VLocated on the eastern side of Crete, between Rethymno and Lassithi, Heraklion is one of the most famous regions of the island. One of the busiest city centers in Crete, it is the fourth largest city in the country.
Originally one of the most developed of all Minoan towns in Crete, Heraklion is believed to be a flourishing ancient site with a magnificent palace and a bustling cultural life. Scientists believed the civilization was destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Santorini after which the town was revived as a significant harbor of the Byzantine Empire. Trade and education were two sectors to which utmost attention was given which led to the economic development of the town. For protection from pirates and the Turkish fleet, the Koules Fortress was constructed around the port of Heraklion. Till early 20th century, the area was under the Turks’ reign hence you can find remnants of the Turkish occupation in Heraklion’s architectural structures.
With numerous layers to unravel and back streets to explore, Heraklion slowly grows on you. The area boasts of a certain level of sophistication with its charming cafes and famous restaurants. There is a great shopping scene with bustling nightlife. The romantic waterfront gives ample opportunity to have beautiful strolls and the newly pedestrianized historic centre which is decorated with bustling squares flanked by buildings invites exploration by inquisitive tourists.
Maintaining its fairytale vibe, a walk across the city centre introduces Koules fortress at the Venetian port, gorgeous Turkish and Venetian fountains, magnificent Venetian buildings, the Venetian Loggia and museums including the Archaeological Museum, the Historical Museum and the Museum of Natural History.
The idyllic beaches in the northern and southern coasts of the Heraklion region are best for sunbathing and getting away from the crowd in the city. Beaches like the former hippie’s paradise, Matala beach, Agia Pelagia, and Malia are famous all over the country.
Discover the Cretan landscape and admire the breathtaking Heraklion prefecture in a car drive. The mountainous villages surrounded with pure nature take one’s breath away.
Not behind in culture and economy, the town is home to a huge reputed university and a science and technology park with international fame. It is also considered to be the main travel hub for the island of Crete due to a large port and an international airport.
Image by Following Hadrian from flickr
Heraklion Archaeological Museum
The largest and most significant museum in the country, Heraklion Archaeological Museum is a work of art in itself. Showcasing artefacts and historic structures from Neolithic to Roman times, including an invaluable and brilliant Minoan collection, the two-storey renovated building contains innumerable surprises. The rooms of the museum are color-coded and excellently discover Crete’s rich history.
Image by radkuch.13 from flickr
Heraklion’s highlight, the historic Koules Fortress was reopened in august 2016 after six years of restoration. This 16th century fortress explores the city’s history and a brand-new exhibition attracts visitors from all over the world. Particularly known for its ancient artefacts including Venetian cannons and finds recovered from shipwrecks around Dia Island by Jacques Cousteau in 1976, Koules Fortress can’t be missed.
Image by deepstereo from flickr
Monastery of St Peter & St Paul
Monastery of St Peter & St Paul is the city’s most mesmerizing ruins. Dating to the 13th century, this striking Dominican monastery has been renovated and restructured multiple times throughout the century. Admire the gorgeous 15th-century frescoes and the stunning modern mosaic exhibition by Loukas Peiniris in this ancient monastery which is engulfed in mystery. It is open in the months of May-September.
Museum of Christian Art
Housing a splendid collection of well-displayed historic religious artworks from monasteries around Crete, Museum of Christian Art is tiny but well-packed with invaluable exhibitions. It is located in a mosque which was originally a 13th century monastery. The wonderful exhibits including works by 15th-century famous hagiographer Angelos Akotantos and post-Byzantine icon painter Michael Damaskinos make this a place well-worth visiting.
Crete’s first craft brewery, Solo Brewery was founded by the Norwegian brewer Kjetil Jikiun. A must-visit touted by world’s beer connoisseurs, drinking here is a worthwhile excursion. There isn’t any taproom per se but the brewery is beloved for its IPAs, stouts and porters, and hoppy saisons across five taps. You can find people relaxing with numerous bottles in the makeshift front-patio.
Image by tedbassman from flickr
Historical Museum of Crete
A must-visit for everyone interested in the history of Crete over the past 1700 years, the Historical Museum of Crete is extremely compact and painstakingly curated. Displays range from the Byzantine to the Venetian and Turkish periods, finally ending with the Second World War. For a more enriching experience, there are interactive stations for each exhibit and audio guides in five languages are provided.
Considered to be one of the most romantic cities in the world, Santorini provides exquisitely clear waters with breathtaking views of a massive active volcano in the middle of the sea. Touted as a wedding destination, couples from all over the world choose the city as their marriage grounds. Explore the numerous towns of the island which look like marvelous paintings full of cosmopolitan villages, vast vineyards and grand castles.
Spinalonga is a rocky islet which is located right at the mouth of the natural port of Elounda in Crete. Take the most heavenly walk in the island, replete with beautiful views of the surrounding clear blue waters. It takes about an hour to cover the whole island but time stretches automatically to accommodate and cement the breathtaking serenity of the place and the remnants of its recent history. Have fun-filled swims in the gorgeous seafront with your friends and family.
Retaining its authenticity, Chania is rich in its cultural and traditional history. Architecture dating back to the earliest of times can be found preserved all over the island. Full of amazing beaches, historical visits and experience of authentic life, the region promises a visit back in history. Discover and explore the numerous medieval castles, the small local museums displaying local history and innumerable other amazing beaches around the coastline.
Image by Shadowgate from flickr
Situated on the western side of Crete, between the prefectures of Chania and Heraklion, Rethymno is a lively region. One of the most beautiful places in Crete, it boasts of elegant architecture and a picturesque port. From fantastic beaches to ancient archaeological sites, Rethymno offers something for everyone. Full of quaint villages, Byzantine churches and cosmopolitan resorts, the area is a beloved tourist destination.
Image by hofman01 from flickr
Located 20km east of Heraklion, the Analipsi village took its name from the church of the Ascension of Christ. Full of peace and quiet, the village is among favourites for families looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. The picturesque scene of the village church dedicated to Agia Marina with a small pier next to it is the highlight of the region. The main sandy beach of Analipsis is situated near the church and guarantees a relaxing time sunbathing.
Image by DaffyDuke from flickr
A small and quaint village with a natural pretty landscape, Potamies is surrounded with mysterious hills full of olive groves, cypresses and mulberry trees. Widely known as an area of forest vegetation and exotic flora and fauna, a stay in Potamies will leave you rejuvenated. The tranquility of the region is felt everywhere and tourists get a chance to taste authentic Cretan cuisine in the village’s numerous traditional cafes.
Image by Andy Montgomery from flickr
A charming village located in the municipality of Pyrgos, Elis, Myrtia has a mere population of 898. Full of gorgeous and surprising sightseeing spots including the Skafidia Monastery whose beauty and gorgeous flowers take breaths away, the area is an underrated gem. Visit the Coastal Roman Bath Skafidia and the historical castle Pontikos Kastro for a wonderful holiday.
A mix of the charming, modern, and tried and true, Gramvousa is located 20km northwest of Kissamos. Popular for its historical Venetian fortress, which stands impressively at a towering height of 137m, the island attracts tourists from all over the world. There is a gorgeous beach of fantastic turquoise color, has white sand and rocks in places which provide ample opportunities for visitors to have a gala time swimming or sunbathing.