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Matala%20village
Matala village
Messara, South - West Iraklion
at 0km (NE)
Matala (GR: Μάταλα) was the ancient port of Phaistos and Gortys and a former fishing community which has developed into a modern holiday center. It is located 4 km south-west of the village of Pitsidia and 75 km from Iraklion. It is built on the coast line of the Messara bay inside a small and picturesque inlet. During the 60's the caves of Matala were hosting a hippie commune.

Kommos%20beach%20and%20arch%2E%20site
Kommos beach and arch. site
Messara Bay, Iraklion
at 2.3km (NE)
One of the most beautiful sandy beaches of Crete, extends from a clump of rocks riveted in the shallow waters in the south to the Kalamaki settlement in the North. In Minoan times there used to be the ancient port of Phaistos. The antiquities lie just a few meters away from the sea.

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Odigitria%20monastery
Odigitria monastery
Messara plain, South - East Iraklion
at 4.9km (SE)
The monastery of Odigitria is a monastery of great importance and historical value and one of the oldest in Crete. It is located at the west edge of the Asterousia mountains at an altitude of 250 m.
The monastery was surrounded by walls, part of them still stands. The temple of the monastery is dedicated to the assumption of Holly-Mother and to the Saint Apostles (Peter & Paul). Inside the temple there are valuable frescoes, icons of famous painters and iconostasis.
The monastery is connected with the legendary freedom fighter 'Ksopateras' (1788 - 1828)
In the area of the monastery at Agioi Eftihianoi was found an ancient (Early Minoan) cemetery.

Agia%20Triada%20Arch%2E%20Site
Agia Triada Arch. Site
Archaeological Site in Messara, S-W Iraklion
at 8.3km (NE)
The "Royal Villa" at Ayia Triada which is situated very close to Phaistos, was built in about 1550 BC. i.e. just before the new palace at Phaistos, and was destroyed by fire in l450 BC, like all other important Minoan centres. It succeeded the first palace at Phaistos as the economic and administrative centre of the regions depriving the new palace there of this role, and appears to have had connections with Knossos. The two wings, with an open-air space between them, consisted of groups of interconnecting rooms (polythyra), storerooms and stairways. On the site of the ruins, a Mycenaean megaron, the so-called "Agora" and an open - air shrine were subsequently built.
In the villa's disaster layer from the fire in 1450 BC, excavation revealed a valuable group of exceptional works of art, precious materials, records in Minoan script and seals. The famous black serpentine vessels, the "Harvesters' Vase", the "Boxers' Vase" and the "Chieftain ‘ s Cup", the wall paintings depicting the natural landscape, the sarcophagus, the bronze and clay figurines of worshipers and the copper ingots from the Treasury are among the most noteworthy findings.

Phaistos%20Disk
Phaistos Disk
Found at Phaistos Palace
at 8.6km (NE)
The disc of Phaistos is the most important example of hieroglyphic inscription from Crete and was discovered around 1903-05 in a small room near the depositories of the "archive chamber", in the north - east apartments of the palace, together with a Linear A tablet and pottery dated to the beginning of the Neo-palatial period (1700- 1600 B.C.).
The disc of Phaistos can be seen at the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.

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Phaistos
Phaistos
Palace and Archaeological Site
at 8.7km (NE)
The archaeological site, the palace, the findings - The Festos Disc. According to mythology, Phaistos (or Festos) was the seat of king Radamanthis, brother of king Minos. It was also the city that gave birth to the great wise man and soothsayer Epimenidis, one of the seven wise men of the ancient world.Excavations by archaeologists have unearthed ruins of the Neolithic times (3.000 B.C.).

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Kaliviani%20monastery%20%20
Kaliviani monastery
Moires, Messara
at 10km (NE)
The monastery of Panagia Kaliviani is located at the 59th km on the road Iraklion-Phaistos. The monastery was built during the second Byzantine period. The small Byzantine chapel was painted with frescoes but most of them are today destroyed. The chapel was deserted until, during the Turkish occupation in 1873, an old small icon of the Annunciation of the Holy Mother was miraculously found there.and the monastery became a place of worship.

The%20Museum%20of%20Cretan%20Ethnology
The Museum of Cretan Ethnology
Voroi, Messara, Iraklion
at 10.2km (NE)
The exhibited objects in the Museum come from all over Crete. These objects show that the folk culture of Crete is characterized by an amalgam of influences in which Minoan (2000-1000 BC), Archaic (1000-500 BC) and Byzantine models prevail, especially in agriculture, stock breeding, pottery and basketry.

Paximadia%20islands
Paximadia islands
Messara Bay, Iraklion
at 13.5km (W)
Two small dry and uninhabited islets off the bay of Messara, ~7.5 naut. miles to the west of Matala. Due to their close proximity to one another the two islands appear as one from a distance. They are also called "elephantaki" as from north they look like a baby elephant that is lying down. In mythology it is believed that the goddess Lito gave birth to the god Apollon and the goddess Artemis on these islands. In antiquity they were called Dionissioi after the god Dionissos.
During the summertime there are small cruising boats that bring tourists here from Agia Galini and Kokkinos Pyrgos. There is only a small beach with fine pebble and rich seabed at the south side of the easternmost islet.

