Matala (ma-ta-la), on the coast 11km southwest of Phaestos, was once one of Crete’s best-known hippie hang-outs. When you see the dozens of eerie caves speckling the rock slab on the edge of the beach, you’ll see why ’60s hippies found them, like, groovy man, and turned them into a modern troglodyte city. The caves were originally Roman tombs cut out of the sandstone rock in the 1st century AD and have been used as dwellings for many centuries.
Matala expanded to the point where much of its original appeal was lost and these days it is a struggling resort, though it still has its loyal returnees and is a popular stop for day-trippers and tour buses every summer. The beautiful sandy beach below the caves is one of Crete’s best and the resort is a convenient base to visit Phaestos and Agia Triada. The caves are normally fenced off at night but there was no guard or entry charge at research time.