Matala is a small seaside village and popular beach of southern Crete in Heraklion. It is a safe natural harbor in the bay of Messara, and it is part of the community of Pitsidia within the municipal unit of Festos, Heraklion regional unit.
This is the place that according to mythology, when Zeus seduced the princess Europa in the form of a white bull , he swam to the shore and brought her to the beach of Matala.
Matala’s beach is 250 meters long and 45 meters wide. It is covered by a layer of sand and pebbles and is famous for its clear waters. Matala’s beach has received a Blue Flag by the Foundation for Environmental Education and it is known as one of the cleanest beaches in the world.
Half beach is framed by trees tamarisk , leading the eye to the impressive formations of sandstone cliffs with its famous caves, slipping into the sea at odd angle, creating one of the most unusual landscapes on the island.
Many pages of history have been written for this place. Nobody knows for sure who created the caves but it seems likely that it was built during the Roman era or by the early Christians as Christian tombs. Some of the caves, however, contain carved beds and windows, as well as porches, revealing a different purpose: historians believe that some of them were also used as homes long ago – and also more recently, when the “Flower Children” came to Matala.
The hippies came from the four corners of the earth to Matala, where they found ready-made homes in the caves. The Greek film “My Aunt the Hippie”, starring Rena Vlachopoulou, was also set here.
There are other ancient buildings on the eastern side of the village, and even in the sea where the clear waters of the bay will help you distinguish them.
During summer months , there are several tourists who camp in Matala’s beach and there are also quite a few organized camping locations for those who prefer camping outdoors.
Visiting the caves of Matala is free. The caves have been fenced off and are protected by the Archaeological Service, while nobody is allowed to live or spend the night in them.
Although it has become a pretty popular destination, it still retains the charm and character of the quiet village of fishermen, as it began in the early 20th century, and the relaxed lifestyle of the hippies of the 60s and 70s. The feeling of freedom, the beautiful beach, the welcoming bay and the azure waters form the ideal scene for relaxing vacation.
Text provided by Jessica Erin