Matala – the tiny village on the south coast of Crete. It is a village with a vivid history that still spreads peace, love, and happiness among its habitants and visitors. This post will guide you through all the things to do in Matala, Crete. So sit back, relax and let me guide you through this unique place!
So why should you visit a village with less than 100 residents?
I know this sounds small, but this tiny place has so much to offer. Matala is and has always been a small village. It has gained a lot of popularity throughout the years and has attracted tons of visitors repeatedly. Why? Matala is known as THE hippie spot of Greece. In the 1960s and 1970s, the commune grew rapidly, and the peace, love, and happiness vibe quickly spread around the sleepy village. The caves of Matala fit perfectly as a “free hotel,” and even stars like Joni Mitchell or Bob Dylan lived here for a short time.
Until now, you can sense the easy living vibe and people-watch visitors thinking about their youth while strolling along with the colorful houses. (Who knows, maybe they’ve once lived here as well?)
Besides its unique hippie history, Matala’s beach and the surrounding shops and restaurants definitely make it worth visiting.
How to get to Matala
Matala is located in the south of Crete, and it depends on where you’re starting. The driving time from, e.g., Heraklion to Matala would be 1h-1.5hrs. Coming from Chania, you’d be on the road for 2.5hrs. However, you’ll probably (unless you stay in the south part of the island) have to cross the island from north to south at one point. Crossing the island close to Mount Psiloritis is an easy route drive. We expected windy, tiny, and bad mountain roads… BUT – we ended up on perfectly, new and even (!) roads. However, the streets are narrow once you drive through a small village. Since there was not much traffic, we didn’t have to let others pass once. The only critical traffic encounters we had were the sheep and goats appearing around the corner. Therefore, I recommend driving carefully, even on the biggest and emptiest streets.
Parking in Matala
Matala has a main parking lot between the camping ground and the beach. The price was 3€ per day (May 22) – however, there were no more checks after 5 p.m. (This could be seasonal, though). The parking lot is crowded during the day, so you might have trouble finding a free spot, especially during the summer season. The road towards Matala offers some parking possibilities along the street as well. You can park there for free; please just make sure not to block the driveway or other cars.
Things to do in Matala
1 | explore the caves
The caves are the main attraction in Matala and a must-see during your visit. The entry fee is 4€ per adult and allows you to climb and explore a wide area of the caves. Even though some areas are closed off, this doesn’t mean the opened areas are less dangerous. The dusty stones can get very slippery, and you should definitely watch your step. Exploring the caves is at your own risk, and if you don’t feel comfortable climbing up all the way, the lower caves still offer a great view along the Matala bay. I’d definitely recommend wearing proper shoes; however, I also did it in sandals because I simply didn’t know better. I’d also recommend bringing some wet wipes, especially when wearing dark clothes. You’ll be covered in yellow dust!
2 | stroll along the promenades
There is a cute wooden walkway along the beach and the beachfront restaurants with a fantastic view of the town and the ocean. Once you reach the colored stairs, you’ll find yourself on the second main promenade through the houses and shops. The alleys are so scenic! Even though the town is so tiny, walking the streets takes quite some time. You could stop and stare all the time!
3 | enjoy the beach and go for a swim
Matala’s beach is beautifully embedded between the caves and the promenade. It consists of sand and fine gravel, and the crystal clear water makes swimming and snorkeling even more fun. There are a few possibilities to jump from some cliffs, and renting a kayak is a great possibility to get out on the water. There are umbrellas and sunbeds available on the beach; however, these might be seasonally removed. If you’re looking for a spot away from the sunlight, you’ll find some shadows underneath the trees close to the caves.
4 | shop for regional products and unique souvenirs
We all love to get souvenirs from our trips, don’t we? However, Matala will offer you many more options if you’re looking for non-standard items. Besides the touristy shirts with catchy slogans, you can explore shops like the Place of Art or MoozArt for handmade gifts. Even though there is a supermarket and lots of gift shops that sell regional products like Raki and Olive Oil, you could also visit Mama Roukounaki for local, natural products.
5 | Café and restaurant hopping
Greek cuisine is excellent! We had a hard time deciding on restaurants during our stay in Crete because most sounded and looked great. Well, this won’t stop in Matala. The beach promenade offers a ton of tavernas with a fantastic view (especially for sunset) and great fresh and local dishes. But let me get in-depth in the next paragraph.
Where to eat in Matala
As I already mentioned, choosing a restaurant can be challenging. Most restaurants and tavernas offer fresh fish, typical dishes, and a great view. If you’re coming for dinner, you might want to check out the tavernas along the beach. Since the sun is setting right in the middle of the bay, you’ll have a fantastic view! The upper promenade had some great cafés that offered breakfast and fresh juices. Let me tell you, it’s not an easy decision. The cute individual design of the tavernas certainly doesn’t make it any easier! However, let me give you three particular recommendations:
→ MARINERO BAR: We stopped here for a quick snack and had the most amazing baked feta and garlic bread. They serve some great cocktails and usually have live music in the evening. An excellent place for evening drinks with a view of the beach and the caves.
→ TAVERNA SUNSET: This family-run taverna is a little hidden but definitely worth visiting. The name Taverna sunset fits perfectly since the terrace probably offers one of the best sunset views in town. We only found it after we ate since it is located up the stairs at the end of the promenade (literally the last taverna). The lady welcomed us in to look a the view, and let me tell you, I regret not walking all the way before choosing a restaurant. Do me a favor and check out this place before deciding! The food looked amazing!
→ BOHO BAR: Being located directly next to the parking lot, this bar stands out due to its design. The boho bar offers drinks, snacks, and Shisha. We especially loved the seating down at the beach because you can sip your Freddo Espresso while dipping your toes into the sand. We also tried the Shisha, which was great. The team was young and super friendly, and the prices were reasonable. The views toward the caves and the beach are simply stunning!
Where to stay in Matala
Since Matala is a small town, you can explore the area in one day. If you don’t want to make it a day trip and take it slow, there are a few hotels and Airbnbs in Matala and its surroundings. My recommendations would be:
Public Facilities in Matala
The Matala Beach Festival is held every year and is one of the biggest (if not the main) events in Matala. The cool thing: You can access the festival for free, only the entrance to the main stage will cost you 5€. Considering prices for other festivals around Europe, this is insanely cheap. However, the city will be packed, and the demand for hotels is high. If you plan on visiting the Matala festival, better book your room in advance 🙂
Things to do near Matala
So, is Matala worth visiting? If you ask me, definitely yes! It’s an excellent destination for a day trip and a unique place to stay in Crete. However, suppose you don’t want to spend the entire day in town. In that case, it’s easily combined with attractions like the Donkey sanctuary close to Matala.
I hope you visit this little scenic town and already found some exciting things to do in Matala in this article. If you’ve already been to Matala, let me know how you liked your stay in the comments.
As always, stay happy and healthy!
See you soon,
*Affiliate Links: Small Creators like me get a little commission out of bookings – however, your price always stays the same. 🙂