The 16th century Monastery of Moni Arkadiou (located 23 km south-east of Rethymno) is a great symbol of Crete. During the revolution of 1866, around 900 Cretans (fighters and locals) took refuge here. Instead of surrendering they preferred to blow up their gunpowder stores killing themselves and many of the Turks. 3,000 Turks and Egyptians were killed in the whole battle.
The tragedy echoed around the world, but it would take another 30 years before Crete could become free. Every year on the 8th of November, which is a national day of remembrance of this tragedy, hundreds of Cretans gather at the monastery to pay tribute to the martyrs (Tel: 0030 28310 83076).
2) Panagia Kera Church
The three-nave Church of Panagia Kera (Our Lady Kera) is situated 9 kilometres south-west of Agios Nikolaos, nearby the village of Kritsa. It was built in the 13th and 14th centuries and it is the most important Byzantine-era church. It is dedicated to the Virgin and the Saints Anthony and Anna and it is adorned with many important Byzantine frescoes of the 14th and 15th century related to the two Saints as well as 14 scenes portraying the secret life of the Virgin Mary after Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection. Since the church was built in several stages the frescoes follow and exhibit the development and trends of the Cretan school of painting. Opening times are from 9 am to 2 pm (Tel: 0030 28410 51525).
3) Toplou Monastery
The impressive fortified monastery of Toplou is located 16 kilometres north-east of Siteia and it is built in the 15th century. In the church of the Monastery it is housed one of the greatest Cretan works of religious Art, the icon Lord, Thou Are Great by Ioannis Kornaros. Toplou is also famous for its history since it has experienced many attacks of bandits and other invading forces, which has affected its exterior architecture (solid and thick walls, massive door-entrance with a hole above it). In the Monastery there is also a cannon from which it was named (Toplou means 'with a cannon' in Turkish) (Tel: 0030 28430 61226).
4) Agia Triada Monastery
It is located in the Akrotiri peninsula, 16 kilometers from Chania, in the northwest part of Akrotiri and it is placed in the green. Although the community decreases the old buildings are gradually restored. All the visitors are welcomed and you can buy traditional olive oil from the monks.
The monastery of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity) was built in the seventeenth century on top of a pre-existing church designed by Byzantine cruciform architecture with three domes. The main church is dedicated to the Agia Triada and the two side chapels to Agios Ioannis Prodromos and to Zoodocho Pighi (Source of Life). The facade of the church has double columns of Ionic and Corinthian style and an inscription. The monastery's museum has manuscripts and important portable icons from the 15th, 16th, 17th and subsequent centuries.
The approach to the Monastery is really impressive through an amazing landscape of olive trees and grapevines as well a stand in cypresses trees (Tel: 0030 28210 63310).
5) Gouverneto Monastery
It is located 5 kilometers north of Agia Triada Monastery, deep in the wild and bareen Akrotiri peninsula. It is a fortress-type complex with a square tower on each of its four corners. The rectangular courtyard is dominated by a domes church dedicated to the virgin. In the chapel in the small courtyard of the Moni there are some of the oldest frescoes in Crete (Tel: 0030 28430 63319).
6) Preveli Monastery
It was built during the 17th century to replace a more remote monastery building. It forms a courtyard with a 19-th century church and a small museum. Exhibits include lavishly ornamented vestments, censers and icons (Tel: 0030 28320 31246).
7) Agioi Deka Church
It is a 13-th century church which stands on the point where ten Cretan Christians were martyred by the troops of the Roman emperor Decius in AD 250. In the nave there is a striking icon depicting the ten saints with golden haloes.
8) Chrissopigi Monastery
It looks more like a castle than a religious dwelling. It is relatively new, built in 1863, and it has a studio in which icons are painted using age-old techniques (Tel: 0030 28210 91125).
9) Chrysoskalitissa Monastery
It is a beautiful Monastery built on a rock high above the sea. It is a thousand years old and it may have been built on the site of a Minoan temple. Chrysoskalitissa means 'golden staircase'. According to the tradition, the top step to the Monastery was golden and it could be seen only by the faithful ones. According to the monks one of the 90 steps was hollow and it was used to hide the treasure of the Monastery, hence the name. It was used to pay the taxes imposed by the Ottoman rulers.
It is the most ancient monastery on Crete, dating back to the eleventh century. The monastery became a place of formal worship in the thirteenth century. About three hundred years ago, the monks abandoned the monastery because of persistent pirate raids. The monastery, built into the sides of a ravine, contains a church dedicated to Agios Ioannis Xenos, or St. John the Hermit, the founder of the monastery, who lived and died in the nearby cave that bears his name. The church itself is carved into the rock of the mountain side, and its facade lines up with the slope of the mountain. The bridge across the ravine, and some buildings of the old monastery are still preserved. The view is amazing.
11) Agios Nikolaos Monastery, Chania
It was built by the Venetians around 1320 AD. The church was a single-aisle basilica with a wooden, E-shaped roof and an east-west orientation. It was converted into a mosque after the Turkish conquest and it acquired a minaret with two balconies on the southwest corner of its façade. In the start of the 20th century it was converted again into a Greek Orthodox church dedicated to Agios Nikolaos.