Welcome to one of the most famous beaches in Greece. You will find it located 67 km southwest of Heraklion city. The beach is 300 meters long, it has golden sand, cozy bamboo umbrellas and sunbed you can rent for the day. Nearby you find ancient Phaistos.
Matala was a sleepy fishing village for many, many years, until the beauty of the place was discovered by hippies back in the 1960s. Today most of the locals are engaged in tourism, and you will have no problem in finding accommodation and modern facilities. There is a camping site and a great many fish tavernas as well.
Imposing cliff wall with caves
To the right from the beach, you will see the imposing cliffs with the rare, curvedly shaped cave openings. It was in those caves which the hippies found shelter back in the 1960s. As a matter of fact, this beach was first inhabited in prehistoric times when the locals dug the caves into the rocks above the beach. Today you will find the prehistoric caves fenced.
Where is Matala Crete?
You will find Matala, the most ancient village in Crete, about 70 km south of Heraklion. For many years it was a quiet fishing community. If you want to see the ancient city of Matala you will have to dive or snorkel since the city submerged under the sea. It is built along the coast of Messara Bay inside a beautiful, tiny inlet. During summer this nice, long, and sandy beach is attracting many tourists from all over the world.
How to reach Matala?
Arriving by plane or ferry to Heraklion Crete you have three options for reaching Matala.
- Car rental: First option is renting a car from the airport. It is an easy road to travel on your own, driving the about one hour’s drive to Matala on the south coast of Heraklion Prefecture.
- Pre-book taxi: The second option is to pre-book a taxi from Heraklion airport. The fee from the airport to Matala is around 80€. See below
- By bus: The third option is to use the national bus service KTEL. The bus ride from Heraklion to Mata takes about two hours and costs 8-9€.
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Prehistoric, artificial caves
Above and to the north of the famous Matala beach the artificial caves were carved into rocks and inhabited first during the Neolithic Age. They were initially used as dwellings and places of worship. During the Minoan period Matala was the port of Phaistos. In the year 220 BC. Matala was occupied by the Gortynians, and during the Roman period Matala became the port of Gortys. One of the caves is called “Brutospeliana” as according to a legend this cave was frequented by the Roman general Brutus. Later during the 1st and the 2nd centuries the caves were used as tombs by the early Christians.
Famous Hippie shelter during the 1960s and early 1970s
During the 1960s Matala saw an increase in number of tourists who visited the caves. In the early 1970s, the caves became home to an international hippie community, where great musicians like Joni Mitchell and Cat Stevens lived, using the stunning beauty of the bay as inspiration for their beautiful songs. The 1971 song Carey by Joni talks about her experiences in Matala. Eventually, the hippies were driven out by the church and the military junta who did not approve of the hippie community during these years in Greece.
Rock of Theosyni
Just south of the caves you will see a huge rock formation named Theosyni. It offers a spectacular view of Messara Bay and forms a marine cave in sea level, called Kouropi. Wild pigeons and the Mediterraneans seals find shelter here.
Where to stay in Matala Crete?
The Matala Caves are today protected by the Archaeological service. You pay an entrance fee of about 2 Euros to enter the caves, but you are not allowed to stay overnight anymore. Today you will find many great accommodation opportunities in Matala as well as tourist facilities. You will no longer find free-spirited hippies and you should visit the caves for their stunning beauty amidst the landscape with golden sand, turquoise colored sea and the red sun setting into it.
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Phaistos is an ancient city in Crete. Phaistos was located in the south-central portion of the island, about 5.6 kilometres from the Mediterranean Sea. It was inhabited from about 4000 BC. A palace, dating from the Middle Bronze Age, was destroyed by an earthquake during the Late Bronze Age. Knossos along with other Minoan sites was destroyed at that time. The palace was rebuilt toward the end of the Late Bronze Age.
Agiofarago Gorge Matala
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The Phaistos Disc – late Minoan Bronze Age
The Phaistos Disc is a disk of fired clay from the Minoan palace of Phaistos on the island of Crete, possibly dating to the middle or late Minoan Bronze Age (2nd millennium BC). It is about 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter and covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols. Its purpose and meaning, and even its original geographical place of manufacture, remain disputed, making it one of the most famous mysteries of archaeology. This unique object is now on display at the archaeological museum of Heraklion. The disc was discovered in 1908 by the Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier in the Minoan palace-site of Phaistos, and features 241 tokens, comprising 45 unique signs, which were apparently made by pressing pre-formed hieroglyphic “seals” into a disc of soft clay, in a clockwise sequence spiraling towards the disc’s center.
