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Matala, a village that lives with its sandstone caves
Archaeological Sites . Museums . Cultural MonumentsHeraklion area

The ancient city of Matala

The ancient city of Matala was an important port

The ancient city lies at the head of the small bay of the same name in the area of Mesara.

Ancient Matalon or Matallon was an important port and the harbor town of ancient Gortyn, and prospered greatly in Roman and Early Christian times.

At the rocky northern end of the bay lies the Roman cemetery, an archaeological site open to the public. Approximately 62 chamber tombs are cut into the natural limestone in at least 4 successive levels. Only 5 of them have been excavated, while the majority of the caves have been plundered by the hippies who lived in the cave in the 1960s.

The caves usually consist of a single, and more rarely two communicating chambers, with arched openings (arcosolia), and semicircular or rectangular niches cut in the side walls to receive offerings. Rectangular pits in the floor received group burials, with successive layers of interment. The great care shown to conserve space, and the fact that the burials are confined to Late Roman and Early Christian times (3rd-4th c. AD) possibly point to mass deaths caused from epidemics.

The ancient city of Matala Crete
Room with sea view – view from one of the caves

The ancient city of Matala Crete

The ancient city of Matala Crete


At the southern end of the bay are preserved the installations of the ancient harbor (shipsheds), as well as some cave tombs, some of which are now in the sea as a result of the land subsidence caused by earthquakes.

Just to the South is the Kastri hill, on which the Ancient Acropolis was located. The defensive as well as several building remains, mainly of the Hellenistic period, are still visible.  (source> XXIII Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities)

Ancient city of Matala – Useful information  (last updated: May 2020)

Opening times: In summer mid-May till 31 October daily from 10.00 – 19.00hrs., in winter 01 November till mid- May daily from 10.00-15.00hrs.
Entrance fee: 4 €, reduced ticket 2 € Additional information in General information about entrance fees to museums and archaeological sites in Greece”

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