When pulling into the town of Matala Crete you may shocked by how busy it is in comparison to the rest of the island. We certainly weren’t ready for it! Yet once you turn down onto Matala Beach and get your first glimpse of the hippie caves, you’ll see why it’s such a popular destination. The Matala Caves were one of the most interesting and beautiful things we saw in all of Greece. They also have a history that dates past Joni Mitchell and the hippies of the 1960’s.
Matala Crete is located in the Southern part of the Greek island, and has a long history dating back to the Neolithic times. It is believed that the Matala Caves were originally used as tombs during Roman occupation over 2,000 years ago. However, some of the caves show evidence of humans living there, with beds and makeshift windows carved into the walls. Whatever the case, Matala Greece was nothing but a small fishing village up until the last century.
The Hippie Era
That was until… the hippies arrived! It’s unclear how the movement actually started, but the free love culture descended upon Matala Crete in the early 1960’s. Hippie backpackers came from all over the globe to dwell in what was once a quiet Greek island town. Since places to live were scarce, the flower children took refuge in the caves above Matala Beach. It must of been the clear blue waters of the Adriatic Sea and starry moonlight sky that drew them in. It was truly a place where they could disconnect and express themselves without judgement from the outside world. The hippie caves most famous resident was singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell who immortalized the Matala Caves with her 1971 song “Carey.”
According to Joni Mitchell, when they arrived in Matala Greece there was nothing more than two grocery stores and a bakery. Can you imagine being a local fisherman here as this is going on? Going from never seeing a tourist before in your life, to hundreds of hippies living in caves and taking over Matala Beach?? Well all good things must come to an end, and eventually the local church and military kicked them out of the hippie caves.
Matala Crete Today
These days if you’re going to see the Matala Caves you won’t be the only one with the same idea! There’s literally one road in and out of town, which makes it a bit overwhelming with all the tourists. Nonetheless, the scenery is incredibly beautiful and the beach is worth a visit in itself. The town still holds true to the hippie days of the 1960’s, with plenty of funky beach bars and restaurants overlooking the water. You can enter the Matala Caves for 4 Euros, but sorry… No one is allowed to spend the night in them! Here you’ll be able to hike and explore, while also taking in the view of Matala Beach from above. Enjoy!