Lissos is an ancient city in southwest Crete, near the small village of Sougia. Lissos and Syia were the harbors of Elyros, the most important ancient city of the area, located near Rodovani village. It was verified by inscriptions.
Lissos had powerful trading and fishing navy. It was so developed that it had its own coins with the images of Artemis and a dolphin, and the word “LISION”.
The early history of the city is unknown. Based on inscriptions and coins of the 3rd century BC, we know that the city had joined the League of Oreians. The “koinon” of Oreians consisted of the cities of Lissos, Syia, Poikilassos, Tarra, Yrtakina and Elyros.
Lissos is the second most important ancient site in Crete, taking into consideration the number of sculptures found by archaeologists, after Gortyna, which was the Roman capital of Crete. Its findings are exhibited in two separate museums in Crete; the Archaeological Museum of Chania, and the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
In Lissos you can find an ancient cemetery, a theatre, an aqueduct, baths of the ancient times, and Palaiochristian basilicas. However, what distinguished Lissos from the other ancient cities of southwest Crete at the time was the Asclepion, or temple of Asclepius.
The Asclepion of Lissos was in ancient times what in today’s world would be a big regional hospital, serving the whole surrounding areas. The water of Lissos, considered to have medicinal qualities, was frequently used to cure many illnesses. Unfortunately an earthquake destroyed the Asclepion of Lissos, but its floor remained and can be seen today with a mosaic depicting animals and geometric shapes.
Beside the Asklepion and the Roman necropolis, there are also two Greek Orthodox churches, Agios Kyrikos, which has some nice frescoes, and the chapel of Panagia that is build with ancient carved marble blocks.
Description of the path
Lissos is a very beautiful and peaceful place with interesting remains of ancient civilization. It is worth spending a while exploring Lissos and soaking up its incredibly peaceful atmosphere.
The walk to Lissos is the most popular walk for people staying in Sougia, is relatively easy and does not take too long as it is about 90 minutes each way.
Before you start hiking through Lissos Gorge you should make sure that you have a good pair of hiking shoes or sneakers, as it is necessary for the rugged terrain of the gorge.
Note that nobody lives in Lissos, so it would be suggested to take a picnic with you. We would also recommend you take a bottle of water, a hat, and sunscreen for sun protection.
The entrance of Lissos Gorge is right next to Sougia harbor. A sign points towards the start of the walk.
Whilst passing there, observe the ancient water line which is clearly visible on the cliff about 7 meters above the present sea level. This sudden elevation happened about 1500 years ago in western Crete.
At the beginning of the gorge, there is a rock in the middle of the trail, but you can easily bypass it. The gorge goes uphill, but the ascent is not difficult, especially at the beginning. Along the path there are numerous pine trees which provide the precious shade needed during the hot summer months.
Having walked for about half an hour through Lissos gorge, you come across an impressive, characteristic rock. The locals use this rock as a marker as nearly 10 minutes further on, the path splits in two: the path to the right which continues through Lissos Gorge, and the one that branches to the left and goes uphill. This path leads to the now deserted ancient city of Lissos. Turn left at this point if you wish to visit Lissos.
This path up the hills leads through old pine trees to a treeless plateau with great views all around. After ten more minutes walking straight towards the west, you will reach a steep drop with a beautiful view facing Lissos.
Afterwards, the path takes you down into the valley, only a few meters away from the Asclepion temple.
When you decide to go back to Sougia use the same path. Make a note of where it starts so that you can find it easily.
How to visit Lissos from Sougia
Please follow the instructions, which are described above.
By taxi boat
If you would like to visit Lissos the easy way there are taxi boats in Sougia, which are able to take you there, and pick you up at any time you wish to.