Drive to Phaistos and Matala

Phaistos situation was halfway up a high hill overlooking the Mesara plain and Mountain Ida. It was second only to Knossos in importance in Minoan times. You can rent a car from Heraklion Airport and get to Phaistos in just 30 minutes.

Rhadamanthys, brother of Minos, ruled Phaistos. Epimenides, one of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece, was born there. People built the first palace around 2000 BC, but an earthquake destroyed it in 1700 BC. They built a second palace on top of the first, but it got destroyed around 1450 BC.

Phaistos was a city of grandeur, with stunning architecture and skilled builders. They used the finest materials like alabaster and gypsum. The masons’ marks suggest that they built both palaces. However, unlike Knossos, Phaistos has no frescoes.

The city had a complex drainage system. 50,000 people lived and worked below the palace. The Mesara region contained scattered villages that relied on the palace for their livelihoods. Phaistos was an independent city-state until the Hellenistic times. It often warred with Gortyn, but in the 3rd century BC, Gortyn finally crushed Phaistos.

Federico Halbherr, a flamboyant Italian archaeologist, led the excavation of Phaistos. This excavation began in 1900, soon after Evans started digging at Knossos. To visit the site, rent a car in Crete and head over to Phaistos.