Your travel guide on Crete

Category Archives: Places on Crete

Individual, private or tailored tours for you…what is it?

And what is the difference between group tours and private tours?

There are many tourists visiting Crete who wish to travel a lot.They have their holiday plan and want to see most famous places of the island. So what is the options to travel on Crete, if you don’t want to rent a car or take a public bus?

Guided coach tour and traditional routs

Some of them just book common excursions with big group and big coach and follow usual or traditional routs. This is the easiest and  cheapest way to visit Crete’s must see places.  The excursion usually follows the exact rout with exact stops, and it can more than one language in the coach. Yes, it is the cheapest way, but is it the best? The minus of this tours is that you have to follow routine tour, routine stop, you are tied to other  co-tourist. You have no choice where to stop, or where to spend more time, if you like the place. You follow the group, time ad rout.

Guided tailor  made mini group

This tours are made for you!!! You can choose your rout, stops, places to visit, you can make your excursion plan according to you interests.

Usually individual tours are by mini bus up to 7 seats and private guide following tailor made rout only for you.

It is not as cheap as traditional big coach tours, but the advance is obvious: comfortable mini group, private tour guide, only one language of your choice, routs and stops made according to your wishes and interests.

Guided tailor made tours by big coach

It almost the same as mini private tours, just by big coach. This means, that these tours are offered to the groups up to 15-70 people. Tailor made big groups tours are very suitable for corporative travelers, big teams, big families or big group of friends. It is cheaper than mini private tours, but still provides you possibility to travel your own rout, with private guide.

So don’t miss the opportunity to travel on Crete!!! Crete is covering deep in it’s mountains, caves, small beaches, in it’s history, culture and monasteries.  Open that secrets fr you!!!

 

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Seaside settlement of Agios Pavlos is located 58 km south of Rethymno, west from Agia Galini, on the edge of Akrotiri Melissa. To get here you have to pass the villages of Akoumia or Saktouria.

Ag. Paulos it is a quite tranquil place, hidden in a windy bay, suitable for family holidays or one day relax. In the bay there is a beautiful beach with deep green waters and a wonderful sandy beach. Nearby there are several rooms for rent and taverns, where basic services (umbrellas, beach bikes, etc.) are provided.


the perfect beach attracts most of the visitors, some of them prefer to visit St. Paul village itself, to have short accommodation and food there. The Akumiani Gialia, is located behind the western edge of the bay and is probably the best beach in Rethymnon area.. You can get there from a path that starts from St. Paul village. According to newer researchers, Saint Paul visited this beach and harbour for the start of his trip to Rome.


if you are in search of the best beaches to visit in Crete, here is our first suggestion: Agiofarago beach.
Located about 80km south of Heraklion city, at the exit of the homonym Gorge of Agiofarago, clear blue waters await you!
The beauty of the place exists to its not so easy access as if you want to go, you should either hike for approximately 50′ the gorge or catch a boat from Matala, Agia Galini, or Kali Limenes.

The crystal secluded beach at the end of Agiofarago Gorge

Agiofarago Gorge, one of the special gorges In Crete, is located in Heraklion, between the Monastery of Odigitria and the seaside village Kaloi Limenes. It will take you about 20 minutes to cross. At the beginning of the route, you will see the church of Agia Kyriaki which is in a cave! In the gorge is also the church of St. Anthony which is also partly in a cave and was the center of the ascetics of the region. The several archaeological findings in Agiofarago, show that there has been activity in the Minoan and Venetian times. Characteristic is the Minoan, circular, domed tomb near the church of St. Anthony. Shortly after, you will find a cave with a low entrance and a large room. The Abbot of the Monastery of St. Anthony lived there.

According to history, Agiofarago was inhabited by hermits since at least the 11th century. When you cross the gorge you will reach a beautiful beach overlooking the Libyan Sea! We recommend good to keep water with you, as in the gorge there are no sources of water.

