I drove to the palace of Kato Zakros from Sitia and the drive was fairly challengingly, but thoroughly enjoyable. I passed through the town of Palekastro and then began a steep ascent through several mountains and past the small villages Lagada and Azokeramos before I reached the modern village by the name of Zakros. From there the road wraps around a rugged mountain as it descents towards the sea before it ends at the tiny settlement by a sheltered pebble beach. Kato Zakros consists of few homes and a row of tavernas which line the beach and serve the tour bus passengers who arrive there for the day, attracted by the Minoan palace ruins which can be found about one hundred meters inland.
Kato Zakros is about a forty-five minute drive from Zakros, but many opt to reach the palace by a two hour trek through the spectacular gorge which connects the two villages and is known as the "Valley of the Dead" because of the cave tombs which are carved on its walls. If you opt for the walk though the gorge, it would be a good idea to arrange for a way to get back to your car afterwards since there is no local transportation anywhere near Kato Zakros.
The palace ruins at Kato Zakros are well worth the visit for all who are enchanted with the Minoan civilization. It is nested at the hill slopes overlooking the bay, and while it has not been extensively reconstructed, the buildings are well outlined and several features well preserved.
Zakros is the smallest of the known Minoan palaces, about five times smaller than Knossos, and its location nearest the commercial destinations of Egypt, Cyprus and the Middle East transcended it to an important hub for economic and military activity. Like the other Minoan palaces of Crete, it was built around 1900 BC and most of the ruins date back to the Neopalatial period. Surrounding the palace was a thriving city, and the palace was the administrative, commercial, and religious center for the entire area. Many of the buildings were multistoried, with interior staircases, and light wells. Since the palace of Zakros was built on very wet land, water was always an element that needed to be addressed. The palace features a number of drains, a cistern, and a fountain.
The palace was destroyed in 1450 BCE by a fierce fire which baked the clay tablets with the linear A script which have survived to our day. It took me about two hours to walk leisurely around the ruins. The terrain is difficult since half the palace is built on a steep rocky slope, and during my visit the sun was relentless. On the site, there are no accommodations of any kind, and no shade to be found anywhere. A visit at the tavernas by the beach before and after the visit to the palace is a necessity for most travelers for a bathroom visit and drinks. Many travelers also spent some relaxing time at the beach right after the visit to the palace.
On my way back to Sitia, and about fifteen minutes after I left Kato Zakros, I picked up a couple of Dutch tourists who were on their way back to Zakros to pick up their car after they had walked through the gorge. They attested to the fact that a second hike through a desolate uphill road and under the noon sun is never a good idea, but hitchhiking is always an option.
Zakros is well worth a visit for the palace and its rugged isolated
|The newly excavated storage room was covered with a roof to shelter it from the elements.||A recessed pithos in the storage room. Traces of frescoes are still visible on its walls.|