The locals call it the “Atlantis of Crete.” The ancient village of Sfentyli is sinking slowly but inevitably into the waters of a reservoir created by a dam.
One part of the Cretan village has sunk completely. Only the red tile roof and the white cross of the chapel of Agios Theodoros are still above water.
Sfentyli is only 45 minutes from the island’s capital of Heraklion. Cretans call it “the sunken village”, even though it refuses to sink. During long drought periods, the buildings emerge again from the water.
In the winter, after heavy rainfall, when the Aposelemis dam floods, Sfentyli sinks again. But not into oblivion.
Under the water is now most of the 14th-century Byzantine church of St. Theodore. The last inhabitants of the village saved all the sacred relics of the church.
Visitors to the ruined village are now taking a trip back in time to a modern Atlantis.
The Aposelemis Dam is Crete’s largest water supply project, close to Potamies village and Avdou village. It was constructed to solve the vital needs for water supply and irrigation in the northern part of eastern Crete, specifically from Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos, Lasithi. The construction was completed in 2012.
The dam gathers the waters from the Lasithi Mountains and its capacity exceeds 30,000,000 m3. This is the largest technical lake on the island. Nowadays, various species of birds have been sheltered in the dam, turning the area into a wetland.
The dam is a source of life and a vital factor of growth in the area, as the surrounding villages and the dam receive visitors being mesmerized by the scenery.
It is the ideal destination for visitors and they can take walks in nature by having simultaneously, a view of the tranquil landscape of the sunken Sfentyli village.
The sinking village of Sfentyli dates back to the 16th century
Sfentyli was located within the confines of the artificial lake of Aposelemis Dam. The residents of the settlement had to leave the place, so they have been compensated for their properties, by the state. As the water level goes up and down, Sfentyli disappears and appears. This attracts many visitors particularly when the water goes down.
The settlement dates back to the 16th century and the earliest evidence of the existence of the settlement dates back to 1577 on the list of Fr. Barozzi.
In 1583, it was referred to as Sfendigli with 78 residents.
The name of the settlement is antroponymous. The family name Sfendilos is found in Crete and certainly, the first inhabitant of this settlement would have this name.
Recently, 65 skeletons were found near this area by the archaeologist Athanasia Kanda and according to the researchers, they probably came from a Minoan cemetery.