 


New!!!! FOTO TOURS in Heraklion with professional photographer!!! If you have artistic nature, you love photography and want to improve your skills with professional – you are welcome to #FOTOTOUR

During rainy winter day i was having cofee break with my boss and friennd who also is great photographer, great artist and professional in everything he does. I told him I had an idea of creating a Foto Tour for people who are traveling on Crete. Because there are so many amazing views n Crete, but very often tourists are saying “unfortunately I’m just beginner” So the idea was to offer people tours, excursions, walking tours together with the professional photographer, that they can learn essential secrets of artistic photography.

So now we can offer you the results of our winter brain storm :walking Foto Tour in Herklion. You will see the most beautiful places of #Heraklion will make photos of it and will learn few secrets of photography.


Knossos Palace Crete

Knossos Palace

It is impossible for someone to come to Crete on vacation and not visit its landmark, Knossos. For the island of Crete, Knossos has the same significance as the Acropolis for Athens. The most famous and the most impressive palace of the Minoan era, the biggest and the greatest of the decision-making centers of the Minoan Crete. Our tour in the majestic site travels us back to the past, getting us to know the Neolithic settlement, the new imposing palace, the four wings of the building with the ceremony chambers, the public warehouses, the Throne Room, the Corridor of Procession with the amazing murals, the Propylaea with the famous Double Horns of Consecration, the Royal Chambers, the servants’ dormitories, the storehouses of the palace, the various workshops, the Reservoir Basin, even a stone-built theatre. We are about to hear great myths, relating to the Palace of Knossos, such as the myth of the Labyrinth and the story of Daedalus and Icarus. We are going to walk on Sir Arthur Evans’ steps and we may feel a bit of the excitement and pride he felt when he discovered this exceptional symbol of the Minoan architecture, which even nowadays transfixes everybody with its grandeur.

Leaving the marvelous Palace of Knossos, we continue our tour towards the centre of the island, where we visit the lovely Monastery of Kera Kardiotissa, which was named after a miraculous icon of Virgin Mary. In an idyllic landscape, the monastery, run currently by nuns, is known for its artistic and its historical importance, as well as its remarkable murals.
Moving on inland and driving up to the Lassithi Plateau, we have the chance to admire the remaining famous windmills, the ditches, the “linies” as they are known, the Venetian drainage system of the plateau that turned the arid area into the most important grain-growing region of Crete and of course the small traditional villages that still keep the scent of another era. The most famous of all is the village of Psychro, where we can admire the primeval traditional art of pottery-making by the remaining craftsmen and of course we have the opportunity to visit a very significant place for religious worship of the Minoan era, the cave of Psychro, mostly known as Dictean Cave. A cave of exceptional beauty, it is considered as the place where Zeus, the father of the Olympians Gods, was born.


An East coast Minoan town

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Visiting the East coast of Crete on the way from Zakros to Sitia you can visit Plaikastro

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The Bronze Age town, whose original name is not known, is situated at Rousolakkos two kilometres from the village of Palaikastro and some kilometres north of the Minoan town and palace of Zakros. The location of the town was important as it was on the east coast, with a large plain behind it and a harbour that was sheltered by an outcrop of rock called Kastri hill. A number of small settlements, individual houses, cemeteries, ossuaries and quarries were also found in the surrounding area.

The site was originally excavated between 1902 and 1906 by R. Bosanquet and R.M. Dawkins from the British School of Archaeology in Athens, and subsequently by Hugh Sackett and Mervyn Popham from 1962 to 1963. Sackett and MacGillivray have been excavating at the site on and off since 1986 until the present and have uncovered new buildings that formed part of the town at Palaikastro.

The Early Minoan period

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The site was occupied from at least EM II. Two small buildings dating from EM IIA were uncovered and it is felt that these were permanent homes because an ossuary with pottery from the same period was located near to each building. In EM IIB a new monumental structure was built. This building was comparable to other similar buildings that also went up around this time at Vasiliki, Myrtos, Knossos, Tylisos and Phaistos.

In the immediate prepalatial period (EM III-MM IA) no new structures were found in the area of Palaikastro although there may have been a house on the site of Building 5, where pottery from this period was found. A large building on Kastri produced pottery from this period and an ossuary at Patema also appears to date from the EM III-MM IA period.

