Agios Ioannis, on the sunny south coast of Crete, lends itself for excursions to both the east and the west side of the island.
Buses run between the surrounding towns, villages and tourist features.
The whole area is unique as far as culture and scenery are concerned and offers countless recreational activities ranging from relaxing on fantastic beaches, hiking on trails to the surrounding little villages to exploring ancient excavation sites and cloisters.
There are plenty of discos and bars in Kalamaki and Matala to satisfy the needs of the night birds!
Kalamaki, with its beautiful sandy beaches and promenade with several little tavernas, is about 5 Km away. About 8 Km away there is the glorious long stretch of Comos beach. Another 4 Km further along the coast are the caves of Matala.
In the neighbouring village of Kamilari (2 Km away) there is a supermarket with a butcher’s shop.
The village of Agios Ioannis, is built next to Phaistos, the second biggest center of the Minoan civilization in Crete, after Knossos. The houses of the community are built on the ruins of the ancient city.
In the village there is the church of Agios Ioannis built on the 16th century, and the tower of Agriolidis. At the south part of the village there is an old distillery of raki.
Outside the village, on the road Phaistos-Matala there is a small chapel of Agios Pavlos, with excellent frescoes of the 14th century. On the same road, 200 m from the village an intact tomb of the Geometrical period has been discovered, and beside it two Roman tombs.
The village celebrates the feast-day of Agios Ioannis on the 26th of September when a fair is organized.
Phaistos is the name of a Bronze Age Minoan settlement. It lays on a ridge above the fertile Messara. At a distance of about two kilometers north west of Phaistos was on a neighboring hill, another smaller Minoan palace. This was named after a nearby Byzantine church of Agia Triada, as the Minoan name is not recorded. Both palaces were linked by a paved path with each other. The ancient port of the settlement, Kommos, was located about six miles southwest of the palace of Phaistos on the Libyan Sea, north of the present Matala.
Close to Phaistos are the ruins of the Royal Villa, the Small Minoan Palace at Agia Triada. The site is named after the village of Agia Triada that is located next to it and was inhabited untill 1.897, when the Turks destroyed it. The Minoan name of the site is unknown . At the site are the Minoan town, the palace and the tombs, excavated by Halbherr with L. Banti in 1902 and onwards. La Rosa resumed the excavation after 1976.
Gortys was one of the oldest and strongest cities in Crete during the prehistoric and historic period. The population of ancient Gortyn is believed to be 300.000 people. The Gortynians occupied Phaistos during the 3rd century B.C. During the Roman period reached the peak of its glory and it was the capital of Crete. Gortyn was the first city of Crete to accept Christianity, and maintained its glory until 828 A.D. when it was occupied and destroyed by the Saracens. Since then it was never inhabited again. The most important monuments of the ancient Gortys are the ruins of the acropolis and the Odeum. The odeum of the ancient city was the place where parts of the great Law Code of Gortys was discovered. The Gortys Law was inscribed on stones. Four series of inscribed stones are preserved today, which constitute relics of great importance for the study of the epigraphy and Law of the time. The inscription is in a Dorian dialect and it was written at the end of the 6th century B.C.
Matala beach is located on a picturesque bay that opens into the sea to the west and is restricted on the north side by th main attraction, the Matala-rock wall. In this rocky wall there are numerous caves which were built during the Neolithic and inhabited, were later remodeled by the Romans as a grave caves. In the seventies of the 20th Century, many dropouts of the hippie generation rediscovered these cliff dwellings and lived in it. The beach of Matala was to be the place where the father of the gods Zeus transformed into a bull with the kidnapped Europa, the daughter of King Agenor of Phoenicia, emerged from the sea.
Kalamaki is a small village and famous for its long sandy beach Comos which connects the villages of Kalamaki and Pitsidia. Because of the size of the beach, the visitors, among them many Greeks, are spread out nicely across the beach.
Kamilari may not be directly on the sea, but it's only a short distance from many beautiful local beaches. This minor disadvantage is more than made up for by the strongly traditional atmosphere of the village, with its pretty houses, picturesque alleyways and stunning views. In the narrow streets and alleyways of this old village you will find a real part of old Crete: two small main squares, three churches and three colorful kafeneios full of character, frequented by locals and visitors alike.
Vori is located beautiful in between olive yards and has a fabulous view to the mountains. Here you can taste the real Greek way of life and culture. The people are very hospitable and in the tavernes here you will taste the best Greek food. The museum of ethnology which shows antiquities from the daily life in Vori has even won an European price!