Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Crete - Kritsa and Lato

With our visit to Mochlos cut short by the public holiday, we headed back towards Aghios Nikolaos and stopped off on the way at a little place called Festos Beach for something else to eat. There wasn't much there but a little hotel and café and a little beach but it looked pleasant enough to stop for a while. We had some real food to stave of the hunger pangs and then a wander around for a bit before deciding to head inland towards the village of Kritsa and, if time allowed, the archaeological site at Lato.

LatoThe Ruins of Lato

Kritsa is about 10km West of Aghios Nikolaos and is supposedly one the most picturesque villages on the island. Built on a hill and surrounded by olive groves, it certainly looks the part - all nice little white houses spread round the hill but it didn't grab us as interesting enough to stop. Maybe it was too late in the afternoon or a side effect of the public holiday but it seemed a bit on the quiet side so we opted to head out to Lato and see what it was like.

The narrow road from Kritsa to Lato feels like a long and winding one but we eventually got there with me worrying a bit about having enough fuel to get back to Hersonissos. Anyway, the road ends at Lato and as with Gournia earlier in the the day, it was closed for the holiday but luckily the gates had been left open.

The city of Lato was built in a fairly defensible position overlooking the Gulf of Mirabello and between two peaks. The ruins date back to the Dorian period, about the fourth or fifth century B.C., although it was probably built earlier than that and in its day, it was one of the most powerful cities on the island. The ruins are spread over terraces on the hillside and include walls, houses, a theatre, a temple and shops and the views out over the gulf and down to the modern city of Aghios Nikolaos are excellent.

LatoThe Ruins of Lato

Lato is one of the best excavated Greek cities on Crete and the ruins are impressive by any standard so it's well worth visiting. It is however not Minoan, which means it doesn't get as much tourist traffic as the more popular archaeological sites like Knossos, Malia or Phaestos so it's a much quieter place. There were a few other people around while we were there but it is very quiet, the most noise coming from the bells tied to the goats that you can see climbing around on the hillside. It's a bit of a clamber but you can climb almost all the way to the top of one of the peaks and get a really good view but take care, the drop on one side is precipitous.

Our hired car was due back that night so after a good wander around the city and a bit of a rest, we headed back to the modern world. Tomorrow. we planned to get the bus to Malia.

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