Matala may only be a tiny village with less than 100 permanent inhabitants, but it is world famous. Its good reputation is especially thanks to the hippies who lived here from the end of the 60s and into the 70s. The musicians Cat Stevens and Bob Dylan were even among them at a time.
Matala still has so much to offer for visitors today, that you could easily spend two enjoyable hours here. The main car park is situated right at the centre of the old village, between the campsite, the sandy beach and the rock face with the caves, where many hippies resided back then. They were originally carved out of the soft stone as far back as antiquity and used as graves. You can clamber up to them and go inside: the view from the cave of the beach, sea and the historic fishing village is a fantastic motif for your photos!
Above the beach in Matala, chamber tombs were carved into the rock face in Roman times, and were a popular meeting place for hippies in the 60s and 70s.
Afterwards we recommend you walk along the coarse sandy beach about 200 m to the old fishing village. Its inhabitants may have been poor, but they made life easy for the hippies with their hospitality. Today, most of the simple houses are used commercially as tavernas and bars, but the original atmosphere can still be clearly felt. You should take a break here.
Afterwards, return to the newer part of the village in the direction of the car park. Stay left on the shore road, which is about 100 m long and somewhat resembles a North African bazaar gleicht. Jewellery, textiles, carvings made of olive wood and much, much more is on offer. At the end of the street, turn right and you will be standing on the main village square, right in front of the small village church.
Just beyond, a barrier prevents cars from entering the village. A little further down from here, beside the steps to the car park, you will find one of the best book shops in Crete, when you’re looking for Cretan literature. Of special interest is a volume of photographs about Matala in Hippie times, written by the former Bremen journalist, Arn Strohmeyer.
If you want to see a little more of historic Matala, you can turn right at the barrier, and go along the street lined with small guesthouses until the end of the houses. On your right hand side, you will see here the remains of a Roman harbour settlement, sadly suffering from much neglect. If you are indefatigable, follow the street further on, which soon becomes an unpaved trail, and you will reach Red Beach in about 30 minutes, where some hippies also settled in the past.
However, you can also bathe at the beach directly in front of the car park where you left your car. The small islands that you can see out to sea are uninhabited. They are the Paximadia Islands. Their name means Cretan barley rusks, but the reason why is a mystery. They tower up out of the Libyan Sea, 252 and 166 m high, 10 km off the coast of Crete.