Small settlements, hamlets and villages were once the lifeblood of Cretan life. Often laced into the Cretan annuals of history for a variety of historical reasons more recent decades have seen the island's villages slowly wilt in the high season sun as younger generation have quickly left their ancestral homes for the metropolis in search of career opportunities and a cosmopolitan life.
This 'drain' away from the villages of Crete is certainly not terminal for them all and some remain bustling with rural industry & almost entirely self sufficient centres of life for their local region, but those within striking distance of the island's large towns have found their fortunes often limited to weekends when city dwellers head back to their roots to spend time with family or feast at the village tavernas that often offer the very best in local Cretan cuisine.
So step forward Ano Asites.
Just 24km (or 15 miles) from Crete's capital Heraklion and 6km from it's larger village sibling Agios Myron the picturesque settlement of approximately 400 inhabitants you won't be surprised to discover is steeped in ancient and modern local history.
Some archaeologists suggest the Ancient town of Panona formerly inhabited this land and around the village Roman ruins can be found amongst the stunning backdrop of the Psiloritis mountains. As Mount Ida hurtles toward the skies the countryside around Ano Asites is lush, green and inspirational. and just to the south of the village Agios Charalambos Gorge makes for a stunning walk with it's little church of Saint Charalambos nestled into the rock to help you on your way with a shady stop to light a candle and contemplate.
Ano Asites features everything you'd dream of in a traditional Cretan village.... narrow winding streets and welcoming houses with open doors, a pretty village square and of course (and what makes Crete unique) the legendary warmest of open arms welcomes that you could ever wish for.
Ano Asites ticks many of your Cretan village 'must have' boxes but in truth so do many of these pretty hamlets dotted all over the island so what is it about this place that makes it stand out and worth a visit?
Well the answer is.... imagination and creation.
The people of Ano Asites are in my opinion lucky souls. Their environment is idyllic yet not a million miles from what us city dwellers ignorantly call civilisation (I know) yet their community is something completely separate from the hot and dusty streets of Heraklion.
So the good people of Ano Asites formed a cultural group and had heard about a project in 'the nearby smoke' that was breathing new life into the downtrodden and largely abandoned city district of Lakkos. Art was reviving the area of Heraklion's fortunes and the man at the heart of this initiative was artist Mathew Halpin. Halpin by chance had secretly been harbouring desires to find the right Cretan village to form a base for inspirational work so the contact was welcomed and having spent some time immersed in the environment and people of Ano Asites the match was made and a new cultural project was commenced in this Cretan rural paradise.
There are many aspects to this cultural project that make it truly special and something worth taking time during your trip to Crete to explore. Taking the short drive to the village from the major resorts along the beaches of the northern coast is highly recommended however Ano Asites and it's injection of art and creation offers so much more because you can also become a part of this most recent chapter in the historic villages history.
An artists residency has been formed in the settlement with 4 bedrooms that are reasonably priced and afford the opportunity of a base for creation both in a personal sense and moreover to empower you to impart your artistic juices into the very fabric of the village. The cultural group that spearhead this initiative are passionate about keeping the art in the village created with traditional pigments however as our gallery shows the works within the narrow streets of Ano Asites are an injection of artists from worldwide origin and the invitation remains open for others to visit and create. Of course there is planning involved along with forethought so to get involved contact the artists residency through the link within this piece below and if you'd like to add your mind's eye to this project they would be delighted to hear from you.
As this cultural explosion in Ano Asites grows the fusion of an inspiring setting, warm and welcoming people and the narrow streets bursting with art makes this village a place we'd highly recommend paying a visit to whilst enjoying your stay on the island of Crete. It's a stunning village with a breath-taking backdrop and the addition of inspirational art makes for something fresh, exiting and stimulating.
The villages kafeneio (complete with art too) will provide refreshment and the Roman ruins interspersed around the village, gorge, folklore museum & traditional bell making factory make this a full day of immersion into Cretan rural life.... with a splash of colour!
2020's seismic shifts in all of our lifestyles do make me ponder on whether village life will become and feasible and a desired choice once again for more young Cretans, but one thing is for sure, Ano Asites is somewhere exciting and happening right now before our very eyes.
The people of Ano Asites are as warm and welcoming as you could hope to imagine for and their innovation reminds people not only of it's very existence but it's relevance to Cretan fabric. Go... explore and immerse and you will not regret your beautiful day in Ano Asites.
To learn more about the village of Ano Asites or to make contact with the artists residency within the village here are the links that you'll need:
Huge thanks to Mathew Halpin & Spiros Liasites for their assistance in the creation of this piece & for their love and dedication to this stunning cultural project in this wonderful Cretan place.
Enjoy our gallery & videos of beautiful Ano Asites below and do take a trip to this most lovely and creative village while on the island of Crete....
Photos of Crete bring you our unbiased and honest guides to the island of Crete, Greece. We've had a connection to the island for over 30 years and we have called on our own personal experiences to bring you what we think is important and our opinions on how to get the best from your stay as we write guides about each and every aspect of visiting the largest of the Greek islands... Crete. We have a SHOP and we also offer PROPERTY CONSULTANCY & MANAGEMENT within Crete so don't forget to take a look and have a wander about the entire PHOTOS OF CRETE SITE. Thanks for reading.
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