Heraklion Places of Interest
MOST VISITED LOCATIONS
The Old Port is on the left side of the modern port. During the Venetian period, it was an important commercial and military centre.
The Koules Fortress A ‘must see’ in Heraklion town. It was built to protect the Venetian port from raids. Remains of the carved lions of Saint Mark can be seen. On the top, an outdoor theatre is used for summer festivals.
The CretAquarium is part of the Thalassocosmos, one of the Mediterranean’s largest complexes devoted to marine science, education and recreation. It provides face-to-face contact with the vibrant sea life of the Med – from hunter sharks to tiny seahorses. A fascinating and educational day out for children and adults alike.
Boutari Winery is a stately winery with superb wines maturing in oak barrels and a guest hall where wines can be enjoyed with plates of traditional Mediterranean cuisine.
Palace of Knossos is 5 km south of Heraklion. It is impossible to visit Crete without touring the Palace of Knossos, the pre-eminent Minoan settlement and one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Discovered in the late 1870s by Kalokerinos, it was excavated by Sir Evans for 30 years and is linked through Cretan myths with King Minos, son of Zeus and Europa. Minos may have ruled in legend, but it now seems more likely ‘Minos’ was not a single king but the title given to the rulers of Knossos. The palace covers an area of 20,000 sq m and is so large and labyrinthine that scholars believe it was the inspiration for the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.
Phaistos (Festos) is 62 km south of Heraklio. The second largest city of Minoan Crete is built on a hill 100 m above sea level, in the fertile valley of Messara. Since 1900, continuous archaeological excavations from the Italian Archaeological School, have brought to light the magnificent Minoan Palace with its royal courts, great staircases, theatre, storerooms and the famous Phaistos disk.
Gortys Messara Valley, is near Agioi Deka, 46 km south of Heraklio. The Basilica of Agios Titos is one of the oldest and most important monuments of Christianity in Crete and was the seat of the first bishops of the Cretan Church. The most important monuments of ancient Gortys are the ruins of the acropolis and the odeum.
Agia Triada 4 kms west of Phaistos. Visit the ruins of the Royal Villa, the small Minoan Palace at Agia Triada. The Palace served as a summer residence for the King of Phaistos.
Ideon Cave 55 km from Heraklio at an altitude of 1100m on Mount Psiloritis. The sacred cave on the Nidha plateau, Rhea hid her son Zeus to save him from his father Kronos. Archaelogical findings include bronze statuettes, bronze shields and offerings to Zeus, the father of all gods. Nearby are two springs, Zothimos and Kanithos, that keep their pre-Hellenic names.
Zakros 45 km east of Sitia. The palace was unearthed by the Greek archaeologist N. Platon in 1961. The total area of the palace, including ancillary buildings, is approx. 10,000 sq.m. Over 10,000 objects, many of them considered unique, are now on display in the Heraklio and Sitia museums.
Malia is 3 km east of Malia. The Palace of Malia, which covered an area of 7,500 sq.m., is the third largest Minoan palace and is considered the most “provincial” from an architectural point of view. According to tradition the third son of Zeus and Europa, Sarpedon, ruled here.