Eight hundred metres up a winding, sheer path just outside the village of Psyhro, the Dikteon Cave is as mysterious and forbidding as Greek myth itself. Here, according to legend, Rhea hid her newborn Zeus from Cronos, his offspring-gobbling father. Corkscrewing into the slick, wet dark, the vertiginous staircase passes through overhanging stalactites formed over millenia, resembling squashed, bulbous heads. Home to long-eared bats, the cavern is effectively lit with eerie red and green lights.

As you descend like Orpheus rewinding into the Underworld, we challenge your imagination not to go into overdrive. Lower down in the bowels of the cave it gets more dramatic still. In the back on the left is the smaller chamber where legend has it that Zeus was born. There is a larger hall on the right, which has small stone basins filled with water that Zeus allegedly drank from in one section and a spectacular stalagmite that came to be known as the Mantle of Zeus in the other.

The cave covers 2200 sq m and was excavated in 1900 by the British archaeologist David Hogarth, who found numerous votives indicating it was a place of cult worship. These finds are housed in the Archaeological Museum in Iraklio. Earlier still, Sir Arthur Evans, who discovered Knossos, visited here in 1894.

The cave was used for cult worship from the Middle Minoan period until the 1st century AD. Stone tablets inscribed with Linear A script were found here, along with religious bronze and clay figurines.

It is a breathless 15-minute walk up to the cave entrance. You can take the fairly rough but shaded track on the right with views over the plateau or the less interesting, unshaded paved trail on the left of the car park. Given the altitude there’s often rain and both paths can be dangerously slippy on the descent.


source: lonelyplanet.com