Phaestos - Festos, Crete Island
The area of Phaistos was inhabited from around 4000BC, and holds a south-central position on the Island, about 5.6 kilometers inland. The city, along with its sister-site Hagia Triada, had its own currency and alliances with several other Cretan city states and with King Eumenes II of Pergamon.
Phaistos is notable and instantly recognizable for its huge lower courtyard, accessed by two huge staircases on two sides, with spectacular views out from the other sides.
The city's Palace was built during the Protopalatial period, around 2000 BC, and was located at the top of the northern staircase from the lower courtyard. It was restored twice due to earthquake damage, but was eventually damaged beyond repair, and so a brand new Palace was built on the site of the old one.
Several inscriptions in Linear A have been found in Phaistos, and the name of the site also appears frequently in partially translated Linear A texts.
In 1884, the accidental discovery of protopalatial funeral gifts near the church of Saint Onuphrius, at the north of the area, and the discovery of a famous cave at Kamares on the slopes of Mount Ida (opposite Phaistos) strengthened the interest in the site.
Phaistos must have made quite an industry out of pottery, with many huge examples still covering the city, and also many examples of structures used in the making of pottery can be seen.
In 1908, one of Crete's most famous artifacts was discovered in Phaistos, known as the Phaistos Disc. It is a clay disc with both sides covered in mysterious hieroglyphics which have never been translated (see Culture section for more information on this object). The disc currently resides in the archaeological museum at Heraklion.
Entry to the site was €4 in the summer of 2007.
Agίa Triáda lies on a hill about 3km from Festόs (as you pass the car park of Festόs take the next right turn (sign posted) you will reach the end of the road and see the large brown sign. The site is below you to the left.
Said to be the Summer Palace of Festόs royalty due to the elaborate decoration’s found on the walls and it’s position overlooking the bay of Mésaras. In Minoan times the sea would have been much nearer. Some of the more exquisite Minoan works of art in Iráklio’s Archaeological Museum were found here. I found the water works here particularly interesting. You can see were the water was drained from the top of the site and channelled via aqueducts around the Palace.
Also on the site is the small church of Agios Georgios Galatas from the 14c ad
The name Agίa Triáda comes from a nearby Byzantine chapel as there is no record of the Minoan name.
Entry is €3 You can purchase a ticket here that covers Festόs as well for €6
Set high on a hill Festόs certainly is impressive both for its ancient architecture and the views. Unlike Knossόs Festόs has not been reconstructed but on taking a few minutes and with the help of a guide book and map you can soon work out which bit is what and you will realise just how impressive this site really is. It is no wonder it is on most lists as the number one place to visit on Crete
Admission €4 open 09:00 to 19:00
You should visit Agίa Triáda first as you can buy a ticket there covering both sites for €6 something that was not offered at Festόs.
Next to the archeological site of Festos you can find what we think is one of the best places on Crete: the terrace! With a great view over the area, shade from trees and a cool wind, this is a magnificent place after a hot day in Matala and/or Gortys. It's selfservice so you can stay all day if you want, without having to order every half an hour or so. We sat and read our books (Nikos Kazantzakis: Christ Recrucified and Louis de Bernieres: Captain Corelli's Mandoline) for a few hours in the afternoon.
This terrace was actually more impressive to us than the archeological site itself (after already visiting Knossos). There is an Italian archeological school right next to it, on the top of the hill, and I even considered studying archeology, just to be able to live in this place for a year or so...
Near to matala is the ancient minoan site of the palace of phaestos. A fascinating place with views all round of the mesara plain. The famous phaestos disc was found here and the real thing can be viewed at the archaeology museum in heraklion. The hieroglyphic script on the disc has never been deciphered and the meaning remains a mystery to this day.
Phaistos is located 62 km south of Iraklion. It was the second biggest city of the Minoan Crete and it is built on a hill, at an altitude of 100 m from sea level, in the fertile valley of Messara.
According to mythology, Phaistos 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.).
During the Minoan times, Phaistos was a very important city-state. The city participated to the Trojan war and later became one of the most important cities-states of the Dorian period.
