The landscape of Crete is home to beautiful beaches, mountains, plateaus, and valleys. All over the island, there are impressive natural formations that will certainly leave you in awe. The caves of Crete are certainly part of them. The most popular caves you can visit in Crete include Melidoni, in Rethymno, Sfentoni Cave, in Zoniana, and the well-known Zeus Cave, in the beautiful Lasithi plateau. Check this guide to include Zeus Cave in your itinerary, or visit the cave on a day trip from the nearby city of Agios Nikolaos.
General Information about Zeus Cave, Crete
Known by the names of Zeus Cave, Diktaion Andron, and Psychro Cave, the Cave of Zeus is located right in the heart of the Lasithi Plateau (sometimes also spelled Lassithi Plateau).
The cave stands 1025 m. above the sea level, and it covers an area of more than 2200 meters. A comfortable staircase leads you down inside the cave while the whole paths and chambers have nice, suggestive lights that allows appreciating every detail inside the cave.
Hiking up to the entrance is not as easy as I expected (from any of the two entrances). It was fairly easy for the kids, a bit less for me. The longer path takes about 25 to 30 minutes to complete, and it’s still steep, though not as much as the short path. Despite having some trees and shade along the way, the hike up can prove exhausting in Summer, bring water.
Useful Information to Plan your visit
How to Get to Zeus Cave
Zeus Cave is on the northern slopes of Mount Dikti, in Psychro, one of the 18 villages of the Lasithi Plateau. Psychro is famous for the Cave of Zeus, which stands above.
Map Cave of Zeus, Lasithi Plateau (Map data © 2019 Google)
The village of Psychro is towards the south of the plateau, at a height of about 828 m above the sea level while the cave is located a few meters higher, at 1025 meters.
– How to reach Zeus Cave from Agios Nikolaos
One of the best places to stay in Crete if you plan to visit the Psychro Cave is the nearby city of Agios Nikolaos, about 44 km (1 h.) from the Lasithi Plateau.
– How to reach Zeus Cave from Heraklion
If you prefer to stay in the capital of Crete, Heraklion is about 59 km from Psychro (1 h. 20 min.). Those looking for a place with better beaches not far from the cave nor from the city can opt to stay in Malia or in Stalis.
– How to reach Zeus Cave from Rethymnon and Chania
Reaching Psychro from Rethymnon and Chania will take you some more time on the road. A day trip from Rethymnon is feasible since it’s 136 km (2h. 15 min.) away. However, those staying in Chania would be better spending the night in the area so as to enjoy the visit with plenty of time. Chania located about 200 km from Psychro (about 3 hours).
PRICES, Opening Hours, AND OTHER DETAILS
Entrance ticket: 6 €, free for students. The ticket is reduced in Winter (3 €).
Opening hours: Every day from 8 am to 6 pm in Summer. The site opens at 8.30 and closes at 3.30 pm in Winter.
To buy the ticket you need to hike up to the entrance, there is the ticket booth.
It’s possible to access the cave via one of the two entrances. One of the two is shorter but much steeper. Otherwise, if you don’t feel like walking, there are donkeys and you can hire them for 10 € each way. As you know this is a practice that we don’t support in most cases, but we are also aware that people with disabilities could only access the entrance of the cave this way.
The Cave of Zeus is a popular touristic place in Crete, which is better visited during Fall and Spring to avoid the crowds as well as hiking up under the Cretan sun.
PRO TIP: We visited in early November, the weather was warm and pleasant, and there were no lines or crowds. The entrance to the cave has a reduced price during the period. In Winter the parking area is also free. Iin Summer the fee to park is about 3 €.
About Diktaion Andron
The Cave of Zeus is an ancient Minoan site of worship. Local villagers discovered it at the end of the 1800s. During that period, there were several archaeological excavations going on in Crete. Knossos, for example, was excavated at the same time. Therefore, it didn’t take long for Zeus cave to attract the attention of many archaeologists. The first excavations in Psychro brought to light a collection of ritual objects which led to the conclusion that the cave was a sacred site to the Minoans.
As research continued during the years, archaeologists agree that, due to the importance of the artifacts in the chambers, the cave was probably one of Crete’s most important sites of worship.
Since those times, the Cave of Zeus has been related to the ancient myth of Diktaion Andron (also Dikteon Antron). Diktaion Andron was the place where Rhea, the mother of Zeus, hid to give birth to her son.
