Matala – Phaistos – Samaria Gorge

We left Matala early today and drove to the site of the Minoan Palace of Phaistos. We arrived very early and had the place to ourselves for a few hours. With no crowds, it was easy to imagine living in the palace, as royalty of course… The site was inhabited from Neolithic times (3000 BCE) until the 15th century BCE.

According to mythology, the city of Phaistos was the seat of King Radamanthis, brother of King Minos (of labyrinth and the minotour fame).  The city was also part of the Trojan war. One of its two main ports was Matala, so it was interesting to drive the ancient route from the sea up to the palace.

Leaving Phaistos we drove up into the mountains to the Samaria Gorge trailhead. Most people hike down in the morning to catch the ferry.  We began our hike after lunch and pretty much had the entire Gorge to ourselves. I hiked down with Christie. We were not in a hurry, but we knew we had bad knees and about 5 hours. We occasionally ran into hikers working their way up the trail – harder on the breathe, easier on the legs. The hike is 16 km (10 miles) and all downhill. I should say here that we were given the option of staying on the minibus and accompanying our luggage straight to Agia Roumeli, the town at the base of the gorge, on the Libyan Sea. But we opted for the hike, and as hard as it was on the knees, it was spectacular. We drank clean, fresh water springs along the way, and occasionally read signs that said – Falling Rocks, Walk Quickly!

There is one part of the gorge, known as the Gates where the sides of the gorge close in to a width of 15 ft, and soar up to a height of 980 feet. Its a national park and a refuge for the rare kri-kri (Cretan goat), which is ridiculously cute. I only got one blister, and our guides had all the necessary bandages waiting for us.

Once we got down, we walked along the road to our hotel and had dinner on the terrace overlooking the sea. Pretty perfect…