courtesy of: www.meteo.gr
Length: 14 km
Estimated time: 6.3 hours
Suggested period: April - October
Difficulty: High altitude. Bare terrain without shade. Lack of available drinking water.
Spiliara tis Voskopoulas (Cave of the Shepherdess) or Idaion Andron
At Nida tableland, at an altitude of 1538 m, in a distance of 24 klm away from Anogeia and 78 klm away from Rethymno, there is "Spiliara tis Voskopoulas" (The Cave of the Shepherdess), the cave where, according to mythology, the father of ancient Gods, Zeus, was born and/or grew up. Particularly, Rea hid her newborn in the cave in order to save it from the rage of Saturn who ate his children so as to prevent them from taking away his power one day. Hidden in the cave, Zeus was fed with the milk of the goat Amalthia, while Kourites, kept the secret of the king of Gods birth well hidden by striking their shields every time Zeus was crying. Due to this myth, Idaion Andron obtained great reputation during ancient times and became a worshipping center from the Minoan to the Late Roman era. The shepherd G. Pasparakis or Mousas detected some antiquities by accident in 1884. A year later, the archeologist H. Halbherr visited the site and started an excavation research. S. Ksanthoudidis in 1917 and Sp. Marinatos in 1956 embarked on a limited research on the matter. However, a more systematic research begun in 1983 by G. Sakellarakis.
This is very big cave with a large central hall and a side loft of 22 m in length. The excavations taking place in the inside of the cave have produced rich and extremely important findings among which, the art of pottery, golden jewelry, metallic objects and of course the well known copper shields. The cave cannot be visited because this research is in progress.
The entrance of the cave has an opening of approximately 25 m and a height of 16 m. On the left side of the cave there is an enormous altar, carved in the rock, while on the right side there are the foundations of gigantic statues. The inside of the cave, with maximum 57,2m in length, maximum 46,05 m in width and maximum 21 m in height, is divided in three main areas: the large central hall, following the entrance and the two coves, the Β on the right and the Ν on the left of the central hall. The cave, from entrance to almost the lowest level, presents an intense downhill slope that creates a hypsometric difference of approximately 13 m. This entire downhill area is covered by a plethora of limestone rocks that come from the collapse of the roof or from shifts.
The human presence at Idaion Andron is witnessed since the Late Neolithic era. The time sequence of the cave's inhabitance is confirmed by layers from the end of the Pre-Minoan to the Roman era.