Matala is located 68km southwest of the city of Heraklion, where the plain of Messara meets Asterousia mountains. This is one of the most popular tourist destinations of Crete and certainly the most famous beach of south Heraklion prefecture.
It is famous for the carved caves in the rocks and the hippies of the ‘70s. It is located close to Phaistos, the second largest palace of the Minoan civilization. Matala served as a port of Phaistos, and on the Roman Times, it became a port of Gortys. Matala is located at the exit of a small valley, which forms an enclosed bay with nice view to the islands of Paximadia. There is a beautiful sandy beach, 300m long, with fine gravel and crystal clear deep water. Moreover, the seabed is quite rocky in some places (especially in the central part of the bach) and waves are common, due to frequent west winds. Furthermore, there is a huge cave on the north part of the beach, from the top of which some people dive. The beach is very well organized with umbrellas, toilets, showers, lifeguard, first aids, beach volley courts, snack bars, water sports, excursion boats, a camping site, etc. Around Matala you will find many options for accommodation, entertainment and eating. Also, a large part of the beach is covered by tamarisk trees, where you can find shade. In the evenings, the bars on the beach are full with many people, both locals and foreigners. Especially in June, the internationally renowned Matala Festival takes place. The most famous feature of the area are the many graves of the Roman and the Christian Era, carved in the soft white limestone thousands of years ago in the northwest walls of the bay. There are several underwater caves, as well. Many of them have rooms, stairs, beds or windows, suggesting that they were once used as residences. The hippies of the '60s and '70s found their paradise in these caves, when they visited and stayed in Matala. Hippies expressed themselves freely, enjoyed love and creation. The hallmark of the hippies was the two fingers of victory, followed by the slogan «Peace Man». Around that time there was absolutely nothing in the area, but a small fishing village for the inhabitants of Pitsidia village, so the sense of freedom was unlimited. Matala became so popular with hippies that attracted several celebrities such as Joni Mitchell (sang a song for Matala called “Carey”), Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Joan Baez. However, all that stopped abruptly during the Greek dictatorship (‘70s), when the local Church expelled the "shameful" hippies. Then the “children of the flowers” moved to other regions of Crete (Preveli, Plakias, Lendas, Vai), but most of them moved in Ios island, in Cyclades, and continued their happy life. Matala were abandoned for a long time and the Archaeology sealed the area with the caves. In recent decades, the region has faced a rapid development and does not remind anything of the atmosphere of the past. Today you will see thousands of people, enjoying swimming on the beach, surrounded by modern hotels and talking about the lost past times. The caves are open to visitors as an archaeological site, but it’s forbidden to stay there overnight.