Phaistos, the jewel of Minoan Crete

Phaistos was the second most important centre of Minoan civilization (after Knossos), and the wealthiest and most powerful city in southern Crete during the Bronze Age (3rd-2nd millennium B.C.) The palace was destroyed in the 15th century B.C., but the city continued to be inhabited in the Mycenaean and Geometric periods until the 8th century B.C. The Archaeological site of Phaistos is a great opportunity to explore the Minoan civilisation as well as southern Crete, which overlooks the Libyan Sea.

According to the legend, Phaistos was the homeland of king Radamanthis, brother of king Minos, who had his palace in Knossos. It was also the homeland of Epimenidis, one of the seven wise men of the ancient world. During the Minoan times, Phaistos was a very significant city-state, and it remained powerful also during the Trojan war and the Dorian period. The two ports of Phaistos during the ancient times were Matala and Kommos.

Most information about Phaistos were known from the other important Minoan site, Knossos. Although many inscriptions were found by the archaeologists in the area of Phaistos, they are all in Linear A Minoan scripture, which is still undeciphered. Thus, all we know about the site, even its name, are based to the ancient writers and findings from Knossos. The best-known inscription of Linear A is the Phaistos Disc, a clay tablet, which is now housed in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.

The most important monuments of the site are the old and new Palace with their courts, royal quarters, rooms and workshops, the Minoan town and the Venetian church, which lies on the western side of the site. The West Propylon, the monumental entrance to the palace, is the most impressive known structure of its kind, and it is considered the finest and most typical of all Minoan palaces.

To go to Phaistos, you can rent a car from Heraklion and then drive for about one hour. One-hour drive is also the site from Rethymno, while from Chania and Agios Nikolaos you need about two hours. Car rental is the best way to get there, as the site is secluded in the southern side of Crete, and there is also rare public transportation.

You can combine your excursion there with a day-trip in Matala, the renowned tourist resort, which used to be the favourite hippie place in the 70s. If you are a fan of history and archaeology, you can also visit the ancient site of Agia Triada, which is also a significant Minoan site.