The Palace of Knossos may feature on top of every visitor’s guidebook for its significance, size and glory but that doesn’t take away any of the importance and splendour of its first runner-up, the Palace of Phaistos.
Like in Knossos, the Palace of Phaistos is one of the largest in Crete founded either by Minos, ruler of Knossos, or his brother Radhamanthys. Phaistos was to the South what Knossos was to the North: a large administrative and commercial centre, its influence and reputation extending well beyond the palace complex walls.
The Palace of Phaistos was first built in the Protopalatial period (1900 BC). It was destroyed by an earthquake circa 1700 BC. A new one was constructed on the ruins and survived until 1450 BC, when it was destroyed and never rebuilt (source). Excavations of the site began in 1900’s by the Italian Archaeological School and continue to this day. Unlike Knossos, no frescoes were found in the new palace and no reconstruction attempts have been made here – just preservation.
Sitting on a plateau with magnificent views of the plain of Messara, the largest and most fertile in Crete, up to the imposing mountains of Psiloritis or Idi where, according to the legend, Zeus was born, this quiet site where one is free to walk among most of the open spaces undisturbed by long queues, large group tours and guides aggressively fishing for customers, exudes an air of authenticity, warmth and elegance – the kind that is easily lost in more popular sites, like Knossos.
Phaistos is a 1,5 hrs drive from Heraklion, headed south. Check opening hours/admission here. More information about this and other Minoan Palaces and places of historical/archaeological interest, can be found on ”Minoan Crete”.
Images by Konstantinos Implikian
Phaistos, 06 July 2015