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.
Smari has a very long history and was inhabited, according to reliable sources, from the proto-Minoan period onwards. The archeological relics in the Akropolis of the hill called Profitis Elias, excavated under the direction of the Archeologist D. Hatzi Vallianou, indicate a continuous human presence from the Middle-Minoan period to about 630 B.C.
The Historical and Folklore Museum of Rethymno is located next to the Neratze Mosque. It is an institution of public benefit, founded in 1973 by the President of the Historical and Folklore Institution, Christoforos Stavroulakis, and Fali Vogiatzaki. The museum is housed in a restored Venetian building with an interior courtyard. The building is a wonderful piece of urban residence of the last phase of the Venetian occupation of Crete, built in the renaissance style by traditional craftsmen.
Dóxa (GR: Δόξα) is a pretty village built on a height of 400 metres above sea-level and 20 kilometres to the west of Heraklion on the road to the mountainous Milopotamos. The historical cave of Dóxa (GR: Δόξα) is located in a short distance from the village of Marathos on the road to Heraklion. It is at a height of 490 metres above sea-level, near a well-known taverna also called DOXA. The cave has a total length of 50 metres and impressive stalactites and stalagmites.
The village stands 17km away from Rethymno and 6km from Episkopi. It has 160 inhabitants, farmers and stock breeders. The first university of Crete, called VIVI'S ACADEMY operated here in 1540 AD. There are remnands of many Venetian Houses, such as Villa Barocci, a mint, a fountain etc.
At a height of 320 m above sea-level, Kalo Chorio (GR: Καλό Χωριό) λιεσ 25.7 kms. from Heraklion, to the right at the cross-roads at km 16.7 on the National Road to Agios Nikolaos and on the road to Gouves- Koxare- Kalo Chorio. The present name does not figure in old Venetian documents, though there is a reference in the 1367 Duke’s archives of Chandax to a Kalo Horio, without however naming the district. The villagers maintain that the village was called Stravorina in the old days, and indeed there is a reference by Barozzi in 1577 to a village Stravorina in the district of Pediados. In the 1583 Register, the village Stravorina is mentioned as having 76 inhabitants and in the Turkish census of 1671 Istavrine is quoted as having 21 "charatsa" (A Turkish word referring to a tax paid by the head of each family; hence 21 families). However, Chourmouzis Vizantios in 1842 mentions Kalo Chorio, the present name was therefore given in the decade 1830-1840. The village counted 298 inhabitants in 1981 which is also the current population. The Maza hill-top, south-east of the village, is 457 metres high. According to archaeologists (among them the famous N. Platon) and on the basis of recent finds, the name Maza comes from pre-Hellenic years and means Mother Earth. The pile of stones on the hill was, according to N.Platon, a town from the 10th to the 8th c. BC. The highest part was undoubtedly used as a shrine in Middle-Minoan years, and clay figurines and offerings were found there. The shrine lay quite close to the town. The shrine stopped being used in Proto-Geometric years. Northeast of the village, by the country road that leads from Kasteli to Hersonissos, traces of ancient installations have also been found along with remnants of water tanks by a source that is still in use today. These water tanks, probably belonged to Hersonissos aqueduct, parts of which are still visible today in Aposelemi valley. There is as well an interesting gorge close to Kalo Chorio, in the valley of Aposselemis river, worth seeing for nature lovers.