knossos

 

Located on a slope amidst lush foliage the Knossos Palace is one of the world’s most famous archeological sites. The area is full of natural springs and there is a creek running past the site which provided fresh running water for the palace’s sophisticated and earthquake resistant plumbing system.

The results of Sir Arthur Evans excavations and efforts to restore the palace in part have been the subject of controversy in the scientific community. The purist archeologists view the restoration works as vandalism – where as those who defend the restoration believe (and not without justification) that Knossos is one of the few archeological sites in Greece that really gives you a sense of the grandeur and magnificence of the palace which hosted such a large and lively populace.

What is most truly amazing about this site is that it displays the architectural ingenuity and functionality of the structures – you really can imagine people living there, working there, and celebrating there. However you look at it Knossos it was much more than a votive temple. It was a thriving center for commerce.

 

Phaistos

 

The Palace of Phaistos may not have much extant architectural appeal but what is most impressive about this site is its location. From atop its stone mesa the view from the palace really makes you wish you were the master of all you survey! Surrounded by the fertile Messara plain and the sea to the west, the wealth this palace once commanded is tangible.

Nearby Matala with its Roman era sandstone caves offers a unique way to complement your visit to Phaistos.

 

Gortys

 

Further inland from Phaistos, as you enter the Messara valley, you will find the ancient Metropolis of Gortys. Once believed to host a population of approximately 300,000 this thriving city was more densely populated than modern day Herakleio! Gortys occupied Phaistos in the 3rd century B.C. and during Roman times this powerful citadel became the capital of Crete.

Gortys’ glory was a lure for the Saracens raiders who destroyed the city in 828 A.D. The city has never been inhabited since.

 

Malia Minoan Palace

 

On the northern coast the Palace of Malia occupies some prime beachfront real estate. With unimpeded views of the Aegean Sea and the Mountains stretching to the south Malia is another example of how cleverly the ancients placed their population centers. With rich fertile soil and ample ground water the residents were spoilt for choice when it came to diet. Even today the Malia area produces crops as diverse as potatoes and bananas.

Just to the west of the archeological site is a beautiful beach and if you go snorkeling there you can see the submerged remains of the ancient port.

 

Zakros Minoan Palace

 

On the eastern most end of the island the Zakros Palace was once a command post and trading center for the eastern Mediterranean. Originally built around 1900 B.C., the ruins now visible are actually from a later re-construction around 1600 B.C. With its imposing backdrop of the Gorge of the Dead, Zakros was a significant commercial port from which lumber and hand crafted products were exported to, while ivory, precious metals and semi-precious stones were imported from Egypt and the Middle East.

Life in Zakros came to an abrupt end, as it did in all the Minoan population centers, with the violent eruption of Thira, the still active volcano in Santorini Bay, around the middle of the 15th century B.C.