The protopalatial period

The town itself developed during the Protopalatial period (MM IB-MM IIA). Evidence for this development was found below blocks X, G, E and 0. A cemetery at Tou Galeti He Kephala was opened up in this period. Large public buildings were being constructed as early as the Old Palace period as shown by the discovery of a mason’s mark similar to one used in the Old Palace period at Knossos. Also around this time the peak sanctuary on Petsophas was inaugurated.

It seems that during this period the Minoans also established a system of roads guarded by watchtowers. There were possibly four or five towers along each of the two routes which left Palaikastro.

The neopalatial period

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A large number of houses were built during the MM IIIB-LM IA period and they remained in use until they were destroyed in LM IB. The reason for so much building taking place at this time was the destruction of large parts of the town at the end of MM IIIA, almost certainly by an earthquake. The new town expanded northward from the old Blocks to Buildings 2 and 3, as well as possibly 4 and 5 from the latest excavations. The town also grew to the west with the building of Block K.

In LM IA Building 1 was constructed. This building was uncovered during the 1986-8 excavations. Evidence suggested that this building was more than simply a large house. Firstly all four exterior walls were built of ashlar masonry, the first such building to be found at Palaikastro.

A carved statuette with a head of serpentine and eyes of rock crystal was found in an area just outside Building 1 and the excavators believe that this building may have been part of a shrine or a temple. In their view it is possible that this shrine or temple took on the important role previously filled by the peak santuary which was now going out of use. If so, then Building 1 may be the first identifiable public building to have been uncovered in a hundred years of excavations at Palaikastro.

The postpalatial period

In LM IB the town continued to grow. However at the end of LM IB a series of destructions by fire took place. While many of the palaces, towns, settlements and villas of Minoan Crete were destroyed and abandoned during this period, serviceable buildings at Palaikastro were reoccupied almost immediately but not all of the town was reoccupied and few buildings were renovated or rebuilt. But in LM IIIA2 and LM IIIB, large scale building took place in Palaikastro and the population increased as the town was reoccupied. Houses were also built close to the sea and on Kastri. During the LM IIIB period it seems that an earthquake once again destroyed much of the town, after which it was partially re-occupied and then abandoned. The farms and cemeteries also went out of use. There seems to have been a small temporary settlement in LM IIIC on the Kastri Hill after which Palaikastro ceased to be inhabited until the Geometric period.

Central planning

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What is interesting about Palaikastro, which grew to be the second largest town in Crete after Knossos, is the fact that it seems to have been largely planned by a central authority. The town is arranged in blocks which the original excavators named with letters from the Greek alphabet, beta, gamma and delta etc. A main street ran for a length of 145 metres through the town and three very narrow streets ran off the main street at right angles, one of them for a length of 70 metres. More than half the width of the main street was taken up by a raised pavement.

Each block consists of four or five houses, one of which tends to be larger than the others and contains more significant architectural features, for example, a facade of ashlar masonry. In particular, the largest house in several of the blocks contained what has been named a Palaikastro Hall, a room with a sunken area in the centre surrounded by four pillars. Of the four Palaikastro Halls identified, three had a lustral basin at close proximity. It has been suggested that each block may have been occupied by people related to each other, either an extended family or members of a clan.

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It is assumed, given the location of the town, that the main economic activities of the inhabitants would have been agriculture and trade. But these two basic strands of the local economy also supported a wide variety of craft activities. Weaving was a major activity throughout the town as shown by the number of loomweights found all over the site. The manufacture of products in metal, stone and ivory, for which the raw materials would have been imported, provided the elite families with high status goods made from rare materials. The houses of these families were in some cases decorated with wall paintings, although only fragments have been found. Finally the production of pottery, both for consumption in the town and for export to other areas of Eastern Crete would have been a major activity. When House 1 at Petras was excavated, for example, it was found that two-thirds of the pottery had been made at Palaikastro. A potter’s kiln has been excavated but it can’t have been the only one, and potter’s wheels have also been uncovered.

Evidence of cult activity was found throughout the site and on a scale not found elsewhere. Among the finds of a religious or cult nature were incense burners, rhyta, triton shells, large stone baetyls, horns of consecration and double axes. However the most important cult find was a carving in ivory of a young male believed by excavators to be a Minoan forerunner of the Diktaian Zeus. The ivory figure had been deliberately broken either by disillusioned worshippers or by the Mycenaeans when they arrived in the town.

