Aptera Archaeological Site

Aptera is one of the most important archaeological sites located in western Crete. The Aptera Archaeological Site is located 13 kilometres east of Chania, near Rethymno, surrounded by the Souda Bay to the north and the breathtaking view of the White Mountains to the south. The ports of Minoas and Kissamos contributed to the city’s business industry. The extensive size of the location is an indication of the power the city once held. The naturally strengthened location of the city has contributed to its commercial development. Aptera was once a thriving city during most of the Hellenistic and Roman times and is now considered an immaculate historical site. Over time, the area was transformed into a well-respected ancient heritage that comprises the ruins, olden structures and buildings that locals and tourists commend. Aptera was known for its skilled archers, who served as mercenaries in many places outside of Crete and brought wealth back to their home country. The mercenaries’ return provided the city with valuable silver that allowed it to start perfecting its currency. The intricate coins typically featured the goddess Artemis on the other side and the city’s founding monarch, King Apteras on the other. Other variants featured Hera or Apollo with a light, a bee, or a bow.

The Aptera Archeological site continues to bring to light new significant finds through excavations. The site attracts more and more visitors every year. Car rental in Crete is the ideal way of touring the island and exploring the Aptera Archaeological Site. Many companies offer car rental services in the area. When deciding to try Car Rental Crete, it is important to note that there are some things to consider before availing of a car rental service. When renting a vehicle in Crete, one must be at least 21 years old with a valid licence. The driver must also present a credit or debit card and proper identification like a passport or ID card. There are different car rental packages available for everyone depending on their needs. A family of 5 can opt for a larger vehicle to explore the Aptera Archaeological Site. While some may prefer smaller cars when driving in Crete because of its challenging roads.

What is the origin of Aptera Archaeological Site?

Dating back from the Minoan (3500-1070 BC) up until the Hellenistic (323-67 BC) times, the ancient city was once in power due to its favourable graphical state. The name Aptera means “without wings”, which comes from Greek mythology, wherein Sirens and Muses have a legendary match on the ancient site. After the Sirens lost the contest, they became featherless, thus, called “apteres”. Furthermore, the feathers became white and fell to the sea. The white feathers became the white mountains and began forming the small islands of Souda Bay.

When was Aptera Archaeological Site founded?

The archaeological site of Aptera was built in the 3rd century B.C. when Aptera was at war with the ancient city of Kydonia, which later on, Aptera was led under its control. The ancient city was destroyed by an earthquake in the 7th century BC, resulting in several structures being destroyed and partially buried over time. As modern restoration emerges, artefacts from the site have been recovered and the remaining structures are carefully preserved. Redevelopment works in the present time are also validated and brought up to date.

When is the Archaeological Site of Ancient Aptera open?

The archaeological site of Aptera is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, from 08:30 to 15:00, excluding national holidays. Visitors can explore the Archaeological site of the Ancient Aptera, the Aptera Ancient City of Crete and visit the remains of a fortified tower, an amphitheatre, a temple, and a city gate and wall. It is important to note that there are no available shades on the side, so make sure to wear sun protection when visiting.

How much is the admission fee to Aptera Archaeological Site?

The admission fee to Aptera Archaeological site costs €2 for adults, €1 for senior citizens, and free admission for students and children 18 years and below. The site is open from Tuesday to Sunday.

Sign in Aptera Main Entrance

What are the most important monuments in the Aptera Archaeological Site?

The Archaeological site of Aptera have different glorious monuments that represent the rich ancient history of the place. Visitors admire the impressive structures carried out to restore the authenticity of the territory.

Listed below are the most significant monuments in the Aptera Archaeological site.

