19 km east of Chania or Hania, Crete.
The cave is between the Kyverneion Monastery (in Latin Gouverneto) and the Katholikó monastery. Akrotiri peninsula.
All year daily 9-14, 17-20.
Gouvernéto Cave: no restrictiosn.
Gouvernéto Cave: free.
|Dimension:||A=800 m asl, L=300 m.|
|Guided tours:||self guided|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|1548||monastry Gouvernéto founded.|
This area is riddled with caves, and so numerous caves can be visited around the monastery Gouvernéto. The monastery can be reached on a paved road, but it is a little tricky. The nearest town is Chorafakia and you take the main road to Kalorrouma. After 2.2 km turn left on a smaller road, after 300 m keep right, then left. Through olive trees you reach a farm named Koumares, go on up the hill to the modern monastery Moni Kirias ton Aggelon Agiou Ioannou Erimitou Gouvernetou (Gouverneto Monastery). Here the road ends and you have to walk, from the parking lot follow the trail to the monastery Katholikó for 15 minutes or 700 m, you reach ruins where the Gouvernéto Cave is located.
The biggest cave of the area is the Gouvernéto Cave, named after the monastery. It is also called Bears' Cave, but not because of bear bones in the cave, which is quite exceptional. A 2.5 m high stalagmite in the middle of the cave resembles a sitting bear. The "bear" bends down to the water of a small artificial cave lake. The water is cool and refreshing, but it is not potable. According to legend, the bear was turned into stone by Virgin Mary.
At the entrance of the cave is a small cave chapel. This is the place of an Artemis temple, used for worship during the Bronze Age. Inscriptions featuring Apollo and Artemis were also found in the cave. Artemis is sometimes called Arkoudothea (bear-goodness). Later the cave chapel was built at the same place, which is dedicated to Panagia Arkudiotissa (Virgin Mary of the Bear).
But Gouvernéto Cave is not the Spilia Ag Ioánnis Erimitis, which is 30 minutes down the trail at the monastery Katholikó.
At the northern tip of the Akrotiri peninsula, Spileo Arkoudas is on the path that goes from the Gouverneto Monastery to the Katholiko Monastry. The chapel, dedicated to the Virgin, is inside the cave. At the rear of the cave there is a grey bear-shaped stalagmite with a water cistern and a spring in front of it. Local legend has it that the Virgin Mary turned the bear to stone after she caught it drinking the monks' water. Archaeologists claim that in antiquity the cave was a shrine to Artemis, who was transformed into the shape of a bear.
On the first day of February local people come in the evening for a church service and to meet in the cave afterwards to celebrate with food and wine.
Text by Tony Oldham (2002). With kind permission.