Passing through the grape-producing valley of Malevisi , you will take the road towards the Messara plain, the largest and most important of the agricultural areas of Crete . Olives feature highly in the local produce, as do fruit and vegetables.
Your first guided visit will be to the ruins of the ancient city of Gortys. Inhabited from at least Minoan times, Gortys came into its own during the occupation of the Dorians, and reached the height of its powers under the Romans, from 67 BC. The impressive ruins include temples, a theatre and other buildings. Most important of all are the large blocks of stone engraved with the ‘Code of Gortys'. Dating from about 500 BC, this is a law code which gives fascinating information about the structure of the society at that time. You will also visit the remains of the early Christian church of Agios Titos , built in the 6 th century. It is dedicated to Titus who was sent by St Paul to convert the island to Christianity.
Nearby Phaestos, beautifully situated with views out over the fertile Messara Plain, is Crete's second largest Minoan palace and is thought to have been the seat of local rulers and religious leaders who would have been under the overall dominion of Knossos . You will be given a guided tour of the extensive ruins. These are the remains of an exceedingly grand complex of buildings which display all the hallmarks of the genius of Minoan architects. The large central courtyard is surrounded by living quarters for the royal family, shrines and other cult areas where ceremonies of the Minoan religion would have been held, and the storage magazines and artisan's workshops which attest to the great wealth of this people. The considerable number of objects found here includes the famous Phaestos Disc, which is inscribed with a spiral of hieroglyphic symbols which have not yet been deciphered. The palace also includes a typical theatral area where it is easy to imagine sacred processions and dances taking place.
After a highly cultural morning, you will be able to relax in the seaside town of Matala . After lunch (not included), you will have free time to enjoy the clear waters and the spectacular sandy beach surrounded by cliffs which are known for the numerous caves to be found there.