Originally a charming fishing village overlooking a pretty bay, it has become
over the last few years a very busy seaside resort, appreciated by some for
its beaches and lively atmosphere in summer.
Pelagia. A small
port with about ten permanent dwellers in winter, it has experienced strong
tourist development over the last few years due to its geographical location.
Very crowded in summer…
The administrative capital of Crete, Heraklion (120 000 inhabitants) has experienced
strong expansion over the past ten years due to its harbour, airport (5 minute
drive from the city centre), university, and the influx of tourists. A city
with haphazard urban development and not much charm, it is above all a place
to stop over for a visit to the archaeological museum, which is an absolute
must. On display there are the most beautiful creations of the Minoan civilization.
And 5 km from the city, the most significant archaeological site in Crete: Knossos.
Another must. You should join a group with a guide in order to fully appreciate
the incredible cultural and artistic wealth the site has to offer.
with its popular art museum. 1 km from Tilissos, this village is a kind of living
eco-museum. Recreated Cretan houses, traditional craftsmanship and daily activities,
local cuisine, lyre music, folk dances and costumes…
A charming little village in a fertile valley set amidst orange and lemon groves.
It was believed for a long time that the Cretan-born painter Dominikos Theotokopoulos
(1541-1614), nicknamed Greco, was a native of Fodele. Be sure to visit the domed
Byzantine church dedicated to the Holy Virgin (Panagia). A building of remarkable
A pretty village with lots of flowers where the Nikos Kazantzakis museum is
located. Numerous original documents cover the famous Cretan writer’s
work and life.
County town of a region famous for its vineyards and wine, with an interesting
archaeological museum. Part of a Minoan palace has been restored in Archanes.
It was undoubtedly a summer residence for the kings of Phaistos.
One of the most important wine-growing regions in Crete. Visits to the cellars
and wine-tasting possible.
(or Gortyna). A city founded at the end of the third millennium or the beginning
of the second millennium BC. During the Greek classical age (5th century BC),
the laws of the city were carved in stone. Known as the “Gortyna code”,
it dealt with criminal law, family law, succession and property law, as well
as matrimonial law. From 67 BC onwards, Gortyna was chosen as the capital of
the Roman province of Crete and Cyrenaica, and experienced a period of strong
expansion, a fact corroborated by the numerous Roman buildings (agora, odeon,
theatre). In 59 BC, the arrival of Saint Paul and the appointment of Tite as
bishop transformed the city into a centre for the propagation of Christianity.
Until its destruction by the Saracens in 824, Gortyna was the most important
city in Crete.
A major Minoan site, built around 1600 BC, about the same time as the most recent
version of the palace of Phaistos. The numerous objects found there are displayed
in the museum of Heraklion. The villa (which was a summer residence for the
king of Phaistos), is located at the top of a hill, overlooking the beautiful
and luxuriant plain of Messara, with a view of the Libyan sea. Worth a visit.
The southern part of the Heraklion province attracts very few tourists. A region
of numerous tracks, arid and varied landscapes, and the location of this little
isolated fishing village surrounded by tamarisks, offering a few rooms, tiny
tavernas, a beautiful beach and much tranquillity…
kokkinos Pirgos. Loners and sea lovers will appreciate long strolls on
miles and miles of beaches. Mass tourism has not yet invaded this coast.
A village with a population of 2,500, perched 800 m above sea level. It was
founded in the 12th century by its neighbours of the Dorian city of Axos which
had just been destroyed by the Venetians. During the second world war, the Germans,
in retaliation for the kidnapping of a general, shot the entire male population
and burnt the village (15th of August, 1944). The sole building remaining is
the church, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, with frescoes of the first
Venetian period. It should be noted that the Cretans, to a greater extent than
the inhabitants of continental Greece, not only did not collaborate with the
occupying forces, but constantly fought and harassed them. Anogia was rebuilt
after the war, and remains today steeped in tradition, with a people proud of
its history, way of life, dialect, and its renowned singers Nikos Xilouris and
Psarantonis. Today, Anogia is famous for its cultural events, song, music and
dance contests (organized around the 15th of August) and most of all for its
craftsmanship. It has also become a weaving and embroidery centre, very much
appreciated by visitors.
Originally a charming little village, it is now very busy in summer, with lots
of tavernas and hotels overlooking a beautiful bay.
