By the time we arrived in Argyroupoli in Rethymno and stopped in front of the church of St. John (19th century) I was surprised by the beauties this place hided. Argyroupoli or Ancient Lappa is built on a low altitude and is just 25 km away from Rethymno. Its residents are about 300.
For more informations about Sightseeing in Rethymno check out here
During our visit, I discovered that this small village was a real paradise! We met springs, running waters, small cascades, ancient monuments, lush green paths and of course we experienced the well- known Cretan hospitality that impresses everyone!
In Antiquity it was called Lappa. During medieval times it changed its name into Stimpolis by the expression “in polis” (in city). In 19th century took its today’s name. The village is related to the revolution of 1878 because here was proclaimed the union of Crete with Greece.
Exploring Argyroupoli you’ll see everywhere excavated sections of Ancient Lappa, Roman remains, Venetian buildings and wonderful Byzantine churches.
In the village there aren’t just two or three churches, but 33. Most of them are Byzantine! There are also preserved Venetian mansions that are inhabited.
At the center of Argyroupoli settlement in Ano Gitonia Barotsiana is located. It’s a district which the Venetian family Barozzi ruled and the region was its feud.
The Venetian families Barozzi and Da Molin ruled Argyroupoli.
Here, there is a small temple of Panagia Barotsiani built in 13th century. In the temple there are frescoes of Birth of Christ, His Resurrection and His Ascension, but are not clear enough to see. Initially the temple was a single room, but later on it was added to it the chapel of St. Antonius.
The springs of the Holy Force
It is a lush green region with plane trees, running waters, small streams and cascades that enchant every visitor.
The small chapel of St.John is embedded in the rock and set into the cave. Here is where the Saint’s icon was found and thanks to the springs that gush water it was named also Holy Force.
In this heavenly landscape you’ll find many taverns where you can taste the delicacies of the Cretan cuisine as well as the famous “antikristo”.For those who are not aware of “antikristo” or “ofto” is pieces of lamb in sharp spit that are roasting slowly around (opposite = antikri –antikristo) the fire. It is the top tidbit for the roast meat lovers.
The Five Virgins Temple
Outside the village and in a lush green landscape the Five Virgins chapel is located.
Thekla, Marianna, Ethana or Athena, Martha and Maria were young nuns that lived here in 330 a.D at the time of the persecution of the Christians.
When the King arrests them along with their priest, commands them to bow the idols, but they deny it. Then they are beaten and tortured but with no result. Nevertheless, the priest in order to save his life bows the idols, drinks blood from sacrifices and obeys the orders. The last command which they gave him was to kill the virgins with a sword and he obeyed…
Entering the small chapel and on the left side there is a cave where the Five Virgins tombs are. In the tombs there is always water that is considered as a healing holy water. The church honors them on Saturday after Easter.
Crossing the chapel and on its back side you can see more ancient tombs which are made of soft limestone of the region. The tombs reach to the ravine where there is a stone fountain with an Arabic inscription on it and decorated with sculptured cypress trees. According to the Arabic tradition the cypresses symbolize the paradise.
Next to the fountain there is a huge age old plane tree 2000 years old. It is a natural heritage monument of Crete.
The Folklore Museum
In Argyroupoli the folklore Museum host uniforms, folklore art items, tools and utensils which used in the past.
The museum lacks of staff so you can visit it after an appointment.
The Food in Argyroupoli
Except of the taverns you’ll find in Piges I recommend the tavern “Ancient Lappa” which is at the beginning of the village.
Here you’ll enjoy the unique antikristo, hohlious boubouristous; (snails) delicious apaki (lean tenderloin) and you’ll be thrilled by the juicy burgers and staka (roasted cream cheese). But besides all these that I tasted you’ll find a variety of tidbits and dishes all made with extra virgin Cretan oil and based in the Cretan tradition.
Accommodation in Argyroupoli
In Argyroupoli one can find remarkable accommodation. But the one that I loved most is the exceptional Arcus Suites.
The Arcus Suites is a whole neighborhood of restored Venetian stone mansions of the 14th century and is situated in the heart of Argyroupoli. Its suites have the Venetian architectural characteristics. The domes, the arches and the wooden fireplaces create a charming atmosphere. Also the owners are very hospitable and helpful.
It operates during the whole year. In their wonderful garden there is an outdoor pool, BBQ and even a wooden oven. Episcope’s sandy beach is just 8 km away.
Cretan Gastronomy Center
One of the things that I realized in my short visit in Argyroupoli is the love of its inhabitants and how much they strive to keep the tradition and the gastronomy of their place.
Aspasia Stavroulaki is one of them. She is the soul of the Cretan Gastronomy Center. She organizes cooking classes, oil tasting, seminars of Cretan diet and much more. She welcomed us with her bright smile; she offered us Cretan rusks, olives, Cretan oil and what else? Raki of course!
Thanks to her and Mrs. Zambia’s valuable help we learned all the secrets for dolmathakia (stuffed vine leaves) and the technique to wrap them. All these during a real delightful cooking class.
Before we left, Aspasia offered us a tasting lesson for the Cretan oil. It was a new experience for all of us. We learned so many things and had important information as far as concerns oil’s quality and taste.
Argyroupoli or Ancient Lappa is a charming village in Crete that one have to visit. I recommend it as one of your destinations during your stay in Megalonisos. It’s a wonderful place, ideal for families, couples and lonely people. Argyroupoli is ideal for all kinds of visitors!
P.S. I want to thank Gianni Deligiannaki for his exceptional tour to his wonderful village and his unique hospitality!