Breathtaking view of the blue infinity of Aegean sea, over the olive trees-dotted hills, extensive vineyards, Cretan wild herbs and fresh air ... God Zeus knew what he is doing by choosing Mount Juktas as his final resting place. So did Minoans when erecting right here their fist ever peak sanctuary on Crete. The peak of Mount Juktas, referred to also as Sleeping Zeus mountain, is the most remarkable natural feature of central Crete. Throughout the millennia this sacred mountain has been a place of worship - first venerated by Minoans and than churchgoers. Erect high above the terrain of the island, it reveals an awe-inspiring panoramic view over Crete's North coast - there is no better place to enjoy that kind of grand sight anywhere within vicinity. Come along!
While enjoying the grand view, you feel the fresh air is scented with healing wild herbs - aroma of sideritis, oregano, thyme and sage. This is the right place to pick up your own mountain tea for a wonderful herbal fusion. The mount has an altitude of 811 m and its home to 360 species of plants (approximately ⅕ of Crete’s flora), some of which are endemic to Crete. One such example is Dittany (Dictamnus Oreganus) an endemic herb which grows in affluence on the sudden cliffs of the mountain. Along the Mt. Juktas trail, there are a large number of signs informing visitors on the names of aromatic and other plants in Latin, posted by the Archanes Centre for Environmental Education.
Crete is Zeus birthplace but it is also his resting place. Ancient authors believed the sacred, anthropomorphic Mount Juktas to be the tomb of Zeus. It has four sacred caves, one at each point of the horizon. In the Minoan period these were places of sacrifice, ceremonies and food storage.The Cretan Zeus was a deity who each year died a violent death and came to life again. He thus resembled closely the Egyptian Osiris who became Judge of the Dead. The shape of Mount Yuchtas when viewed from the west, reveals the profile of a bearded head reclining as in sleep or in death and represent the face of Zeus; right here, according to the myth, in the mountain lies his tomb. Following his death, God Zeus, legend states, was reborn annually in a springtime.
Since antiquity God Zeus as had many names, many faces and manifestations - "Zeus, god of vintage", "Zeus, god of sailors," "Bald Zeus", "Dark Zeus" (god of death and the underworld), "Zeus-Trophonios" (earth-god), "Zeus of thunder and rain", "Zeus, lord of flies", "Zeus, god of boundaries", "Zeus Soter", as well as the "Cretan Zeus".
A Greek Orthodox chapel is located about a kilometer south of the sanctuary along the ridge of the mountain. Every year, people from towns down in the plains below Mount Juktas bring flowers in procession to the chapel.
In the past Mount Juktas has also served as astronomical observation centre from which solstices, equinoxes, moon, sun and star movements could be observed.
Juktas Mount occupies a central place in the Cretan sacred landscape of Minoan times - it was the first Minoan sanctuaries on Crete and the most ancient peak sanctuary on Crete - appeared about 2100 or 2200 bc. Mont Juktas sanctuary is clearly linked to the palace at Knossos.
The Minoans clearly believed, in common with many other peoples in Africa, Asia and Europe, that deities lived on the mountain tops, or at least made appearances there. Religion played a major role during Minoan times, both in the towns and in the countryside. The Minoans worshiped in caves and on mountain peaks, where they dedicated clay figurines in ‘ash altars’.
Mount Juktas is also a place of mysterious ritual of Minoan period - a human sacrifice. The sacrifice ritual took place further down the slopes of Juktas at the small but significant site - Anemospilia (excavated in 1979). The sacrifice place of Anemospilia was built in the Middle Minoan IIB period (c. 1800-1700 BCE) and destroyed in the Middle Minoan III period (c. 1700-1600 BCE) by an earthquake (c. 1650 BCE), causing the entire building to crumble to the ground. Four human skeletons were discovered in the sanctuary, one of whom is believed to have been a human sacrifice.
There are many questions to the day but clearly - in the very moment the building collapsed, there was a group of people inside performing a ritual. Who knows, perhaps they were enacting a drastic ritual to prevent the very earthquake that interrupted and killed them.
Anemospilia is fenced off and closed to the public. There is very little to see except the foundations of three narrow rooms, overgrown with weeds. It is a place to visit and think about the story, to wonder whether the peace-loving Minoans actually committed such acts, rather than a place to marvel at what remains.
