The best way to get around is to hire a car and to get a good road map. the main roads are fine and driving to Matala will not be a problem on them, if you try and cut across the mountains through the villages it will take you longer and you can easily go the wrong way without realising it for a couple of miles, this can be good though because you get to see some lovely villages that you would not normaly see. When driving back stick to the main roads though.
If you are going via public transport it is really easy, get the bus from Hersonnisos into Heraklion arriving at(Bus Station A, Not far from the marina) The bus to Matala does not go from this bus station though so you will then have to go to Bus station B (check at bus station A to make sure they have not changed it though) To get to bus station B you can walk across the old town or there is probably a bus.
Bus's leave from Bus station B to go to Matala at 07.30, 09.00, 11.30, 13.00, 15.30 Sunday: 07.30, 11.30, 15.30
Last year it was €6.80 Heraklion to Matala
Going to Rethymnon will be much easier as the bus goes from bus station A
Bus Station A has buses going to:
Agia Pelagia, Agios Nikolaos, Heraklion Airport, Archanes, Chania, Gournia, Hersonissos, Kastelli, Ierapetra, Istron, Lassithi Plateau, Malia, Milatos, Sitia, Rethymno, Sfakia, Sissi, Stalis/Stalida, Vrysses and places along the way.
Bus Station B has buses going to:
Zaros, Agia Galini, Anogia, Matala, Mires, Phaestos etc
Matala is a small town on the south of Crete (straight south of Iraklio).
Matala is definitely worth visiting, since on your way to Matala you are passing such an important sites like Gortys and Phaistos.
In Matala itself beach is sometimes little too crowded but nice. Also there is little bit too much of souvenirs stores but...you can still find a nice place to eat and you can have a nice walk around the beach with caves on the west side and small tavernas on the east side.
If you like to know more please read my Chania introduction page where I describe my whole trip as well as day in Matala.
The caves at Mátala were carved out in the 2nd century bc and would have been tombs. Some have carved niches were the body’s would have been lain. In The 1960’s and 70’s Mátala was swamped by Hippy’s who lived in the caves. You can still see the damage done by them in the form of Ban the bomb and peace signs carved into the caves and the remains of brightly coloured paint. The caves have now been fenced off and there is a small hut of the type used to take admission fees but when we went there was nobody in it and the gate was left open for people to just walk in.
In the 1960’s and 70’s many Hippies came to Mátala (including Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens) living in the Caves carved into the rock. There are still some hippy’s there camped out on the top of the beach near the gate to the caves. The surrounding hotels have mostly Germans staying in them, one even has pieces of the Berlin wall in the reception.
The beach is lovely and worth walking down even if like me you are not a beach lover.
The small Bazzar type shops sell Materials, herbs spices etc and are certainly worth walking around even if the prices are slightly higher than in some other places.
This beach is located in the south central part of Crete and was a Hippie hangout. The caves along the seaside cliffs were once used as Roman cemeteries. It is a really beautiful beach and busy but not overcrowded, at least when we were there. The beach is free but you will have to pay for an umbrella or chair.
Small town placed in south Crete, with beautiful beaches and small taverns. Matala is famous for famous caves in cliffs above the beach. In the 70's the caves hostes hippies. Presently they are available to all visitors (I mean the caves, not hippies LOL).
In full season the town is full of life. Bars and tavernas encourage to visits and taste the unique Greek cuisine, clubs offer wonderful nightlife and shops attract attention with colorful souvenirs.
In the evening it's good to sit for a while in a taverna on the beach and watch a picturesque sunset.
Matala was the ancient port of Phaistos and Gortys during the minoan period and former fishing community which has developed into a modern holiday center.
It is built on the coast line of the Messara bay inside a small and beautiful inlet considered as one of the best beaches of Crete.
The artificial caves, carved into the north face of the coast, have been probably used as prehistoric homes and places of worship, while during the 1st-2nd century were used as tombs.
During the 60's the caves were hosting a hippie commune.
There are many hotels, rooms for let, guest houses, camping, tavernas... ideal for summer holidays.
