Matala. We are located in Heraklion, Crete, in the 60s, under your feet there is warm, golden sand. In front of you stand caves carved by human hand, several thousand years ago. Inside them, you can hear a guitar and human voices conversing and singing in a multitude of different languages. The former funerary tranquility that prevailed in the place in Roman times has been replaced by the sounds of those who found their home in this place. Welcome to historic Matala!
Matala: The freedom movement flourishes on Cretan soil
The first settlers were the Beatniks, who paved the way for the “revolution” of the ’60s and made this Cretan village and its caves their home. Later, the hippies came and left their imprint on this fishing village forever, as Matala became synonymous with the flower children.
The hippies rejected their modern lifestyle and all its consequences. They lived in harmony with nature, eating what they caught, working the land, and wearing little or no clothes. They advocated for world peace and unity, loved, married, and created. Living in the caves was like being embraced by the earth.
Matala soon became a global attraction, drawing celebrities into its caves. Janice Joplin, Bob Dylan, and other stars of that era spent some time on the Cretan land, which even inspired them to write songs.
Finos Film, a Greek producer of films, even moved its crew to Matala for scenes of the famous film “ My Aunt, the Hippie” starring Rena Vlachopoulou.
The end of the settlement in Matala
But soon, the hippies faced opposition from those who saw their lifestyle as immoral and dangerous for the youth. In the politically troubled 1970s, the police intervened after the church’s involvement, raiding the area and arresting suspected Vietnam War draft dodgers.
The site of freedom was taken over by the agents of oppression. The dream of immunity was shattered, with the caves being sealed off by the end of the decade and their residents moving to the island of Ios.
How is Matala today
Matala no longer has anything to do with the images of the 1960s. Arriving now at this seaside place, you will see mainly tourists who arrive from all over the world, to see this legendary place and be mentally transported to the past of Hippie philosophy while enjoying the natural beauty of the landscape.
The caves are now a tourist attraction of the area, which you must visit and admire the view over the rock. Once you see it, you will surely vindicate those who had chosen to be the first thing they saw when they woke up.
The beautiful beach of Matala that starts from the settlement to the famous caves invites you to take a dip. Crystal-clear waters and fine sand compose the unique scenery of this organized coast. No doubt, you will want to visit again and stay until the sun reaches its sunset for the day.
How to get to Matala
Matala is located 65 km from the city of Heraklion in Crete. Keep in mind that you will need to cross Crete from north to south. You will need to reach the other side over the mountains to the Lybian Sea. It will take you a little over an hour to get there. From Heraklion town you get the road to Moires and from there to Matala.
A tree of six centuries
Coming to Matala do not forget to make a stop to see up close the most famous tree in the world. A six-century-old olive tree stands in the square of the area, symbolizing life itself. On it you will see carved the faces of four deities: Zeus, Poseidon, Dionysus, and Hermes, work of the artist Spyros Stefanakis.