Once a thriving city, Gortyn (alternative spelling: Gortyna, Gortys), is often times omitted from the travel agencies’ list of sights to see on Crete. Visit the Nilometer and the Basilica of St. Titus and don’t forget to check out the Law Code of Gortyn.
The city dates from the Neolithic times, developing fast in the Archaic and Classic age. During the Roman era it served as capital and became known as a Christian center. The city was destroyed in the 9th century by the Saracen attackers.
How to get to Gortyn
Gortyn (Gortys) is about 40 minutes drive south of Heraklion (Iraklio).Follow the road to Phaistos or Matala. Keep going south and be attentive when the signs show you Gortyn, about 1km (0.62 miles) past the village of Agii Deka. It appears suddenly out of olive groves on the right side of the road.
The Archeological Site
When you get to the entrance of the site, look across the road. There are blue signs which mark really interesting places and objects.
There are two main sections to the Gotyn site. On the east side of the road you’ll find the Basilica of St. Titus, an open-air museum which displays massive statues and the omnipresent snack bar. Behind you can see a tree which is always green and is supposed to be the location where Zeus and Europa mated. Also on this side you can see a building containing the longest ancient inscription in Greek: the Law Code of Gortyn.
Across the road, there is the rest of the site, hidden behind olive trees. You must visit the anctuary of the Egyptian deities Isis and Serapis and the Temple of Pythian Apollo. The excavations are still under way but when the Egyptian temple is opened you can go and check out the Nilometer. It’s a symbolic place where the flood of Nile was simulated.
Other important places to check out are: the plane tree of Gortyn, The Odeon, the Great Basilica, the Roman baths –still not fully excavated- , The Praetorium of Gortyn, The Nymphaeum of Gortyn –closed for the public, but can be admired from a distance – and the Acropolis of Gortyn –on a hill located northwest of the archeological site.
Tickets and Hours
The ticket costs €4 (in 2007). There is no admission fee on each Sunday between November 1st and March 31st, on all Greek National Holidays and several other days. The site is opened from 8:30 AM to 7:30 PM but it’s recommended to check before you plan a trip to Gortyn because the schedule might change by the end of the season.