The Natural Amphitheater - Voulismeno Aloni In Pictures

Visiting the Geological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

 For those who like nature trips, the mountainous neighborhood of Heraklion is an ideal area to explore, as it hides a wealth of surprising and spectacular places.

 Approximately 14 km west of the city, in a semi-arid area on the old road to Rethymnon, before the village of Marathos, there is Voulismeno Aloni, a unique geological formation in Crete and Greece, a landmark that is part of the Psiloriti National Park, included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. An informative board at the entrance to the geological site explains its origin and highlights its importance, and frames it on the map of objectives to visit in the area, easily accessible to hikers.

 Similar to a cheese hole, when viewed from above, Voulismeno Aloni is a massive circular depression, formed after the sinking of a cave ceiling, with a diameter of 90 m and a depth ranging between 15 and 60 m. The bottom of the pit is covered with grass, dwarf vegetation, and crushed rocks and the steep and rocky walls, in the hollows of which the birds hide their nests, are used as a training ground by local climbing schools and climbing lovers, with 44 distinct routes, of variable length and difficulty.

 It is easy to get inside, on a gravel alley, specially arranged. Interestingly, when you are in the middle of the sinkhole, you find that it has perfect acoustics, like an amphitheater, and the silence - interrupted only by the songs of birds -  is so deep, you can still hear your heartbeat. As in many other places not aggressively invaded by the instruments of civilization, here you have the feeling that the mind relaxes, the body floats and time stands still. If we were to refer to the magical rituals of various cultures, not coincidentally, many take place in the center of a circle… It is not known exactly whether this place, throughout history, has ever served or not, as a place of divination.

 In fact, the name Voulismeno Aloni means "sunken threshing floor" in Greek, reminiscent of the archaic circular stone where, after harvesting grain, the peasants used to separate the seeds of straw and chaff with the help of horses, before taking them to the mill. Local legends say that here, once, a family that owned the land, threshed the harvest on the feast day of St. Elijah - a day when is forbidden to work, according to tradition - and as punishment for heresy, the floor was sunk and the family disappeared…

 In scientific terms, the weird structure is a ”karstic doline” specific to the limestone and chalk landforms, which probably formed in the Paleolithic, by the collapse of the cave ceiling under its own weight, following the erosion caused by the groundwater from the Almyros spring.

 We invite you on a virtual tour in Voulismeno Aloni and, to get the right proportions, try to identify us in the landscape!


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