Hania Province

The wonderful mountaintop ruins of the ancient city of Polyrrinia lie about 7km south of Kissamos (Kastelli), above the village of the same name. Sea, mountain and valley views from this defensible spire are stunning and the region is blanketed with wildflowers in spring. The site's most impressive feature is the acropolis, built by the Byzantines and Venetians. There’s also a church built on the foundations of a Hellenistic temple from the 4th century BC.

When you arrive in town there's an information board; take the path to the right and follow the acropolis signs. There's a small information office–cafe staffed by volunteers before you head up. It's a 15-minute scramble up rocks and an overgrown path from town to the church, and from there another 20-minute climb to the acropolis.

Polyrrinia was founded by the Dorians in the 6th century BC and was constantly at war with the Kydonians from Hania. Coins from the period depict the warrior-goddess Athena, who was evidently revered by the warlike Polyrrinians.

Unlike their rivals the Kydonians, the Polyrrinians did not resist the Roman invasion and thus the city was spared destruction. It was the best-fortified town in Crete and the administrative centre of western Crete from the Roman through to the Byzantine period. The Venetians used it as a fortress. Many of the structures, including an aqueduct built by Hadrian, date from the Roman period. Near the aqueduct is a cave dedicated to the nymphs; it still contains the niches for nymph statuettes.

There is no public transport to the site.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Hania Province attractions

1. Voulgaro

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Idyllic Voulgaro is located 9km southeast of Kissamos (Kastelli) on the inland road towards Elafonisi. Its name (by allusion, ‘Bulgarian village’) is said…

2. Archaeological Museum of Kissamos

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In an imposing two-level Venetian-Turkish building on the main square, this museum presents locally excavated treasure, including statues, jewellery,…

3. Topolia Gorge

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4. Agia Sofia Cave

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5. Falasarna


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6. Sfinari

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7. Ancient Falasarna

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8. Kambos

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