The Cave Kako Spilaio at Mount Koronos

There are many caves on Naxos, but most of them are inaccessible, hidden and quite small. The most famous cave is the one of Mount Zeus, which has been used by the island’s inhabitants for thousands of years and whose archaeological investigation has yielded interesting finds.

On the slope of the Kóronos, the northern mountain range of the island, lies another noteworthy cave, the Kakó Spílaio (“Bad Cave”). In ancient times, Mount Kóronos was dedicated to Dionysus, god of fertility. The mountain was then called Driós, as an ancient inscription proves. The ancient myths mention that Dionysus was raised on Mount Driós by the three nymphs Koronis, Filia and Kleio. Dionysus regarded the island of Naxos as his home and Mount Driós as his residence. In ancient times, Dionysus and his entourage were worshipped in the cave, where clay statuettes of the god Pan and of nymphs were found.

The area of Mount Kóronos is mostly made up of granite, which results in a very different character from Mount Zeus (which is made up of marble). Due to the less penetrable granite bedrock, on Mount Kóronos the rainwater does not disappear into the underground as in the areas with marble, but flows off on the surface, feeding numerous springs and small streams. In addition, in winter as well as in summer, due to the north wind Mount Kóronos is very often shrouded in clouds, so that it is much more humid than Mount Zeus – the right place for a god of fertility! Large oak and chestnut forests are said to have existed on Mount Kóronos until the Middle Ages. These have disappeared today, and now only a low heath grows here, but the area still has a very special charm unique to Naxos.

In the past, large oak forests are said to have grown on humid Mount Kóronos. Today, the top is covered with a special, charming heath. Even today, the place radiates a magic that suggests the presence of the god of fertility Dionysus, to whom the mountain was dedicated in ancient times.

The Kakó Spílaio cave is located in a steep valley northwest of the top of Mount Kóronos; it lies approximately in the middle of this picture.

The cave is situated at the foot of a steep rock face; the entrance is low, so that it is hardly visible from a distance.

the entrance to the cave from the other side

The cave has several adjacent entrances.

Inside lies a large, low chamber filled with the dung of sheep and goats that come into the cave seeking for shade.

From the entrance of the cave inwards lies a peculiar “corridor” where the roof of the cave is carved out like a vault so that the ceiling is high enough to walk upright (seen in the middle of the previous picture).

To the left the cave rises diagonally; the roof gets so low here that one has to walk bent over or crawl on hands and knees.

The cave reaches quite deep into the mountain.

The cave still continues further on, but it is so low that one cannot proceed there.

In southern direction, inside the mountain, one soon arrives at a subdivision; but one can creep through below the “wall” and thus reach another room.

A little water flows in one corner.

Here the next very small room.

From this room, literally crawling on your belly, you reach a third room that is about 15 m long; here the view to the left…

…and to the right, from where it is connected through a small crevice back to the main room.

And back again; you have to creep through under this wall.

The cave Kakó Spílaio is mostly low, but quite big. Even deeper into the mountain, to be reached through a narrow, steep tunnel, lies another round chamber of 45 m diameter that can be reached through a very small passage and in which there is a small lake.

Here the last, largest chamber with the lake, that one can reach only by crawling on the belly down a long, narrow, steep tunnel. I have not been there yet; here a photo that was taken by biologists who visited the cave searching for the bats.

Caves are inhabited only by few animals which have adapted to the life in the dark and in the stable, protected environment of the cave. On Naxos exists an endemic species of cave cricket (Dolichopoda naxia), of which we encounter some individuals here. We also find some bats.

Endemic cave crickets live in the caves and emery mines of Naxos.

And bats! These are probably Greater horseshoes.

Going back towards the entrance.

On the rock above the entrance sits a nest.

Who might have nested here?

Back at the entrance.

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