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A number of cemeteries were discovered by the original excavators and these circle the Minoan town. In Early Minoan Crete communal burials were practised with the bones of the deceased buried with their grave goods in a secondary burial after the body had fully decomposed. In central south Crete burials were in tholos tombs, but in north and east Crete house tombs were constructed. It is thought that the house tombs at Palaikastro contained two areas, one open area in which the body decomposed before the bones were collected and placed in the second, smaller area, an ossuary, together with the grave goods. In Late Minoan Crete after the arrival of the Mycenaeans, there was a move towards individual burials in larnakes, a number of which were found in the cemeteries of Palaikastro.

A large area of the earliest excavations at Palaikastro has since been covered over again with earth. The area of the excavation that was left exposed suffered damage during the Second World War and later from the activities of a bulldozer. Locals also took much of the finer stonework for building purposes so by the time the site was revisited in the 1960s it was overgrown and the ground plans drawn by the early excavators were, in places, hard to follow.

Below I describe in detail one of these blocks, which contains many of the features that were repeated in the other blocks excavated in the town. Other blocks will be described more briefly.

Block Beta

Click here for the original plan

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The first block to be excavated in the town itself was block B (see plan). This block consisted of five houses, one very large one and four much smaller ones. The large house (rooms 1-22), known as House B, had 22 rooms and what the excavators called megalithic outer walls. There was a courtyard in the south east corner which was entered from the direction of the harbour. A verandah was uncovered at the west end of the south east court near room 12. Two square and four round limestone column bases on which wooden pillars had rested were found here and they alternated between square and round bases.

Entry to the house was through a porch (room 8) which once held a wooden bench. The threshold was made of ironstone and it separated the porch from the vestibule (room 7), which led into the main room of the house (room 6). Rooms 6 and 7 formed an L shaped whole but room 6 was clearly different. It had a paved floor in the centre of which was a sunken area covered with white plaster and surrounded by a border of regular slabs. At the four corners of the sunken area, round column bases were found. The area in the middle would have been exposed to the open sky. It was possibly created to allow light and air into the building as there was nothing to indicate that the area had originally been a hearth. This slightly sunken space with four pillar columns at each corner was found repeated in a number of the largest houses in other blocks in the town and will be referred to here as a Palaikastro Hall.

This type of hall was long believed to have been unique to Palaikastro, but there may have been an example in House B2 at Mochlos where a building of ashlar masonry contained both a pier and door partition and what the excavator called an impluvium, but which is in fact a hall of the Palaikastro type.

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The main finds were made in the adjoining rooms. Room 2 was the anteroom for what the excavators called a bathroom (room 3). However, this room blocked an already existing drain which rather undermines the theory that it was a bathroom. It is far more likely to have been a lustral basin, since these did not have drainage. Although many of lustral basins stand alone, a number were located very close to Minoan Halls or in this case the Palaikastro Hall, the particular style of hall represented in the larger houses here with their four pillars around a slightly sunken area in the middle of the room.

Among the ceramics found in rooms 2 and 3 were examples of Kamares Ware. Room 5 was originally bigger but a staircase was built to the left of the door when the second floor was added. Four steps from this staircase remain in situ. Opposite the entrance to room 5 there were two steps down into a compartment where an enormous number of plain cups were found. Room 5 may have been a kitchen. Finds included three female figurines of clay, the clay head of an ox and marine style sherds. Space 20 may have become a cellar after reconstruction as 40 plain cups and many more broken ones were found there as well as stucco fragments which, when put together formed part of a horns of consecration.

Rooms 10 and 13 were magazines entered from above. Several hundred vases were found here and the largest of them lined the walls. The original entrance to rooms 10 and 13 may have been from entrance room 12. This entrance was blocked by a staircase when the upper floor was built, at which point 10 and 13 may have been turned into storerooms.

Room 9 had a floor of stamped clay. The room suffered fire damage and may have been a storage room for lamps, in which case oil may have been stored here as well. This would have made the destruction fire even more intense. Several large fire-damaged steatite lamps found here.

