Monastery Koudoumas is the most visited of the south Heraklion prefecture.
Monastery Koudoumas of the Virgin Mary lies to the west of the Aspes or Martelos headland, hidden, partly built inside a cave, has been successfully renovated.
Monastery Koudoumas is a virgin area of Crete. You can visit it either from Kapetaniana or from Sternes village. From Kapetaniana you may walk (or drive if you have a genuine 4×4 car) down to Agios Ioannis (2 hrs). When you get to the village, ask them to show you the way to Agios Ioannis church; it is a church built inside a cave and there are some spectacular wall-paintings. From the village you may follow the path to Monastery Koudoumas (1hr 30 min). Thirty minutes before the monastery there is the cave of Agios Antonios with a church built inside.
From Monastery Koudoumas you may either return the same way or walk up the road (it is the road coming from Sternes) to Mt Kofinas and Kapetaniana (about 4 -5 hrs). This road is much better than the road from Kapetaniana to Agios Ioannis but still in need for a proper 4wd vehicle. It is a really scenic route as the road is steeply descending from 1000 m to sea-level, through woods of pine trees.
Another approach to Monastery Koudoumas is driving from Kapetaniana to Mt Kofinas and then turn the first turn right. If you go this way then you may reach Agios Ioannis by feet. Another great place is Psili Ammos. The beach is sandy and the sand is thin-like dust, the place is used from naturists mostly!
Koudoumas, or more properly Monastery Koudoumas (Moni Koudouma in Greek), is located in south Crete, on the south coast of Heraklion Prefecture. It is 2 hours’ drive from Heraklion=75 kilometres of distance by car. The last 22 km are along an accessible dirt road which starts at the village of Sternes, climbs Kofinas mountain and then descends from 800-900 metres to Koudoumas Monastery at sea level.
Koudoumas Monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, whose feast-day is celebrated on 15 August, when crowds of people descend on the monastery the previous day and stay overnight in the guestrooms and on the beach.
Another great festival of Monastery Koudoumas is on 10 July, the feast-day of Saints Eumenios and Parthenios, the monks who have been founded prior to the 14th century, judging from the mural surviving in the katholikon. It was then deserted and began operating again thanks to the efforts of Ossios Parthenios and Ossios Evmenios, who rebuilt the monastery in the late 19th to the early 20th century.
How to get to Monastery Koudoumas
From Heraklion, drive new national road Heraklion-Arvi, pass through Peza – Archanes and continue to the village of Charakas, then direction to village of Sternes, a rental car is needed.
The dirt road to Koudoumas Monastery starts from the village of Sternes. At first it climbs the slope of Mt Kofinas, through a rough landscape of dust and rocks, there is no danger of losing the path. The route is not difficult, but the constant bends make it a difficult drive.
1 hour and 20minutes drive from Sternes far is “Katarraktis” Gorge and Monastery Koudoumas. Leave your car in the spacious car park outside the monastery, it is easy and has space for some cars.
Koudoumas Monastery is the only seaside monastery in Crete, a place where monks suffered in past but also enjoyed the beauty of nature.
You can hire a Taxi and drive there-the problem is the Taxi driver may refuse driving the dirt road, so you may need to walk long to reach the place.
There is a bus that drives to Sternes and Kapetaniana, you can get off the bus at the point you think you should so there will be an easy walk to the Monastery Koudoumas.
Activities to do:
Koudoumas beach is free camping place.The most famous is hiking through the paths until paths ends on the beach.
Most visitors enjoy swimming with clear water without needing to pay for beach umbrellas, there is no mobile signal-you will feel like being in paradise!
Some people do fishing with great success, the Libyan sea has plenty of fishes for those who try and get their meal from the sea!
Where to stay -Monastery Koudoumas:
You can also try to find an empty cave on the beach for shade mostly, there you could sleep and spend as many days as you wish, some caves are “captured” from tourists or locals who know the meaning of sleeping in nature!
If you like hiking, you can take a different, longer path to St Anthony’s Cave. The path starts at the small bridge at the entrance to the monastery. It is 1.5 hours’ walk to the cave with its stalactites and the small chapel inside.
Inside the cave is a small chapel and basins which fill with the water that drips from the stalactites. This is considered holy water. If you continue past St Anthony’s Cave, you will come to the deserted beach of Elygia and then to the seaside village of Agios Ioannis.
There are some houses BnB that could stay close by in Sternes village or in Kapetaniana village which has a real hotel-room to stay called “Korifi.de”-or- “Pension Kofinas“ This room is built from an Austrian family who are called Gunnar and Luisa, they offer climbing activities with their children and walking tours around the mountains of Asterousia and Kapetaniana village.
ACCOMODATION in one of the most beautiful villages in the mountains of Crete, CRETAN NATURAL PRODUCTS, WEAVING LESSONS and HIKING and CLIMBING VACATIONS on the island of Crete