Getting Lost in the Hippie Caves of Matala Crete

Hippie Caves of Matala Crete

When pulling into the town of Matala Crete you may be 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. Let’s dive in!

Crete Travel Inspiration

Getting to Matala Greece

Location: Far Right Side of Matala Beach (Crete, Greece)
Cost: 4 Euros
Hours: 8am- 3pm
Visit Time: 1 hour

History of the Matala Caves 

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.

Looking for more interesting history about Crete? Check out our guide on the famous Palace of Knossos. 

History of Matala Caves Crete Greece

Matala Crete Beach

Caves of Matala Crete

The Hippie Era in Matala Greece 

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 have been the clear blue waters of the  Mediterranean Sea and starry moonlight sky that drew them in. It was truly a place where they could disconnect and express themselves without judgment 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.

Beach of Matala Crete

Matala Crete Caves Travel Guide

Exploring Crete

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!

Matala Crete Greece

Hippie

Nothing Familiar Travel

Want to share your own experience, or have any questions about the hippie caves of Matala Crete? Leave us a comment below!

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar

Where To Stay In Matala Greece

Ultra Luxury (High End) – Villa Dream – If you’re looking for ultra-luxury, then you’ll probably have to search in the surrounding towns to find it. However, this modern villa in the hills above the beach should have everything you need for your trip to the Matala Caves!

Fun Vacation (Mid Range) – Plazza – This old-style apartment features one of the only places with a view of the former hippie caves. It’s perfect for couples and anyone that wants to be close to Matala Beach.

Hostel Life (Budget) – Filia Rooms – Even with its backpacker spirit still alive, we didn’t find any hostels in Matala Crete. For this reason, we chose to stay at Filia Rooms as it was one of the cheapest options available. It ended up being nice, clean, and a reasonable 20 min walk from the beach.

For more places to stay in Matala Greece you can explore the latest prices here!

Pin For Later 

Getting Lost in the Hippie Caves of Matala Crete

Greece Travel Planning

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!

When island hopping use FerriesinGreece to compare different routes, prices, and companies. 

 Flights: We always check Skyscanner and Kayak to search for cheap flights. That’s how we got from Crete to Athens for under $50 USD!

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites to get to the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also,  Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget. 

 Rental Car: You can book a rental car for around $20 a day in Greece! We use Discover Cars to explore the larger islands with a vehicle.

 Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities in Crete Greece. You can find everything from taking a boat cruise to Balos Lagoon, to a guided tour of Knossos Palace, and Trekking Samaria Gorge.

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.

Greece Travel

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Explore Greece

Travel Planning: Cyclades ItineraryGreek Ferry QuestionsSky Express Review 

Rhodes: Planning a TripRenting a Car1 Week Itinerary23 Things to DoOld TownElli BeachKallithea SpringsLindos GuideLindos AcropolisMonolithos –  Melenos Art Boutique Hotel11 Best BeachesAnthony Quinn Bay

Karpathos: Fun Things to Do1 Week ItineraryMust Try Food6 Best BeachesOlymposSaria Island Boat Tour

Crete: 19 Food & DrinksElafonisi (Pink Sand)Renting a CarBus Tips20 FactsVai Beach Palm TreesBest Things to Do

More Dodecanese: Halki IslandSymi Island GuideSymi Things to Do 

Cyclades: Moon Beach MilosAdamas MilosIosNaxos BeachesNaousa ParosGalissas SyrosMykonos Old TownSantorini

Corfu: Old Town FoodGreece to Albania Ferry

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15 Comments

  1. May 19, 2023 / 10:02 am

    What a great place and fantastic hearing from all of you in the comments! I had never heard of the caves before. We’ve only been to the North eastern part of Crete. Also beautiful!

    • Brigitte & Jake
      May 19, 2023 / 10:09 am

      It’s such a big and amazing island! We need to go back and see everything we missed (-:

  2. Gail Pallas
    August 31, 2022 / 3:40 am

    I stayed on Crete for 9 months in 1970 and worked for a tourist office, Zeus, in Heraklion. Matala was a beautiful, mysterious place even then. Very few people and a relaxing feel about it. Somewhere so different with interesting history . Not lots of noise, cafes etc.