Galia%20village
Galia village
Messara, Iraklion South
at 14.3km (NE)
Gallia is one of the oldest villages of the area. It is mentioned as a location in the Venetian records as early as 1577, and as a village with 120 residents since 1583. The renaissance tower in the village (still imposing although rundown) and the water fountains in the Kapeloniana area are proof of the passing of the Venetians. Part of the village, called Monohoro, is mentioned as early as 800 A.D.

Ancient%20Levin
Ancient Levin
Lentas, South Iraklion
at 17.2km (SE)
The first habitation of the site dates from the Neolithic and Early Minoan period (3rd millenium B.C.). In the late Classical period (beginning of the 4th century B.C.) the Gortynians established the sanctuary of Asklepios at the harbour. During the tremendous earthquake of 46 B.C. the city was destroyed and subsequently rebuilt. In the Early Christian and Byzantine periods, a small settlement developed and the basilica was erected. The most important monuments of the site are:
The Temple of Asklepios., the "Treasury"., the Fountain, a large, three-aisled basilica, an Early Minoan settlement (2600-2000 B.C.), the West Stoa, the North Stoa, the Nymphaion and two large, mud-brick cisterns.

Apodoulou%20village
Apodoulou village
Amari, Rethymnon
at 18.1km (N)
The village of Apodoulou is located 55 km from Rethimno at an altitude of 450m. Remains of an extensive centre of the Old Palace period (1950-1700 B.C.) have been uncovered.at the site called Gournes, near the village of Apodoulou, at the west foot of Psiloreitis. The site dominates the Amari valley and controls the main route to the Messara plain. Excavations have brought to light three building complexes while tholos tombs of the Postpalatial period (1380-1200 B.C.) have also been located in the adjacent area.
The first excavations on the site were carried out by S. Marinatos in the 1930's. During World War II it was excavated by the German Archaeological Institute, under the direction of E. Kirsten. Since 1985, systematic excavations have been carried out by the Greek Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the University of Naples.

The most important monuments on the site are:
Building A. It lies on the east side of the hill, to the south of the massive retaining wall. It had two storeys, as is indicated by the two preserved steps of a staircase. Decades of pithoi and other vases found on the ground floor suggest that it was used for storage. The house was destroyed by fire which followed an earthquake.

Building B, located to the north of the retaining wall. It is a complex of rooms which originally communicated with Building A.

Building C. It lies to the east of house A and belongs to a later phase of the settlement.

Tholos tomb at Sopatakia. Tholos tomb with dromos, lying to the east of the road that leads from Apodoulou to Nithavris. The dromos is 7 m. long and the chamber has a diameter of 3.10 m. Three larnakes were found inside the burial chamber. Dated to 1380-1200 B.C.

Source: The Hellenic Ministry of Culture

Great%20Basilica
Great Basilica
Gortyn archaeological site
at 19.3km (E)
This unique monument has been excavated in the last thirty years. It is located on the road between the Saint Titos Church and the village Mitropolis. It is the largest early Byzantine basilica in Crete and among the largest in whole Greece. In early Byzantine period it was the cathedral of the city. The first five-aisled basilica was erected here in the early 6th c., in the years of the Emperor Justinian and stood for about 70 years. The central aisle had a mosaic pavement decorated in geometric patterns and animals. It is believed that there were mosaics of stone and glass tesserae on the walls, too. The other aisle had pavements of limestone slabs. The columns were made of white and gray white marble. Of great importance is the pulpit, which resembles that of Saint Sophia in Constantinople. It was a high exedra on low columns and two stairs for ascent and decent. The choirs stood under the exedra. After the destruction of the first basilica in 620 AD, a new basilica was built over its ruins in the time of the Emperor Heraclios. This basilica, following the fortune of the whole city, was destroyed after the strong earthquake of 670 AD.

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Varsamonero%20monastery
Varsamonero monastery
Voriza, South - West Iraklion
at 19.4km (NE)
Close historical bonds link this monastery to that of Vrontisiou. The Varsamonerou Monastery lies in the surrounding fields of the village Voriza, 54.5 kms from Heraklion. The monastery is abandoned and, though its cells have been destroyed, its church has some of the most remarkable wall paintings in Crete.