  • Monastery of St. John the Theologian. The monastery of Agios Ioannis Theologos was built during the 12th century and is considered one of the oldest religious residences in Crete.
  • Bipartite temple. Also known as the bipartite sanctuary, a compact double-room temple dating back to the 5th-4th century B.C.
  • Ancient Necropolis. Tombs dating back to the Roman, Hellenistic, and Geometric civilisations.
  • Roman cisterns. Cisterns are large tanks that store and filter the city’s rainwater for the consumption of the citizens.
  • Ancient theatre. Located in the southeastern part of the city’s entrance and is made completely of limestone.
  • Roman Villas. The remains of the villas depict a house structure having courtyards and tiled roofs originating from 100 B.C.
  • Turkish Fortress. The fortresses were built by the Turks during the Ottoman Empire to defy the Cretan revolution and also served as a health facility.
  • Defensive walls. City walls that expanded up to 4000 metres were built during the 3rd century B.C.

1. The Roman Cisterns

The Roman Cisterns are waterproof receptacles for water. They were specifically built to supply water to the needs of the city, especially to all private and public water baths. The structures can be seen behind the St. John the Theologian monastery and are traced back to the Neolithic period. The Ancient Roman Domus generally has a cistern at the bottom that collects, filters and cools down the house. Additionally, the structure also functions as a ventilation system.

Cistern In Aptera Archaeological Site

 2. Bipartite Temple

The Bipartite Temple, known as the “Bipartite Sanctuary”, is one of the most important monuments of Aptera Archaeological site. During excavations by the Germans, the Germans discovered a small split-type temple dating back to the 5th century B.C. Parts of a larger temple were also discovered, which were presumably the city’s main temples. However, it is unknown which god is worshipped in the Bipartite Temple.

Amphitheater at the Aptera Archaeological site

3. Graves of the Geometric-Roman Periods

While visiting the archaeological site in Aptera, visitors might encounter prehistoric burial chambers which can be found outside the city walls in the present-day Megala Chorafia. Excavations revealed two cemeteries in the southeast and west of Aptera having arched structures. The graveyard extends under the old settlement where many tombs are found and are dated back to the Roman, Hellenistic, and Geometric Periods. There are several archaeological findings from the civilisations in the cemetery like sculptures, coins, and other objects, and are displayed in the Chania Archaeological Museum.

4. The Fortification Walls

Aptera is fortified by a 3,500-metre long strong wall made of large stone blocks that surround the hill. The wall’s exterior is regulated by a cluster of fortification structures. The walls were constructed way back in the 3rd century B.C. and served as protection from invasion and as a designation of the area.

5. The Roman Bouleuterion

The Bouleuterion is a building that accommodates the members of the “boule” or council of the city. The structure is where a few of the wealthiest and most powerful people gather to discuss matters regarding public affairs. The ancient architecture dates back to its formation in the 6th century B.C. and is first located on the west side of the Athenian Agora. Other prominent bouleuterions are located in Olympia, Italy, and Turkey. Furthermore, a part of the structure is located in Aptera.

Basilica in Aptera Site

6. The Late Byzantine Monastery of Agios Ioannis Theologos

The Monastery of St. John the Theologian was believed to have been built in the 12th century A.D. It is considered one of the oldest monasteries in Crete. It was dependent on the Monastery of the island of Patmos up to 1964, and until then, it was left behind. Today, the monastery has been restored and visitors can enjoy its peaceful and bright scenery.

7. The Turkish Fortress

The Turkish Fortress is located in the western part of Aptera and east of Chania. The fortress was built by the Turks after the revolution in Crete. Two fortresses that are of great importance are named the Koules and the Itzedin fortress. The purpose of the structures was to have power over the Souda bay and the Apokoronas valley.

Ancient Fortress Castle in Aptera

How is the preservation of the Aptera Archaeological Site?