That Joni Mitchell song... how does it go?
The wind came in from Africa,
and last night I couldn't sleep...
(I forget this bit!)....
...my fingernails are filthy
I've got beach tar on my feet
I miss my clean white linen
And my fancy french cologne " etc
Anyway, to the point. The song is supposed to be about Matala on Crete's south coast. Anyone who was anyone in the 60s was supposed to have lived in the caves there. The cliff at Matala is very soft compacted sand - and the caves have been carved out of this : some with elaborate windows & lintels,. Many date back earlier than the hippy era, maybe to roman times.
What is Matala like now? We stayed out of season and found it charming & ramshakle. Yes, it does trade on its past - not just the Joni Mitchell days. Zeus, in guise of a white bull, abducted Europa and is said to have brought her ashore here - no doubt to buy postcards & cheap leather goods.
As for the hippy life, there are the odd few really really old hippies around, but you get the impression that any kind of alterative life style would be strictly discouraged - and the famous caves are locked at night.
Good things about Matala
- pretty little cove, rocky and rough, with bright sea creatures. Beach is pebbly but I have heard there's an interesting walk to the sandy 'red beach''
- lots of excellent rooms places, with attractive gardens and vines: see my accommodation tips
- a good base for exploring the area, particularly sites like Phaestos and the newer site of Kommos, an old Minoan harbour.
-good restaurants and bars - try walking right round to the far end of the bar (furtherest from the car park); the last taverna has really good home cooking and a fantastic view.
- every kind of facility : car rental (I recommend Monza), minimarket, a good bookshop, an ATM and a cafe offering internet access (the Zafiria) ; there's also an unusual tiny covered market
We stayed in very early May, and I think it probably gets very touristy later in the season.
Matala 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.
The magnificent inlet of Matala features one of the best beaches in Crete. The artificial caves, carved into the north face of the coast, have been probably used as prehistoric dwellings and places of worship, while during the 1st-2nd century were used as tombs.
These caves, in combination with the sandy beach, form a semicircle on both sides of which jut up towering rocks; they act as a magnet for many people. During the 60's the caves were hosting a hippie commune. Today, the tomb-caves of Matala are protected by the Archaeological Service.
Am I overdoing Matala? Well, we loved here so tough luck. The beach is kind of shingle/pebble at the water margin but as you go back it's soft, dark yellow (or light brown?) sand. A row ov tavernas line the far side of the beach oppoiste the caves and the town is just up beyond these. There you'll find a load more tavernas, cafes and restaurants as well as shops and car rental places. It's a very nice small resort.
The sea all around Crete was beautiful - so clear and so blue. We really think that this was the clearest sea that we've come across on any of our trips. At Matala the sea is known as The Libyan Sea and the next stop out there across the ocean (excepting the small offshore island) is in fact Libya.
An arty shot from inside one of the biggest caves at Matala, this looks out across the lovely sandy beach to the row of tavernas opposite. The place was quite quiet when we went but apparently gets really full in summer weekends when the Cretans come too to join the throngs of tourists here.
We really liked Matala and could spend a week or so here easily.
On the southern coast of Crete is the small seaside resort Matala. This is a really beautiful place, with a nice sandy beach and warm, calm seas that face across to Africa. In the hillside are a number of caves that were long ago used as burial tombs and more recently as cave dwellings for hippies. Nowadays they're just a fascinating and beautiful momento of those eras.
Matala is a small point on the map of Crete and there was a great boom of Hippy settlement thanks to its beautiful caves (actually we should call it big holes in the rock). It should be a small village but nowadays it lost from its atmosphere a lot thanks to tourists. However if you look for nice open air cinema with the same programme of sunset, go there for it. It is free and worht to visit. Great sunsets and little beach where you can enjoy swimming and admiring the rocks around. Sparrows - that sing only when there is sunset or sun rise - create the special atmosphere in general.
When in Matala there is a must to visit the Red Beach.
See my Matala Site
In Matala it is worthwhile to take a walk off the main road. I came across this fantastic little church of our lady. Inside was very quaint and as you can see the church is hewn from the rock.