Great%20North%20Theatre
Great North Theatre
Gortyn archaeological site
at 19.4km (NE)
The oldest theater of Gortyna was on the south slope of the Profitis Ilias hill (Acropolis), opposite to the Odeum. Its cavea was partly cut into the rock and partly built. Its scene was built at the west side of the large court of the Agora, which covered the river Lethaios with a flat bridge. This scene, which H. Belli saw in the 16th c AD, was 120 m long and was already destroyed in 19th c. AD.
On the proscenium there was an inscription of Julia Augusta and it was decorated with statues and relies, among which there was the statue of Europe on the Bull, with broken legs and head.This statue, as described by Admiral Spratt, is now kept in the British Museum and is dated to the 2nd c BC.

Gortyn%20Ancient%20town
Gortyn Ancient town
Messara, Iraklion South
at 19.5km (NE)
Located in the valley of Messara, Gortys or Gortyn (GR: Γόρτυς or Γόρτυνα) is a must visit for all visitors to Crete. It was inhabited during Bronze Age times, but its rise to glory came almost a millennium after the downfall of the 'Minoans'. Gortyn was a prosperous city from around the middle of the 5th century BC through to the early 9th century AD, when it was finally destroyed by the Saracens (824AD), never to be rebuilt.

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Roman%20Odeum
Roman Odeum
Gortyn archaeological site
at 19.5km (NE)
The Roman Odeum at Gortyn is considered one of the best and the most important of its type on Crete. Is has been founded at the North part of the Ancient Agora of the City. This semicircular building consists of three main parts:
a. The Cavea, connected with a domed corridor through three wide staircases;
b. the Orchestra, which has an internal diameter 8,5 m. and was paved with white and blue marble slabs;
c. The Scene, which had two entrances and the paraskenion, with mosaic pavement in geometric pattern. Statues of Muses stood in the niches. Initially the building was a circular Ekklesiasterion founded in the 5th c. BC. In the portico of this public building the Great Inscription with the Law Code of Gortyn dated to the early 5th c., stood. It was destroyed twice: in the 1st century BC, and again in 46 AD. After this last destruction it was reconstructed as an Odeum.
The great Inscription is considered to be the largest Greek inscription, the Queen of all Inscriptions. Its first fragments were found by the French travelers and were bought by the Louvre Museum. The most part of the Inscription was found accidentally by local farmers in 1884 and was further explored F. Halbherr.
It is a Law Code inscribed in the boustrophedon system of writing. It dates in the 1st half of the 5th c. BC and is the oldest Greek and European Law Code. It consists of twelve Deltoi and was built in the Ekklesiasterion of the 5th c BC. In this Code older laws, regarding the personal and family rights of the citizens of Gortyn, were codified.

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Saint%20Titus%20Church
Saint Titus Church
Gortyn archaeological site
at 19.5km (NE)
Saint Titus church at Gortyn bears the name of the Apostle Titus, attendant of Apostle Paul, who was appointed as the first Christian bishop of Crete. It is one of the most important Byzantine monuments in Crete. The name was given to the ruined church by the excavators in the beginning of the 20th c., as they considered it to be the site of the saint’s martyrdom. After the discovery of the new Great Early Byzantine Basilica, just outside the village Mitropolis, its excavators have proposed that as the original bishopric basilica, as it is a century earlier than this, which in the local tradition is named and celebrated after Virgin Mary, “Kera”.
The church has the plan of a three aisled inscribed cross with a low vault. It has been built of ashlar limestone. It has a narthex to the west and five entrances three of which form the trivelum with two columns. There were pillars instead of columns. Its architectural features date its foundation in the 2nd half of the 6th c. AD.

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Gortyn%20Acropolis
Gortyn Acropolis
Gortyn archaeological site
at 19.5km (NE)
The main acropolis of Gortyna was located on Agios Ioannis hill, to the northwest of the Agora. Acropolis can be accessed from its west side driving through Ambelouzos village to the direction of Gergeri. At a spot around 1.6 kms from Gortyna parking there is a footpath (not clearly signposted and maintained) that leads to the top of the hill. Once at the top you'll be rewarded by the magnificent view to the whole area and the archaeological site itself.
The site was first inhabited in the Neolithic era and again at the end of Minoan times (1200 BC). Since then it was continuously inhabited until the Middle Byzantine period. From the first settlement only parts of walls, floors and hearths were preserved. In the 10th century BC a Geometric settlement was established fortified by a polygonal wall with towers at the corners. At the end of the 7th c. A.D., a small tripartite temple, dedicated to Athena Poliouchos was founded at the south side of the hill. From this temple some very important architectural sculptures were excavated. During the Early Byzantine period (5 - 6th century AD), a basilica was erected over the ruins of the geometric/archaic temple and, in the time of the emperor Heraclios (7th century A.D.) the last fortification with a castle in the center was built which still survives but in a very poor condition.

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Hippodrome
Hippodrome
Gortyn archaeological site
at 19.5km (E)
The Hippodrome was located in the south part of the city of Gortyn, and was surrounded by columns. The central section was 374 metres long and 60 metres wide. Our information on the site is insufficient for the reason that there was never a systematic survey, or even a small excavation. What we see today of this magnificent monument are only some parts of columns and capitals.

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