This breathtaking view feeds the soul - have a look at the terrain of Crete. Juktas is the main landmark, controlling the valleys of Pediada, Mesara and Temenos. Mount is also home to 40 species of birds, the most important being the griffon vulture, which uses the mountain as its nesting and mating ground.
It is also said that when the mythological Daedalus was imprisoned by King Minos in the Labyrinth at Knossos, he fashioned wings of feathers and wax with which to escape. He made two pairs, one for himself and one for his son Icarus. He warned Icarus that flying too near the sun would cause the was to melt and the wings to disintegrate, but Icarus did not heed this advice. He may have achieved the altitude of Mount Juktas before he came crashing down into the sea.
Like any place, Mount Juktas it comes to life through the storytelling and appreciation of history and mountains significance - there is so much more than the eye meets when travelling with a good storyteller.
Having traveled for over 30 years, since 6 years now, I have found the whole world in one of the most fascinating and unique places on earth – Crete. It is a diverse, rich and inspiring island which even after so many years does not stop surprising me - its rich history and unique traditions, its people, the delicacies of Cretan cuisine, its landspace and its stunning nature. Here I reveal some of its secrets.
I see Crete through turquoise - pink glasses.
Skip the group tours, leave your rental car at your hotel and ask Joseph to accompany you on a private tour to these great spots on Crete. We did "Mystic & Rustic Crete" and "Birth of Europe". If you are a first-time visitor he will suggest an itinerary and if you have special requests he will include those. Without Joseph we would not have known about the local culture or the history of the area nor would we have met and chatted with the local people... Read more
"A great tour and experience"We spent a full day with Joseph visiting Chania, Rethymnon and an olive oil farm and we had a great time. Crete is huge so you have to make choices unless you spend a week there. We arranged this tour with Joseph discussing our options and time. Joseph was very flexible with the itinerary allowing us to customize our tour and experience the highlights of some very nice towns. Joseph was very knowledgeable and answered every question. We would definitely use Joseph again to visit the other parts of Crete that we could not get to in this visit.
"Crete showed by Joseph is unique"The experience with Joseph showing us around Crete was absolutely unique. He is Greek and speak very good Hebrew. I don't think we would had seen and experienced half of what we did with him if we'd be on our own. He told us a lot of interesting stories about the Lassithi plateau and the area. His effortless ability to chat up with locals and involve us into conversation (with some translation, of course) was amazing. Funny enough these encounters led to further invitations (for a coffee and local drink - raki). Later on, he took us to an absolutely authentic tavern in a mountain village...
"The secrets never die" Das erste Mal haben wir Joseph Batis mit einer kleinen Gruppe in Chania in einer Fischtaverne kennengelernt. Er sprach Deutsch, Hebräisch, Englisch, Griechisch und soweit ich es richtig vernommen habe auch Spanisch. Ich habe die Gelegenheit genutzt ihn über unsere Ausflugsziele zu befragen. Seine Hinweise und seine Kenntnis haben uns in die Welt von Kreta innerhalb kurzer Zeit eingewiesen. Wir haben Joseph für einen Tag engagieren können um uns zu begleiten. Joseph hat über 30 Jahre in Deutschland gelebt. Seit Jahren führt er private Reisetouren auf Kreta...
יוסי מסיורים בכרתים ויוון, הוא מדריך.... מקצוען, בעל יידע נרחב איש לבבי וסימפטי, טיילנו בשנה שעברה... היה פשוט מדהים כיף... כיף... כיף... ממליץ בחום למי שמגיע לכרתים ויוון להשתמש בשרותיו המעולים. תודה יוסי על הסיורים ,האוכל, הטברנות, היה תענוג גדול ! ! ! מאתנו: אורי אילש, אלי גנט, יגאל גרינשטיין, נטלי גרינשטיין, אור גרינשטיין
כל מי שעתיד לנסוע לכרתים או ליוון, אני חייב להמליץ על חבר יקר, מדריך מעולה, אדם חביב ונעים הליכות שידריך אתכם בכרתים בעברית, אנגלית וגרמנית, מה שתבחרו.... ל- Joseph Batis אתר בו תוכלו להציץ במה שיש לו להציע לכם כולל תכנון הטיול ומלונות וכו' הציון שנתנו לו 10+ שווה מאוד... ביקרנו במקומות שבחיים לא הגענו אליהם בכרתים ! לחצו על השם וכנסו לאתר ! בהצלחה.