The Chambers and the Formations
The first place to be excavated was the Upper Cave. This complex has two distinct spaces, and rather similar to a mountain shelter, with no stalactites. Here, archaeologists discovered a temenos (a piece of land dedicated to a god or a sanctuary) and ruins of an altar.
The Lower Cave is made of 5 more chambers and hosts a small lake in one of the extremes. Here you can appreciate the stunning columns of stalactites and stalagmites. In this an ancient place of worship, archaeologists found figures, tools, axes, and seals, probably offerings left by pilgrims and worshipers.
Myth, Legends, and More
Rhea, being very angry at her husband’s behaviour, fled to Crete while she was pregnant with Zeus and gave birth in a cave of Mount Dikti.
This is what reads a sign at the entrance of the Cave of Zeus. And this is where the legend begins. As I’ve mentioned before, Rhea found refuge inside the cave thus escaping from Kronos, who was known for devouring his offsprings in fear of being overthrown.
Amaltheia, either a goat or a nymph according to different myths, here nourished the newborn Zeus. The Kouretes were nine dancers who venerated Rhea. They would play the drums at the entrance of the cave. By doing so, they prevented Kronos from hearing the cries of baby Zeus, thus protecting him from being killed.
Other legends, tell us about Zeus being raised in Idaeon Andron. This important cave is on Mount Ida, near the village of Anogeia (Rethymnon). However, I’ve often heard locals say that, even if Zeus grew in Mount Ida, he was definitely born in Mount Diki.
In any case, both caves remain important worship places dating back to the Minoan times… and, after all, it’s a myth!
Since we are talking about Zeus, the father of all gods and humans, we couldn’t be short of legends! Other myths state that Zeus brought Europa to this cave after he abducted her from Phoenicia.
No matter what legend we chose to believe (or not!), the Cave of Zeus remains a must-visit place in the Lasithi Plateau. And not just for its relevance in Greek mythology, but mostly because of its archaeological value and for being part of the most remote history of Crete.
Besides, like any other cave, Zeus Cave is also a remarkable natural habitat. It’s home to different species of birds and insects, as well as many species of bats from the Mediterranean.
You can organize a visit to Crete’s past by booking this tour with Get Your Guide. This 12-hour day trip includes a visit to Knossos Minoan Palace as well as to the Cave of Zeus, all for a very convenient price. It includes a pick-up service and it can be booked in English, French, German, and Russian.
Visit the Surrounding Area
Villages and Windmills
If you visit Zeus Cave, you’ve certainly planned to stop in some of the villages along the 23 km road that circles the Lasithi Plateau. The drive up the plateau is one of the most scenic road trips you can enjoy in Crete.
One of the places worth a break before reaching the Cave of Zeus is Tzermiado. This traditional village seems to have stopped in time. A walk around the alley brings surprising views, such as the beautiful central church, its old cafés, and traditional houses.
Despite being the seat of the municipality, the biggest village in the area is not Tzermiado but Agios Giorgos. In Agios Giorgos, you can visit the Cretan Folk Museum. The museum has two distinct exhibition areas, a very pretty traditional one, and a neoclassical house.
Cretan Folk Museum
Opening hours: From Monday to Saturday, (10.30 – 17.00, from May to October), entrance fee € 3.
Of course, another thing that will attract your attention is the number of windmills that populate the plateau. However, locals claim that currently there aren’t as many windmills as there used to be in the past. In any case, the mills are a magnificent view and create great opportunities for pictures.
Old Windmills of Lasithi
These few massive giant mills stand close to the village of Kera, almost at the end of the plateau (if you’re coming from Agios Nikolaos, or its entrance if you come from Heraklion). They’re very close to the Homo Sapiens Museum, on the way to Heraklion.
The impressive tall structures date to the 1800s and were still in function until 1945. If you stop at Kera, pay a visit to the Kera Monastery or have lunch in the village taverna and kafenio.
Homo Sapiens Museum
At the end of the Lasithi plateau, head to the Homo Sapiens Museum, in Ano Kera (45 km from Heraklion). This interactive museum is ideal to visit with children as it offers original entertainment for all the family.
The museum proposes a trip in history back to the period of the caves. It follows the evolution of man and the inventions of humanity during the centuries.
Calculate to spend at least one hour, more if your kids are really curious.
Homo Sapiens Museum
Hours: From 9.00 to 8.00 from Monday to Saturday.
Entrance fee: 4 €.
Prices in the cafeteria tend to be high.
Even if you are not interested in the museum, stop at the entrance is worth the unique views of Aposelemis Dam, better-known for hosting at its bottom the sunken village of Sfendyli.
