Many things have certainly changed since the ‘60s, when the “flower children” discovered Matala. As time went by, the small fishing village became one of the most recognizable destinations of Crete. Nevertheless the area still has much to reveal to its persistent visitors.
If you find yourself on the north shore of Crete, and the ‘meltemi’ (northern wind) won’t let you enjoy your plunges, we recommend the south side of the Prefecture of Herakleion. Matala (75km south of Herakleion city), the beaches of Mesara, Kalamaki as well as the immense coastline of the Libyan Sea, will fascinate you. The sea takes on tropical hues here, and there are important archaeological sites to visit, that will help you trace history’s steps.
History at a glance
Matala was the port of Phaistos, the second most important city after Knossos (2000 π.Χ.) in Crete. Phaistos was a powerful and independent city, following Knossos in importance as a centre of the Minoan Civilization, and cut its own coins. Remnants of the ancient port are still visible on the seabed of the cove. Countless caves in the rock that act as a natural boundary for the beach, were carved out in antiquity, and were used in the Roman and early Christian years as cemeteries or dwellings. More recently, in the 1960s, when the hippy movement was at its peak, Matala – then only a small fishing village, without even electricity – became a favourite destination for the “flower children”. Nowadays the caves are an archaeological site and the area is enclosed by fence.
In Matala, the white sugary sandy beach, very well organized, lies between the village and the caves. A beach volley festival takes place here in July every year www.matalabeachvolley.com
Neighbouring Kommos beach is also exceptional (5 km far from Matala).
Two kilometres to the south you will find the secluded Kokkini Ammos, accessible by boat.
The archaeological site with the palaces of Ancient Phaistos (8 km north of Matala), daily receives the largest number of visitors after Knossos. Ancient tombs have also been discovered in Kamilari, and the ruins of a Minoan mansion have come to light in Agia Triada.
The archaeological site of Minoan Gortyna is also noteworthy(12 km east of Phaistos). The archaeological sites are open daily from 8:00 am – 20:00 pm (+30 28290 42315)
On the shores of the Libyan Sea: Rent a car, buy a good map of the region, and set off on an unforgettable tour. We recommend the route that passes through villages Pistidia, Sivas and continues to the fort-like Monastery of Odigitria (14th century). Discover the “Agiofaraggo” gorge and swim in the secluded Martsalo beach. By taking the dirt road from the Monasteri of Odigitria (8.5 km), you will reach the well protected Vathy bay, with its tropical waters.
Towards Lentas: After you reach the Kalos Limenas area, head east to Lentas and its unique beaches. The best beach in the area is Dryskos, close to Lentas.
Explorations on Canoe Kayak
The shores of the Libyan sea hide many interesting locations than can be approached only by sea. Canoe kayaks, available for rent, are ideal for exploring the region with the assistance of experienced guides www.kayakcrete.com
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Copyright photo: Theo Athanasiadis / Views Of Greece
Copyright text: Germaine Alexakis/ Views Of Greece
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