Riza and Kaimenos
The village of Riza lies at 540m on the border between Lasithi and Heraklion (and Ierapetra and Viannos). It is a small village consisting of 5 settlements, 3 of which are inhabited these days, Riza and Kaimenos being the largest. A total of around 50 people live here, making their living mainly from olives and greenhouses. On the right the view to Kaimenos.
A natural stronghold, it was burned many times in the Venetian times, being a hide-out for rebels. The village has a wide square, a tavern and a panoramic view down to the sea and the hills covered in olive trees. Most of the people live in the settlement of Kaimenos, just after Riza. If you follow the narrow road through it and up, you reach a nice viewpoint on a dead-end road. According to legend, the name Kaimenos (burned) comes from the first settler there, whose inn was repeatedly burned down by pirates.
Just before Riza there is a small road that tuns sharply right and up. Take this road to drive to Karydi. The road is well maintained, mainly asphalted (or something that looks like it) with, as you can see in the pictures, much needed guard rails at the side (in most places).
Karydi is really nothing more than a shepherd’s settlement, with only a few people living here, and most not even full-time. It is, however, full of sheep and goats, also on the roads, so drive slow as they tend to jump on the road just as you pass. Karydi is also the end of the Minoan (walking) path that starts in Mythi and was ‘opened’ in 2012. There is a fountain with fresh mountain water at the end of the path. In Karydi the road splits and you can go left or right. For both roads you need a 4WD. The road on the right goes in serpentine bends through wild landscape to the village of Metaxochori and after that to Christos and Males, where you come back on the asphalt road. The one on the left goes to Omalos, Kato Symi and (close by) Panagia Karydiani.
Panagia Karydia is an unknown, but historic monastery at 750m above sea level with beautiful views. It was build somewhere between the 14th and 16th century. Around the stone church are the old monk cells and some other buildings. It is not inhabited by monks these days and is operated by the parish of Mythi. It used to be dedicated to the Birth of the Virgin Mary, now to the Source of Life, but all days related to the Virgin Mary are still celebrated.
From the road that leads to Metaxochori you have beautiful views all the way to Males. It’s a wonderful area for walking in the wild countryside with rocks and pine trees around and you can hike for hours here without seeing anyone. There’s a small road to the left at a crossroads that leads through pine forest to the settlement of Mínos, also beautiful!
Other sights in the area:
- Kato Symi
- Males and Christos
- Sarakina gorge