Southeast of Heráklion, Pediáda is a pretty region of foothills under Mount Díkti. Hidden away just north of Kastélli, the largest village, signs for ‘Paradise Tavern’ point the way to lovely Ag. Pandeleímonos, under huge plane trees by a spring, built in AD 450 over a temple to Asklepeios. The church is said to have had 101 doors, but after being ravaged by the Saracens it was rebuilt on a more modest scale c. 1100. The bell is made out of a German shell and, inside, the nave is supported by marble columns from ancient Lyttos, including one made of nothing but Corinthian capitals. In 2020, work began on a new state of the art airport for Heraklíon here; one hopes the church survives.
A short detour west of Kastélli to Sklaverochóri has its reward in the 15th-century church Eisódia tis Theotókou, decorated with excellent frescoes. Four km east of Kastélli, ancient Lyttos (modern Xidás) was a fierce rival of Knossós after the Minoans and remained sufficiently wealthy to mint its own coins until 220 BC, when Knossós, allied with Górtyn, demolished it while Lyttos’army went to attack Ierapetra. The site is just beginning to be investigated: besides views, you can see walls, the bouleuterion (a council house), a theatre and a frescoed church.
Images by C messier, Creative Commons License, Doris Antony, Berlin, Ethan Doyle White