I have had the most amazing morning walking through the Olive groves in Gortyna, and was overwhelmed at the sheer number of ruins scattered among the trees. I have visited the ‘official’ site of the Gortyna settlement, but I was told that the ruins continue on the other side of the road, and there is no entrance fee.
As soon as you enter the grove, you can immediately tell there is historic significance nearby as there is rock debris everywhere. Mere metres from where I parked I encountered my first ruin – the remains of a small building and I thought it was so impressive.
Walking on a little further, and that first ruin paled into insignificance. The vast array of rooms, columns, walls, and even statues, was staggering. I loved it. The further I walked, the more there was to see.
For those that don’t know anything about Gortyna, a little bit of history for you. Górtys was established in at least the Minoan times/end of the Neolithic period (about 7000 BC) and is the first place in Crete that truly adopted Christianity. In 67 BC, under Roman rule, it replaced Knossos to become the new capital of Crete.
The most impressive aspect of these ruins to me is the sheer volume of them. So if you’re planning a trip to Gortyna, don’t just visit the official site (home to the church of St Titus, the Law Code of Gortys and the plane tree of Zeus and Europe). It is still worth a visit, but don’t forget to check out the expansive ruins on the other side of the road too. (Unfortunately, on my previous visit to the site, I wasn’t aware that the rest existed, so I was left a little underwhelmed by it all.)
Just walk down the road immediately opposite the entrance, and then take the first dirt road off to your left (there is also a site to your right which is worth a visit – I believe it is the ruins of the Great Basilica). You can stray from the beaten path too as there is so much to see. Just remember to take a camera!