Phaistos continued to flourish during Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic times. It was destroyed by the Gortynians during the 3rd century B.C. In spite of that, Phaistos continued to exist during the Roman period.
Regular public transportation is available from Iraklion and Rethimnon.
The countryside around Festos is gorgeous. I don't know what it will be like in the height of summer, but when we visited in late spring it was a mass of green fields, trees and flowers. The flowers especially were really lovely, covering whole hillsides in a carpet of yellow and white.
As with Knossos there are loads of almost completely undamaged jars, thanks to the Minoan's habit of storing them in underground chambers. These stopped the jars from getting too much damage in the later years and apparently when they were discovered some still contained honey, olive oil and so on. I imagine it was quite rancid by then though!
Unlike Knossos, Festos has had very little reconstruction work done. Also, guides are not so plentiful as they are at Knossos and the site is left very much to your own imagination. A guide book or map will help, but even then it's hard to work out what is what. It's still a lovely site though, and quite large. Best of all it's set in really spectacular countryside.
Or Festos is among the historical sites number 2 right after the Knossos complex. There is also a Gorthyre yet, but I miss it this time.. no time for that...
Well, Festos is just some kms far away from Matala so when cruising around you should go to visit it too. You will spend there 1-3 hours, it depends how long you should admire the rocks of ancient empire. However, in all places connected with ancient Minoic period you will find just the ruins or fragments of its greatness. All important and valuable pieces are in museums.
Festos was ruled by the brother of King of Knossos and in that period was -according the historicians - very important city. Komos and surrounding of Matala used to be its harbors and connection with trade routes. It stands on a big hill so the view on this part of Crete is unique.
In the middle of the Mesara Plains is located the archeological site of Phaistos. It is the second by importance after the famous Knossos, and it is located on the edge of a cliff, so the view is amazing !!! :)
The ruins of the Minoan Palace at Phaistos. It's much smaller in size than Knossos and unlike Knossos it hasn't been restored and revamped for tourists. While I relished about its authenticity, I must also admit that many essential details were lost to me. The most obvious and easily recognisable place there is the square and the sewage channels - here and there you can also admire richly decorated vases - while some loose stones are primitively decorated and carved. The famous disk, however, has been moved to the museum in Iraklio. Entrance is 4 euros
The Central Court lies to the east of the magazines. It measured 55 metres by 25 metres. A large number of corridors lead to the Central Court what means that it must have been central to the life of the Palace.
It's the second major Minoan Palace in Crete after Knossos. It was the center of religious and economic activities. The palace has been excavated by Italian Archaeologists at the beginning of the 20th century. There were two palace periods. The old palaces were destroyed by earthquakes, and that made the Cretans rebuild them on an even grander scale.
I refuse to go along with the convention of naming these sites 'palaces', as has become the norm. I believe they represented much more than merely the court and living quarters of Minoan aristocracy. While everyone is aware of Knossos on the north coast, fewer know of or make the journey inland to Phaestos. Which is a pity, to anyone with even a half interest in archaeology, the unreconstructed remains of this vast development speak more clearly than the re-invented edifices of Arthur Evan's Knossos. The site itself is huge and is comprised of several mini complexes, representing the many functions of the place as well as its long history. There is every reasonable prospect that Phaestos exceeded all other known Minoan centres in importance, and the Wheel of Phaestos seems to support this claim. This beautifully carved stone circular slab is sculpted with motifs that suggest a representation of the different departments that Minoan Crete was divided into, suggesting also that the rest of Crete saw Phaestos as a 'meeting place', probably to pay annual tribute at harvest times. There is ample evidence that the site rose in stature after the explosion of Thera island obliterated Knossos and other main centres, as well as the Minoan ascendancy itself. To stand on the central square amidst the foundations of the impressive buildings that once would have surrounded you, knowing that others stood right there, going back thousands of years, and shared your awe, is a truly moving experience.
The wheel - or 'disk' - of Phaestos with its enigmatic symbols and reliefs displayed. Its exact meaning and function are lost in the mists of time.