Crete is definitely a blessed island and is no wonder that during the antiquity it inspired a great number of myths and legends.
One of the most important roles it had in Greek mythology was that it was the birthplace of the “King of the Gods”, Zeus.
According to the myth, the father of Zeus, Cronus, swallowed all his children in fear of a prophesy saying that his son would overthrown him. The wife of Cronus, Rhea, infuriated at the treatment of her children and after seeing her husband digest five of them, she concealed the birth of her sixth. She went to Crete and hid in a cave in the Cretan mountains to bring forth the child in secret, unknown to her child-eating husband. Throughout the birth, the entrance to the cave was guarded by the legendary Curetes. As soon as Rhea gave birth to Zeus, the healthy boy who was to become the Father of the Gods of Olympus, she gave him to the Curetes to look after. They danced and stamped, beat their drums and clashed their shields to cover the baby’s crying so that his father wouldn’t hear it. Little Zeus was growing up in the cave where he remained hidden in the mountains of Crete. The goat Amalthea and the nymph Melissa played an important part in his upbringing.
Two caves high in the Cretan mountains contest the honor of being known as the birthplace of the greatest god of ancient Greece: the Dikteon Cave in south-central Crete and the Ideon Cave on the highest mountain in Crete, Mount Ida or Psiloritis.
There is no information describing exactly where Zeus was born, and each cave has its own adherents with Dikteon Cave having the most “supporters”.
On entering the Dikteon Cave, you find yourself in the antechamber and immediately notice the difference in temperature. The sun’s rays cannot penetrate into the cave and the humidity, as in all caves, can reach 85%, while absolute silence prevails.
In the antechamber of the Dikteon Cave were discovered the foundations of a built altar and the remains of offerings. The worshippers’ offerings, such as olive oil, honey, wine, wheat and animal sacrifices, were placed on the altar and burnt.
As you descend into the cave you will see the ancient walls of the temenos, the sacred space.
The Dikteon Cave consists of five chambers large and small. The most impressive sight is the lake at the lowest point, surrounded by massive stalactites and stalagmites.
To reach the lake, suitable shoes are recommended. Remember that the lake is at its lowest level in late September, while in the winter it rises noticeably due to rainfall.
At the lake you will see the “Mantle of Zeus”, a stalactite which hangs over the lake like a chandelier and whose shape, in the local imagination charged with centuries of myths, resembles a cloak.
At the back of the lake you can easily see a small chamber of the Dikteon Cave, in which it is said that the Father of the Gods was born.
A magical place that is sure to travel you through the myths of Crete!
How to get there:
By bus: There is a green bus (KTEL) to Lassithi Plateau once a day in the summer months and twice a week during the winter. The bus leaves from the bus station near the port of Heraklion and the ticket price is 7 euro.
By car: Rent a car or use your own car to drive to Lassithi Plateau and follow the signs to the village of Psychro. You will leave your car at the parking lot, which costs 4 € (in 2017).
GPS coordinates: 35.164958, 25.447567.