The Cretan province of Heraklion (or Iraklion) is a typical ‘slice’ of Crete. The northern part (with the capital and some popular tourist resorts such as Chersonisos and Malia) is the most developed, while the south coast is pretty wild (some great beaches), and in between you find beautiful hilly countryside covered with olive trees and vineyards, some spectacular mountains, historical villages, churches and monasteries. Whether you are dreaming of pure beach & nightlife holidays (unlikely if you are reading this!), of holidays during which you swim from deserted beaches (head for the southern coast for that), explore traditional villages, hike in the mountains, visit one of Greece’s most famous archaeological sites and taste the best Greek food, you will find it in Heraklion. (Likewise, in terms of holiday accommodation, you will find anything from charming little hotels or traditional self-catering village cottages to the large all-inclusive holiday resort hotels. And yes, my suggestion is you stay away from the latter!)
The Minoan Palace of Knossos, Crete
The Minoan Palace of Knossos is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, and a good reason to visit the Heraklion province. The first settlements at Knossos date from 7000 BC, but the first palace was built around 1900 BC. It was destroyed 200 years later, and rebuilt again, to become a massive and strikingly complex maze of royal quarters, banquet rooms and religious shrines, workshops and storerooms, all centered around the Throne room. At some point during the excavations, parts of the palace were restored and many of the murals were repainted, with some imagination and personal vision used in the process. It has made some archaeologists cringe, but still, it is a must-see.
The town of Heraklion
The town of Heraklion itself isn’t all that attractive. There are some beautiful historical buildings, but in general it lacks the charm that old towns of Rethymno and Hania have. The archaeological museum however is definitely worth a visit.
Small hotels and other special places to stay in Heraklion