The Oldest Monastery on Crete


Updated 05.12.2012

Perhaps the oldest monastery on Crete, Katholiko,
was founded around 1000-1100 AD and it at present
consists of several ruins at the foot of the cliff on the
north point of the Akrotiri Peninsula. Built up on the
hill is still an active monastery which has been built
much later. It is hardly ever open for public and the
strict dressing codes apply for those that even get
the rare opportunity to enter the monastery. The inner
yard of the monastery is very verdant and pretty.

The ancient Katholiko monastery

    In order to reach the ruins of the ancient monastery you have to leave your car to the parking place well before the new monastery. From the parking place you walk by the new monastery to the hillside where you find a few signs. The well kept and stony trail leads down to the waterfront and the first ruins are at the bottom of the valley by the trail (picture below).

More ruins are passed when you continue on the trail leading to the waterfront. The monastery was spread out on both sides of the gorge which opens to the sea. The ruins of the church dedicated to the founder of the monastery are up on the wall of the gorge. The church has been carved inside the rock (picture below).


   The steepening serpentine trail leads down to the shore and you need to be in good condition and have appropriate equipment in order to go the whole way to the shore and back. The ancient monastery is higher up the wall of the gorge (photo above), but also on the seashore there is marks from ancient buildings (below).

On the shore, in the end of Avlaki gorge, there is  remnants of old stone buildings. Be care because there is some points where only a thin layer of rock is is under your feets – you are several metres above the sea.

Katholiko was the governing monastery in the 14th century

The monastery which was founded by St. John the Hermit (Agios Ionnis Xenos) was carved into the rock of the mountain side. Many of the structures have remained intact. St. John lived and died in the gorge, and the gorge was named after him. The monastery got deserted and abandoned in the 17th century because of the constant attacks of the pirates.

Finding Katholiko

Katholiko is easy to find. Situated at the northern part of the cape of Chania, Katholiko is last in line of the three monasteries of the cape – Agia Triada, Gouveneto and Katholiko. The way to the monastery is well marked from the airport. The walking distance from the parking place is about two kilometres each way and includes steep slopes and stairs. The trail is well kept and stoned, reaching the shore requires good condition, and a water bottle is necessary in all cases.

Additional Information:

Book a HOTEL near Katholiko

Coordinates for Katholiko: 35°35’24.96″N 24° 8’45.60″E