Minoan Agia Triada
Agia Triada is the archaeological site of an ancient Minoan settlement. Agia Triada is situated on a prominent coastal ridge, with the Mesara Plain below. The site sits at the western end of the ridge, while Phaistos is at the eastern end. Agia Triada means holy trinity in Greek.
Agia Triada is in south central Crete, 30-40 meters above sea level. It lies four km west of Phaistos, situated at the western end of the Mesara Plain. The site was not one of the “palaces” of Minoan Crete, but an upscale town, and possibly a royal villa. After the catastrophe of 1450 BC, the town was rebuilt and remained inhabited until the 2nd century BC. Later, a Roman period villa was built at the site. Nearby are two chapels, Agia Triada and Agios Georgios, built during the Venetian period, as well as the deserted village of Agia Triada.
Agia Triada, as nearby Phaistos, was excavated in the early 20th century. A sarcophagus painted with illuminating scenes from Cretan life was unearthed, now at the Archaeological Museum in Iraklion. The sarcophagus was used for the burial of a prince during the period of the Mycenean occupation (1400 BC).
The main scene is a bull sacrifice and shows all the stages of the sacred ceremony. On it appear a large number of religious symbols,a male figure playing a flute and a man playing a seven-string lyre.This is the oldest picture of the lyre known in classical Greece.
The site includes a town and a miniature “palace”, an ancient drainage system servicing both, and Early Minoan tholos tombs. The settlement was in use, in various forms, from Early Minoan I until the fires of Late Minoan IB.
Agia Triada has yielded more Linear A tablets than any other Minoan archaeological site. Other famous finds include the Chieftain’s Cup, the Boxer Vase, and the Harvest Vase.
Kommos – a Bronze Age port and archaeological site
Kommos is a Greek prehistoric Bronze Age port and archaeological site in southern Crete. It was a busy port with connections to the Near East that continued into historic periods; the rich finds and elaborate buildings reflect the importance of foreign trade for the Cretan economy. Its ancient name was probably Amyklaion, which would reflect a link with Amyclae. The site first attracted the attention of archaeologists in 1924, when Arthur Evans heard about large storage vessels found there and speculated about the existence of a Bronze Age “customs house”; excavations have been carried on by J.W. and Maria Shaw since 1976.Read more
The site does not conform to the traditional “Palatial” style of the Minoans. Built atop the ruins of a smaller stone age settlement, the structure the site contains a single upscale (though far from royal) dwelling attached to the site, six respectably sized dwellings on the hillside to the North and a warren of stone rooms atop the hill of a community of farmers/fishermen.
Though its original use is debated, the site was abandoned several times over its lifetime. During such periods, parts of the site were used as a pottery studio with a large kiln still in evidence. The settlement’s final incarnation saw the main courtyard converted into “ship sheds” by knocking down the seaside wall and building long narrow rooms open on one end. A paved section of road passing through the site, roads being difficult and expensive propositions at the time, along with the conversion to ship sheds suggests the use of the site as a harbour and customs house by a larger settlement.
Papadoplaka is a natural reef islet off the southern coast of the Greek island of Crete in the Libyan Sea. The islet is in a bay between cape Lithino and Cape Kefalas, at Kommos, and close to Gortyn which was the ancient capital of Crete. The name can be loosely translated as the priest’s rock.
It belongs to a group of four islets in the bay Papadoplaka (to the west), Megalonisi (with the lighthouse), Mikronisi (also known as Agios Pavlos), and Trafos.
Papadoplaka was more substantial in Minoan times, due to lower sea levels, and is likely to have offered safe harbor for ships in that part of the bay. J. W. Shaw believes that Papadoplaka is likely to have been linked with the coast via a partially submerged sandy shore. This would make a Minoan harbor at Kommos similar to the harbor at Amnisos.
Zaros village and Lake Votomos
Zaros village, at an altitude of 340 metres, is a village with a lake and gorge nearby. The village has a couple of hotels and it is 44 km from Heraklion at the southern foothills of Mount Psiloritis. The population of 3,400 produce olive oil, sultanas, vegetables and spring water. There are a couple of fish farms that serve both trout and salmon. In Zaros, there are cafes near Lake Votomos, as well as a tavern called I Limni (The Lake) that serves fresh trout . Close by is Rouvas Gorge, which is part of the Psiloritis mountain range and is on the hiking route known as the E4 European Walking Path. Nearby Zaros village are traditional water mills which have been working since the 16th century. Zaros is also famous for its water derived from Lake Votomos and bottled by a bottling plant called Votomos SA.
Weather and climate in Matala Crete