Spend a blissful day in Matala relaxing on the sands of picture-perfect Red Beach and explore the spectacular rock formations and caves nearby. Eat delicious seafood in the local tavernas and browse the galleries and shops of the narrow village streets. Visit ancient Minoan remains and important archaeological sites nearby.
In the 1960s Matala was famous as a popular hippie hangout; the Canadian singer Joni Mitchell wrote about her experiences sleeping in the caves in the song Carey. Now the hippies are long gone, but the town retains a relaxed feel, picturesque streets and great beaches. Enjoy this popular destination for locals and visitors alike.
Don’t miss manmade caves carved into the spectacular sloping rocks. These date back to Neolithic times and also served as a base for the hippies when they populated this area. Walk down the cliffs to the beautiful Red Beach and spend a day sunbathing and swimming in the tranquil waters. Be aware that this beach is a clothing-optional site.
To explore the area, drive a short distance north to find the archaeological site of Kommos, which houses ancient Minoan ruins. Visit the nearby beach. Also within easy driving distance is the Monastery of Odigitria. This is next to a Minoan cemetery. Spend a pleasant morning or afternoon browsing the galleries and shops of the village center.
Head into the village in the evening and enjoy tasty Greek dishes and local wine in one of the many tavernas. Try dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) and tsatziki (yogurt sauce) or very fresh seafood and local vegetables. As an accompaniment, sample retsina, the Greek specialty wine with a unique pine scent.
Matala is located 42 miles (67 kilometers) southwest of Heraklion. You can see all Matala’s sights in a single day, but to make the most of your time here you should consider staying at least a night. Plenty of accommodation options are available.