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Mata wha?

Matala is a coastal beach town on the southern coast of Crete, which is part of Greece.

Where did that come from?

Around 67 B.C. under Roman rule, it served as a port town for the city of Gortyn. It remained under Roman control until the 9th century, when the Arabs came and took control of Crete. Today, it is a small beach resort, providing a relaxing atmosphere for the heaps of tourists that arrive in the summer to take a load off.

Where am I?

As mentioned, it's located in southern Crete. More specifically, the beach, along with the coast-hugging town, is located in a sort of small bay between two high cliff faces, which makes the waters very calm, inviting, and soothing. It faces directly to the west, allowing for great views of the sunset. The town boasts of 340 days a year of sunlight, so be sure to bring along your suntan lotion.

Entertain me.

Aside from the Matala beach, there's another beach called Kokkini Ammes, or Red Beach, located directly south of Matala. This small, sand-laden shore is only accessible by foot (~30 minutes) and is most commonly visited by the hard-core nudist crowd. You will have to do a bit of light rock climbing to get there, but it's worth seeing.

Another site to see is the Roman Cemetery, or the hippy caves, right on the north end of the Matala beach. The Romans first carved these tombs out of the sandstone rock around first century AD and have been used as dwellings up to modern times. In the 1960s and 1970s, they served as a popular hippy hang out. Joni Mitchell, in fact, was one of these cave-dwelling hippies and she even wrote a song called "Carey" in which she sings about the Matala moon. During the on-season (June thru September I'm guessing), you can visit the caves for a price. During the off-season, you can find a gap in the fence and slip through. Caves can actually be found all around Matala, along the cliffs and elsewhere. Look for the one to the south of the beach on top of the cliffs with "I want to live" spray-painted on the wall.

This brings me to another possible activity; exploring the vast and beautiful landscape. You'll see that Matala is surrounded on its north and south ends by fairly high cliffs. To get on top of these (and to get to the Red Beach) I used a rocky path found down the road next to the Zafiria Hotel buildings, where most of the hotels are. If you're into exploring and wanting to know what's over that next hill, you'll enjoy just wandering around here. Watch for the occasional black goat that can be found grazing among the water-starved vegetation and be wary of the strong wind.

Feed me. Shelter me.

The town is pretty much just a collection of budget accommodation, restaurants, and cafes. I ended up getting a place to stay for 10 euro (with some haggling) and you can get a good meal for about 5 euro. There are ATMs and internet cafes as well. There's also a place to do your laundry (Which is closed off-season), a bookstore that sells books in many different languages (including English), and a supermarket for the penny-pinchers.

I hate beaches, hippies, and nudists.

Matala also makes a good base camp for visiting the near by Phaestos and Agia Triada, both ruins from the past Minoan civilization, which I'm sure any archaeologist would drool over. A bus leaves regularly for Phaestos and costs 1.20 euro each way. Agia Triada is about 3km west of Phaestos and lacks any public transportation to the site. You can also take buses to and from Iraklio and Moires.

Lonely Planet: Crete guidebook, 2000
first hand experience

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