Visit Profitis Ilias, built at the foot of the Rokka hill, a village chosen for the reconstruction of the “capital” of Crete after the Byzantine reconquest of the island in 961. Climb to the fortress, Kanli Kastelli (Bloody Fortress), named after the bloodshed of the Turks in the area by the Venetian Cretans (1647). Take a tour of the alleys of the village, see the church of the same name, cool off at Mikri Fontana and enjoy your coffee or try traditional delicacies in one of the cafes or ouzeri taverns. If you are in the area on July 19 or 20, do not forget to go to the festival organized in honor of Elijah (Profitis Ilias)! You will have the opportunity to try meat accompanied by local wine, listen to Cretan music and of course dance!
Visit the Moschapidaki-Xydaki house, which has been characterized as a work of art and is the only one in the area that has morphological elements of an urban house, but also architectural solutions that meet the needs of a rural home. The house was built in 1908, has a ground floor and a first floor, while the entrance to the courtyard is through a characteristic passage made of hewn stones. Passing through the yard, where there the well still stands, you will find yourself in the ground floor storage areas (warehouses for food, oil, and wine, as well as a wine press and wooden lofts for the live-in servants to rest on). Finally, an internal wooden staircase connects the warehouses with the first floor, where the main living areas of the family are.
Mikri Fontana (=Small Fountain)
Visit the fountain in the settlement of Profitis Ilias. This is an old fountain next to which there is a laundry basin that will remind you of the way housework was done in the past. In the past, the inhabitants used pitchers to carry water from the fountain for the needs of their household, while the women went and washed their clothes there, giving the washing process a social dimension.
Fortress Temenos or Rokka or Castle of Nikiforos Fokas or Kanli Kastelli
Climb tothe two-peaked Rokka hill south of Profitis Ilias, enjoy the impressive view in all directions and you will understand the reason that Nikiforos Fokas chose to set up the Byzantine capital of the island here! According to the archeological excavations of Sp. Marinatos, the ancient city of Lykastos was located here, which Homer mentions as a city from where young men were sent to fight the Trojans on the side of the Greeks. This place was chosen by Nikiforos Fokas, when in 961 he wanted to turn the people away from the shores, fearing that the Arabs he had just defeated would return and attack the Christian population. Later, the Venetians preserved and used the castle of Temenos extensively, when the danger of the Turks began to appear from the 15th century onwards. During the years of Ottoman rule, whenever the inhabitants wanted to rise against the Turks, they kept watch from the Tower at the top of Roka for the sudden arrival of enemies. Today, Roca casts its shadow on Prophitis Ilias and the figure of Nikiforos Fokas wanders as a memory, so that it is not forgotten that a capable Byzantine lord, general, and later emperor, fought and won the battle of dignity and freedom against oppression and subservience.
Archaeological site of Lykastos
2 km away from Kanli Kastelli, a Minoan settlement was located, and possibly an acropolis. The archaeologist, Spyridon Marinatos, discovered the remains of a Minoan settlement with evidence of a palace building. The study of mobile findings and building remains prompted him to express the view that the settlement flourished from the beginning of the Middle Minoan era (2100/2000 BC) to the Late Minoan years (1400-1100 BC). The area was later surveyed by Giannis Sakellarakis and Efi Sapouna-Sakellarakis, who came to similar conclusions. Specifically, they found that the settlement has a strong Middle Minoan and Late Minoan wall with a “propylon” in the southern part, a Middle Minoan “sanctuary” with a pillar, a “sacred house” with hewn stones, a duct, and a staircase. Important finds were found in all places, such as bell-shaped figurines which justify the hypothesis regarding the existence of a sanctuary in the area and the possible presence of ancient Lykastos. Today, apart from the scattered sherds, there is nothing reminiscent of the ancient city, but you can admire the wonderful natural landscape and move on towards the castle of Temenos.
“Diakos’ cells” cave
Northeast of Profitis Ilias, near the archeological site of Vitsila, you can visit the cave of “Diakos’ cells” in which sherds from the Middle Minoan period (2100 / 2000-1600 BC) were found. The cave is located at an altitude of 300m., under a rock, the contour of which has the shape of a face. It is worth noting that this cave is an ideal habitat for a subspecies of badger found only in Crete, locally known as Arkalos.
Profitis Ilias gorge
Visit Profitis Ilias gorge, which is a place of exceptional natural beauty. The gorge is rich in fossils and is crossed by a river, forming a natural border between the areas of Temenos and Paliani. You should, however, be aware that the gorge is only accessible by 4×4 car.
Church of Profitis Ilias
Visit the central church of Profitis Ilias and Panagia Evangelismou built in 1887, after which the village took its name.
Church of Virgin Mary Kardiotissa
Ascend to the place Xeri Kara, just outside the settlement of Profitis Ilias and you will find the ruins of an important chapel dating back to the Venetian period (1204-16th century). The chapel of Virgin Mary Kardiotissa was built in 1976 in a cavity where an ancient tomb existed in the past.
Church of Virgin Mary at the place “Kaki Skala”
Head northwest of the settlement, walk on wooded paths and ascend to the church of Virgin Mary-Zoodochos Pigi. The church has been built on a place, where a sacred cave existed and is kept in very good condition. In the courtyard there are outdoor benches, where you can relax from the hike, enjoying the unobstructed view!!!
The area is famous for the production of olive oil and wine, so do not forget to visit the winery of the area, located a short distance from the Minoan settlement in Vathipetro, where the oldest wine press (4,000 years) of Minoan Crete was found. It is also interesting to visit the olive oil production and bottling plant in the area, where you will see the process of olive oil extraction, one of the gastronomic treasures of Crete.
In Profitis Ilias you will have the opportunity to see up close Mr. Giannis still practicing the profession of shoemaker, which tends to disappear in modern times.