Tips to Explore the Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros, Crete

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros

On the far edge of eastern Crete, amidst a barren landscape of unspoiled charm, the Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros will leave you in awe.

Think of well-preserved ruins, a spectacular landscape, beautiful surroundings, a fascinating history, and mellow vibes, to name only a few. Want to know more? Here’s all you need to see in Kato Zakros Palace!

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Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros

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What to See in the Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros, Crete

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros
Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros

The Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros might be the smallest of the four Cretan palaces of antiquity, but don’t let its size fool you.

The site was never looted because of its remote location until archaeologists discovered and excavated it. Thus, the finds in Kato Zakros are more significant in number and quality than any other Minoan site.

Although all the moving objects are now on display in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, there is still plenty to see.

Due to its late discovery, the archaeological site of Zakros benefited from modern excavation techniques that have left the ruins in their initial stage, contrary to what happened in Knossos.

Looking for tours in the area? Check out these experiences.

The Structure

Zakros Palace - Minoan Ruins near Sitia Crete
(Source: Vladimír Držík, Own work, Public Domain)

Imagine a multi-store building with over 300 rooms spread around a typical Minoan central court. Although the palace is five times smaller than Knossos, you still have much walking to do, especially if you want to cover 8000 square meters!

Since the Zakros Palace operated as a commercial outlet to the East, it also had access to a port through its main gate at the northeastern side.

You can still walk on the paved road that used to connect the port with the palace and the central court. 

The more you explore the Kato Zakros site, the more you realize ancient Cretans had a taste for roads that look like labyrinths. Lucky you, everything is in ruins, or you would need Google Maps to find your way around!

West Wing

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros
(Source: Michel-Georges Bernard Commons Wikimedia).

Approaching the west wing, you’ll visit the primary place for the palace’s historical worship and rituals.

It was here that archaeologists found 1.70-meter-long bronze saws and the famous vessels depicting a bull’s head and a peak sanctuary.

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros
Bullhead from the Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros (photo taken at Heraklion Archaeological Museum).

Those are only a few of the many important findings. The treasury of Kato Zakros was such a significant discovery that it surprised even the most optimistic archaeologists.

East Wing

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros
(Source: Michel-Georges Bernard Commons Wikimedia).

On the other side of the palace, the east wing hosted the King and Queen’s Chambers next to the administrative centers.

Here, you will also find a unique Minoan structure named Basin Hall – an ample square space with an open-air basin previously used to collect spring water.

Speaking of water, it won’t be long till you come across the favorite pet of Kato Zakros, Crete.

If you haven’t heard, the freshwater wells of the palace are home to a variety of turtles, which children love to spot when they visit. It’s a unique sight for a tour through a Minoan Palace!

South and North Wings

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros
Central Court, (Source: Michel-Georges Bernard Commons Wikimedia).

Heading south of the central courtyard, you will find a small group of workshops where Minoans used to make perfumes from local herbs.

Right next to it, the palace complex once had a small forest and garden for recreational walking. 

Finally, the north wing had a supplemental role to the palace, with rooms serving various purposes, such as storage, bath, and cooking.

The Minoan Town

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros

A visit to the Zakros archaeological site cannot be complete without a stroll through the ruins of the ancient Minoan town surrounding the palace.

You’ll walk along a complex network of stone-paved roads to discover the remains of the multi-story residential houses. 

An interesting fact is that those very same buildings did not have an entrance to the ground floor. Instead, ancient Minoans often entered their homes through a hatch opened on the first floor.

The Caves

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros

Although technically not part of the Zakros Palace, the surrounding caves played an essential role for its citizens.

Here, they buried their dead, along with several pieces of jewelry, clothes, and other personal items later discovered by archaeologists. 

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros
Gorge of the Dead.

It is no coincidence Cretans named the surrounding canyon the Gorge of the Dead. I guarantee it’s worth every effort to hike the Zakros Gorge, so make sure you combine it with your visit to the ruins of Zakros.

The History of Kato Zakros

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros
(Source: Michel-Georges Bernard Commons Wikimedia).

The discovery took place around 1900. The palace of Kato Zakros may not be as glorious or extensive as Phaistos or Knossos, but its historical footprint is significant.

Zakros is a leading trading center that connected the Minoan civilization with the eastern factions. The city and its port have done so well over the years that the citizens and kings often enjoyed more luxury than those in the capital. 

A big contribution to the city’s wealth comes from the local manufacturers and artisans who used imported raw materials to create elaborate artwork or tools. However, the palace’s prosperity didn’t last for long.

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros
Vase discovered in the Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros (photo taken at the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion).

As with the other Minoan sites, it was destroyed twice. First, in 1600, when the Minoans rebuilt it, it was demolished again in 1450.

The Excavations of Kato Zakros

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros
(Photo via Di Einar Helland Berger Commons Wikimedia).

