Matala: The Hippie Experience in Crete

by Tsvete Popp

This post is part of the series Crete

Other posts in this series:

  1. Matala: The Hippie Experience in Crete (Current)
  2. Balos Beach and Lagoons ~ Crete

Greece has 6.000 islands in total, disseminated in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, 227 of which are inhabited. Located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea, Crete is the largest island of Greece, and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean! Crete is most famous for its ancient art and Minoan civilization, as well as for its beautiful nature, magnificent weather, stunning sea and landscapes, and countless beaches. Crete was home to one of the first civilizations in Europe – the Minoan civilization (2600 to 1600 BC).

Matala, Crete
Matala, Crete
Matala, Crete

The history of Matala goes back to the time of Olympian gods and myths. The legend says that Matala Beach is the place where God Zeus made love with Europe (a beautiful Phoenician princess). Zeus transformed himself into a bull and swam with Europe to the beach of Matala. Europe became his wife and, of course, the queen of Crete. Europe and Zeus got three children together.


Later in the history of Crete, during the Minoan period, Matala was the main port of Phaistos. Another interesting fact about Matala is the Roman caves, which were carved into the cliff and used as tombs.

Matala, Crete
Matala, Crete

Crete has many extraordinary beaches and fishing villages but the one that will stay in my mind as “the winner” is Matala! Matala was discovered by the hippies in the 60s and 70s and it became the favourite offbeat destination of the freedom-lovers in Europe. And I could easily see why the hippies decided to “rule” here: the beaches are clean, the water is plain blue, and the large cliff and caves – unique!

Matala, Crete


Nowadays it is still fabulous to discover Matala Beach. The moment we stepped out of the car we could feel this vibe of calm and serenity. On the opposite side of the beach, there was a sea wall with the welcome greeting: “Welcome to Matala George. Today is life. Tomorrow never comes” (some say that this is a greeting to George Harrison of The Beatles).


The wonderful sandy beach of Matala is lined with tavernas, fish restaurants, colorful cafes, traditional villas … and not to forget – the street paintings! The water is still clear and love is still in the air.

Matala, Crete
Matala, Crete

The Caves of Matala


Even today the cliffs of Matala are one of its trademarks. They are man-made caves carved out of the rock some thousands of years ago in the steep cliffs that rise above the north side of the bay and beach. The unique geography of Matala beach created a juxtaposition of rock and sand, allowing ancient people to carve caves into the soft rock. No-one actually knows exactly when the caves were made. Some of the current theories say that they are Roman or Early Christian tombs.


Brutus & Julius Caesar
The famous Roman general Brutus, who betrayed Julius Caesar, often stayed in the caves of Matala!

In the 60s and 70s, when the hippies came to Matala they made the caves their homes.  Some of the caves, still have some carved beds, windows, as well as porches!

Matala, Crete
Matala, Crete
Matala, Crete

Matala and Joni Mitchell


In the 60s of the  20th century, the hippies started coming to Matala as they believed that the Greek village was the perfect place for living the happy Hippie life! You probably won’t believe but some of the most famous Hippies, like Janis Joplin, Cat Stevens, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, even lived here. But the most notable of all Matala’s hippies to remember is Joni Mitchell.


Here you can see the Californian homes of Janis Joplin and other Hippies


Hip, Hip, Hippie! ~ San Francisco


After seeing Matala for the first time, Joni Mitches got inspired to write the song “Carey”:


The night is a starry dome and they’re playin’ that scratchy rock and roll beneath the Matala Moon…


Today, Matala still spreads its boho and hippie vibe but the village has become much more commercial than in the 70s. Even in 2018, the hippies are not extinct as some “new hippies” inhabit a more remote set of caves not far away from the ones on the beach.



What did I wear?

Tunic: Esprit

Flip Flops: O’NEILL

Sunglasses: Pier Cardin

Matala, Crete
Enjoy the day!

*This post contains Affiliate Links. I only recommend high-quality items and services I am confident about. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

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