Room 14 had a good flagstone pavement but the wall facing the street was so badly damaged that is not known if there had been a door here. In the middle of the room was a column base. A larger column base, fallen from the room above, lay on top of it, suggesting that there had been a pillar on both the ground floor and the first floor. All the rooms contained cooked red soil from the upper floor which would have been built using mud bricks. The excavators believed that the mud bricks had only been sun dried before use but were baked in the fire that destroyed the building. Plaster fragments painted in various colours had also fallen from above as had the flagstone floor of the room above room 10. Room 14 had been floored with kiln-baked earthenware tiles. Room 15 was identified as a bathroom.

Block Gamma

Click here for the original plan

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It is not desirable to describe all the blocks in the same detail as Block Beta as many of the same features are repeated. Reports on these blocks will therefore concentrate on the most important aspects.

Block Gamma contained four buildings of which one was the most important. The remaining buildings tended to have more rooms than some of the smaller buildings in Block Beta. The building that stands out as the most important house in this block consisted of rooms 1-12. Again, entry is through a vestibule with a small recess on the left containing a bench. In this house the threshold is on the right. The vestibule was like a porch with the main door beyond.

The main doors opened into room 1. The Palaikastro Hall, room 3, was to the left, past a staircase. Near the remains of the slab pavement are 2 pillars, all that is left of the four pillars once here. At a later point the main hall was much altered. The western half was filled with a staircase and a small room whose walls supported a second flight of stairs. A steatite lamp was found in this room. Below these structures there had originally been a lustral basin, which had been filled in when the stairs were being built.

Rooms 9 and 10 were both well paved, the first with cement the second with stone slabs. A pithos, amphorae and a pestle were discovered in room 9. Area 11 was a courtyard formed by the space between two different houses. Room 12 opened onto the street and formed a side entrance to the house.

The other houses in the block were made up of rooms 13-22; rooms 23-32; and rooms 33-38. In this last building rooms 37 and 38 may have been a shop. The whole width of room 37 opens onto the side street, while a double entrance leads into room 38, immediately behind room 37. This room contained a stone sink connected to a drain which ran through room 37 and out into the street. The channel was covered with stone slabs. The sink and drain, together with jars and what may have been weights suggests an industrial purpose. Perhaps the two rooms were a shop with a rear storeroom and workroom.

Block delta

Click here for the original plan

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At over 1800 square metres even before it was fully uncovered, Block Delta was the largest block found at Palaikastro. Unfortunately the best house in this block had been damaged by locals taking away the fine cut pieces of stone. The west end of the building had been completely ruined. A great deal of rebuilding in Minoan times had raised the level in this area so that the pavement in the road outside is not the original, which would have been at the level of the road itself.

A number of buildings were originally identified. Within rooms 1-16 where an absence of doorways made it difficult to understand the plan, room s 8-16 were identified as making up one house. A second, very large, building comprised rooms 18-40 while rooms 43-48 contained two very small buildings, with three rooms each (43-45 and 46-48).

The house in rooms 18-40 had seen a lot of rebuilding. The main feature of the earlier house was the Palaikastro Hall in room 19 with its four pillars at the corners of a square of unpaved space, all lying below the floor level of the later house. The entrance, now concealed by later structures, must have been on the mains street from 20 or 21.

When the second house was built the Palaikastro Hall was covered up and a fresh entrance made at a higher level. The level of the street was also raised and a new facade was built for rooms 20-36. Room 23, which the excavators called an impluvium, belongs to the later period. It consisted of a paved area 3.5m square, which was open to the sky as it has a drain running down into the street This square was surrounded by a higher pavement above the level of the earlier house. The paved square in area 40, made of two huge slabs, may have been a similar structure. Room 38 contained lamps and a lamp stand.

Rooms 43-48 had been inhabited from the earliest Minoan times and they were continuously occupied until the period of desertion when Palaikastro was finally abandoned. Room 47 was a back entrance, while rooms 43-46 and 48 were storerooms.

