The Diktean Cave, which is also written as the Diktaean Cave, and whose more correct name is the Psychro Cave, is in eastern Crete. It’s just outside the village of Psychro, which is about a half-hour drive (27kms/17 miles) due south of Malia. It is about 45kms/28 miles west of Agios Nikolaos, and takes about 90 minutes on winding mountain roads.
The Diktean Cave
The Birthplace of Zeus?
The origins of the Diktean Cave, in legend at least, go back even further than the Neolithic remains found at the nearby Cave of Trapeza. It was here that the goddess Rhea gave birth to Zeus.
Zeus’s father, Kronos, had been told that he would one day lose his throne to a son, and was so fearful of the prophecy that he ate all his children the moment they were born. Tired of having her children eaten, Rhea concealed Zeus in the Diktean Cave and tricked Kronos into eating a stone instead. Zeus did indeed go on to take control of the Universe and become father to all the other Gods.
However, some people say that the Zeus born here was not the same Zeus who later resided on Mt Olympus but a Cretan Zeus, worshipped as a fertility god who died and was reborn each year.
Visiting the Diktean Cave
After such grand legends, the reality of visiting the cave can be disappointing, particularly the rather unspiritual way the local villagers do their best to sell you souvenirs and pester you to take a guide. It is a most unGreek experience, more akin to the pestering of vendors in North Africa than southern Europe. You do not need to take a guide, and provided you have your own torch a guide is superfluous as the cave today is like any other show cave, with stalactites and stalagmites, many in unusual shapes which have produced the inevitable names, but these you can spot for yourself without needing paid assistance.
Impressive Main Chamber
The main chamber is impressive, being some 70m (230ft) deep, and off it are several smaller chambers. At the bottom is a small pool and it is in the chamber off to the left of this that Zeus was allegedly born. To reach the cave you must stop in the village of Psychro and follow the sign up a pleasant track that weaves through oak woods and takes about 15 minutes to reach the cave entrance. Donkeys are always available for hire for those who find the going difficult, but most care must be taken on entering the cave itself, as the steps down are awkward and can be slippery.
Take a Torch!
This is where you need a good torch, not only because the lighting is low in the chamber, as you can see, but also for viewing the rock formations for viewing the rock formations. As with many sites in Greece, visiting is best done early or late, to avoid the crowds, which can lead to long queues during the day in summer.
Where to Stay on Crete
Other Crete pages
Crete (Kriti) is the largest Greek island and its main attractions include the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Samarian Gorge, Chania and Rethymnon.
The largest of the Greek islands, Crete has four ENUESCO sites, which are Sitia, Psiloritis, Asterousia, and the Gorge of Samaria.
The Dalabelos Estate offers luxury eco-tourism accommodation on Crete in the hills near Rethymnon with its own farm, vineyard and olive groves.
Crete’s wildlife and landscape are two of the island’s attractions, including gorges for hiking, rare raptors like the lammergeier, wildcats and ancient trees.
Ancient Gournia is a Minoan archaeological site between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia in Eastern Crete where the visitor can see evidence of a maze of back streets.
The best things to do on Crete and top things to see include the Samaria Gorge, the Minoan Palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, the towns of Chania and Rethymnon.
Crete festivals and events include Carnival Easter, Whitsun, Christmas, many other religious feast days and public holidays.
Greece Travel Secrets suggests where to stay in Eastern Crete with our favourite hotels in Zakros, Elounds, Sitia, Agios Nikolaos, Istron Bay, Myrtos, Neapolis.
Greece Travel Secrets’ potted guide to Eastern Crete and why you should consider it for a holiday, including seeing Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Vai Beach and Zakros.
How to see eastern Crete in five days, with its beaches, Minoan palaces, timeless villages, unique churches and mountain and coastal scenery.
Greece Travel Secrets discovers Sitia, the main town in eastern Crete, with its relaxing waterfront, inexpensive hotels, good food, and nearby ancient sites.
Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Eastern Crete including restaurants and tavernas in Elounda, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, and Kato Zakros.
Greece Travel Secrets visits Visual Arts Crete who offer accommodation and run art courses at their home and studio in the village of Kastellos near Rethymnon.
Chania is the main city in Western Crete with a lovely setting and a beautiful harbour as well as several museums.
Greece Travel Secrets visits the Crete Botanical Gardens near Chania and finds a wonderland of colourful plants, trees, and flowers filling a lovely valley.
Crete's capital and largest city is Irakleio, also called Iraklion or Heraklion, a large and busy place with good restaurants, museums and historical buildings.
Driving on Crete is the best way to see Greece’s biggest island and here is our driving advice and some information about Greek driving regulations.
These shopping tips for Crete include advice on buying souvenirs like ceramics, icons, jewellery, leather, weavings, wood carvings, and food and drink.
Malia on the north coast of Crete is renowned for its nightlife and beaches but also has the Minoan Palace of Malia, one of Crete's many archaeological sites.
Greece Travel Secrets page on Phaistos or Faistos, the site of one of the finest Minoan palaces on Crete and is where the mysterious Phaistos Disc was found.
Sir Arthur Evans is the archaeologist famous for the excavations he made at the royal palace of Knossos on Crete.
Visiting Knossos near Iraklion is one of the best things to do on Crete, and this page has a history of the site with visitor information.
What was daily life as a Minoan like on Crete, living in palaces like the ones at Knossos, Malia, Phaistos, and Zakros, and what were their religious beliefs?
Is someone from Crete a Greek or a Cretan? They are both, of course, but most will tell you that they are Cretan first and Greek second.
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