Agios Ioannis (or Aspradiana) is a village, 17 km from Ierapetra, which is situated behind Kastrolakkos, at the foot of the mountain chain Afentis Christos. The village lies on a slope full of olive groves, just below a majestic rock that silently protects it.
The little houses stand firmly, each one close to or adjoining the other, and have been like that since the first inhabitants built them to protect themselves from the pirates who back then, plundered the shores of Crete. The villagers would have felt safe and secure in their refuge, 9 km away from the sea and at an altitude of more than 500 metres.
The exact date the village was established is not known. There are no signs or other testimonies that could give us a hint. Some people believe that it was built during the last two-three centuries. However, this cannot be verified.
From the archives which were left behind when the Ottoman Empire collapsed, as well as from the information collected by historians from the file of Venice it emerges that the village of Agios Ioannis existed well before 1500. During the population census carried out by the Duchy of Venice in 1583 the village had 157 residents, while during the Egyptian census conducted in 1834 there were 49 families living there.
In 1881 Agios Ioannis belonged to the municipality of Kato Chorio and numbered 341 residents. In 1928 the village formed a separate community which lasted until the recent reform (Kapodistrias reform) which changed the country’s administrative divisions. Since then, it has belonged to the municipal district of Ierapetra.
As far as it is known, the residents of Agios Ioannis have always been Christians of Greek origin. No Turkish people ever stayed in the village.
Agios Ioannis has a dry, cool climate, with fresh, clean air, factors which make staying here very comfortable and agreeable.
The rocky formations, the steep cliffs and the numerous caves form a distinctive landscape.
Kastri, Karfi, Kastrolakkos, Kavalaris, Long volakas and Strongyli (all local names) are some impressive geological fault formations that stand out and are visible from a great distance.
The Gorge of Milonas is a miracle of nature, where the powerful mechanics of water have formed steep cliffs and a deep gorge. If you have a vivid imagination, you may think that the narrow and deep chasm in the very heart of the rock was created by a mythological giant who, having nothing else to do, used his hatchet to tear the mountain in two.
The gorge is ideal for the visitors who seek thrills. You will be able to walk along the path that crosses the gorge and admire the rocky sculptures which nature has skillfully created throughout the centuries.
The picturesque valley of Psychro is another spectacular place of beauty. When your first step into this beautiful little stream which is surrounded by lush greenery, you feel as if you are being engulfed by magic. Crystal clear waters that come out from the very depths of the mountain flow into the main river which once moved the water mills that stood along the valley, covered in ivies.
The pine trees which cover the adjacent slopes, the centuries old plane trees that stand on the river bank, the myrtles and oleanders that blend harmoniously with the surrounding mountainous landscape, all present an idyllic picture of outstanding natural beauty.
In 1961 mechanical mills started to be used and as a result the water mills of Psychro ceased operation and became abandoned. In the years to come, the villagers gradually left the village to build new houses closer to the coast. There, they started working the land – in the open air at the beginning and then in greenhouses.
With the development of tourism and the construction of big hotels, the economy of the region grew and people turned to jobs associated with the provision of touristic services.
Some nice villages by the sea were built, like Koutsounari, Ferma and Agia Fotia.
The picturesque bays with the deep blue waters, the unspoilt, pristine beaches and the sandy shores create the perfect holiday destination providing both relaxation and calmness for the visitor.
If you are into sightseeing, we recommend that you visit the ancient fishpond in Vothonoi. It is sculptured into the sandstone at the end of the shore and is certainly a sight worth seeing
In the village, up in the mountain, one can admire the water channel that transfers fresh water from Psychro to Ierapetra, which was built by the Venetians, 800 years ago. It has withstood the test of time and stands today in its original shape and form, entirely unchanged, proof of the perfection of its design and construction.
Agios Ioannis is a place that has many things to offer: unique experiences and unforgettable adventures you will remember for a lifetime. An escape from all the problems of modern life, a true paradise on Earth which will stay in your heart forever.
Article : Municipal Community of Agios Ioannis
Translation : Christina Chrisoula, Margaret Bollan Haralambakis