    • Brigitte & Jake
      August 31, 2022 / 12:32 pm

      Such an interesting place to visit! Thanks for sharing your story Gail

  3. Sue
    July 9, 2022 / 11:39 am

    Here’s a Matala memory. I came to Crete in 1965 to visit the grave of my uncle, a New Zealand soldier killed in the Battle of Crete in 1941. In the process I fell for the island and stayed on for a while.So in August 1965 I visited Matala, a few years before hippies were invented. I moved into a cave there. It was a very quiet scene, plenty of people in the caves, mostly students from Scandinavia and the UK. No Americans. One taverna that provided only two dishes – baked chicken or potato omelet. Village pump for water. Certainly not a party town. Hitched a ride in on a donkey, left a few weeks later on the once a week only bus very very early on a Weds morning. I’ve been back only once, in 1984, by which time it had changed greatly indeed. So now I’m 80 and where am I right now? In a house I bought a few years ago in Crete.

    • Brigitte & Jake
      July 10, 2022 / 12:17 am

      That’s an amazing story. Thank you for sharing

    • Guy Sattley
      October 14, 2022 / 11:20 pm

      I was there first in spring 64, had a deluxe cave in top layer, furthest out over the water. Had sheer drop off front edge into the water, access was a hole in wall from adjacent cave. One taverna in village, run by a wonderful local named Francisco. All drinks were one drachma, just different sized glasses. After couple drinks owner put bottle on table, lots of music from wind up record player. My wonderful memories of the 60s.

      • Brigitte & Jake
        October 14, 2022 / 11:56 pm

        Wow that’s amazing! Thanks for sharing your story

  4. Jack Hall
    January 17, 2022 / 4:07 pm

    In March, 1968, four of us American and Canadian students studying in Berlin that year drove south and ended up in Matala for about a week. The caves were occupied and we stayed on an old Matala guy’s cement floor and he fed us egg and potato omelets and avgolemono soup. There was one taverna/bar for evening socializing. The locals were very friendly and we had a fun time, which I fondly recall 54 years later.

    • Brigitte & Jake
      January 17, 2022 / 8:50 pm

      Wow what a story! Thanks for sharing

  5. Kit
    November 19, 2021 / 10:59 pm

    I happened into Matala during the summer of 1976. Spent a wonderful 3 weeks camping in the beach rather staying in a cave. By then the caves were worn out, you might say, and not very inviting.

    The time was beautiful and the night parties never ended in the seaside bars, with plenty of scratchy rock n roll to accompany the ouzo.

    • Brigitte & Jake
      November 20, 2021 / 3:48 am

      Sounds like an amazing experience! Thanks for sharing

  6. Kit
    November 19, 2021 / 10:57 pm

    I happened into Matala during the summer of 1976. Spent a wonderful 3 weeks camping in the beach rather staying in a cave. By then the caves were worn out, you might say, and not very inviting.

    The time was beautiful, the night parties never ended in the seaside bars, with plenty of scratchy rock n roll to accompany the ouzo.

  7. Collette Hurley
    October 10, 2021 / 4:46 pm

    My Dutch boyfriend, Pieter, and I lived in one of the caves in Matala for a week. the year was 1974. When we frist went up there, we lit a candle and soon two Greek policemen came to politely ask us to leave. We agreed to leave and they went away. we blew out our candle and stayed for a week! It was a wonderful time in my life. I was studying to be a teacher at the time, in a college in Roehampton, London, UK, and I had decided to travel alone among the Greek islands for that summer. Piter and I met on the boat going to Crete. We soon became good friends and lovers and our relationship lasted for two years. We went back and forth between London and Groningen (in Holland). Ah (sigh) those were the days of freedom and relaxation and long hot summers on Greek beaches!

    • Brigitte & Jake
      October 10, 2021 / 10:45 pm

      Wow that’s amazing! We love hearing actual stories from people that were there. Thank you so much for sharing (-:

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