Chania Vamos

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General information

Although Vamos is only 20 kilometers southeast of Chania Town, the village remains untouched by tourism and presents a classic example of an authentic Cretan village with traditional stone houses and cobblestone-paved streets.

The village’s name has an unknown origin, with some linguists suggesting a Pre-Greek origin, while others suggest that the settlement was founded by the Arabs in the 9th century and gave it its name. It is first properly attested in a Venetian census from 1573, and is known to have been an important location for the Ottomans during their control over the island, due to its central position in the surrounding highlands, with Savva Pasha naming it as the capital of the sanjak of Sfakia. Many of the houses built in this time, especially those belonging to those of a higher class, are still standing today, discernible by their two-story structure.

The village is surrounded by a rich scenery of hills and greenery, offering plenty of natural beauty on the way to surrounding villages. At the same time, within its limits, one can appreciate the old architecture that managed to avoid Venetian influence, as well as the cobblestone streets that still survive to the west of the village center, the old boys’ and girls’ schools, and the churches of Saint George and Saint Nicholas.

Special mention must be made of the village’s hinterland to the south. This is the site of the abandoned village of Karydes, which houses some heartbreaking relics of the past. The main attraction here is the 13th-century monastery dedicated to Saint George. In 1829, the monks were granted a license to produce olive oil, which led to the establishment of an imposing olive press in 1869. However, the monastery would be abandoned by the end of the century, with its olive press falling into disrepair, before renovation was undertaken in 1996. Today, the olive press’ 12 arches and four olive mills remain, although the roof has caved in and the millstones have been removed.
Another surviving building at Karydes is the Venetian manor, which would have been the home of the local lord, who oversaw extensive agricultural production in the surrounding fertile lands. The manor still stands in good condition, preserving its mannerist architectural elements and preserving the center of an otherwise lost settlement.
Slightly to the west, one can find the monastery of the Virgin Mary at Katomeri, which also dates to the 13th century, with its frescos surviving from 1290. The chapel survives in pretty good condition, although the auxiliary buildings and living quarters have fallen into ruin.

To the west of Vamos lies the settlement of Mamouniana, with the recent church of Saint Paraskevi to its south, with an intriguing mosaic in its courtyard. From here, a dirt road winding through a small oak tree grove leads up the hill. Halfway along the trail one can find a miniscule chapel consecrated to the Virgin Mary, surrounded by very tall, old trees, and a small cavern next to the entrance, where icons and a candle are kept. It is said that a local villager built the chapel after a vision of the Virgin in his dream directed him to dig in the cavern where he found an icon, which bore a smokey black color. Hence, the chapel is known as Mavri Panagia, or Black Madonna.
At the top of the hill stand the ruins of the Koules of Vamos, which was once the main fortification of the area. Built here, at an altitude of 260 meters , due to its wide view of the valley to the south, today only some of its foundations and walls remain. Even the path up here, beyond the chapel of the Black Madonna, has faded away over time.

In the southern limits of the settlement of Vamos, where the high school stands today, Sava Pasha had built an administrative building and a barracks, following the 1866 rebellion in Crete. Both of these structures were burnt to the ground during another rebellion, 30 years later, when the Siege of Vamos saw the death of 200 Ottoman soldiers and the absolute destruction of these structures.

Vamos Map

Explore our interactive map of Vamos.


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