KNOSSOS No visit to Crete is complete without a visit to Knossos, the ancient Minoan palace referenced in Homer’s Odyssey. Crete’s grandest Bronze Age archaeological site, Knossos dates to before 2000 BCE. According to Greek mythology, King Minos lived here behind a labyrinth of walls designed by Daedelus, who Minos kept locked away in a tower with Icarus, so that the maze’s secrets would never be revealed. The fabled minotaur also dwelled here, according to myth, and battled Theseus, the early king of Athens. The palace was the center of Minoan political power and decadence. And standing under its hulking columns and walls today is an utterly transporting experience. APTERA A few miles east of Chania in Western Crete, the archaeological site of Aptera became an important city for the Minoans around the 8th century BCE and is still being excavated to uncover new wonders today. The ruins include Roman baths and arched Roman cisterns as well as a limestone theater and the Byzantine monastery of Agios Ioannis Theologos. The site overlooks Souda Bay, with magnificent views of the sapphire

sea. In Greek, Aptera means “without wings.” And when you understand this site’s connection to Greek mythology, the moniker makes sense. Myths maintain that Aptera was where the sirens and muses sparred in a legendary contest that left the sirens wingless–only to plunge forever into the sea. IDEON AND DIKTEON CAVES Crete is riddled with limestone caves (over 3,000, in fact). And two of them–Ideon and Dikteon–spar over the honor of being the birthplace of Zeus, the mythical king of all Greek Gods, who was allegedly born to Rhea inside one of them. Steps descend into the maw of Dikteon Cave on the Lassithi Plateau in eastern Crete, where the scent of wild thyme and sage rises from the surrounding hills. The cave has impressive stalactites and stalagmites illuminated to wondrous e¡ect. Ideon Cave is tucked into the side of Mount Ida, Crete’s highest mountain, and overlooks the Nida Plateau, with slightly less spectacular interior formations. You can visit both caves and judge for yourself where you get the strongest Zeus-origin vibes.


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