In the Nets of Wonder: The Ancient Diktynna at Menies Beach

The typical traveler probably has a postcard image of Chania in their mind. It’s a scene filled with the Venetian style buildings perched on the Old Harbour waterfront, the Lighthouse, and romantic dimly lit restaurants overlooking the Cretan Sea. And it’s all very true, but that’s also the honeymooner tourist-favorite version of this intimate, gorgeous city.

There is a different side of Chania, one that’s underscored by the hidden gems instead of the main attractions. If sunny and secluded is what you’re after, you’ll have to go beyond the tourist hot spots and opt for locales that are just slightly more off the beaten path. In this case, the Menies beach is what you are really looking for.

Menies beach is located 75km west of Chania on the Rodopou peninsula, a treasured part of western Crete for many reasons, but above all stands out for its beautiful views and spectacular, rugged landscapes. With nearly 50km of coastline and calm waters, the peninsula has many charming beaches that need to be seen to be beheld. Undoubtedly, Menies is her shining diamond.

The small bay of Menies is backed by pebbles and cliffs which shelter it from storng winds and waves which makes it perfect for sunbathing and water activities like swimming, paddle boarding and snorkelling. With beaches facing east, it is the sparkling clear water of the Cretan Sea when you want to cool off and the views across the White Mountains and the Thodorou islands that make it really dreamy.

For a long time, this tiny stretch of translucent turquoise blue water was relatively unknown because of the difficulty in reaching it, but lately the word has spread. Located far from any signs of civilization, Meinies is popular with locals and lately with tourists who appreciate the adventure of the steep decent to arrive on a beach without facilities, no restaurants, no umbrellas, lounge chairs or water sports to hire.

Besides enjoying the amazing beach of Menies, the region offers the visitor the chance to expole her fascinating mythological and historical background starting with the ruins of Diktynna Sanctuary, one of the most important temples in ancient times.

Diktynna was called the temple of the ancient Cretan goddess Vritomartis (‘sweet virgin or maiden’ in ancient Greek), who is believed to have later been syncretized, conflated and finally equated with with the olympian deity of Artemis. There are two versions of Vritomartis’ story according to the ancient Greek mythology.

According to the earlier version, she was the daughter of Zeus and Carme, a nymph who took great delight in wandering in the forests and in hunting. The lustful king Minos fell in love with her and pursued her for for 9 months, but she fled from him. At last, she threw herself into the nets which had been set by fishermen or leaped from mount Dikty into the sea where she became entangled in the nets that finally saved her life and gave her the name Diktynna (from dikty, the net).

The latter version of the same myth has it that Britomartis was the daughter of Zeus and Corme. She was fond of solitude and had vowed to live in perpetual maidenhood. From Phoenicia she went to Argos and then Cephallenia where she received divine honours from the locals under the name Laphria. From there, she came to Crete where she got pursued by king Minos; but she fled to the seacoast where fishermen concealed her under their nets, thus receiving the surname Diktynna. A sailor, Andromedes, offered to bring her to Aegina. On arriving in Aegina, though, he made an attempt upon her chastity, but Vritomartis fled from his vessel and into a grove and disappeared. The Aeginetans who seeked for her found in her place a statue and decided to build a sanctuary to her assigning her the surname Afaia which means vanished.

Both myths indicate a goddess having to do with with fishermen and sailors, honoured as the protectress of harbours and navigation. It is for this reason that her temples stood unsually close to the banks of rivers or on the sea coast, the most famous and wealthiest one being the Dikynnaion in the Menies area. During the Hellenistic and Roman period worshippers came to this prominent sanctuary with rich offerings from all over Greece as well as other parts of Mediterranean.

In the ages that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire the temple of Diktynna was abandoned before it got destroyed in 1894 to build the temple of the Holy Fathers which embedded materials from the sanctuary. The few remains found today on the site belong to a temple dating from the Hadrianos era (Byzantine period). A statue of Vritomartis Artemis, a head of Hadrianos and another statue also discovered intact in the region are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Chania. In the opening towards the sea visitors can see doric and ionic columns from the 7th and 6th century BC, a sacrificial ater, and a Roman aqueduct which probably provided the priests and visitors with water.

On the south side of Menies, one can find another small and sheltered bay enclosed by steep cliffs where the ruins of the Agios Georgios monastery is dating from the 9th century AC. The surviving parts of it are the church, a few cells and an impressive tower, remnant of the strong fortification the monastery needed to defend itself from the frequent pirate attacks who terrorised the region. Early in the 17th century, the monks tired of fighting and decided to abandon the monastery for a safer place. One of them by the name Osios Vlasios, had a vision of Virgin Mary while praying, who led him to the place she wanted a monastery built in her honor. The Monastery of Panayia Odigitra (‘guiding Mary’) was finally finished in 1634, but because of its wealth and prosperity, it was raided and attacked repeatedly in the years until the liberation of Crete from the Ottomans in 1897. The monks have managed to preserve many of its treasures, priceless post-Byzantine icons, manuscripts, vessels and, most importantly, an invaluable tomb stele of the 3rd century BC originating from the the ancient temple of Diktynna and representing Aphrodite and Diktynna Vritomartis with a Cretan wild goat.

Menies is a free-spirited gem just waiting to be explored. A little idyllic, a little undiscovered, a little mystical and inspiring. Once it casts its spell, it holds one in its nets of wonder for ever.

At Chania Yachting we cherish the wild and sweet vibe of Menies that speaks to your desire for a halycon destination near the sea. That’s why we would be happy to welcome you onboard and head to Menies, offering you:

  1. Comfortable and Elegant Cruise

The track to Menies by car is for the most part unlaid, tiring, and dirty.
But you can save your adrenaline to enjoy cruising at 20 knots of speed and the wake being reflected across the hull of our elegant Motor Yacht

  1. Your Boat, Your Vacation, Your Schedule

There is so much to see and explore at Menies!
With us there is no rush, the time is your own. We are flexible adjusting and tailoring our cruise schedule according to your needs and desires
so that you savor the best from the region

  1. Beneath the Ancient Site, the Beach

Menies is not only about the ruins of the ancient Diktynna.
The beach and the sea also await for you.
Enjoy a swim at the inviting crystal waters or ask us for the snorkeling equipment, the paddleboards, and the floating platform available onboard
for a day of leisure and relaxation

  1. The Peninsula is Worth Your Attention

The Rodopou Peninsula, practically uninhabited, is an isolated hidden treasure of Northern Crete accessiblen (preferably) by boat.
Here, nature is still king; her wild beauty makes it a sight for sore eyes; her view from the sea, an overwhelming experience

  1. Local Knowledge and Exprertise

Our long experience gained from years of cruising in the area is at your disposal.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the richness of information and tips
we may offer exclusively to you

Visit our site
Contact us for a direct quote suitable to the flexibility of your own, personal preferences.


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