Finds: The most interesting finds from Block Delta came from Room 44 where LM IIIA vases plus clay objects connected with the cult of a snake goddess were found. Excavators found four female figurines dressed in long skirts. On three of the figures, the arms, though broken, were originally outstretched while the fourth holds a striped snake in her arms. The figures have no headgear and their bodices cover their breasts. It seems likely that the group were placed with the woman with the snake in her arms in the centre and the other women dancing hand in hand.

Clay doves were also found. These probably represented doves in the process of perching on a trinity of sacred pillars. Each dove had a hole underneath so they had originally been connected to something. Also found were the remains of 44 conical shaped cups which had all been originally attached to some base, possibly a large bowl, with the painted side of the cup facing out. All these objects had been deliberately broken and then put away in room 44.

Why no palace?

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The current excavators of the site believe there may be a palace to the south of the town in an area which has yet to be excavated. The palace at Zakros, further south on the east coast, is located in just such a position. Castleden, however, argues that the absence of a palace may mean that the craft workers were able to carry out their trade geographically separated from the palace, although the possibility cannot be excluded that their work was directed by a central authority at Zakros.

To the south of the site a Peak Sanctuary was excavated by the British on the summit of Petsophas, 225 metres high. It proved to be one of the richest and most important Middle Minoan Peak Sanctuaries and was certainly still in use in Late Minoan I, when a small cult building was erected.

A large number of small clay figurines of men and women, representing the people making the dedicatory offerings were found, which provided a lot of information about the dress and hairstyles of the period. Votive models of human limbs and stone offering tables with Linear A inscriptions were also found.

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The Palace of Zakros, the most isolated of all the Minoan Palaces, is located on the east coast of Crete, south of Palaikastro.

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Its position shelters it from the dangerously strong north winds that pass Cape Sidero on the northeast tip of Crete. It was the last of the major palaces to be discovered and is smaller than the other three at Knossos, Malia and Phaistos. The original excavations were begun by D.G. Howarth of the British School of Archaeology at Athens, and 12 houses in the town surrounding the Palace, whose existence remained unknown, were unearthed before the excavation was abandoned. Nikolaos Platon resumed the excavation in 1961 and was able to unearth a palace which had not been looted at the time of its destruction. The excavations have continued until the present day. The excavation represents one of the most important for Minoan archaeology since the Second World War, and the lateness of its discovery allowed it to be excavated using more modern and more scientific methods than those adopted in the excavation of the other Palaces some 60 years earlier.

Gateway to the East

The Palace of Zakros probably acted as the Minoan gateway to the east and this view is supported by various movable finds on the site which had come from the Middle East. In the West Wing an elephant tusk and six ox-hide ingots were found and Cananite jars were discovered near the well.

Like the other palaces, Zakros was rebuilt after the earthquake destruction of the old palaces. The second palace was built around 1600 BCE and finally destroyed around 1450 BCE, along with other centres of Minoan civilisation in Crete. Fortunately many artefacts were left in situ, probably due to the suddenness of the destruction. The palace covered 8,000 square metres, contained 150 rooms and had a Central Court measuring about 30 metres by 12 metres, considerably smaller than that of Knossos.

The North Wing

Both the town and the harbour lay to the north of the palace at Zakros. The harbour was most likely connected to the Palace by a road and the north east entrance (LXIX) formed the main, but not the only entrance to the palace complex. The passageway led directly into a large north east court (LXIII) from which it was possible to access the Central Court.

Zakros: The Central Court
The Central Court

The fact that the main entrance was in the north east, close to the sea may mean that Zakros functioned more as a trading palace than one concerned with agricultural produce, although there was certainly fertile land in the immediate environs of the palace. Storage areas in the palace do not seem to have been used to store agricultural produce on the same scale as other palaces. Pottery, metal goods and textiles seems to have made up much of the goods stored here. It has been suggested by Malcolm Wiener that Zakros may have played a special role in relation to trade with the east as part of the wider palatial system in Minoan Crete.

At any rate, one consequence of having the town and harbour to the north and placing the main entrance in the north-east of the palace complex is that the facade of the West Wing did not play the important role here that it played at the other palaces, where it is considered to have been an interface with the town. In fact the stone blocks that comprise the west facade are altogether more rough and ready than the finely cut ashlar masonry forming the west facades of the other palaces. The West Court is also considerably smaller than those of the other palaces and its size was reduced even further by the building of an annexe to the West Wing which not only ran for one-third of the length of the west facade but also increased the width of the West Wing by a third, in doing so obscuring the original facade. The annexe contained nine shallow basins and a drainage system. The excavator, Platon, interpreted this as an industrial area used possibly for dyeing fabrics.

