Average duration: 5 hours

About 40 minutes drive south of Heraklion, in the plain of Messara, we find the archaeological site of Gortys. The area has been inhabited since 3000 BC, while the Minoan era evolved as one of the largest cities in Crete. The rise of the pro-Roman city took off when the Romans moved the capital of Crete and Cyrenaica (modern Libya) Gortyn. The city was completely destroyed by the Arabs in 828 AD. The city is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. Early researches started in 1884 by archaeologists Federico Halbherr and Stefano Xanthoudides when discovered Great Gortyn code.

We will visit the church of St Titus, the Roman Odeon, which is the most important ancient conservatory in Crete, the room of the Law Code, which the Halbherr discovered in 1884 and this civil law of Gortyn in boustrophedon writing is the oldest law. We see, even, Roman sculptures, the famous plane tree of Gortys, the citadel, the Praetorium, the baths, the temple of Apollo and the only temple in ancient Crete dedicated to Egyptian deities.

Some kilometers west of Gortys we find the hills where is situated Phaestos Palace, the second major Minoan Palace in Crete. Phaistos arose in the fertile Messara plain from 6,000 BC approximately to the 1st BC century, as attested by archaeological finds. The first palace was built in about 2,000 BC. Mythical founder seems Minos himself and its first king was Radamanthys, Minos’s brother.

In the afternoon, we continue for Matala, ancient port of Gortys and Phaestos at the Libyan Sea. Matala became famous when in the 1960s hippies arrived here from around the world to live in the famous caves of Matala located next to the beach. The magnificent inlet of Matala features one of the best beaches in Crete. The turquoise blue sea invites you to sink and the charming village with the picturesque local taverns is waiting you to taste the local dishes. It is one of the most popular destinations of Crete.

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