Heraklion

Heraklion, the largest city on the island of Crete, has a long history that it meets with a vibrant, modern flair. The name of the Mediterranean island city was inspired by Hercules, the mighty son of Zeus—the Greeks were just one of the cultures to leave their mark on Heraklion. Throughout the island, you’ll find touches of Roman, Minoan, Venetian, and Ottoman cultures, mixed with the feel of a Mediterranean resort and cruise port. 

Heraklion Prefecture & Herklion City

Heraklion Prefecture & Herklion City

Heraklion Prefecture & Herklion City

The city shares its name with the prefecture, one of four administrative units on the island of Crete that were created in 1915 when the island became part of Greece. The mix of landscapes in the region is diverse, including mountains, farmlands, vineyards, olive groves, and beaches; the scenery changes depending on where you travel. The southern part of Heraklion Prefecture is largely undeveloped, with quiet beaches and wide-open spaces. Here, the tiny town of Matala enjoyed a brief heyday in the 1960s and 1970s when hippies hung out in the caves. Joni Mitchell even mentioned this in her song “Cary.” The majority of visitors visit the northern part of the island, home to the cruise port, a large protected harbor, and the city of Heraklion. A strong transportation network connects to Agios Nikolaos and Chania, the beaches, and other places throughout Crete. However, many visitors staying on the beaaches will rent cars for trips into the rugged mountainous interior. Here are numerous vineyards blanketing the mountainsides and valleys, all centered around the lovely town of Archanes.  

Heraklion Attractions

Heraklion Attractions

Heraklion Attractions

Visitors have many options when they arrive in Heraklion, whether they’ve arrived by cruise ship, ferry from the mainland, or one of the neighboring islands. Even though the city doesn’t have the same beauty as the beaches and mountains, there are plenty of things to do both in town and nearby. The famous ruins of Knossos are close to the city, where guided tours reveal the history and legends behind the palace of King Minos and the minotaur roaming the labyrinth. When the ruins of the palace where excavated by British archaeologist Arthur Evans at the turn of the 20th century, a long-forgotten story became world-famous.

Those interested in digging into the past—literally—should make a visit to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. What started in 1883 as a small collection of antiquities has turned into one of the finest museums in Greece. No one has a larger collection Minoan treasures, and the collection also is strong in the Greco-Roman era, which unfolded long after King Minos left the throne. History buffs also have the opportunity to visit Phaistos, also dating from the Minoan era. The archaeological site, dating back some 8,000 years, is a fascinating place for a visit—best visited in the morning to avoid the heat.

Heraklion Cruise Port

Heraklion Cruise Port

Heraklion Cruise Port

While the archaeology sites are anchored securely in the past, plenty of Heraklion is planted firmly in the present. The port is one the busiest in Greece, welcoming some two million people year to the newly modernized terminal. Each day, cruises arrive from Santorini and Piraeus, the port for Athens. In addition to the daytrippers, the port also welcomes passengers on Mediterranean cruises who come to see the palace of Knossos and experience Heraklion’s other highlights. There is still Greek history in the modern port, which has important structures from its Venetian past, including a prominent fort, large stone vaults, and imposing remnants of the Venetian walls. 

Heraklion Hotels

Heraklion Hotels

Heraklion Hotels

If you’re not spending the night on the mainland or on a cruise ship, you’ll have plenty of options for overnight accommodations in the city and prefecture of Heraklion. In the city, hotels include budget-friendly accommodations and luxury hotels as well as bed-and-breakfast inns. One of the best hotels in the city is the Capsis Astoria, a four-star hotel with a rooftopp pool offering fabulous views of the city and Mediterranean. While the hotels in the city are open year-round, some accommodations in smaller communities are open seasonally. Be sure to plan ahead if you’re dreaming about staying in the country. If you’re looking for beach resorts, you’ll find them along the coast and its beaches.

The young, partying visitors tend to gravitate toward the town of Malia, which is full of affordable resorts and apartment hotels as well as discos, nightclubs, and bars. Hersonissos (pictured) is more refined than its neighbor, and still offers great access to beautiful beaches. The resorts here are more upscale than those in Malia, with a typical example being the five-star Hersonissos Palace.

Kato Gouves, a quiet resort town, also has its beach resorts as well as the Crete Aquarium, largest such facility in the Mediterranean. An excellent choice here is the Best Western property called the Your Memories Hotel. It is popular with business travelers, since the Crete Aquarium facility includes a busy conference center. It is also a good place to stay on your arrival night and last night before departure - offering quiet, comfortable accommodation only about 15 minutes from the airport without having to stay in the city of Heraklion. It offers charming rooms and apartments, most of which have cooking facilities. There is a sparkling clean pool and breakfast is included. 

 

Compare Travel Sites and Save!

Kapnikarea

Kapnikarea

The Kapnikarea church in Athens is a splendid relic of Byzantine architectur...

Temple of Ares

Temple of Ares

The Temple of Ares, a Greek monument, has been a part of the Athenian Agora f...

Latest Topics

More Forum Posts »