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(updated August 4, 2007)

Festos (or Phaestos) is, after Knossos, the second Minoan city on the island of Crete. The site of Festos lies about 65 kilometers southwest of Heraklion. Festos has been built against the slope of a hill from where you have a magnificent view over the Kato Messara plains and the Idi Mountains.

The palace of FestosThe palace of Festos

The place where Festos was built has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, more than 4000 years before the beginning of our era. The site was probably chosen because that place lies very near to the river Yeropotamos. During the reign of Festos it owned its own coins and was independent. Also in the Minoan period Festos was very important. Approximately 50,000 people lived in the city. It was a financial, administrative and religious center, from where the Kato Messara plain was dominated. The city had two ports. One of them was in Matala and the other in Kommos.

The first city was founded about 1900 years before the beginning of our era. This city was, just like the palace of Malia, devastated by an earthquake about 1700 years before the beginning of out era. On the remains of the old city the city was immediately rebuilt. Little over 1500 years later, the palace was destroyed forever.

The design of the city is similar to that of the palace of Knossos. At the middle of the building was the central square, around which specific spaces were built, like (Royal) residence, storage rooms and workshops.

During the excavation of the place of Festos many important discoveries were made. An important object which was found at the site is the mysterious disk Festos. The texts on the disk have not been deciphered yet.

The first indications that Festos would be an archaeological site came from an archaeologist named Cantley. He found a few things by chance. These things indicated the presence of a Minoan site. The excavations at Festos started in the year 1900. The Italian archeologist, Professor Federico Halbherr, thus began his work on behalf of the Italian school for archeology. During the excavation he worked together with fellow archaeologists Luigi Pernier and Roberto Paribeni. Later, in the year 1950, the Italian archaeologist Doro Levi found parts of the old city of Festos nearby.

The remains to be seen today consist mainly of the second palace. Because this palace was a little smaller than the first building also pieces of the old palace can be seen. Festos is less busy than Knossos. It also has not been reconstructed as rigorous as Sir Arthur John Evans did at Knossos. This makes Festos more authentic than Knossos, but it also makes it more difficult to imagine how the construction actually was.

The entrance to Festos costs approximately € 5, -. The location is opened during the high season from 8 am to 7 pm. At the entrance of Festos is a tourist shop, where you can buy booklets, postcards, souvenirs, drinks and snacks. A visit to Festos can be combined with a visit to the town and beach of Matala, which lies not far from the site. Also walks to the ancient Minoan port of Kommos or the Agia Triada can be made from Festos.

Festos can be reached by bus from Heraklion. Eight buses a day ride on this route. The bus drive takes about one and a half hours. There are also excursions made to the place. These are usually combined with a visit to, for example, the beach at Matala. With a rental Festos is also easy to reach. From the north coast of the island you drive on the main road to Heraklion. From this road, you take the main road in southern direction to Mires. Before Mires you'll reach Festos. It is easy to find.