Few places in the world have nothing to envy from this magnificent mosaic of tradition, natural beauty and history, that is Crete
Crete is an island with an exquisite 1,000 kilometer-long coastline dotted with numerous coves, bays and peninsulas, which afford a multitude of soft, sandy beaches along the beautifully blue Aegean Sea. And, of course, the island’s historic importance in today’s world as the home of the Minoan civilization with important archeological finds at Knossos, Phaistos and Gortys, is evidenced by the tens of thousands of visitors to these sites each year.
Heraklion is the capital of Crete and one of the Mediterranean region’s most fascinating and vibrant cities. It is full of places to discover. The town is the largest urban centre in Crete with approximately 150,000 people, the capital of the region and the economic centre of the island.
Today Heraklion is the top choice for tourist destinations in the Mediterranean thanks to strategic geopolitical position connecting three continents and many different cultures, furthermore the city is also the commercial and scientific centre of the island.
History is very much alive in the old town of Heraklion, just like in most Greek cities. From the old Venetian Harbour, the August 25th Str., leads to the old town’s centre. The central square while surrounded by cafes, stores and restaurants, is dominated by the fountain of the Lions, built by Morozini the venetian governor in 1628.
The visitor to Heraklion should definitely visit the archaeological site at Knossos and the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion that houses most of the Minoan findings in Crete. Special attention should also be paid to the Historical museum of Heraklion that houses findings from the early Christian era to today and the Museum of Natural History.
Location: 35°20′N 25°8′E
Road distance: 14 kms (*)
The archaeological site of Knossos is sited 5 km southeast of the city of Heraklion. There is evidence that this location was inhabited during the neolithic times (6000 B.C.) . On the ruins of the neolithic settlement was built the first Minoan palace (1900 B.C.) where the dynasty of Minos ruled.
This was destroyed in 1700 B.C and a new palace built in its place.
The palace covered an area of 22,000sqm, it was multi- storied and had an intricate plan. Due to this fact the Palace is connected with thrilling legends, such as the myth of the Labyrinth with the Minotaur.
Location: 35°17′52.66″N 25°9′47.36″E
Road distance: 16 kms (*)
Agios Nikolaos is the capital of the governmental district of Lassithi which obtains its name from the high plateau in its West. The same district also includes the two townships of Ierapetra on the south coast and Sitia in the East of the north coast. The town centre is located on a small peninsula which spreads eastward into the Mirambelou bay.
By the southern edge there is a small fishing port and marina.
The excursion boats which head towards the former lepers’ island of Spinalonga several times per day moor here as well.
Voulismeni lake which is a small sweet-water lake is located at the side behind the port, and connected to the harbour basin via a channel.
Around the port and the lake, numerous restaurants, tavernas, kafenions and souvenir shops line up.
Location: 35°11′N 25°43′E
Road distance: 75 kms (*)
Ideon Andron Cave
Ideon Andron Cave is found on Ida (or Psiloritis) mountain, the highest mountain in Crete and is famous for being the place where Zeus, the Father of the Gods, was born and grew up. The Ideon Cave is one of the greatest cave sanctuaries in Crete, as important as the major Greek temples. It flourished in antiquity (4000 BC to the 1st century AD).
Ideon Cave lies on the mountain-emblem of Crete, Mount Psiloritis, on the south side of which lies another important cave sanctuary, the Kamares Cave.
Legend has it that Mount Ida has the privilege of seeing the sun before the dawn. It is true that on clear days you can see almost the whole of Crete from here, as well as the Cyclades and even Mount Taygetus in the Peloponnese.
Festivals were held at the Ideon Cave each year, originally in honour of the god of vegetation, who died and was reborn in the cycle of the seasons. The Minoan god of vegetation was later replaced by the Cretan-born Zeus, the local young Zeus, who according to local myth also died and was reborn each year.
Location: 35°12′N 24°49′E
Road distance: 26 kms (*)