Jan 27, 2016

“The night is a starry dome[...] beneath the Matala Moon”

Every prefecture of Crete comprises a great number of small, quaint and historical villages around their main urban centers. Each such village is characterized after its unique place in history and time, and all together constitute a strong traditional unity, that makes Crete substantially rich. If you're staying at Creta Beach Hotel & Bungalows there are plenty of such villages around Heraklion to organize your day-to-day road trips and to blend in the transpired tradition. A great and very unique option to explore, as it includes significant historical references, is the fishing village of Matala.

Matala's distance from the hotel is about 66 kilometers, meaning approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes by car, but this small picturesque village has a lot to be remembered for. It is located at the southwest part of Crete, near the archaeological site of Festos, and has lived some really glorious days in the 60's. During that decade, Matala comprised the meeting point for hippies from all over the world, who were gathering at the Caves of Matala to sing, live free and dream. Between the hippies coming to Matala following the flow of the period, important artists of the music world such as Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin stayed in the Matala Caves, while Joni Mitchell sung about the starry sky of Matala at her song, Carey. The current face of Matala does not link directly to that period anymore, but the village is being visited by thousands of tourists each year, seeking to absorb the contextual vibes of the past and to embody some of the mentality of that period.

Nowadays, Matala is known for its beautiful beaches (the titular beach is great, as well as the sandy beaches of Kokkini Ammos and Kommos), its archaeological sites and the various traditional villages around it, such as Sivas, Kamilari and Festos. The village does not offer a special nightlife, but there are several bars next to the shore for someone to enjoy his/her drink listening to the wash of the sea.

The Caves of Matala

There is ambiguity regarding the period when the caves were formed, with the most plausible scenario to be that they were Roman, or even Christian tombs of the early Christian period. They are situated on the right of the beach resembling a Swiss cheese with numerous holes on their mountainous body. In some of the caves there are formations of beds and windows, a clue that led researchers to believe that they were inhabited in the past, as well as from the hippies in 1960 and 1970. Today, the Caves are protected by the local Archaeological Office. The entrance is free, but it is forbidden for anyone to stay overnight.

How to get to Matala

There are two ways to get to Matala. The first is to follow the road towards the small town of Moires at the flatland of Messara. When you arrive there, take the exit to Pitsidia and Matala. You'll need a little less than an hour and a half.

A second way to Matala is to cross Moires towards Tybaki. After a few kilometers you will see the sign to Festos,where you can also make a stop to visit the palace and the adjacent archaeological site. After Festos, follow again the sign to Pitsidia and Matala.

Note that the road from Heraklion towards these villages is paved and with great traffic signing, so consider the trip easy and safe, as you are not going to face any problems driving there.

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