A visit to the Cave of Melissani is an out-of-this-world experience! The myth, the mystery, the magical setting, the interplay of light and water inside the cave, leaves one in awe. No visit to Greece is complete without viewing the Cave of Melissani. Situated just outside Sami, the Cave of Melissani has a strange appeal. It is one of the most significant places for tourists to visit in Greece. Surprisingly, there is a lake inside the cave that has trees and forests surrounding it. The cave itself is ‘B’ shaped with two chambers or halls separated by land or an island in the center. The roof in one of the halls caved in centuries ago letting sunlight filter in. The depth of the lake is 20 to 30 meters. When the sun is right overhead at noon, the sunlight hitting the turquoise-blue waters create a magical illusion and the whole Cave of Melissani suddenly seems lit with blue light. This is the best time to visit this cave. Slanting rays in the morning and evening have a magical quality of their own. One gets an ethereal feeling of boats hovering in the light! Myth has it that the cave was named after the nymph Melissanthi who committed suicide because her love for God Pan was unrequited.
During the excavations carried out in 1951 and later in 1962, many artifacts were found dating back to the 3rd and 4th century BC and were used during the post classical and early Hellenistic periods. Figures of nymphs unearthed have given credence to the legend. Small boats ply on the lake inside the Cave of Melissani. The cave is 36m high, 40m wide and 3.5 m long. A balcony was built on top of the cave for tourists to get a spectacular view of the inside from the top.
The first chamber is sun-lit and the second chamber is dark and has many stalactites covered with algae and moss. Even though they are big in size, they are dwarfed by the huge dome. Surprisingly, many of the stalactites resemble dolphins, the companions and messengers of the nymphs as the legend goes. This chamber is lit with electric lights.
The water in the lake is a mixture of fresh and seawater. It is about 500m away from the sea and the water is higher than the sea level by 1m. The brackish water enters the Cave of Melissani from one end and flows out from the other. Water is replenished by the springs gushing underneath the 30m in depth water inside. The Cave of Melissani leaves a memorable and lasting impression to everyone who visits it.