Phaistos - Minoan Palace

The Fascinating History of Crete

Phaistos Disc (image by Tranchis)

The ancient site of the Palace of Phaistos, Φαιστός lies 62 km south of Heraklion, in the central south of the island of Crete in Greece.

It is also known as Phaestos, Festos or Phaestus.

This site is significant in European history as records indicate it was inhabited since the Neolithic age, that being roughly since 4000BC. The lush valley of the Messara provided plenty of sustenance to early communities and succeeding societies.

In prehistoric times, types of dwarf elephant and dwarf hippopotamus lived here, although these species are now extinct, and the area is now known for its market gardens producing vegetables and thousands of acres of olive groves.

The site now contains Minoan ruins from the Palace of Phaistós, considered the second-most important Minoan palace on the island. The ruins are extensive and worthy of a day’s visit. The views across the valley and over to the Psiloritis mountains are an added pleasure whilst exploring the site.

From Festos looking to mountains

The most intriguing artifact found here was the Phaistos Disc. This circular flat clay tablet is dated around 1500BC and shows a number of imprints of symbols, leading to many different interpretations of its use and meaning, still not resolved to this day. The symbology found on the disc resembles the symbology found on clay seals found in many archeological sites throughout the Mediterranean and thought to be some early trading record. The Phaistós Disk is now displayed at the Archeological Museum of Heraklion.

Other structures were built on this same site during the Hellenistic period, including the Temple of Rhea. During Roman occupation the nearby city of Gortys prevailed, leaving these settlements in ruin.

Festos site is quite large and takes some time to explore

The site lies just off the national road 9 km south of the town of Mires.

There is a comprehensive bookstore, café and souvenir store at the site, and plenty of parking.

Be careful to check opening hours during the off-season as the hours may vary.

Many travellers combine their visit to Festos with a visit to the ruins of Gortys, where, as legend has it, Zeus made love to Europa under the plane tree. Gortys is 17 km from Phaistos.

Exploring Around

The caves at Matala BeachThe caves at Matala Beach

A day trip to Phaistós can also easily be combined with a visit to the beach at Matala, where there are also ruins of roman caves and a very interesting history.

Another nearby beachside village is Kokkinos Pirgos, a sleepy fishing village on the south coast where visitors combine sea, sand and history.

Another more mountainous route is to visit the town of Zaros just 20 km inland, where you can taste the local traditional Cretan food, served at Vegera Taverna.

Translation of the Phaistos Disk

According to Dr Marco Guido Corsini


Please see below the translation into English kindly provided by Dr Corsini

The Phaistos Disk

Apotheosis of Rhadamanthus/Amenophis III - The Sun King

Side A: Most high Lady of the illustrious palace, Most high (A)usonia, Lady of the blessed and patroness of the palace of the capital city, Phaistos.

Megare, the daughter of Creon, puts there to You, the daughter of Creon, in the chapel of the palace of the illustrious, the daughter of Creon, Megare, puts there to You the disk.

Amenophis (III; an Egyptian Pharaoh), very good judge of public and civil law, has been granted to Europe (his mother, the mitanni Mutemuya) for nursing, and therefore joined to the strong Noda, to Delia-Noda, the celebrated Rhadamanthus.

Side B: To Delia, strength of young people, strong goat of the Grand Vizier Ehud-Min (Minos).

To the heavenly wet-nurse, to Delia wet-nurse, holy wet-nurse of Ehud-Min's youthful vigour, Ehud-Min which Delia-Noda has helped to give birth.

Having been sprinkled to the two great (i.e. Rhadamanthus and Minos) the big (Syrian) oak supported by the double horns, the priest of the Ida (cave) then kills for You a Min (Egyptian god) bull (Minotaur) and tunes up a hymn to the morning ship "The wife of Re", that is (to the ship) of the double horns Lady, Selene.

Lastly Benapros (a priest) paints (with red) the entry stone (to the Ida cave) with the marks of Your great power.


Below are some beautiful images of the Phaistós Palace archaeological site as it looks today:

Festos  (image by Alberto Perdomo)
Festos ruins (image by Alberto Perdomo)

The archaeological site is located in the middle of the beautiful Messara Valley

Olive groves surround the site


Below is a video of the Phaistós Palace archaeological site as it stands today.

On the Map

See location of the major historical sites in Crete on the map below.

Crete Travel Guide
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