The ancient Minoan Palace of Malia, estimated to have been erected around 1900 BCE, stands as one of the three principal palatial structures discovered on the Greek island of Crete. Its architecture reflects a history of destruction and reconstruction. Excavations of the site began in 1915 and have unearthed about 7,500 square meters to date. Although not as opulent as the Palace of Knossos, the Malia palace complex held significant status, with its central edifice indicating its past importance within the hierarchy of Minoan palaces.
Have you ever experienced the awe of standing where a grand palace stood 4000 years ago? If not, you’re missing out on an indescribable thrill. The Minoan Palace of Malia’s tale began around 1900 BC when its construction commenced. Unfortunately, an earthquake devastated it after 250 years.
In 1650 BCE, the resourceful Minoans cleared debris and constructed a new palace at the old site, repurposing any remaining materials. It would be wasteful to discard what could still be used. However, this palace lasted only until 1450 BCE, and its destruction’s cause remains unclear; it could have been another earthquake or conflicts among Cretan cities. During this period, Malia fell under the sway of Knossos, which emerged as a dominant commercial hub on Crete, amassing significant power. Trade was the lifeblood of the economy, akin to oil in today’s world, with trade route controllers wielding substantial regional influence.
In 1915, a Greek team led by Iosif Hadzidakis initiated the first excavations. Complete uncovering of the palace was achieved in 1922 by the French School of Archaeology in Athens. By 1930, the main courthouse was discovered. Subsequent decades revealed additional structures such as tombs, the marketplace, residential areas, and workshops.
Excavations were carried out today over an area of 7,500 square meters. Visitors to the archaeological site can view nearly all the features, including:
The main artifacts from the excavation site are preserved in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.
The closest major city, Heraklion, the capital of Crete, is about 40 km west of the dig site, approximately a 35-minute drive away. To reach the site from Heraklion, you’ll need to travel on the VOAK/E75/EO90 highway that spans the island along the north coast. Drive just over 36 km until you see the Malia sign, which signals a left turn off EO90 onto Palea EO Irakliou Agiou Nikolaou/PEO90. The speed limit signs indicating 70 and 50 km/h make it hard to miss the exit.
To reach the Palace of Malia from other Cretan cities, simply take the E75/EO90 highway and follow it to your destination. Remember to drive carefully; Greek traffic fines are steep. For instance, using a mobile phone while driving can cost you €100, and not wearing a seatbelt can lead to a €350 fine, among other penalties.
Here are some tips for your trip:
It’s advisable to carry a travel phrasebook or have a translation app on your smartphone to help interpret any signs you encounter.