Zakros: Lustral Basin, northeast corner
Lustral basin in the north-east corner
of the Palace

The North Wing contained a hypostyle hall (XXXII) which has been identified as a dining hall on the basis of identifying the adjoining area at the north east corner of the Central Court as kitchens (rooms L-LIV). Hitchcock suggests that the dining hall would have been on the upper floor and that workers from the town would have entered the hypostyle hall at ground level through a door at the north east end of the north wall. From there they would have been able to enter the kitchen area.

The buildings to the east of the kitchen area contain a lustral basin, now roofed over for protection, in which remains of frescos showing sacred objects like double axes and horns of consecration were found.

The West Wing

Zakros Lustral Basin in the West Wing
Lustral basin in the West wing

In contrast with the many access points to the East Wing at Zakros, there are only three points of access to the West Wing. One leads directly into the Minoan Hall at its northernmost point. A second passes through an area which has been identified as a pillar crypt (XXX) while immediately to the north of this area there is a corridor (XXXI). Both the corridor, which leads from the north-west corner of the Central court, and the pillar crypt open into a vestibule. From the vestibule it was possible to access different parts of the west wing — the storage magazines in the northwest corner of the west wing (II-VIII), the administrative area centred on room XVI in the south west area and the ceremonial rooms (XXIV-XXIX) in the eastern part of the West Wing.

The central part of the West Wing facing the Central Court, known as the “Hall of Ceremonies” (XXVIII), is made up of a large Minoan Hall. Louise Hitchcock argues that it wouldn’t actually have been used for ceremonial activities — at least not ones involving large numbers of people — as it could only be entered by one door in the north-east corner of the room. That is not to deny the importance of this room, which, according to Gessell, is the second largest complex of Minoan pier-and-door partition halls in Crete. Fresco remains were found here, together with cult objects which had presumably fallen from the floor above, as has been noticed so often at Minoan palaces. Among the finds were two rhyta. The first was the famous bull’s head rhyton and the second showed a tripartite peak sanctuary.

Zakros: The Hall of Ceremonies
The Hall of Ceremonies

The “Hall of Ceremonies” is in effect two rows of halls, one on the east and one on the west. Various interpretations have been offered for the function of this area including a room for ceremonial activities, a cult area and even a winter residential quarter, but essentially it is still not known what its actual purpose was.

To the West of the Minoan Hall is a Lustral Basin with an anteroom (XIV-XV). The role of these lustral basins has been disputed amongst scholars. Some believe that they were domestic bathrooms, especially when located adjacent to rooms which are considered to be some kind of royal apartment. On the other hand, many scholars argue that they have a purely religious function and that they were probably used for ritual cleansing. Certainly the presence of gypsum in many lustral basins would rule out large quantities of water being used in them as the gypsum would dissolve over time. Those who believe that the lustral basins were purely for ritual purposes argue that any ritual cleansing would have been done using water from jugs rather than filling the bottom of the basin with water.

The archive room (XVI) contained over a dozen Linear A tablets and could be reached either from the pillar crypt entrance or by entering the Minoan Hall and passing the Lustral Basin. A room on the southern end of the West Wing (XXV) was named “The Treasury of the Shrine” by Platon. Although the Shrine itself (XXIII) lies immediately north of the Treasury there is no direct access between the two rooms. In fact you have to pass through six different areas to get from one room to the other. The west wing shrine itself was a small room with two benches, and here various libation vases were found. The Treasury on the other hand contained a large number of important vessels like chalices and rhyta, including one of rock crystal and many of stone as well as bronze double axes. Since the room communicated much more easily with the Minoan Hall than with the Shrine, it could be argued that the Treasury was not linked to the Shrine at all but was the room where objects used in ritual activity were stored when not in use.

