Mount Zas and Zas Cave

The road for the Cave of Zas branches west 1km after Filoti (20km), as you head towards Apeiranthos. It finishes after 1.3km at the plentiful springs of sweet water at Aries which rise in a break of plane-trees offering stunning views as far as the sea to the southwest, along a gorge scattered with oak, cypress and olive trees. From the spring it is a 25-minute steep climb up a torrent bed to the cave which lies to the left just above another, weak spring. The combination of nearby fresh-water and protection which the cave affords has appealed since earliest times, when Neolithic man both dwelled and buried his dead within this cave. The remarkable finds from this period in the cave have included clay seal-impressions—objects which suggest the evolving need to identify property which was personal to one family or group. Copper tools were also uncovered. But the most dramatic find here has been a small beaten gold strip (now in the Naxos Archaeology Museum, see above), dating from the 5th/4th millennium bc, which indicates probable trade communication with the Northern Aegean and Macedonia. The piece is perforated at its four corners, as if for stringing as an item of jewellery. Through out the Bronze Age the cave continued to be used; thelow transverse wall inside the entrance to the cave dates from this period.
   From the cave, the summit of Zas (999m) can be reached in a further 45 minutes. This approach is particularly steep. The longer approach from the north, leaving from the road to Danakos, close by the church of Aghia Marina, is more gradual (90 minutes). Zas is the high est peak of the Cyclades, sacred to Zeus, with whom its name is cognate. This is the best area for glimpsing the colony of Griffon vultures which inhabit this mountain ridge, recognisable by their deeply ‘fingered’ wings raised stiffly in a shallow ‘V’ above the body. The area also hosts Bonelli’s eagle and Long-legged buzzards, as well as both Peregrine and Eleanora’s falcon. Rare and endemic plants include the Erysimum naxense—a yellow-flowered, upland cress—and ‘hare’s ear’, Bupleurum aira, both of which grow on the upper screes of the ridge. The Galanthus Ikariae snowdrop, found only in a few of the Aegean islands, also can be seen here at the higher altitudes when it flowers in March.

Naxos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.

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