Diktaion antron – Cave of Zeus

Lasithi has a long history, including the myth that it is the birthplace of Zeus. 

The Diktaion Antron or the cave of Psychro is one of the most important cult places of Minoan Crete. The use of caves as cult places was one of the basic characteristics of the religious beliefs of the ancient Cretans. Diktaion Antron (The Dictaean Cave or Zeus cave) is overlooking the Lassithi Plateau, the view from the cave entrance is marvellous. According to Greek mythology, Rhea hid the baby Zeus from the murderous Cronos in this cave.

But this is one of two caves of Crete claiming to be a cave from mythology, the other one is Idaion Andron. The story about Zeus is told here: Zeus Grown Up in a Cave. This cave is also the place of a second story, where Zeus many years later met Europe.

Archaeologists have uncovered many icons and votive symbols, confirming that the cave was an important place of worship during the Minoan era. In the background of the cave is a small pond, where – according to myth – Zeus bathed and around which most of the offerings were found. The excavations were carried out by the English archaeologist David Hogarth. The finds are scattered in museums all over the world from the Oxford Museum to the Louvre in Paris, France.

The huge cave portal allows the sunlight into the first chamber. The trail goes down a debris slope to the cave floor. The entrance chamber is followed by two more chambers which are well decorated with speleothems, mostly stalactites and stalagmites. One chamber contains an underground lake.

Discovering Dikteon Cave

The Dikteon Cave, located above the village of Psychro in the Lasithi Plateau, at an altitude of 1025 meters. In Psychro, there is ample parking space with many restaurants, from which two paths start towards the cave, and the ascent duration is about 15 minutes. The easiest path is the one on the left, as in the second (and older) one, the stones have been worn by thousands of tourists and are slippery. The route to the cave is wonderful, as the view towards the plain of Lasithi is panoramic. If someone doesn’t want to walk, there are donkeys that transport visitors to the cave for a fee. Next to the cave entrance, there is a kiosk where visitors can purchase tickets for the cave. The cave, which covers an area of ​​2,200 square meters, is adequately illuminated, while the routes inside it are made of well-formed paths with a total length of 250 meters.

Near the entrance, on the right, there is an antechamber, and lower down begins the large hall. Southeast of the chamber, there is a large stalagmitic complex. Also, there are some old and newer buildings. A smaller chamber exists on the northwest side. Moving towards the interior, the visitor enters the large hall with most of it covered by solid rock and large stalactites.

In the second section, there is a large and very spectacular folding stalactite, called “Zeus’s Mantle”. This stalactite has been damaged by cave visitors. The entire interior of the hall has an impressive decoration with large columns, stalactites, stalagmites, and draperies, making it one of the most spectacular caves in Crete.