Evangelismos (GR: Ευαγγελισμός) at 360 m above sea level, with 365 inhabitants, lies to the SW of Kasteli, distant only 5 km from the county town and about 35 km from Heraklion. In earlier years, the village was called Mouktari or Mouchtari and its name figures in a 1381 contract for the buying and selling of grain. The Byzantine church of the Panagia is worth a visit. On August 6th the village celebrates the feast of the Metamorphosis. Evangelismos is the seat of the newly (2010) created municipality, according to the National "Kallikratis Project", by uniting the former municipalities of Kastelli, Thrapsano and Akalochori. The name of the new municipality is "Minoa Pediada"
Kastamonitsa (GR: Κασταμονίτσα) is 7 km away from Kasteli, has 356 inhabitants and lies at 520 m above sea level, in the foothills of the Afendi mountain (1578 m), with the Dikti mountain in the background. The village is not mentioned in the Venetian registers of the 16th and 17th centuries, nor in the Turkish census of 1671. It is possible that the name is related to that of Kastamoni in Asia Minor: refugees, driven out of their land by the Turks, may well have come and settled here, giving their new home the same name as their old one. But it is impossible to establish a precise date. The Church of the Koimisi tis Theotokou (Dormition of Our Lady), located in the cemetery of the village, has wall paintings of the 14th century and points to a settlement here during the Venetian period. However, as we said before, the village is not mentioned in any Venetian census. The first reference is to be found in an Egyptian census conducted in 1834, where the village of Kastamonitsa is said to have 35 Christian families. And again in 1881, the village is said to have 320 Christian residents; no Turkish families are mentioned. The location of the village on the way to the natural fortress of the Lassithi plateau which protects all of Eastern Crete, turned the area into a battlefield during the last century. The Egyptian Pasha Hassan tried to invade the Lassithi plateau in 1822. The rebels cut him off between Krassi and Kastamonitsa, fighting him so well that he was forced to change his strategy and invade the plateau through its south side (Viannos and Ierapetra). Other fierce battles took place in and around Kastamonitsa during the 1866-67 rebellions. Finally Omer Pasha, known as the Attila of Lassithi, found a way up through the glen at Geraki where an betrayer showed him the way. A clay cast has been found in Mesarmi. It is elliptical in shape and has a width of about 0.25 m, and has a plaited decoration. A round glass vessel was also found at Xidiano Seli. 4 km out of the village you get to a lovely spot known as Mesada, where traditional celebrations take place on Easter Tuesday.The village boasts of several kapheneions and a taverna in the main square. There is an active cultural centre, that organizes events especially in the summer. The most important and traditional feast is held on July 7th in honour of Aghia Kyriaki.
To the east of Smari, at 400 m above sea level, with 99 inhabitants, Lagou (GR: Λαγού) is first mentioned in the Turkish census of 1671 with 4 haratsia (head tax). The journey to the village is charming getting you through areas of impressive wild landscape, and the typical old stone houses of Lagou, through the combined efforts of the members of the cultural centre, are being restored to their original traditional form so as to get the well deserved honour of being considered a protected traditional settlement.
At an altitude of 380m, with 63 inhabitants, Liliano (GR: Λιλιανό) is first mentioned in the Turkish census of 1671. The Basilica with its three naves, dedicated to Saint John, was built in the 12th -13th centuries and is one of the oldest and the most interesting in Crete. The stones used in its construction came from earlier buildings. The three naves, with the middle nave higher than the other two, are supported by columns in Ionic style. The narthex in front is lower with wider arches, whereas the door and windows have pointed arches.
Bizariano (GR: Μπιτζαριανό) is a traditional small village of about 24 inhabitants in the area of Kasteli Pediada, 320 m above sea level and about 3 km to the north of Kasteli on the road to Hersonissos. A pretty village with stone houses, graphic lanes and courtyards covered in flowers. It is first mentioned in 1881, as Bizariano, Municipality of Kasteli, with 55 Christian inhabitants. In 1951, it changes its name to Pigi. Its first name is that of a family, Bizariano. Close to the village, in a beautiful spot full of lush vegetation, evergreen plane trees and gushing water, stands the ancient church of Agios Pandeleimonas, with its three naves. Two rows of arches supported by columns without capitals separate the naves. Another column is made exclusively of capitals, apparently brought in from other churches or temples. Practically all the middle outside wall is decorated with inscriptions, Byzantine reliefs and crosses.