The sharply winding track from Kali Limenes takes you through beautiful landscapes
before reaching this isolated bay which has only recently begun to attract visitors,
due to its natural charm…
limenes. A pretty
little village with its sand and shingle beach, cliffs and tamarisks. Unfortunately,
the landscape has been spoiled by the presence of large oil storage tanks. A
few taverns and rooms to rent.
Matala was in ancient times the port of Phaistos and Gortyna. North-east of
the bay, under the water, one can still see the remains of this period. According
to the legend, Zeus, taking the shape of a bull, boarded there with Europe,
whom he had kidnapped. Today it is a beautiful sandy beach, overhung by sandstone
cliffs full of numerous caves which were inhabited in the Neolithic period.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, a certain “golden” youth,
the ‘Flower Children’ of 1968, made these caves their home, driving
the Cretans to despair, for the latter could not understand their fondness for
this rather prehistoric-like way of life. Matala should be visited early in
the morning or at about sunset, if you want to avoid the bus-loads of tourists.
Otherwise, within half an hour’s walk towards the south, you can find
a pretty, isolated, fine sandy beach : Red beach.
Festos). Inhabited since the third millennium BC. An older palace was destroyed
by an earthquake, before being rebuilt around 1700 BC. Another earthquake ruined
it again around 1450 BC. These Minoan ruins are less impressive than those of
Knossos for no restoration works have been carried out here, whereas Knossos
was rebuilt by Arthur Evans. Only some remains can be seen, like the theatre.
A very famous object was discovered on this site: the mysterious Disk of Phaistos,
which has not yet revealed its secrets, and is displayed in the museum of Heraklion.
Apart from the historical value of this site, the view is by itself worth the
visit. From here, one can see the fertile Messara plain, the sea, and the mountains
of Crete all at once.
The third largest
Minoan site in Crete, discovered by the French Archaeological School of Athens.
Very interesting from an architectural point of view. Today, Malia is a tourist
resort situated near the bay of Chersonissos, which is known for its fine sandy
800 m above sea level, nestled in the mountains, the Lassithi plateau was once
famous for its 10,000 windmills, which were used to irrigate plantations and
supply water. Nowadays, with a little help from progress, they have been replaced
by motor pumps, but the plateau still offers peaceful and pastoral scenes of
daily life. The cave of Trapeza shows signs of human presence dating back to
1850 BC. South of the plateau, the village of Psichro is a point of departure
for hikes to the famous cave where, according to Greek mythology, Zeus was born.
This small, quaint fishing village is located on the southerly coast of Crete,
approx. 70 km south of Heraklion. Up until a few years ago, the village remained
untouched by modern life but visitors slowly uncovered its secret charms and
since then some recent development has taken place. The village itself is
made up of two parts, Keratokambos and Kastri, and boasts a long stretch of
sand and pebble beach. The road running through the village, runs parallel
to the sea and hosts small tavernas and cafenia perfect for watching life
go by and in which one can sit and unwind under the shade of the tamarisk
trees. On the right side of the beach is a little harbour where fishing boats
are moored and a small selection of tavernas can be found. The village itself
offers also a variety of shops.
Keratokambos is an ideal location for those who enjoy going on walks or those
with an interest in wild plant life, as well as for those who simply want
to relax in the laid back style of Cretan life.
Heraklion is the largest city of Crete and one of Greece’s major urban centers. Its development begun in the wake of the 9th century AD (in antiquity, Knossos was the island’s most important centre, followed by Gortyn). In later times, Heraklion came under Arabic, Venetian and Ottoman rule; its conquerors initially gave it the name Khandaq or Handak which was corrupted to Candia. During the 2004 Olympic Games, the city of Heraklion provided one of the venues for the football tournament.
Among the most outstanding sights of Heraklion are the fortification walls that delimit the “old city”. The first fortifications were built by the Arabs and were later reinforced by the Venetians (15th century). From the seven bastions, only the Martinengo bastion survives to this day; there visitors will find the tomb of the renowned writer N. Kazantzakis, overlooking the city. From the four gates to the city, only Chanioporta (1570) with the characteristic winged Lion of Saint Marc and the New Gate (1587) at the southern side survive today.
In the old (Venetian) port, next to the modern facilities, one can see the vaulted tarsanades where ships used to be built, while the western side is dominated by the Koule fortress (16thcentury).