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The Chapel of Panagia Krifti - A Beauty in Hiding

  1. General Information
  2. The Story of Panagia Krifti
  3. Celebrations of Panagia Krifti
  4. How to Arrive at Panagia Krifti
  5. Nearby Attractions

General Information

Venture three kilometers west of Melinda and proceed to the remote, rocky shore to which the locals alone know the way. Hiding among the immense, jagged rocks that rise up from the sea, you will discover ‘Panagia Krifti’, the chapel appropriately termed ‘the Virgin Mary in Hiding’.

Secluded in a dramatic landscape of ancient olive trees, tall sharp-edged rocks and deep unexplored caverns, the chapel has long fascinated believers with its mysterious origin and untouched natural setting. Right on the water’s edge, in a remote waterside location visited mostly by wild doves, a handful of fishermen and, once a year, on the first Monday after Saint Thomas’ feast, the fishing caïques that bring pilgrims to the region, Panagia Krifti is immersed in an atmosphere of serenity unlikely to be encountered in any other religious location on Lesvos. Whether you come here by road or on foot from Melinda, a visit to Panagia Krifti is hugely worth the journey. The untouched natural setting is certain to lull your senses and the chapel’s mystique will entice you to discover more about the remote, legendary chapel built inside the well-hidden cavern.

The beauty of the landscape here is nearly unearthly, the inlet surrounded by immense, towering rocks, the water deep, the sea often raging due to the inactive underwater volcano in the chapel’s vicinity. Thermal spring water has been known to emanate from the shore and, together with a haphazard platform to the chapel and a few abandoned monastic cells, a small basin to cool the scolding spring water are the only evidence of human interference in the area. Take a look to your right and discover the chapel of Panagia Krifti hiding inside the cavern and, underneath it, a number of smaller caves decorated by stalactites and dripping with holy water. To negotiate entrance into the chapel, a pilgrim must squeeze through an opening in the jagged rockface yet, according to oral tradition, only the genuinely faithful will manage to enter.

The Story of Panagia Krifti

The story behind the origins of Panagia Krifti dates from the years of the Ottoman occupation of Lesvos. Panagia Krifti, legend has it, marks the spot where, being hounded by Ottomans, a local maiden sought refuge never again to return to the earthly realm. The outline of her face, it is alleged, may be discerned on the surface of one the rocks surrounding the chapel. Each year, the local girl’s chase is re-enlivened following Service. The youths of nearby Palaiochori mount their beautifully adorned horses and ride towards Melinda, where religious celebrations in honor of Panagia Krifti last all through the night.

Celebrations of Panagia Krifti

The chapel has long been integral to the religious life of Palaiochori and a number of local customs center around the faraway temple of Panagia Krifti. The epicenter of annual celebrations on the first Monday following the feast of Saint Thomas, Panagia Krifti has a variety of local customs associated to it: the rites of Spring, when humans and animals are adorned with wreaths of wildflowers, the boat trips and horse races on the day when the chapel celebrates, the local celebrations of Youth and young betrothed couples. In the past, the seamen of Palaiochori would have to celebrate the day of Panagia Krifti before taking to sea and, even nowadays, the festival continues to mark the end of Easter celebrations in the village. While the day of Panagia Krifti is unofficial and, to the rest of the Orthodox world, likely completely unknown, the residents of Palaiochori continue to celebrate it with piety.

How to Arrive at Panagia Krifti

Panagia Krifti may accessed by sea, which may be the best way to gain access to the harsh natural inlet in which the chapel is uniquely set. To have an experience of the remote, hidden beauty that is Panagia Krifti, hop on to one of the caïques that link Plomari (and, in the months of summer, Vatera resort) to the area, or drive three kilometers west of Melinda. The car journey might at times be hard as the track to the beach is uneven and the walk to the rocks surrounding the chapel may be difficult (definitely bring sturdy shoes). The region, however, is certain to amaze you with its unearthly tranquility.

Nearby Attractions

If you do opt to make the trip, make the most of your visit by travelling to Palaiochori, the hillside village 12 kilometers away from Plomari. An attractive village with a multitude of bright-colored houses, a few rental rooms, numerous cafes and highly picturesque streets, it includes a few good tavernas where visitors may enjoy a variety of regional dishes. In the near distance, the area of Vigla (or ‘Viglár’, as the locals call it) is located west of Palaiochori and offers panoramic views to Chios, Psara and the Asia Minor shores, as do the areas of Kournela and Rachidi.

Melinda is situated three kilometers from the village. The beach is known for its crystalline waters and the famous Melinda’s Rock, a boulder that dominates the beach and entices visitors to swim around it. Accessing the beach might be a little difficult but this should not stop you from paying Melinda a visit: you will be rewarded by wonderful views, a relaxed atmosphere and a truly beautiful shore.

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