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Zaros - lush forests, fantastic views and one of the healthiest springs in Europe

The pretty mountain village Zaros, located the southern flank of Psiloritis (Mt Idi), is famous for its spring water and the gorge of Rouvas. The name Zaros comes from the two ancient Greek words "Za" and "Rous" meaning "much water flow'.

It is surrounded by lush, green nature and numerous springs. The spring water has even been tested as one of the best drinking water in Europe. It will be bottled from there and you can buy it all over Greece. Many locals, but also tourists fill it up directly from the small village fountains. From Zaros you can enjoy a magnificent view over the entire Messara plain and you have a cooler, very pleasant climate even in summer. For this reason it is very popular for tourists to spend their holidays in and nearby Zaros. 

Have a walk through the narrow alleys of the village where you will have the opportunity to admire the traditional, local architecture and chapel of Agia Kiriaki (St. Kiriaki) which is located next to the church museum. Further down in lower Zaros, you will come across one of the village’s ten watermills (up until today two of the ten have been preserved and are open to visiting).

When you drive past Zaros village look for the sign "lake" on the right hand side and follow the small road to the lake of Zaros, which is a nice place for some rest. On your way to the lake there are a couple of taverns serving trout and salmon fish. The pretty Lake Votomos in Zaros, surrounded by olive trees and carob trees makes the perfect picnic setting with ducks and geese to feed.

There's also the newly built Fragma or dam and reservoir found below Kato Zaros which has attracted many water birds including hundreds of coots and moorhens. It is quite a spectacular site as the water has covered a valley that was filled with olive trees, almond trees and even an old Byzantine church. You can still see the tops of olive trees growing in the water!

The lake is the starting point of the path leading to Rouvas gorge, one of the prettier places in Crete. Twenty minutes past the lake there is the monastery of Agios Nikolaos. On the way to the monastery you get the aroma of the local herbs like thyme, sage, oregano, depending of course on the season. The path ascends past the monastery and soon you enter the gorge of Rouvas, the length of the route from the lake to the forest is 5 kilometres and requires about 2,5 hours when hiking uphill and 1,5 hours when hiking downhill.

Experience a piece of history

The lyre is a typical Cretan instrument with a long history. Nowadays there are hardly any artists who master this instrument by hand. There is even only one in Crete. The instrument maker Antonios Stefanakis. His shop is located in the center of Zaros. You can visit him at any time and he will spoil you with many beautiful stories. Sometimes he even offers workshops and of course you can also buy the handmade instruments from him.

Just opposite the instrument maker Antonios Stefanakis is a shop that used to be an old weaving mill. A typical Cretan loom from ancient times can be found in the shop and is often admired by tourists.