A formidable base to discover all of Crete
Many Greeks might tell you that Heraklion is an uninteresting city, but nothing can be further from the truth. In recent years it has been upgraded with better infrastructure that makes the town more friendly and the whole Prefecture of Heraklion more accessible. The city itself is home to the impressive palace of Knossos, which was originally built some 4000 years ago and is one of the oldest palaces in Europe, reflecting the sophistication of the Minoan civilization. From a more recent era, the Koules Fortress, originally a Venetian fort that was adapted by the Ottomans later on to become a prison with a dungeon, the structure is now a symbol of the city and a noteworthy tourist attraction.
No trip to Heraklion would be complete without visiting its remarkable archeological museum, divulging historical insights over many millennia with figurines, frescoes and statues that will make your jaw drop. Other interesting museums include the Katsanas Museum of ancient Greek technology and the Natural History Museum that unveils the rich biodiversity of Crete. In and around Heraklion there are also many monasteries from different eras. Some were originally Venetian and others were converted into mosques during the Ottoman era. Today the monasteries offer peaceful grounds and a curious peek into monastic life.
For archeology buffs, there are many ancient sites apart from Knossos in the greater Heraklion region. The Palace of Phaistos is considered arguably the finest of Minoan palaces. Also intriguing is the ancient Doric site of Gortyn with an impressive Roman Odeon, as well as the remains of Ancient Rizinia which boasted a temple that was mysteriously similar in style to Egyptian ones in terms of construction.
If you're more into activities by the sea, take a diving tour to discover the fauna and flora off the seabed, try your hand at windsurfing on an island that can have some hefty winds, or embark on a sailing trip with friends. Many tours are available from the city, including a day trip to the island of Spinalonga among others. Keep in mind the more touristic parts of greater Heraklion, namely Hersonissos and Malia. There is more of a party vibe and more popular kind of tourism in these resort areas, which might or might not be what you're looking for. If it's peace and quiet you're after, head inland or to more secluded beaches.
Crete is famous for its food, wine and spirits, so it is no wonder there are so many food tours and cooking lessons available in Heraklion, the capital city. Trips to wineries, olive mills, deli shops and food workshops, including walking tours and tastings, are all on offer here. Just take your pick and let us know. We'll do the rest!