Also known as Gortyn or Gortys.
This site is located 50 km from Heraklion town. Whereas many of the remains you will see on Crete are from the Minoan culture, this settlement was a predominantly a Roman capital.
Watch carefully as you drive along the national road so as not to miss the signs for this site, which sits along the roadside, just south of Agioi Deka.
This was the richest city in Crete during the first to the fifth centuries AD, the period of Roman domination in the area.
Highlights of the archaeological finds here include the wall with inscription of the Law of Gortyn representing the earliest known Greek law, dating from first half of the 5th century BC.
The quiet peace of the site, its location away from civilisation and lack of the mad crowds of Knossos make this a lovely site for history buffs and nature lovers alike. There are plenty of opportunities to relax and take in the atmosphere and imagine life in this lush Messara valley in ancient and classical times.
If you pack a picnic, you could sit under the beautiful plane tree to muse about the story of Zeus and Europa who, it is told in Greek mythology, made love here.
Good accommodation can be found at Matala, Kokkinos Pirgos and Zaros, and in the mountains around the valley.
The eco-village at Zaros - Eleonas offers lovely cabins dotted about the hillside and many different activities for the whole family, such as horse riding, mountain biking, archery, hiking and cooking classes. Eleonas is 14 km from the site of Gortyna and just 3 km from the delightful mountain village of Zaros.
Staying here in Thalori Traditional Village in Kapetaniana is an experience in itself. The village is reached by a stunning, steep mountain road. The views around are magnificent. This cluster of houses on this hillside have been restored with meticulous pride to reflect the traditional building methods, the stone locally sourced, all made of solid stone and wood and not going anywhere – rock solid!
Just to sit and enjoy village life here gives you a chance to absorb and understand the Cretan way of life, especially if you join in life in the centre of the village and nights with local folk music in the restaurant. If you must rush off and hike or trek or mountain climb, you have a wide variety of choices. This is not a touristic experience, this is the real Crete and we can only say this; get ready for some rakis, some laughter and some invigorating fresh air!
This village is 30 km from the archaeological site of Gortyna and 35 km from Phaistos, in the region to the south of the Messara known as Asterousia.
Below is a map showing the location of this site:
Below is a video of the site of Gortyna as it stands today: