Just 11 km from the valley of Aspros Potamos & Natura cottages you find this historic large village of Lasithi, renowned for its 24 churches and the festivals in memory of its Saints that take place during the whole year. It is built at an altitude of 313 meters, at a very important location among the other villages of the area and this is something that played a major role in its future development.
Its name derives from a variation of the older name, which was Stravodoxari and probably referred to the crooked (stravo in Greek) bow (doxari in Greek) of the lyre of a legendary musician of the village, as many people believe; however, there are more explanations for the name. Some claim that its first name was because the village, when seen from a long distance, looked like a crooked bow, while it has been also mentioned that the first settler of the village after the liberation of Crete by Nikephoros Phokas in 1961, was named Stravodoxaris.
The picturesque narrow alleys of the village intersect at the picturesque small square at the center of the village. There, at the place where now most of the coffeehouses are, used to be the watchtower of the village, which formed part of a whole series of more of them that would spread up to the sea at every 300 meters, in order to warn the residents about the attacks of the conquerors- signs of its hectic history.
The numerous churches and chapels, 24, are of great interest in the area. The festivals that take place in the memory of Saints during the whole year attract the locals back to their village; the most popular festival is the one that takes place at the Monastery of Panagia Lygia on the 15th of August. The picturesque church of Saint Konstantinos, on the south of the village, stands out as it is built next to waterfall that keeps running during the whole year, creating thus pictures of rare beauty.
Stavrochori was also the birthplace of violinist Stravogiannios, one of the most important musicians in Crete with a great contribution to the special musical tradition of Lasithi.
The local community of Stavrochori also includes Tsikkalaria, a dependency of the area, the name of which derives from the construction of crocks (tsikali in Greek), but it is now abandoned and in the wider area luxurious buildings have been constructed aiming at the touristic exploitation.
This village (420m altitude) is just 7 Km from the valley of Aspros Potamos & Natura Cottages, as you go out of the premises of Natura Cottages you find the hiking trail of Pefki Gorge that takes you up to the village.
The village is situated on a small road which runs from Agios Stefanos to Stavrohori; it can also be reached by a side road (about 6 km) which turns inland from the main Sitia lerapetra road at the rise at Makrigialos. A quite big part of this road passes through the “Pefkiano” gorge, a wonderful landscape with plenty of pine trees.
A little before Pefki we have a panoramic view of that typical traditional Cretan village. It is built with narrow paved streets and old stone built house. A small folklore museum provides information on the history and the day to day life of the village. The name is clearly derived from the pine trees that cover this area (pefki : pine trees). It was not mentioned in Castrofylaca’s 1583 census. Above Pefki, οn the peak Kastelopoulo, a small Late-Minoan building has been located; this was perhaps a watchtower or beacon.
Walkers on their way to the coast through Pefki Gorge, enjoy the natural beauties of the place, the sun, fresh and full of aroma air of countryside, the mountains and the sea. Beginning from the village, they pass through the olive groves and they pass from the abandoned ‘Ilias’ watermill’ as it is known today. After the watermill, follows the attractive and scenery path. Its length of the Gorge is about 1000 m, width is an average of 90 m and depth from 10 to 120 m. It is full of pines, platens, locusts, hollies and other forestall plants.
Just 9 km from the valley of Aspros potamos & Natura cottages you find this is village and community of the Municipality of Sitia, in eastern Crete. The village consists of two settlements, Epano and Kato Perivolakia. Near Kato Perivolakia is the small village of Pezoulas. Pano Perivolakia is now uninhabited after the establishment of the new settlement, but it has kept its traditional image intact, while Kato Perivolakia, according to the 2011 census, had 21 inhabitants.
They are built at an altitude of 340 meters at a distance of 37 kilometers from Sitia. From the village begins the gorge of Pervolakia or gorge Kapsa. The gorge is about 4.5 km long and is characterized by its steep walls with a lack of vegetation. The gorge ends at the beach near the Kapsa Monastery. It has joined the Natura 2000 network and is of great interest.
Just 18 km from the valley of Aspros Potamos & Natura cottages you find Orino. This is one of the most westerly vίllages of the Sitia District towards the border shared with the District of Lerapetra. It is about 11 km inland from the main Sitia – lerapetra road, and is reached by a side-road that branches off at the church of Ayios Panteleimonos a little beyond Koutsouras.
Orino is a picturesque village with a magnificent view and rich vegetation. It is surrounded by a pine-tree forest and at the south of the village is the big butterfly or Orino Gorge. The route starts at the sea end, just 1km west of the village of Koutsouras, where there is a small car park set amongst the pine trees.
Along the route, there are red marks or yellow signs indicating the path. At the end of the route, close to Orino village, there are some small springs and waterfalls, which do not have water during summer months. However, in winter (December-March), the hiking in the gorge gets quite difficult.
The village is up in the mountains at 640 m altitude and the name itself means «mountainous». It is a picturesque village with a magnificent view and rich vegetation. It is surrounded by a pine-tree forest and at the south of the village is the big Butterfly gorge. The local people contract the name to Orno, and it was listed thus in the 1583 Venetian census with 217 inhabitants.
Near the entrance, on the right there is a hall, while the great hall starts at a lower level. Southeast of the chamber there is a large stalagmite complex. Also, there are some buildings. A smaller hall is located on the northwest side. While moving inside the cave, the visitor enters the great hall with the largest part of it being covered by solid rock and large stalagmites. In the second part of the cave, there is a large and very spectacular stalactite, called as the “mantle of Zeus”.
In the Early-Christian church of the Transfiguration (Metamorphoseos tou Sotiros), these used to be an inscription on the lintel – «Α General of Byzantium came here». The church of Agios Dimitrios, which also has frescoes, belongs to the 12th century AD.
In the village Orino there are old houses with walnut trees, bunches of grapes, flowers and fruit trees. In the summer a small river flows through the village and there are hiking trails to explore. For those who just want to make a short stop in the village, there is a kafenion where you can order a drink or a small bite to eat.
Just 6 km from the valley of Aspros potamos & Natura cottages you find The village of Agios Stefanos (or Gra) in Sitia province on a high hill. Above the village there is a rock that is called Kastellos or Fortezza, atop of which there are the ruins of a Venetian fortress.
The fort was probably built in the 16th century on the ruins of an ancient acropolis.
The rock is naturally fortified as its surrounding edges have vertical cliffs, except the south side which is accessible. Today, only a narrow wall on the south side, 30m long and 2m high, and a small part of a tower remain.