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Koudoumas monastery

Place description

Located at the end of Katarraktis gorge in the Asterousia Mountains, Koudoumas Monastery is 80km south of Iraklion and just 40m away from a stunning beach. It is considered one of Crete’s most remote monasteries, as reaching it from Heraklion takes approximately 2.5 hours. A 24km safe dirt road begins at the village of Sternes (reachable from Charakas) and is situated at an altitude of 1000m near the peak of Kofinas (1231m). As you descend towards sea level, you’ll be treated to breathtaking (and slightly terrifying) views of the sea and cliffs that can induce vertigo. Along the way, you’ll pass the pine grove of Koudoumas and encounter numerous goats perched on the sharp, bare rocks.

In this quintessential Cretan landscape, you’ll discover the ancient male monastery of Koudoumas. The church, constructed within a cave, is dedicated to the Assumption (celebrated on August 15). The surrounding area is filled with caves, many of which are still inhabited by hermits. From the monastery, you can follow a fascinating trail leading to the cave of St. Anthony or another path that takes you to Avvakospilios Cave. Additionally, some nature enthusiasts prefer to reach Koudoumas by walking along the trail that starts from Sternes (3 hours) and meanders through a beautiful pine grove.

The name Koudoumas possibly originates from the monastery’s founder. A Venetian document from 1280 references the surname Cudhumano, which could be related to Koudoumas. The current monastery was constructed in 1870 by monks Parthenios and Eumenios Charitakis on the site of the previous, ruined monastery. It had been abandoned, like all other coastal monasteries in Crete, due to frequent pirate attacks on the island’s shores in the 15th century.

Every year on August 15, Koudoumas celebrates with pilgrims arriving from all over the Messara region. Many of them arrive on August 14 and spend the night either in the guest rooms or on the beach. The monastery also honors monks Eumenios and Pathenios, who re-established the monastery and have been recognized as Saints, with a celebration on July 10.

Koudoumas Monastery houses the icon of Our Lady of Kykkos of Dexiokratousa (Right Hand Holding), discovered in the house of Ali Pasha in Ioannina and donated to the monastery by Helen Skandalaki in 1957. Additionally, a chapel contains the icon of the Visitation, which is associated with a miracle that occurred in 1940 (see the history section below).

Renowned for their hospitality, the monks offer overnight accommodation to all visitors. Many locals reside here throughout the summer, enjoying the basic amenities (kitchen, water, bath, etc.) provided in the monastery’s small guest rooms. The monastery complex also features a welcome room, a refectory, a library, a small museum, and the monks’ cells.

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