The Sfentoni Cave in Zoniana in central Crete - Part 2

Crete travel guide

The Sfentoni Cave in Zoniana in central Crete - Part 2

Life Inside the Cave

Contrary to what you might think at first, caves are not empty of life. Here, life is in harmony with the special conditions that hold in the interior: eternal darkness, humidity and very little food. The creatures that live inside the cave are transparent or colourless, blind and often microscopic and very delicate.  

snail that lives in the caves   insect that lives in the caves

Also, there are lots of bats living there, a fact which is confirmed by all the blackened areas at the top of the cave. The black colour comes from bats' excrements as they hang upside down from the cave's ceiling. Since a bat consumes its weight in insects on a daily basis, it creates a huge amount of excrement, which is used as food by the rest of the creatures that co-exist in the cave.


Other food sources include the remnants of mice food, like acorn shells; the excrements of mice, and the carcasses of mice or other small animals that had entered the cave and died before being able to find the way out.

How Stalactites and Stalagmites Form

Deep inside the cave, only the sound of falling drops relieves the monotony of the dark and silent caverns. The carbon calcium dissolved in water, flowing through the cracks of the chalky rocks, is crystallized around a water drop. This causes a small, fragile "pipe" to gradually form. When the pipe clogs up, water begins to flow on the external surface and a larger amount of carbon calcium piles up on the pipe. This is how the stalactites are formed.


Directly underneath the stalactites, where the drops fall onto the ground of the cave, the stalagmites are formed, and there are innumerable ones of various sizes and shapes.

If the water drops contain dissolved metal oxides, both the stalactites and stalagmites are formed in colour.

Sfentoni's Hole, the Popular Name of the Cave in Zoniana

The cave had been used, since olden times, as a hideout. Once, there was a guerilla ( hainis ) from Sfakia who had found refuge there. His name was Sfentonis. One day, as he was sitting by the entrance cooking a piece of meat, a young man saw him and came close to ask for some meat.

Sfentonis, in a fit of anger or for fear the man might give him away, kicked him with his stivani (traditional Cretan boot) so hard, that he killed him.

Legends of the Cave in Zoniana

There was once a beautiful fairy who used to hide in the cave and come out at a specific time of the day for a drink of water at a neighbouring spring. A shepherd had seen her many times, but as soon as he tried to come close to her, she ran and hid inside the cave.

Driven by lust and curiosity, the shepherd laid in wait for her outside the cave. When the fairy showed up, he hurled a stone at her using his fabric sling. The fairy, although injured, managed to run away and hide in the cave, leaving her bloody handkerchief by its mouth.

According to another version, the shepherd approached the injured fairy, and bewitched by her beauty, attempted to kiss her. The fairy pushed him away and promised to give him a special reel of silk if he wouldn't harm her. His whole family would be able to spin the silk, which would never come to an end. The shepherd, however, couldn't resist kissing her, despite her objections. The fairy then put "the curse of trembling hands" on him and all his family.

The cave of Sfentoni in Zoniana, Crete

the skeleton of a chold was found in the cave of ZonianaThe Little Child's Skeleton

There was a tragic incident that took place in the cave, but nobody knows exactly when. A few decades ago, a little child's skeleton was found just outside the last hall of the cave. The skeleton was fully covered with chalky material, indicating that it had been in the cave for many centuries.

No information concerning the child's death is available. It is possible he might have entered the cave, became trapped in its labyrinthine forks, and never managed to find the way out.

Then again, it might well be the skeleton of the adolescent, who was killed by Sfentonis !

NOTE . This article was based on the book "Sfentonis Hole" written by Caloust Paragamian, and was published by the Cultural Club of Zoniana. You can buy this marvelous book at the reception stand in Zoniana. The pictures included also belong to Caloust Paragamian, except for those which are Copyright of website. ExploreCrete has the author's and the publisher's permission to use printed and photographic material.



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