The artistic highlight of the church of Saint Panteleimon are its fresco scenes painted on the walls which are among the oldest in Crete, although very few frescoes remain. In the lower section of the arch, there is the representation of the three Hierarchs, shown on full length, with vertical inscriptions on it. On the two side walls there are the representations of Saints in a colossal size. These scenes were designed to be a source of biblical education to the faithful, who would have been illiterate at that time.
Built at 510 m with 319 people Ksidás (GR: Ξυδάς) also known as Lyttos, is located at 3 km from Kastelli in the foothills of the site of the ancient town Lyttos. The first mention of the village goes back to 1368AD, with the name Ksidas. A burial site was discovered when the road was being constructed, at Chomatolakkos, belonging to late Roman period. Two gold rings have also been found here, the one with stone, showing the portrait of an emperor holding a spear, and the other with a hoop, showing two interlocking hands. A bronze ring with a Greek inscription, along with golden plates and bronze coins, were also found at this site.
Mathia is 11 km to the SE of Kasteli, has 215 inhabitants and lies at 590 m above sea level, in the foothills of the Afendi mountain (1578 m), with the Dikti mountain in the background. The earliest reference to the village can be found in several contracts of 1271 where the notary of Chandax P. Scardon mentions commercial exchanges of grain and wine with residents of the village ‘Mithie’, possibly a misspelling for Mathia. The name derives from the common first name for girls, ‘Mattia’, which in Crete is pronounced ‘Mathia’. Burials in jars of the middle Minoan period were discovered in 1957 close to the village, in a place known as Stavroplaka. To the NW of the village, at Katalimata, a Late Minoan site with important finds and, 200 m further off, a settlement with large walls still in place were also found.There are wonderful Byzantine wall paintings in the two churches of this traditional village, the church of Koimisi tis Panagias (Dormition of Our Lady) and the church of Agios Giorgos. At Metochi, in beautiful surroundings where the historical holm-oak of Ismail Pasha stands among plane trees and running water, there are camping facilities. You can also visit an old factory and several ruined mills. The village boasts of several kapheneions where they serve raki and ‘mezedes’ (tit-bits). There is an active cultural centre, that organizes events especially in the summer, with evenings of Cretan music and theatre plays. The most important and traditional feast is held on the Sunday of Agioi Pantes, 50 days after Easter.
Polythéa (GR: Πολυθέα) is located 500 m NE of Kastelli at an altitude of 335m.N Nowadays Polythea has become part of Kasteli and it has 364 inhabitants. Fr. Barozzi mentions it as Apigaiduri in 1577, belonging to the Pediada district and it continues to be known with that name until 1940, when it is re-baptized with its current name, Polythea. The previous name of the village, Pigaidouri, is originated by the word ‘pigaidi', which is Cretan for ‘pigadi', which means ‘a well'. It is a nice name that propably has been changed due to the fact that people thought it was a reference to ‘gaidouri', which means ‘donkey'. Apart from the ubiquitous raki and mezedes served at the kapheneions, you can also find rooms for rent. A typical Cretan feast is held here on August 15th for the Virgin Mary (Assumption).
The village of Smári (GR: Σμάρι) is a traditional Cretan village, only 10 km away from Kasteli and has 375 inhabitants. In it you will find beautiful old stone houses that have been restored, picturesque little alleys, ruins of older buildings and pottery workshops where you can purchase copies of Byzantine and Minoan ceramics. There are also some interesting churches with wonderful frescoes like the one dedicated to Sotir Christos, the Koimisi tis Panagias and Agios Giorgos. The earliest reference to the village of Smari dates back to 1375. There is a lively Cretan feast on July 20th in honour of Profitis Ilias, with much rejoicing, singing and dancing.
Sirikari (GR Σηρικάρι) is a small village located 52 km away from Hania and 14 km from Kastelli at 500m a.s.l. The name Sirikari probably comes from the profession of the first settler, who has to be a silk weaver (Sirikaris). A short ravine starts from Sirikari and ends close to Polyrinia. There is also a chestnut tree forest, the cave of the Holy Mother (Panagias), the byzantine church of Agii Apostoli, with frescoes of 14th century a monument of great importance and two old factories.