crete.
What to See and Do in Argyroupolis
Argyroupolis is particularly rich in things to see. With such a prosperous history, many grand Venetian mansions were built here. Then, in excavating for new buildings, the foundations of much older buildings have been found, dating as far back as the late Geometric period (ca 750-650 BC). You’ll also see Roman mosaics- all this combined with the classic traditional Cretan Village architecture. There is definitely an “archontiko” (“aristocratic”) feel to Argyroupoli.
The Springs of Argiroupolis
Besides the architecture and the history, Argyroupoli is full of wonderful nature. Abundant springs feed fountains and wells and waterfalls and nourish many mighty plain trees. There is a great sense of freshness in the air, and the soothing sound of flowing water. And also miraculous water – in a chapel called “Agia Dynami” (Holy Power), there is a cave in which sacred water flows. Another famous sacred sight here is the Church of the Five Virgins. These five Virgins were known for their great works, and were martyred. It is now a place of pilgrimage, and there is a celebration in their honor each year.
One way to enjoy this blush area of Argyroupoli near the springs is to eat at one of the many traditional tavernas – the springs also feed trout farms, and you can enjoy fresh fish under the cool shade of the plane trees.
Great Beaches around Argyroupolis
Less than 5 kilometers from Argyroupoli is Episcopi beach. The lovely river Mouleas runs right into the beach, the same river that runs through Argyroupolis. The beach is long and sandy, and you’ll find plenty of amenities for a comfortable beach day, such as sun loungers, umbrellas, and showers. There are plenty of tavernas and cafes right by the beach.
Other fantastic beach choices are in the south of Crete. In fact, most of the legendary beaches of Crete are in the south along the shores of the Libyan sea. It’s easy to get down to the south coast from Argyroupoli – the island is at its narrowest in the Rethymnon prefecture. Preveli is one of the most spectacular beaches of Crete. A river runs through a beautiful gorge. Along the banks of the river a forest of palm trees flourishes, then it flows into the sea at a sandy beach at the gorge’s mouth. Just east of Preveli beach is Triopetra – “Three rocks”. This stunning beach is only now becoming more well known and you’ll find both a wild end as well as sunbeds and umbrellas on part of the beach.
Still further west is Matala. It’s a drive of about an hour and 45 minutes, but it takes you through some of the most dramatic and beautiful scenery of Crete. Matala is not just one of the most famous beaches of Crete, but really of the world – it was ‘discovered’ by the free-spirited hippies in the 1960’s and 1970’s, some of whom lived in the caves in the cliff that rises above the beach and its popularity spread. It still retains some of this spirit, and it’s a fun place to visit.
Activities Around Argyroupolis
Very near Argyroupolis is the largest natural freshwater lake in Crete – Lake Kournas. This is a wonderful destination for kayaking or taking out a pedalo with a group of friends or with children. The scenery is beautiful- you can even enjoy some bird watching here. And swimming is very refreshing. This can be a good choice for a day of fun in the water when the winds of the north coast are high and the sea beaches have too many waves.
Cultural Excursions Near Argyroupolis, Crete
Located between Chania and Rethymnon, Argyroupolis is a perfect location for accessing some of Crete’s most interesting cultural sights.
Spend a day in Chania
Both of these cities are Venetian, with a wonderfully romantic atmosphere. Chania is famous for its Venetian waterfront and boatyards and for its old town. Come to see the famous covered market in Chania – the best on the island – the Egyptian lighthouse, and above all the waterfront promenade – one of the most photographed in all of Greece.
Explore Rethymno town
Rethymnon, which is just half an hour away from Argyroupoli, makes a fantastic day-trip destination. The Venetian Fortezza guards the charming harbor, and as you wander through the streets of the old town, you’ll also see the famous Venetian Rimondi Fountain. The public garden is one of Crete’s loveliest, and signs identify the many species of trees and shrubs and flowers that flourish there. And how about some modern art?
The contemporary art museum of Crete is in Rethymnon, and is an interesting place to learn about 20th-century Greek art, an interesting counterpoint to so much ancient history. For something more traditional, you can explore the Folk Art Museum or the Stagakis Museum – the Cretan Lyra workshop where you can learn about the traditional instruments of the island.
Argyroupolis is a place that should not be missed
Argyroupolis makes an interesting home base for an exploration of Crete. So close to the highway, it is conveniently close to many places of interest. But it also offers the peace and quiet of a village. And with the abundance of springs, the temperatures are often more refreshing. Argyroupolis is a good choice for families and others wanting a calm place to stay in Crete, where they can experience the best in local cuisine and also get to know the Cretans, the very best part of Crete!