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.