If you want to understand the true spirit of Crete, you must visit a local village. When in the Hersonissos regional unit, Avdou may be the best destination. It has pure rural character, sublime hospitality – aptly defined by the locals “philoxenia” – and even surprises for the most adventurous travelers.
Paragliding in Avdou
The area surrounding Avdou is sought-after by paragliders. The winds coming from the sea and the Lasithy Plateau create perfect opportunities for the sport. Practitioners will appreciate the 6-hectares takeoff field and the landing strip equally. Crete has no other paragliding spot organized as well as this one.
Avdou offers year-round paragliding opportunities under proper weather conditions. There are several companies giving classes and flights in the area, most of them hailing from Heraklion, but also non-domestic entities.
Paragliders will appreciate the rural area of Crete and views of Hersonissos (Old Town and the port), Malia, and Heraklion in the distance. The glistening Cretan Sea is another beguiling companion every time. Both single and tandem flights are available.
Trekking in Avdou
Hiking, trekking, and cycling are favorite pastimes in Avdou. This rural area of Hersonissos has splendid landscapes, rich in vegetation, and unspoiled by modern agricultural practices. Olive trees are still grown according to ancient traditions. Every plot of cultivable land bears fruit, and you can forage all kinds of edible greens and herbs in the wild.
Hike around Avdou and stop for a break in one of the local churches: there’s no air conditioning inside, but the architecture of these temples has a unique cooling effect. After a couple of minutes in a Cretan chappel or church, you will feel refreshed and ready to face the summer’s scorching heat again.
The trekking routes of Avdou are often used for horseback riding. Book a tour with one of the local equestrian companies to experience this side of the Cretan countryside.
A highly recommended hike when you visit Avdou is the Rozas Gorge – about 18 minutes drive from the heart of the village. The Lasithi Plateau can be reached in less than 45 minutes by car and offers hiking and trekking opportunities.
Visit the Agia Fotini Cave and Monastery
Avdou is peaceful, sleepy, and rustic. About seven kilometers south of the village, on Mount Louloudaki, you’ll find a place so quiet that you’ll hear your heartbeats echo like whispers in the wind. The cavernous church of Agia Fotini offers something to the pious and another thing to speleology buffs.
Take time to observe the natural details of the cave—light a candle for the dead or one for the living. The cavernous church is a miracle on its own, but it’s said to grant wishes to the believer. A popular belief is that sterile women praying here would become pregnant after a drink of the holy water dripping from the roof. And they will end up bearing sons. Whether you choose to believe the myth or not, the beauty of the church and its serene atmosphere is indisputable.
If caves are your thing, there’s another one in the area, called Faneromeni. However, access to this natural wonder is hard because of the steep terrain and dense vegetation you will encounter on the path leading there. But it’s worth seeing if you are a history buff: a rendition of the famed Minoan golden double ax was found here. The cave itself has spectacular stalagmites and stalactites, despite its small size.
Avdou has other sacred places – among them, the abandoned monastery of Agia Anna. Hike up on the dirt road leading here from the village to reach a spectacular spot: the Tripiti Hole. This is a rock formation like an open cave overlooking Langada and Mesada. The views are too good for words.
Avdou is just one of the villages of Hersonissos that will captivate your imagination. During the Ottoman rule, it was a haven for many of the leaders of the resistance. Years after, some of the locals still call Avdou Capetanochori or Captain’s village to honor the brave fighters who once called it home.
Whatever you choose to name it, this Hersonissos destination is truly something else. From adrenaline-filled adventures in the skies to peaceful moments