The Archaeological site of Aptera is well-preserved, though there are still a lot of excavation works that need to be done to cover the whole area. The ruins are excellently maintained in their natural state, respecting ancient history. The ancient theatre of Aptera has been restored and preserved by an EU-funded project. Restoration of the theatre’s auditorium, performance area, and scenery building was executed in line with the optimum scientific standards using authentic and polished methods. The passageways, stone-paved roads, and side entrances were excavated. Some parts of the walls of the passageways and ancient structures were moved back to their original positions. Furthermore, there are new facilities built with the same natural stone used for the entire site to keep the architectural congruity. All materials used on the site are harmless and in line with the originals.

Do you need to book in advance to visit the Archaeological Site of Ancient Aptera?

No, there is no need to book in advance to visit the Archaeological Site of Ancient Aptera. Visitors may simply go to the site and pay €2 for the entry fee at the entrance. The Archaeological Site of Ancient Aptera is open from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm, and it is closed on Mondays. A part of the archaeological site is fenced off, and the enclosed area is only a small portion of the massive site, which encompasses the entire hill.

How to get to Aptera Archaeological Site?

To get to the Aptera Archaeological site, it is best to use a car, since there are no available public buses to reach the site directly. Alternatively, one could take a bus from Rethymno or Heraklion up to Aptera, and from there, it should take a good 45-minute walk uphill to reach the location. Ticket prices for the bus cost €1.90. Another way of transport is by Taxi. Taxis coming from Chania take passengers directly to the site in just 25 minutes, costing €24.

Can you stay at the Aptera Archaeological Site?

Yes. There are several hotel accommodations near the archaeological site, but the Aptera Hotel seals the deal with its simple yet spacious studio with one or two-bedroom flats, each having a private bathroom with a shower. Its amenities also include air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and a nearby café and mini market. On top of that, the Archaeological site is just a walking distance from the Aptera hotel. The Aptera Hotel is one of the best hotel to stay in Crete, if you want to be close to the site.

Do you need to rent a car to visit Aptera Archaeological Site in Crete?

Yes. Renting a car is a much wiser move compared to taking public transportation, and it is the most suitable way to experience and enjoy the grandeur of the location. Advantages of signing up in Crete car rental companies can bypass tough crowds using public vehicles, and guests can have the flexibility of going anywhere. It is highly advisable since not all public vehicles stop over the Archaeological site directly. Renting a car in Crete will give tourists the freedom and flexibility to travel on their own.

What are the factors to consider before renting a car in Crete?

When visiting the glorious beaches and scenery in Crete, it is highly recommended to rent a car just to have the overall experience of the island. Although there is public transportation like taxis and buses, renting a car gives a whole other experience because one can travel freely anywhere. Like any other place in the world, Crete also has a list of measures when considering renting a car.

Listed below are the factors to consider before renting a car in Crete.

  • Insurance. Insurance is important when renting a car in Crete. It includes insurance for a Collision Damage waiver, and a credit card driver is required as a guarantee. Car rental insurance protects a driver against the cost of damage that may happen when renting a vehicle.
  • Driver’s age. Aside from a valid licence, age is one of the factors to consider when renting a car. In Crete, the legal age needed for a car rental driver is between 21 years old. A driving licence is also required.
  • Driver’s gender. As long as the driver is of the legal age of 21, driving, regardless of gender, is allowed in Crete. A female driver can drive anywhere in Crete. While some believe that men are generally better drivers than women. At Crete Car Rental, both genders can rent and drive a vehicle.
  • Car type. Opting for a smaller car is best when driving in Crete. The main reason is that Greek roads are narrow. There are noticeable smaller cars on the roads too.
  • Documents needed for renting a car. Most car rental companies in Crete will require a credit card with the driver’s name on it. However, one can also use a debit card. Others may think that the only document needed for renting a car is a driving licence, but a valid passport and an ID card may be used too.

How much does a car rental in Crete cost?

The car rental cost in Crete varies depending on the location, the number of passengers, itinerary, car type, and duration. The average cost of renting a car in Crete is around €30 to €40 per day. Renting a car for a whole week will cost on average €250 while renting for the weekend will cost around €78. Affordable Crete car rental varies depending on the car type.