Agia Galini is a lovely place to be. A real gem, one of the most beautiful pearls on the South coast of Crete. A picturesque and friendly Harbour village easily reached by bus, taxi or (rented) car, only a one and a half hour drive from Heraklion or two from Chania. Cretan hospitality, culture and lifestyle mixed happily with a laid-back holiday atmosphere. Enjoy your stay in a variety of accommodations and taste the broad Mediterranean diversity of taverns, restaurants and bars. Have a relaxing walk in the beautiful hills, make a lovely boat trip, go for a healthy bicycle tour. Maybe you would prefer a refreshing swim or enjoy other water-sports in the Azure blue Libyan sea… Yes, this is Southern Crete!
The village of Agia Galini (Αγια Γαλήνη meaning Holy Peace), has great scenery. Be impressed by the high cliffs, colourful Bougainville steps covered with flowers (sometimes very steep up- hill) and the Platis River flowing to sea with a backdrop of the snow-covered Idi Mountains. It is a charming fisherman’s village that also used to have a thriving timber and olive-oil trade with a soap factory until it changed to mainly tourism in the seventies of the last century. The houses are built amphitheatrically on the surrounding hills, overlooking the harbour. The seawater plays magically with the rays of the sun in several caves along the coast…
Agia Galini is a very family friendly place; apart from one main road the entire village is free of cars. The main road is not a thoroughfare; it leads only to the harbour. Besides lots of good restaurants and plenty of cosy bars with terraces, Agia Galini has all amenities like souvenir shops, clothing stores, jewellery shops, supermarkets, fruit and vegetables shops, two bakeries, a pastry shop, a laundry, a hairdresser, two masseurs, a fishmonger, a butcher, three car rental companies, a tour organization and two ATM machines to withdraw cash. Every summer season on National Holidays, “The Cultural Association of Agia Galini” organises several events in the harbour, like “The Fishermen’s feast” in June, “Folklore dancing with traditional Lyra music” in July and the grand “Popular Greek Music” concerts round the second week of August.
Due to its central position on the Island, Agia Galini is the perfect base to explore the South Coast of the Island, which has a wide variety of ancient sites, pretty villages, wonderful nature and a rich culture. Take for instance the well-known ancient Greek sites of Phaestos (Festos), Agia Triada and Gortyn. There are plenty of beautiful small towns to visit in the vicinity, like Vori, which has an amazing museum of Cretan Ethnology or Spili, well known for the 25 fountains in the village square each one in the shape of a lion's head. We should also mention the various monasteries like Preveli situated in an imposing landscape or the Monastery of Arkadi, a fortress-like building from the Venetian period.
Agia Galini has a pleasant sandy/pebble beach but if you want to venture out a bit more there are several wonderful beaches within driving range. We invite you to visit our page of nearby beaches or our photo gallery but of course that can be no substitute for being touched by the real place, the real people. Come and see for yourself, you will come again and lose your heart to this beautiful place.
In ancient Minoan times (circa 3650 BCE — circa 1,450 BCE) the village used to be a city called Soulia or Soulina, which was the port of ancient Syvritos. It had a temple dedicated to Artemis. In 441 AD the Byzantine Empress Eudocia built a church on the ruins of this temple. Around 640 AD, Saracens (Arab) ‘pirates’ destroyed the city. In the fifteenth century a new church was build to become part of a monastery named Galini Christos, which was visited by the Italian monk Buondelmonti in 1415. Two granite columns, remnants of these ancient times are kept inside the local church in the centre of the village. Rumour has it that the harbours flourished again during the Venetian period but no records have survived that actually substantiate this. Nevertheless, there is a characteristic white house in the Venetian style at the top of the village…
Due to it’s shallow bay, suitable for ships to enter, the site was used to transport weapons and munitions in the nineteenth century during the Greek War of independence against the Ottoman empire. Villagers from Melambes founded the settlement In 1884. Warehouse buildings and the port served the fertile and olive oil-producing region. Starting 1890 there was a permanent settlement of twenty inhabitants. These were olive oil farmers and traders, timber traders and fisherman. At this stage there was a customs office and a few houses. After the second Word War, a soap factory was built but it closed in the seventies. At that time the village became a refuge for the hippies that were kicked out of the Matala caves and a new phenomenon was born in Agia Galini: tourism. From the eighties onward it became a very popular and booming holiday resort…
St. Galini, according to the Orthodox Church (Agia Galini in Greek), is said to have lived and been martyred in Corinth in the 3rd century AD and her feast-day is celebrated on the 16th of April. However, the name Galini is very rarely used in Greece. So how did this Cretan village come to have such an unusual name? There are various theories, all based on legend and guesswork. They may not give us a clear answer, but they add a note of mystery to the charm of unique Agia Galini.
According to the first theory, the name Agia Galini is can be traced to the Byzantine Empress Eudocia. At some time during the beginning of Byzantine times (round 441 AD), Eudocia (Athinais), wife of Emperor Theodosius II, on exile to Africa (fallen into disgrace through an unjust suspicion of infidelity) was caught in a storm in the gulf of Messara. She prayed to the virgin Mary for help. She safely reached the natural sheltered harbour shore of Soulia. She had made a vow and built a church in honour of the Virgin Mary. The church was named “Holy (Αγια) Virgin of serenity (Γαλήνη)”. The Byzantine church of the “Panagia” is in the cemetery of Agia Galini, overlooking the beach.
According to the second theory, when Christianity was established a Monastery of Galinios Christos (the Serene Christ) was built over the Temple of Artemis, and the village was named after it.
There is also, however, a third theory, which states that the area took its name from the phrase “Aei Galini” (“ever peace”), because the harbour is always calm and peaceful. Source (partially): explorecrete.com
Daedalos was the architect of King Minos, he built the palace of Knossós, a labyrinth where he housed his son The Minotaur, a monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man that slaughtered fourteen young Athenians every seven years. Theseus of Athens came to Crete to kill The Minotaur, hoping to put an end to the "human tribute” that his city was forced to pay Minos, King of Crete. Ariadne, King Minos’ daughter came across Theseus and fell in love with him. She asked Daedalos to help and save the brave man. Daedalos gave the advice to tie a thread of wool to the beginning of the Labyrinth so Theseus could find his way back. Theseus killed the Minotaur, found his way out of the Labyrinth and together with Ariadne; they fled the Island of Crete.
King Minos found out who had helped them escape. He imprisoned Daedalos and his son Ikaros in a cave in Soulia. But Daedalos had a brilliant idea; he built wings of feathers and wax. They escaped from the Island flying with these wings. But before the two set off he warned his son Ikaros not to fly too low, the moisture of the sea would dampen his wings and make it hard to fly, and not too high, the sun would melt the wax of his wings. But the young Ikaros, overwhelmed by the thrill of flying, did not heed his father's warning, and flew higher and higher, closer to the sun… the wax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea and drowned. Daedalus lamented his dead son and then continued to Sicily, where he came to stay at the court of Cocalus in a place called Camicus. Icarus' body was carried ashore by the current to an island without a name. Heracles came across the body and recognised him and buried the body, where today a small rock promontory jutting out into the Aegean Sea still stands. The island Ikaria and the sea around it were named after the fallen Ikaros. The myth of their captivity and flight have been linked to the rock on the outer west part of the harbour hill of Agia Galini. In the nineties plans have been made to construct a park with a theatre dedicated to Daedalos & Ikaros. In 2004 their statue was placed and in 2013 the theatre was opened.
© Robert de Booij