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The Cave Kako Spilaio near Koronos

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

Another large cave, Kakó Spílaio (“Bad Cave”), lies on Mount Kóronos in the northern part of the island. In ancient times, Mount Kóronos was dedicated to the fertility god Dionysus and was called Driós (from the Greek word for “oak”), as evidenced by an ancient inscription. Mount Driós is mentioned in many myths surrounding Dionysus, who is said to have been raised here by the three Naxiotic nymphs Koronis, Filia and Kleio. Dionysus regarded Naxos as his home and Mount Driós as his dwelling place. In ancient times, Dionysus and his entourage were worshipped in the cave: clay statues of the god Pan and nymphs have been found in the cave.

Mount Kóronos has a distinctly different geology to Mount Zeus: The latter consists of marble, the former mainly of granite. This leads to a quite different landscape and vegetation. Around Mount Kóronos the rainwater does not seep away underground as in the marble areas, but runs off above ground and feeds numerous springs and rivers. In addition, Mount Kóronos as the northernmost mountain on Naxos very often has a cloud cap, so that the humidity is here much higher than on Mount Zeus – the perfect place for a god of fertility! Large oak and chestnut forests are said to have existed around Mount Kóronos until the Middle Ages; these have now disappeared, but the heather that replaced them still has a very special charm that is unique to Naxos.

In the past, large oak forests are said to have grown on humid Mount Kóronos. Nowadays a strange and impressive heather grows on the top of the mountain. And even today, the area still radiates a magic which seems to preserve something of the presence of the fertility god Dionysus, to whom the mountain was dedicated in ancient times.

Kakó Spílaio cave is located in a steep valley northwest of the top of Mount Kóronos; it lies roughly in the centre of this picture. There is no road leading to it, and it is quite a challenge to make your way it over stick and stone.

The cave lies at the foot of a steep rock face; the entrance is low, making it barely visible from a distance.

the entrance to the cave from the other side

The cave has several entrances next to each other.

Inside, a large, low room opens up, filled deep with dung from the sheep and goats seeking shade here in summer.

Straight ahead from the entrance towards the inside the cave ceiling looks as if it was carved out a bit so as to become high enough to allow a person to walk upright (approximately in the centre of the previous picture).

The cave rises diagonally to the left; the roof is so low here that you soon have crawl on all fours.

Here, the cave extends quite deep into the mountain.

It still goes a bit further, but at the end it gets too low for a person to fit.

Heading south, into the interior of the mountain, you soon come to a partition; however, you can crawl under the “wall” and then reach another room.

A little water flows in one corner.

The next room is very small.

From here, crawling on your stomach, you come to a third room about 15 metres long; here the view to the left…

…and to the right, from where a small crevice leads back into the main room.

And back again; you have to crawl under this wall.

Kakó Spílaio cave is mostly low, but quite large. There is said to be another circular room with a diameter of 45 metres, which can be reached through a very small passageway and contains a small lake, but we did not find it.

Caves are often home to interesting animals that are adapted to life in the dark and in the unchanging, protected environment. On Naxos occurs an endemic cave cricket (Dolichopoda naxia), of which we find quite a few, as well as a several bats.

An endemic cave cricket species lives in the caves and emery mines of Naxos.

These are probably horseshoe bats.

And now back to the entrance!

On a rock above the entrance sits this nest.

Who might have been nesting here?

And finally, the view outside, towards the north.

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