The ruins of Zakros came to the surface after the efforts of Italian archaeologists at the end of the 1800s, but it took more than 3000 years for the ruins to be unearthed.

Yet, the site was not fully revealed until Professor Nikolaos Platon excavated the palace in 1961. He continued his work for many years and founded the “Publication of the Excavation of Zakros Team” to oversee the evaluation of the many important finds. 

Practical Information to Visit the Archaeological Site of Zakros

Keep these details in mind (or bookmark this article) if you’re getting ready to visit the site during your trip to Crete:

Location of the Minoan Palace of Zakros

The fastest route to the Minoan Palace of Zakros starts in the nearest city, Sitia. Following the Sitias-Palekastro-Vai road takes only one hour.

Your next best option is to begin the journey from Agios Nikolaos, which will take 2 hours and 20 minutes in the car.

But if you don’t feel like driving, hop on the Sitia-Kato Zakros bus, which operates during the summer. However you reach Zakros, the journey there is worth every minute.

What to Expect in Kato Zakros

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros

So, what should you expect to find in Kato Zakros? Apart from the immense and rich history, you’ll fall in love with the setting and surroundings!

Think of a wild yet exotic beach almost reaching the 3000-year-old olive trees of the area. As mentioned before, let alone the spectacular caves and the Gorge of the Dead.

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros

To top it all, the charcoal barbecue restaurants nearby will reward you with original tastes and a refreshing break from exploring.

How to Prepare for Your Visit

Lucky for you, the archaeological site is open all year long: 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in winter and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer.

Remember that the last admission is always 15 minutes before closing, and give yourself at least 1 hour to visit. As for the bank damage, the entrance fees are as low as €6 for adults or €3 for kids.

The settlement is one of Crete’s most remote archaeological sites, making it one of the least crowded tourist options.

Remember that most of the site is uncovered, so bring your hat, water, sunglasses, and comfortable shoes for a day of adventure!

Other Things to See in the Area Near Kato Zakros

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros

Apart from the caves, you can visit the local beaches, find an excellent place to eat, or even pack a picnic for the day!

The nearby Church of Agios Antonios could be another alternative if you want to venture inland on your way back.

Whatever you decide to do, you will find yourself returning home having gathered sun on your skin, miles on your feet, and memories for a lifetime in your heart!

Where to Stay in Kato Zakros

Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros

Check out these convenient properties in the area of Kato Zakros for your next stay in East Crete!

  • Katerina Apartments: Perched on a green hill in Kato Zakros, 500 meters from the beach, with panoramic views over the Libyan Sea. Opening to a furnished balcony, the studios are traditionally decorated and have a seating area and a well-equipped kitchenette with a dining area. Taverns and mini-markets can be found within walking distance. The property is 44 km from Sitia, 30 km from Vai Palm Beach, and 500 meters from the Minoan Palace of Zakros.
    Book a stay at Katerina Apartments now.
  • Kato Zakros Palace Apartments: Built on a hill in Kato Zakros, the units offer panoramic views over the Minoan Palace, the sea, and the Valley of the Dead, only 300 meters from the beach. Opening to private verandas. Studios feature a seating area and a kitchenette with a dining table, a coffee machine, and an electric kettle. Sitia Port is 48 km from the property.
    Book a stay at Kato Zakros Palace Apartments now.
  • Anthia Apartment Sea View: Rated by many guests as a place with top views, the apartment offers accommodation with a garden around 32 km from Vai Palm Forest Beach. There is an in-house restaurant, plus free private parking. The apartment has 2 separate bedrooms and a fully equipped kitchen with a dining area and fridge. Continental breakfast has warm dishes, fresh pastries, and pancakes. Fishing and hiking can be enjoyed nearby.
    Book a stay at Anthia Apartment now.

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More resources to enhance your Crete adventure

Start by checking out my guide to planning your trip to Crete, packed with helpful essential information. Explore the articles on prices in Crete, common mistakes to avoid, and insider secrets. You can also get one of the digital travel guides I’ve written about Crete. They are affordable and practical to check from your mobile.

When it’s time to plan, explore the best places to visit on Crete Island, discover my tours and activities, and be amazed at Crete’s incredible beaches. If you are exploring specific areas like Heraklion, Rethymnon, Lasithi, and Chania, I’ve got detailed guides to help you make the most of your time.

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Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros

Written by Dimitrios Tsevremes
Passionate about travel, spirituality, and sports, Dimi divides his time between Chania (Crete) and other countries. Writing is a way for him to express himself and his creativity. You can find out more about him and his work here.

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Minoan Palace of Kato Zakros

About me:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I have lived in Chania, Crete, since 2016. As a local, I have an intimate knowledge of the Crete. I host culinary and concierge tours and experiences in Crete and write about the island for several travel media. During the last five years, I have helped many travelers plan the perfect holiday in Crete. I co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.

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