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According to legend, Zeus, father of the Greek gods, was born in the spectacular Dikteon Cave. It has an upper and lower section, consisting of five chambers and a huge stalagmite overhanging a lake, known as the Mantle of Zeus because its shape is thought to resemble a cloak.

 

You can reach the Dikteon Cave via 800m of sheer, winding pathways just outside the village of Psyhro, in the Lasithi district of eastern Crete, taking in stunning views of the surrounding plateau.

The cavern’s enormous stalactites and stalagmites are an awe-inspiring sight, while the lake at the base is filled by winter rainfall but sinks to a lower level during the summer. Zeus is said to have been born in one of the small chambers overlooking the lake.

The cave is dark, hot and humid, but home to long-eared bats, as well as rock doves and other birds.

Archaeological explorations, including the discovery of an altar site, have suggested that the cave, more than 1,000m above sea level in the Mount Dicte range, was used by humans as far back as the Neolithic Period, possibly as a burial chamber.

Its associations with Zeus are linked to the discovery of an ancient inscription claiming the Greek god came to Dicte to be worshipped every year. The legends claim that Zeus was reborn each year and that his birth was marked by a blaze of flames bursting from the cave.

Professionally guided coach tours to the cave are available, also taking in the Monastery of Kera or the Knossos Palace, and the surrounding Lasithi Plateau.

If you prefer to make your own way, there is parking in Psyhro and buses run to the area from Heraklion, while some travellers make use of donkeys to complete the journey.