MATALA: European Hippie Getaway

The whole trip to this small hippie place (although honestly saying touristic too) on the coast of the Libyan Sea started with an exciting thing. Or stupid is maybe better fitting word that explains my problem with the space that surrounds me.

Anyway, here’s the thing: on our way to find the right spot for hitchhiking in Heraklion, and while the sun was at its highest point in the sky, I smartly decided to wear my hat on, narrowing my visual range that ended up resulting in a close encounter with the traffic sign. And I’m not making this up guys.

So…  With blood on my head, complaining on how incredibly stupid I am, we’ve hitchhiked our first of three rides to Matala (that’s roughly 60km away from Heraklion, the capital and biggest city in Crete)…


It was in the 60s when dozens of hippies found their nomadic home inside man-made Neolithic caves in Matala, and among them amazing Joni Mitchell, whose popular songs like “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Woodstock” helped define an era and a generation.

Her popularity was on the top back then, and her 1971 recording was rated the 30th best album ever made in Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. Time she spent there, in the Mermaid Café, later on became a story of her famous song Carey where she idolized the hippie scene and the beauty of the bay of this small, but very intriguing place:

“Maybe I’ll go to Amsterdam
Maybe I’ll go to Rome
And rent me a grand piano
And put some flowers ’round my room
But let’s not talk about fare-thee-wells now
The night is a starry dome
And they’re playin’ that scratchy rock and roll
Beneath the Matala Moon…”

Hippie scene is still alive today, but just for a few days a year, when this tiny town attracts 30-60 thousand visitors to Matala Beach Festival – practically European version of “Burning Man” festival, and it takes place usually in June. Honestly saying, I can’t even imagine that number of folks in the place, as it’s that small that from side to side you need like 10 minutes to walk and you’ll end the sightseeing.

Some enthusiasts, or I can say hippies, organize small things all around the year, so we were invited to a private international food gathering where every “participant” presents its own national dish, and I suppose that this kind of stuff happens every now and then…


What we’ve heard about Matala is only the best stuff from the locals, and by knowing the fact this place “hosted” hippies in the 60s and the 70s who lived in the caves of the sandstone cliff that surrounds one side of Matala, it was a promising trip.

What we didn’t expect is the level of touristic development of the place itself, which a bit commercialized the whole story.


Oh, yeah… Matala’s people… My conversation with a cool lady who moved from Germany 30 years ago to live and work in Matala where she sells her amazing hand-crafted jewelry, for example. She says that town hasn’t changed much over time, and that it still breaths with the same charm that made her leave her old life behind and move several thousands of km south.

Her calm, almost hypnotizing voice and slowly way she talked. Behind each word there’s a feeling you get of the amount of true happiness she brings with her appearance, her stories, her calmness.

Or Pavlos, an owner of a tiny reggae bar who introduced us to Greek raki (traditional alcoholic drink made of grapes)…  Amazing lad.

Thanks mate, raki was delicious!


We’ve slept on the beach, and it’s perfectly safe, no one will bother you. Caves are not anymore open for sleeping or chilling, as the cliff is now fenced, and they charge 3 euro (ridiculous) for entering the spot. If you’ve had a couple of drinks, I’m definitely not recommending climbing up there. lol


My head injury healed, maybe because of the saltiness of the crystal clear waters of the Libyan sea, or maybe even the peacefulness of this charming place that filled my expectations.

Clearly I’m not a fan of commercialized travel destinations, and it’d be so much better when Matala would be what it was a couple of decades ago, but I still think you should visit this small fishing village on the south coast of the Greek Island of Crete.

I mean, it’s a hippie place. And what’s not to love when the destination is all about peace, love and mutual genuine understanding. 😉