The village of Milatos is a modest settlement with a number of taverns right by the sea. Touristically not overcrowded and not overly developed, it offers only a rough pebble beach and is somewhat isolated from the highway to Aghios Nikolaos.
However, the place had an important past, because the ancient city of Milatos was mentioned by Homer, Pausanias and Strabo. In the Iliad of Homer it is mentioned as one of seven Cretan cities that sent troops to the Trojan War.
In mythology, which is probably close to the truth due to recent archaeological findings, Sarpedon from this Miltaos was defeated by his brother, King Minos, in the battle for the throne. He then sailed from here to Ionia in Asia Minor and founded the colony of Miletos, which became one of the largest and most prosperous cities there.
Ancient Milatos, however, was destroyed by its rival Lyttos in the third century BC. Today it lies to the east of the beach, but there is little to be seen of it. Milatos fell into oblivion and no longer existed in Roman times.
If you reach Milatos by car, you are almost in a dead end. Above the Milatos cave there are only dusty roads heading east into the Aghios Ioannis Peninsula, and you can’t reach Aghios Nikolaos or Elounda via them. There is only a halfway usable gravel road from here in a zigzag course directly to Neapoli.
Just a short distance west of Milatos (and east of Malia) is Sisi. The picturesque village lies at the western end of the triangular Aghios Ioannis Peninsula, but has more in common with the tourist centres of the Heraklion prefecture than with the rest of the Lasithi prefecture.
Especially during the day in the tourist season, the place can be crowded with day visitors from the area of Hersonisos and Malia. From the sandy beach of Potamos (formerly Tropical Beach) and the Palace of Malia, the village can also be easily reached on foot along the coast and excursion boats also moor in its small harbour.
The fantastically pretty little harbour is the main attraction of Sisi, around which numerous cafés, bars and restaurants bustle. Towards the east, in the direction of Milatos, there are a few more attractive beach bays. The best of these, however, has been taken over by the Kalimeria Kriti Hotel, but you can still reach it from the equally attractive Avalki beach by following a path around the rocks.
Hotels in and around Milatos
The Milatos Cave
During the Greek Revolution, in February 1823, 2,500 women and children from the surrounding villages, along with 150 armed men, in order to avoid the army of Hashan Pasha who had his camp at Neapoli, came to the cave to be saved. He sent his son-in-law Mohamed Ali Hushein Bei with 5,000 soldiers to capture them alive.
The siege lasted for 22 days. The stink of the dead bodies was added to the artillery fire, the hunger and the thirst of the besieged. They could no longer bear it, and they decided their heroic sally.
Hushein forgot his vows. The Pasha gave orders to isolate the elderly, and they were led to a place where his cavalry trampled everybody to death. The babies were slashed and the younger women and children sold into slavery. The men were executed immediately or later at the Fortress of Spinalonga, the priests burned on pyres.
The babies were slaughtered and the mothers were sold as slaves. That was the end of the drama of the cave of Milatos.
In 1937 a small church, dedicated to Saint Thomas, was built in the cave, and it has also got a monument with some bones of the victims, which were found there.
Visit to Milatos Cave
The Milatos Cave is a series of caverns rather than a single cave and a pilgrimage site for Cretans. It seems to extend infinitely backwards, and with a suitable torch it is possible to reach what may be distant parts.
Some remains of victims of the massacre, found later, were laid out in a coffin-like sarcophagus next to the small chapel.
Tip: To visit the Milatos Cave outside of peak season, the entrainment of a torch is recommended, since the electric generator to produce electricity usually is not running during this period.
Pictures from the cave of Milatos
Directions to Milatos Cave
Link to map with directions:
Click here: Directions Milatos Cave.