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.
Malia is the place for which the cliche was coined: it really is ‘a town of contrasts’. It is the busy beach resort above all others, probably the loudest and brashest on Crete. At the same time it has one of the most evocative and least-visited Minoan sites on the island, containing the remains of a palace, and in addition is one of the best coastal spots on Crete for seeing migrating birds in spring and autumn.
The summer wildlife is found in the town centre, where strips of bars and discos blare out music until the early hours of the morning, and during the day its splendid long sandy beach has holidaymakers packed onto it like sardines… or like sardines that are slowly frying in oil. Ironically, while the main beach, despite its size, is packed with bodies, there is also an excellent beach near the Minoan remains which is frequently empty as so few people make the short 2.5 mile (4km) journey to visit it.
On one side of the palace remains is the sea, and on the other side still largely hidden under agricultural land are the remains of what was evidently a big settlement. French archaeologists have been working on the site for some time, and the slow painstaking work continues, but visitors can still wander over much of the site where information boards have been placed to help you make sense of the ruins.
There is also a burial site known as Chrysolakkos, with treasures found in the tombs now on display in the Archaeological Museum in Irakleio.
The main area of the site is the former palace itself, which was originally built in 1900 BC but then destroyed in 1700 BC, rebuilt, and then destroyed again in about 1450 BC in the final cataclysmic destruction of the Minoan civilisation on Crete.
The central courtyard is a focal point from which to try and understand the sumptuous buildings that would have surrounded you, and a prior visit to Knosos will give you some idea of what Malia would have looked like.
The remains of storage areas and pits, as well as a huge administration block, indicate that the palace was as well-populated and well-stocked with provisions as any large modern town.
The Milatos Cave
A few kilometers east of the site is the village of Milatos, from where signs direct you along a path to the Milatos Cave: not the usual show cave but a memorial to a massacre that took place here in 1823 during the War of Independence against the Turks. To gaze at the bones in the casket inside the cave is to understand that memories here are long. The Cretans are proud and independent people, and for them to be ruled by a foreign power is the greatest indignity of all.
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Where to Stay in Malia
Other Crete pages
Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Central Crete including hotels in Matala, Ayia Galini, and Zaros.
The largest of the Greek islands, Crete has four ENUESCO sites, which are Sitia, Psiloritis, Asterousia, and the Gorge of Samaria.
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.
Greece Travel Secrets visits the Cretan Botano herbs and spices shop near Matala in southern Crete in search of the herb man of Kouses.
Crete festivals and events include Carnival Easter, Whitsun, Christmas, many other religious feast days and public holidays.
This Airbnb in the quiet village of Malaxa, a 30-minute drive into the hills above Chania, is a peaceful retreat with a delightful and thoughtful artist owner, with wonderful views and amenities.
This olive grove walk from Limnes to Vrises on Crete also takes you through orchards and gives close-up views of some of the island’s windmills.
Driving central Crete in three days gives you time to see the highlights including the Minoan palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, the beaches and the Diktean Cave.
Greece Travel Secrets visits Crete and learns about making rakomelo from Jorgos Kourmoulis in Agouseliana.
Keramos Studios in Zaros on Crete is an inexpensive two-star hotel/guesthouse with one of the best breakfasts on the island using food from the family’s farm.
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.
Chania is the main city in Western Crete with a lovely setting and a beautiful harbour as well as several museums.
Hiking the Samaria Gorge on Crete, one of the best things to do on Crete, by Greece Travel Secrets.
This tour around central Crete lists some of the area’s highlights such as the traditional village of Arolithos, Minoan remains at Tilisos, and Agioi Deka.
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.
The Battle of Crete during World War 2 inspired several books and took place with an airborne invasion over Maleme on the north coast of the island.
The travel tale Our Hire Car in Crete describes what it’s like when you go driving in Greece and get off the beaten track, resulting in kindnesses.
Greece Travel Secrets chooses ten of the best beaches on Crete including the beautiful beaches at Vai and Elafonisi.
Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Eastern Crete including restaurants and tavernas in Elounda, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, and Kato Zakros.
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.
Icon painting is a centuries-old tradition in Crete and the rest of Greece, and Greece Travel Secrets meets a modern-day icon painter in Elounda on Crete.
This Rouvas Gorge walk starts and ends in Zaros in southern Crete and should take three to four hours with a distance of eight kilometres or five miles.
The Diktean or Diktaean Cave, also known as the Psychro Cave, near the village of Psychro in eastern Crete, is said to be the birthplace of Zeus.
The Greece Travel Secrets guide to Zaros in Central Crete, including what to do, where to stay, and where to eat.
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