Tucked away in the verdant hills of central Crete, Spili is a charming village that offers visitors a glimpse into traditional Cretan life. With its cobblestone streets, vibrant local culture, and remarkable natural beauty, this picturesque destination is a must-see for travellers seeking to experience the best of Crete. This comprehensive travel guide will highlight the top attractions, activities, and tips for planning your visit to Spili.
The Captivating Village of Spili
In the Rethymno region of Crete, Spili sits at 430 meters, surrounded by lush olive groves and towering mountains. The village boasts an enchanting atmosphere, with its well-preserved Venetian architecture, bustling central square, and friendly locals. Spili is a great place to explore on foot as you meander through its narrow streets and admire the colourful houses adorned with vibrant flowers.
The Iconic Lion Fountains of Spili
Undoubtedly, the most famous landmark in Spili is the Venetian Lion Fountains. In the village’s heart, this striking monument features 19 lion heads, each spouting crystal-clear water sourced from the springs of Mount Psiloritis. Locals and visitors flock to this fountain to fill their bottles with the refreshing mountain water, renowned for its purity and health benefits.
The Serene Monastery of Agios Antonios
A short distance from the village centre lies the Monastery of Saint Raphael, Nikolaos and Irini, a serene retreat with a rich history dating back to the 16th century. The monastery is home to a small community of monks who maintain the immaculate grounds and welcome visitors to explore the tranquil setting. Take advantage of the opportunity to visit the small museum and admire the religious artefacts, manuscripts, and icons housed within the monastery.
Outdoor Adventures in the Surrounding Countryside
The area surrounding Spili is a haven for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. Numerous hiking trails meander through the verdant landscape, offering stunning views of the village and the surrounding mountains. Popular tracks include the path to the summit of Mount Kedros and the scenic route to the nearby village of Gerakari, both of which reward hikers with breathtaking vistas of the Cretan countryside.
Taste Authentic Cretan Cuisine
Spili is an ideal destination for foodies seeking to sample traditional Cretan dishes. The village boasts a selection of tavernas and cafes serving local fare, such as lamb with artichokes, fresh seafood, and the famous Cretan dakos salad. Try a local wine or raki, a potent spirit distilled from grape debris.
Shopping for Local Handicrafts
The village of Spili is known for its talented artisans who produce a range of traditional handicrafts, including pottery, textiles, and woodcarvings. As you stroll through the village, you’ll find several small shops selling these unique souvenirs, perfect for taking home a piece of Crete.
When to Visit Spili
The best time to visit Spili is during spring and autumn, when the weather is mild and the village is less crowded. These seasons are perfect for outdoor activities like hiking and exploring the surrounding countryside. The summer can be hot, but the village’s altitude provides a more relaxed escape from the coastal heat.
Getting to Spili
Spili is accessible by car from Chania and Heraklion, the two main airports in Crete. The drive takes approximately 1.5 hours from either airport, with well-maintained roads winding through the picturesque Cretan countryside. If you prefer public transportation, there are daily buses from Rethymno, the closest major city to Spili, about 30 kilometres away.
Where to Stay in Spili
Spili offers a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences. From charming guesthouses and traditional stone villas to cosy bed and breakfasts, you’ll find the perfect place to call home during your stay. Many accommodations boast lovely views of the village and the surrounding landscape, ensuring a truly memorable experience.
Nearby Attractions Worth Exploring
While Spili has much to offer, consider venturing out to explore the nearby attractions that make this region of Crete so special. A short drive will take you to the stunning Preveli Beach, known for its palm forest and turquoise waters. History buffs will appreciate visiting the ancient city of Eleutherna, which houses the remains of an ancient acropolis and a fascinating archaeological museum.
In conclusion, Spili, the hidden gem of Crete, offers travellers a unique opportunity to experience authentic Cretan life in a breathtaking setting. From its historical landmarks and stunning natural beauty to its delicious local cuisine and warm hospitality, Spili is a destination that should not be missed. So, pack your bags, lace up your walking shoes, and get ready to discover the enchanting village of Spili on your next visit to Crete.