The Caves in Matala. They were apparently used as housing by prehistoric people. Many of them contained rock-hewn tombs dating to the Greec-Roman times and the Early Christian period. They became popular after the 1970’s, as they were a must see destination especially of young tourists.
Kamares cave, NE of the Kamares village, is situated on the southern slope of Mount Ida (or Psiloritis) at an altitude of 1520 m (the ascent to it takes 1 h). The cave was discovered in 1890 by a villager, while excavations conducted later (1913) by British archaeologists uncovered important Minoan findings; among the latter the most outstanding ones were abundant quantities of the famous Kamares ware, multicoloured pottery of the Middle Minoan period. Exquisite examples of this style of pottery were also found at the great palaces of Knossos and Phaistos. They are displayed at present in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. The cave, which served as a dwelling to Neolithic people, was dedicated to the worship of the great Minoan deity. A visit to the cave entails a long ascending walk.
Arkalochori cave. The Minoan sanctuary-cave, where many ceramics were found. Particularly impressive are the votive offerings – probably to some war deity, including swords, knives and a series of gold, silver and bronze double-bit axes, some of which bear engraved decoration. Also, there are signs suggesting that the cave had been destructed violently at the beginning of the Late Minoan Period.
Viglas Cave features stalactite and stalagmite formations. It served as a shelter during the Turkish occupation (13 km, passable road).
Northwest of Skotino village and after a route of approximately 2 km you will see Aghia Paraskevi cave. The cave’s length in sectional view is 170 m and extends over 2.500 sq. m. Its touristic route is 40 m. Scientists have not systematically excavated the cave but after some studies it was revealed that during the Minoan period it was place of worship.
After its entrance you will see a great chamber called “Megas Naos” (Great Temple) (130m long, 33m wide and 30m high) where you will be amazed by its stalactites and stalagmites. Afterwards there is a descent of 6m leading to “Aditon”. This is an underground chamber with dimensions 15x8x3 m. This rising pathway leads again to the first chamber but from different entrance. Between Vomos and Aditon is a pathway (12m long and 1,5-2,5m wide) leading to “Ethousa Latrias” (chamber of worship) (12x12x14m) that looks like a vault and has an amazing natural decoration. After going up for 4m you will enter “Ethousa Prosefchis” (chamber of pray) and after that you will see a small narrow chamber (locals call it “Ekklisaki” – small church). The descent to Adito is not advised as apart from its difficulty, its floor is a shelter for cave crickets and other cave animals which can feel threatened by human presence.
Sarchou Cave, alternatively referred to as CHONOS CAVE or NYCHTERIDOSPELIO, lies in Sarchos, 4.5 km to the N. It has about 300 m length, and is overhung with stalactites and filled with water.
Elithyia Cave (1 km S of Amnissos). It was also mentioned by Homer. One of the most important places of worship dedicated to Elithyia, goddess of childbirth. It was discovered in the late 19th century and was known to the locals as Neraidospilios (i.e. the cave of the fairy). It is oblong (60 m long and 9 to 12 m wide) and, as excavations proved (by archeologists Chatzidakis and Marinatos) it was place of worship from the Neolithic Era up to the 5th century B.C. (the ceramic findings depict all periods). Almost in the centre of the cave, there is a rectangular altar or nave, around two cylindrical stalagmites that remind human figures.