From here you can choose to drive all the way to Heraklion to see more traditional villages such as Krasi and the beautiful Mochos.
If you want to know more about the story of Sfendyli, check this video by Giannis Psaroudakis.
© Giannis Psaroudakis
The village of Krasi is technically part of Heraklion and not the region of Lasithi. However, it’s just 10 minutes away from Kera and the road to reach it has great views of the mountains and lush vegetation.
The village is 600 m above the sea level. Once there, it’s possible to visit the monumental plane in the main square of the village, an impressive perennial tree about 2500 years old.
Right in front of the tree, check the water fountains or Vrises, with clear drinking water flowing all the year. Besides, in Krasi it’s also possible to see an Early Minoan Tomb.
A curious fact: During the many years of Turkish domination in Crete,
no Turks ever lived in Krasi!
The village has a place in Crete’s history since here was born Nikos Kazantzakis‘ first wife. On the other hand, the famous Cretan author was known for spending his summers in the area. His name and image can be seen on a ceramic decoration on top of one of the water fountains.
Other than that, and most importantly, the village hosts the House of Literature and the International Literary Translation Center.
Eat and Sleep in the Lasithi Plateau
Where to Eat near Zeus Cave, Crete
If you – just like us – leave the Cave tired and hungry, check the food (and stunning views) at Dictamus Taverna. This place is right across from the cave’s parking lot.
They serve traditional Greek dishes as well as the original Cretan paidakia (lamb chops), myzithra from Lasithi, and fresh juices. For dessert we enjoyed hot pastries with local cheese and honey, fried in olive oil (kalitsounia). The views of the plateau are worth a lunch here.
Where to Sleep near Zeus Cave, Crete
There are different options if you want to extend your visit to the Lasithi Plateau and visit the nearby villages other than the Cave of Zeus.
When staying in the region, you can easily find very traditional Cretan stone houses, typical of the mountains. Also, you can take full advantage of the relaxed atmosphere of the plateau.
Here is a list of some of the villages where you can choose to stay:
Tzermiado (20 min. – 10 km from Zeus Cave)
- Lasithi Plateau Family House-Tzermiado-Dikti Hikes is perfect for family holidays, there are two bedrooms and a kitchen with every facility. The best feature of the house is its terrace with a spectacular view of the plateau. You can check availability, prices, and book here.
- Argoulias is a traditional Cretan house made of stone, offering rooms and studios and a view of the Dikti mountains. Here you will be served the traditional Cretan breakfast too. Check availability, prices, and book here.
Agios Konstantinos (10 min. – 5 km from Zeus Cave)
- Zeus House is a beautiful stone villa with a swimming pool in a huge garden. It’s ideal for families and not far from some very good local tavernas. You can check availability and book here.
- Vasilikata is a traditional stone house with a garden, a playground area dedicated to kids, as well as a grill. Breakfast is served as well and it’s prepared with organic vegetables grown in their own orchard. Therefore, you get all the comforts of being at home, minus cooking breakfast every morning. This is one of the nicest places to stay in the area, if there’s availability, don’t miss it!
Agios Georgios (7 min. – 5 km from Zeus Cave)
- Nothing beats the gorgeous atmosphere and traditional Cretan hospitality at Studios Maria-Rea. There’s also a taverna serving traditional dishes from Lasithi. You can check availability and excellent reviews here.
Check more Caves in Crete
If you’re interested in knowing more about the Caves of Crete, check my article about the beach of Elafonisi. Here there’s a special section dedicated to the Agia Sophia, a fantastic cave you can see in the region of Chania.
Instead, if you want to visit Melidoni or Sfentoni caves in Rethymnon. But also Cherontospilios cave in Heraklion, or the Cave of the Elephants in Chania, check this article I wrote for Greek Reporter. There I describe 5 of the most beautiful caves of Crete.
More Useful Resources to Plan a Trip to Crete
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TOURS & DAY TRIPS
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PIN FOR LATER: PLAN YOUR VISIT TO ZEUS CAVE, CRETE
IF YOU’RE VISITING THE EAST OF CRETE, YOU MIGHT ALSO WANT TO READ THESE
About the author
I’m Gabi. I moved to Crete a few years ago to have more and better opportunities to explore the island all year round. I love to backpack with my kids, taking pictures and driving around the spectacular mountain roads of Crete. I’m a freelance content creator and language consultant working for the travel and gastronomy industries in Greece.