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Zakros Palace

The Fascinating History of Crete

Zakros Palace was built in the years of the Minoan settlement of Crete around 1900 BC. This site is located 50 km from Sitia in eastern Crete. Sitia is 140 km from Heraklion in the region of Lasithi. The ancient site is located in the seaside village of Kato Zakros.

The ruins of the Palace of Zakros are very close to the sea (image by Elisa Triolo)The ruins of the Palace of Zakros are very close to the sea

Zakros Palace Archaeological Site

The extensive ruins are located just behind Káto ZákrosΚάτω Ζάκρος, just 350 m from the modern village of the same name, are 7 km from the modern village of Ano Zakros.The upper ano and lower kato Zakros names reflect the location of the villages.

This was the site of one of the four known Minoan palaces on Crete, with complex rooms, ceremonial chambers and sophisticated constructions.

The palace was reconstructed after an earthquake and dates from 1600 BC, although the original settlement would have been from around 1900 BC. Findings include items that seem to have been traded from the east, and Egypt as well as Cyprus.

Ancient Crete – Rock Crystal Vase from Zakros Palace

One of the most beautiful artefacts to be found on Crete, the rock crystal vase (pictured) was discovered on this site and is displayed at the museum in Heraklion.

It is considered that this was a rich trading village and palace, as it is located facing east and in a protected cove, finds include many exotic riches such as elephants tusks.

Clay tablets were found here with Linear A script, much like the ones found at other Minoan sites such as Phaistos. Artefacts from this site are displayed at the museums in Sitia, Agios Nikolaos and Heraklion. 

Important artefacts found on this site can be seen in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum including:

  • elephant tusks
  • copper ingots
  • Egyptian vases

More on the ancient history of Crete here

More on the Minoan Palaces of Crete here

Elephant tusk from the Orient, copper ingots from Cyprus. Imported Egyptian vases modified by Minoans at Zakros, found in the Central Sanctuary Complex (Creative Commons Licensed image by Zde)Copper ingots from Cyprus, Elephant tusk from the Orient, Egyptian vases modified by Minoans at Zakros, found in the Central Sanctuary Complex (Creative Commons Licensed image by Zde)

Zakros Palace site and the view to the bay (image by Elisa Triolo)Zakros Palace site and the view to the bay

This is the fourth largest of the Minoan palaces on the island, however it tends to be much less visited and allow the history buff plenty of space, peace and time to explore the site and imagine life in this special place. Check with your hotel as to opening hours, as these vary with the season. There is a small entrance fee of less than €10.

Zakros Palace ruins

You can also check online on the official government website, regarding opening hours etc., but this is not always accurate. It is best to double check with locals before starting out on the morning of your trip, to avoid disappointment.

The Minoan town was a flourishing urban centre, and the ruins stretch over a large area, well worth the exploration. The whole township stretched over an area as big as 8 acres.

Now it is just a quiet seaside hamlet.

The video below from Nikos Lakakis shows Kato Zakros and the Zakros Palace from a local's perspective.

Zakros Gorge

A cave in Zakros GorgeA cave in 'The Gorge of the Dead'

The nearby Zákros Gorge is also named The Gorge of the Dead, due to findings of burial chambers in its caves. This is a most unusual gorge to walk and can be approached by starting at the inland point and walking down back towards the sea, or simply walking up and back through the gorge.

Close to the site is the lovely small beach side village of Κάτω Ζάκρος - 'kato' means 'lower'  - where can be found accommodation and tavernas, and a beautiful cove and beach. Try some fresh local seafood washed down with dopio or local krassi wine.

Zakros Gorge also known as the Gorge of the DeadZakros Gorge also known as the Gorge of the Dead

On the Map

See the location of Zakros Palace on this map which shows the Minoan Palaces of Crete:

Kato Zakros
Archaeology by the Bay

Enjoy a dip at the beautiful Kato Zakros beach after your exploration into Minoan history at Zakros Palace.

Kato Zakros Bay, eastern CreteΚάτω Ζάκρος Bay, eastern Crete

Κάτω Ζάκρος BeachΚάτω Ζάκρος Beach

Olive Oil

The most important agricultural activity around this village and the village of Zakros, just 7 km inland from the Minoan Palace site, is the growing of olive trees and production of olive oil.

The conditions in this unpolluted part of the island are perfect for growing olives with low acidity levels, and the collective local knowledge and experience with olives is extensive.

In this video below from Terra Zakros Olive Oil, you will see some of the beautiful farmland and the Zakros Gorge, as well as the delights of the olive groves becoming that exquisite tasting oil for your Greek Salad, and all your beautiful Cretan food.

You can find this olive oil in the Terra Zakros Shop on Zakros Square in Zakros Village.


View from Terra Minoika Villas to the bay at Kato Zakros

Terra Minoika Villas were lovingly created by Stella and Ilias to reflect the land and character of this place. Enjoy breathtaking views across the expansive bay surrounded by stone and wood. Just a short stroll to Zakros Palace or the sea. 

Jasmine House, Sitia in Crete

Jasmine House is a holiday home in nearby Sitia with character and charm in handfuls. Just 45 km from Zakros Palace Archaeological site in a good central location in eastern Crete. A great base for a family to enjoy this side of the island. 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, sleeps 4 guests in privacy with full self-catering facilities. 

Sitia Windmill - private accommodation

The private accommodation of the Sitia Windmill is an unusual yet very comfortable experience. With a cozy restoration and spacious outdoor areas, this is a wonderful home-away-from-home. Perfect for exploring eastern Crete with a vehicle. 

Getting Here

Getting to Zakros Palace Archaeological site it is best to take a rental car. There are local bus services, but only in summer. In winter the services are very few and the bus stops at the higher village of Zakros.

Driving from Heraklion, take the national road to Agios Nikolaos and then Sitia. This part of the journey is 130 km. You could make an overnight stop in Sitia, or indeed stop in both towns to view the collections of the archaeological museums.

From Sitia drive south through the villages of Agia Fotia, Palekastro, Azokeramos, Kellaria, Adravasti and Ano Zakros. This part of the journey is 45 km.

Once you are in Kato Zakros, the ruins are just 350 metres back from the beach.

Car hire in Crete is a really good idea as it is a large island 60 km by 260 km. There is so much to explore.

When you book with our car rental partners - Rental Centre Crete - you are supporting a local company with excellent service and easy online booking. We are sure you will be well looked after by the team. Choose from hybrid, electric or regular vehicles.

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We trust you have enjoyed these tips from the We Love Crete team. Evíva!

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