Mother’s Day can be traced back to ancient Greece, where Titaness Rhea was celebrated as the ‘Mother of Gods’ in festivals. Immerse yourself in the rich history of this popular modern holiday on the charming island of Crete. By Shrimayee Thakur

Greek mythology tells the story of Rhea, who, in an effort to protect her children from the Titan Cronus, gave birth to Zeus in a cavern on the island of Crete. Cronus had been told by Uranus and Gaia, the Greek personification of Mother Earth, that he would be overthrown by his own child, just as he had overthrown his father. Cronus then decided to swallow his children as soon as they were born. Rhea managed to save Zeus, the last of her children, by handing Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Today, Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, and a hub for Greek culture. It is a lovely holiday destination to visit on Mother’s Day. Delve into mythology, in caves, where Zeus is said to have been born and raised, leaf through history’s pages at the ancient palaces and the museum, or sunbathe on stunning beaches, Crete has it all.

1. Psychro Cave

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The Psychro cave is believed to be one of the possible locations where Rhea gave birth to Zeus. It is located in the eastern part of Crete, just outside the village or Psychro. Though not significantly different from the other caves on the island, its possible mythological connections lend it a special importance.

2. Idaean Cave

Contesting the claim of the Dictaean Cave as the birthplace of Zeus is the Idaean cave, located on Mount Ida. It is also a possible location for the place where Zeus was born and brought up.

3. Knossos Minoan Palace

This Minoan Palace is located in Knossos, considered to be Europe’s oldest city. The construction of the palace, by civilisation known as the ‘Minoans’, is believed to have started around 1950 B.C. The ‘first palace’, as it is sometimes known as, appears to have been damaged by earthquakes, and later renovated. Knossos is believed to have been destroyed before 1300 B.C. British archaeologist Arthur Evans excavated the palace and also did some controversial restoration work on it.

4. Phaistos Minoan Palace

The second largest palace in Crete, Phaistos is less crowded than the Palace of Knossos. Set on a hill, it overlooks the fertile Messara plain, south of Heraklion. It is also the site for the discovery of the mysterious Phaistos Disc in 1908. The artefact’s purpose is not yet known.

5. Heraklion Archaeological Museum

One of the top museums in Europe, the Heraklion Archaeological Museum sits on the site of a Venetian Franciscan monastery, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1856. It houses a collection of archaeological finds from all over Crete, a variety of treasures from the Minoan civilisation.

6. Elafonissi

Elafonissi is a Natura 2000 Protection Programme listed area. Its shallow, clear waters and fine sand beaches make it a perfect place to relax and sunbathe. The sand is pink in some areas, taking its colour from crushed shells.

7. Balos Lagoon

This lagoon in Western Crete is similar to Elafonissi with its shallow waters and stunning beaches, and is one of the most photographed locations in Crete.

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