The East Wing

Platon, basing himself on Evans’s view of Knossos, argued that the “royal apartments” were located in the East Wing of the Palace. A portico runs the whole length of the court on the east side and behind the portico Platon identified two Minoan Halls as the “Queen’s Megaron” and, to the south, the larger “King’s Megaron”. In Platon’s view, the royal bedrooms would have been on an upper floor. However no evidence was found in these rooms to suggest their use as a residential quarter.

Zakros: The Cistern Room
The cistern room

In the East wing of the palace there area also number of water features that are not found at other palaces. Louise Hitchcock believes that the water features at Zakros might be linked to the economic function of the palace and religious practice on the site. Given the seeming importance of sea trade to the palace of Zakros, safety at sea would have been very important to its people. The first water feature is the “Unit of the Built Well” (XXXIX) in the south east corner of the east wing, close to a major workshop area. The water in the Built Well, which was most likely used by the workshops, was reached by steps leading down to a platform.

To the east of the Built Well lies The “Well of the Fountain” (LXX). This was a rectangular structure which was connected to the “Spring Chamber” (LXXI) immediately to its north under a stairwell to the upper floor. The Well could only be approached from outside the building. Fifteen steps led down into the well. Objects placed in both the Built Well and the Well of the Fountain included conical cups, dishes and olives and are considered to be offerings to a deity.

The final water feature is the largest, the “Cistern Room” (LXII), with its seven steps that descend to the floor of the cistern. The cistern was part of the palace complex and in fact lay immediately to the east of the “royal apartments” in its own court. The cistern was not covered with a roof although it may have been surrounded by a portico. Platon suggested two possible explanations for the cistern. It might have simply added a “picturesque element” to the palace or it might have been used by the palace elite for bathing. However it might instead have had a ceremonial or ritual function, although we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of any of these water features having multiple functions including the practical and the ritualistic.

The South Wing

In the South Wing there was a major entrance to the palace through corridor XLIX, which could be approached outside the palace from both the east and the west. The corridor leads to the south west corner of the Central Court. While at Malia and Knossos the South Entrance was the main entrance to the Palace, this was not the case at Zakros where the south entrance lacks the architecture of procession and ceremony that is provided at Knossos by, for example, the Corridor of the Processions with its wall paintings.

Immediately to the right of the corridor, there was a block of workshops (XLII-XLVIII). Finds here include unworked stone, loom weights and sheets of metal. It is believed that this group of rooms included a faience workshop. This is a pottery technique which gives a glazed effect.

The town

Zakros: A kiln for smelting bronze
A bronze-smelting kiln with grooves
for the hot metal

The Palace was surrounded by the town, of which only a part has so far been excavated. The houses were often quite large, containing up to 30 rooms, with small storage rooms built around a large room with a bench and a central support. The houses were arranged in blocks and both olive oil and wine presses were found in the town. It seems that the town specialised in the production of wine which was exported to the Cyclades. It is almost certain that some of the town buildings were not houses, however, but buildings belonging to the palace.

In one such building Hogarth discovered 500 clay sealings with images of imaginary creatures. South of the harbour road a furnace was discovered which, judging by its size, must have been one of the most important in this part of the Mediterranean.

The site is very remote, and involves a long drive across fairly barren countryside, but the final drive down to the seashore and the setting of Zakros itself is spectacular. A few tavernas line the beach offering shade, food and drink after your time under the relentless sun.

Zakros: part of the East Wing
Part of the East Wing

Zakros: The Hall of Ceremoies with the town in the foreground
The Hall of the Ceremonies, top left, and the
West Wing with part of the town, foreground

Zakros: The Archive Room
The Archive Room

Zakros: Treasury of the Shrine
Treasury of the Shrine

Zakros: West Wing
Part of the West Wing

Zakros: Hall of Ceremonies (detail)
Part of the Hall of the Ceremonies

The town

Zakros: Cyclopean Wall
Cyclopean Wall (i.e.built of very large stones)

Zakros: a bench in the Minoan town
A bench

Zakros: paving in the Minoan town
Paving in the town

Zakros: paving in the Minoan town (detail)
Paving in the town

Zakros: view of the Minoan town
Part of the town

Zakros: steps in the Minoan town
Steps in the town