Lissos is an ancient city in southwest Crete, near the small village of Sougia. It is the second most important ancient site in Crete, taking into consideration the number of sculptures found by archaeologists, after Gortyna, which was the Roman capital of Crete. Its findings are exhibited in two separate museums in Crete; the Archaeological Museum of Chania, and the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
Lissos has been an autonomous ancient town in Crete constituted since at least the Classical era, but with certified surface traces of habitation (pottery fragments) already since the Minoan times. Its peak goes with the one of the most Cretan towns of the Hellenistic era )323 – 46 B.C). It is then reported as a member and seat (with a special gold coinage) of the Oreioi (a political coalition or federation of ancient towns as the geographical unity of modern East Selino district). This federation was allied to Gortyna and played an important role in state relations of the time. Between 279 0 274 B.C. Lissos signed an alliance treaty with Magas, the deputy of Cyrene, brother of Ptolemy II Philadelphus an inscription kelp safe at Lissos. From the conditions of this treaty and the presence of cyrenaic didrachma in coin treasures of the area it is ensued that the federation sent mercenary troops to help Mega’s operations.
According to the coins, the divinity mainly adored was Dictynna, though its temple has not yet been recovered. The spring of healing water, as well as the foundation of the sanctuary of Asklepios (3rr c. B.C.) brought to light by the excavation of N. Platon in 1957 – 1960, made it a reputed sanctuary of the Greek world.
The sanctuary of Asklepios, the God of Healing, contained not only a temple and sacred area but also special rooms for treatment, healing and resting, since the water of Lissos was considered to have medicinal qualities, and it was frequently used to cure many illnesses.
As at other Asklepios sanctuaries (for instance at Epidauros and Corinth on the Peoloponnese), there were hostels for the pilgrims to stay overnight.
Habitation at Lissos ceased during the late antiquity (the early Christian era). In the 7th or 9th c. A.D. though it seems completely destroyed, never to be inhabited again. Still the religious character of the site has been preserved until the Byzantine period (churches of the Virgin Mary, of Haghios Kerekos) and to-day (fete of H. Kerekos).
Except for the excavated sanctuary, plenty of ruins of public buildings, mainly of the Roman period, are sown all over the valley. On this basis the topography of the ancient town may be drafted as follows:
The town is arranged on the basis of the relief of the site and valley with the torrent that cuts its across. On the left hand side of the visitor, after the harbor, the necropolis is located. On the right hand side lays the residential area, while the public operations of the town (mainly the Agora) should be sought in the middle, next to the harbor established. No trace of fortification is preserved as the town, a reputed religious centre, was in no such need. Ruins of the towers of the surrounding summits. No certain traces of the roads or ancient paths have been detected. The archaeological site of Lissos is for its greatest part expropriated by the Ministry of Culture.
The temple of Asklepios:
It was excavated by Prof. N. Platon during the years 1957 – 1961. It had been crushed by enormous rocks that tumbled down from higher, probably because of a strong earthquake. They turned the small Doric building into ruins, thus sealing its content a wonderful collection of Hellenistic sculptures, offerings of the worshippers whose names were engraved on their bases, as well as the statue of god Asklepius himself. An elegant edifice of the Hellenistic period (3d c. B.C.) made of large carved blocks, the temple was well adapted to the rocky landscape; it was entered from east and had a colonnade on the south side. Its entablature bore triglyphs and plain metope panels and the pediments were decorated with relief shields. Hellenistic honorary (“proxeny”) decrees are built in its entrance, while another inscription dedicated to Emperor Tiberius has been discovered among the fallen inscribed stone fragments. Together with a mosaic floor added during the Roman times they witness along-lasting flourishment of the sanctuary. During the early Christian period an attempt to purify the temple has been made (signs of the cross were engraved on the masonsy). A monumental staircase leads to the temple, on the right side of which lies the fountain where the healing water of the ancient source gushes out.
Main Source: Ministry of Culture and Tourism
Description of the Walk
Lissos is a very beautiful and peaceful place with interesting remains of ancient civilization. It is worth spending a while exploring Lissos and soaking up its incredibly peaceful atmosphere.
The walk to Lissos is the most popular walk for people staying in Sougia, is relatively easy and does not take too long as it is about 90 minutes each way.
Before you start hiking through Lissos Gorge you should make sure that you have a good pair of hiking shoes or sneakers, as it is necessary for the rugged terrain of the gorge.
Note that nobody lives in Lissos, so it would be suggested to take a picnic with you. We would also recommend you take a bottle of water, a hat, and sunscreen for sun protection.
The entrance of Lissos Gorge is right next to Sougia harbor. A sign points towards the start of the walk.
Whilst passing there, observe the ancient water line which is clearly visible on the cliff about 7 meters above the present sea level. This sudden elevation happened about 1500 years ago in western Crete.
Press on the "boots" for details
At the beginning of the gorge, there is a rock in the middle of the trail, but you can easily bypass it. The gorge goes uphill, but the ascent is not difficult, especially at the beginning. Along the path there are numerous pine trees which provide the precious shade needed during the hot summer months.
Having walked for about half an hour through Lissos gorge, you come across an impressive, characteristic rock. The locals use this rock as a marker as nearly 10 minutes further on, the path splits in two: the path to the right which continues through Lissos Gorge, and the one that branches to the left and goes uphill. This path leads to the now deserted ancient city of Lissos. Turn left at this point if you wish to visit Lissos.
This path up the hills leads through old pine trees to a treeless plateau with great views all around. After ten more minutes walking straight towards the west, you will reach a steep drop with a beautiful view facing Lissos.
Afterwards, the path takes you down into the valley, only a few meters away from the Asclepion temple.
When you decide to go back to Sougia use the same path. Make a note of where it starts so that you can find it easily.
A little bit of History first!