What is the Crete Messara Plain and Why is it so Special?
The Messara Plain is a picturesque landscape on the Greek island of Crete. It is known for its stunning natural beauty and its unique combination of high mountains, rolling hills, and wide open plains. The area is home to a variety of wildlife, including wild goats and birds, as well as some of the most breathtaking views in Greece.
With its stunning sunrises and sunsets, lush vegetation, and peaceful atmosphere, it’s no wonder that the Crete Messara Plain has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece. Whether you are looking for an escape from city life or simply want to experience some of the natural beauty that Greece offers, a trip won’t disappoint you to this breathtaking part of the world.
In the whole of the island of Crete, one area that is still magical today, as well as being vitally important to the history of Crete is the Messara Plain. The Messara is in southern central Crete in the south of the Nomos of Iraklion. It is the biggest plain in Crete and very important for the extensive agriculture that is produced there both now and around five thousand years ago.
The name ‘Messara’ comes from the Greek for ‘between mountains.’ Mesos – between, oros – mountains, which becomes Mesaoria or the modern word, Messara. In the north are the southern foothills of the Psiloritis or Ida mountain range and in the south are the Asterousian mountains between the Mesara and the Libyan Sea. The coastline of the Mesara faces west almost from Agia Galini in the north to Matala in the south. Between the two is one of the most perfect and extensive beaches in Crete, mostly with hardly a soul to be seen.
Two rivers flow through the Mesara and both have their source near the village of Asimi. From there they flow in opposite directions. Geropotamos, known in ancient times as Lethaios, flow westwards to the sea and out into the Gulf of Mesara. Anapodaris, the ancient name Katarhaktes, flows into the bay of Derma, east of the village of Tsoutsouros.
The History and Geography of the Crete Messara Plain
The Messara Plain has a long and rich history that dates back to the Minoan civilization of ancient Greece. The area is renowned for its remarkable topography, which includes mountains, valleys, and plains. It has been an important part of the history of Crete since antiquity and continues to be an important geographical feature today.
The Messara Plain has seen many changes over the years, but its unique geography remains unchanged. From its lush green valleys to its rugged mountains, it is a stunning landscape that captivates visitors from all over the world. Its history is also fascinating; it was once home to some of the most powerful civilisations in ancient Greece and was an integral part of their culture and economy. Today, it remains an important part of Greek culture and is one of the most visited destinations in Europe.
Here in the Messara in ancient times, civilization grew from Neolithic (5th Century BC) to the modern day. During the Minoan Prepalatial period growth was amazing (4th & 3rd centuries BC) where tremendous leaps forward were taken in architecture, pottery, the incredible circular tholos tombs, Agios Onoufrios and Kamares ware, and countless figurines, seals, and jewellery were produced.
In the first Palace period, we see the palace at Festos being built (1900 – 1700 BC). The second Palace period was centred around the later palace at Festos, the palatial buildings at Agia Triada, and at the port of Kommos just north of Matala near Pitsidia (1700 – 1300 BC).
Later came Gortyn, the magnificent city that dominated the Messara for sixteen centuries, from 800BC to 800AD. Gortyn is situated just west of Agioi Deka and covers a diameter of ten kilometres. It is said that in its greatest years, over 80,000 people lived in Gortyn and in Roman times it became not only the capital of Crete but the Capital of Cyrene as well (North Africa).
There is still a plane tree in the ruins of Gortyn that keeps its leaves all year. Under that tree, Zeus made love to Europa and the children they produced were Minos, the king at Knossos and his brother Rhadamantys, King of Festos.
Where to Stay and Eat in The Messara Plain
The Messara Plain is a beautiful region that offers stunning landscapes and plenty of activities to enjoy. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or an adventurous family trip, this is the perfect destination.
When it comes to finding accommodation and dining options in the Messara Plain, there are plenty of options available. From luxurious hotels to cosy guesthouses, there’s something for everyone. And when it comes to local restaurants, you’ll find plenty of traditional Greek delicacies as well as international cuisine. With so many options available, you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect place to stay and eat.