The Old Town of Chania

The Old Town of Chania

The old town of Chania embodies the long history of the city; in the picturesque alleys, visitors can see the marks left by every civilization that has settled here for a period of time in the past. Venetian, Ottoman, Neoclassical monuments and architectural elements, old neighbourhoods, historical sites and a lot of local colour characterize the old town of Chania, which is justly called by some “Venice of the East”. It used to be surrounded by walls, however only parts of them survive today. It extends inland from the Venetian port and it includes the districts of Topanas, Splantzia, Kasteli, Santrivani and the Jewish quarter. The old town of Chania, full of different sounds and colours, figures in every visitor’s photographs. The Venetian and Turkish monuments, the neoclassical buildings, the narrow alleys with balconies full of flowers, the traditional knife shops and Cretan boot shops, the promenade along the Venetian port, the lively restaurants and cafes, all make up a vivid picture of a historical city that remembers the past and celebrates the present. In front of the city, there is the Venetian port of Chania, including the Venetian lighthouse, is one of the symbols of the city and a favourite walking area for locals and visitors alike.
The Minoan Palace of Knossos

The Minoan Palace of Knossos

Knossos, the largest and most brilliant centre of the Minoan civilization, is located 5 kilometres south of the historical centre of the city of Heraklion. In the labyrinthine arrangement of corridors and rooms of the palace complex, many scholars have visualised the famous Minoan “Labyrinth”. Such a notion of the existence of a labyrinth may be only a mythological remembrance of a great civilization, however one could say that it really does correspond to the architectural structure which can be seen today in Knossos. Twisting corridors and stairwells which used to connect as many as five storeys, create a truly labyrinthine complex. There, visitors can admire important architectural innovations, such as water supply systems and sewer networks, shafts for the lighting and ventilation of the lower levels of the palace complex, and rooms equipped with baths and sanitary facilities that almost match modern constructions in ingenuity and function. It is believed that the first palace complex of Knossos was probably built in the 19th century BC and was destroyed in the 17th century BC. It was later rebuilt (16th century BC) in a remarkable, functional way, as one can ascertain by seeing the surviving ruins. In the mid 15th century BC, Knossos is believed to have reached its acme, which lasted until approximately 1450 BC; then, an extensive natural disaster occurred, probably due to an eruption of the volcano of Santorini(known as the “Thera eruption”).
The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

The Archaeological Museum is located much in the center of Heraklion: it is one of the most important Archaeological Museums of the world, thanks to its unrivalled collection of artifacts from the Bronze-age Minoan culture – the first of note on what is now European soil. The exhibits cover a period of ten millennia, from the Neolithic era until late Roman times. A tour would start on the Ground floor: the halls are dedicated to the Neolithic and Minoan cultures. Organized chronologically, covering all phases of the Minoan civilization, the rooms channel you from the Pre-palatial period (3000 - 1900 BC), through three phases of Palaces, down to the Post-palatial era (1350 - 1000 BC). The introductory texts in each room explain the key features of each period – and so the evolution of culture. In these halls the visitor is held entranced by objects of Minoan art and craft: jewelry and seals, pottery and metalwork, ivory, faience and glass. Items of the daily life, items used in religious worship, items from the burial chamber. Through further and often thematic texts are clarified the practices and ways they organized their economic, religious and social life. Among the exhibits are some of the most famous Minoan icons: such as the Snake Goddess, the Phaistos Disk, the Ring of Minos and the Mallia wasp (or bee) pendant. And many, many more! Visitors to the museum can admire unique artifacts recovered from the excavations at the Palaces of Knossos, Phaistos, Aghia Triadha, Malia and Zakros – let alone the numerous other major centers and sites of Minoan Crete.
The Natural History Museum of Crete

The Natural History Museum of Crete

A museum in Heraklion where you can find a lot of interesting things for all ages. There are a discovery centre for children, an earthquake simulator, small aquariums and terrariums housing living animals from this region, a large collection of fossils, and a replica of the largest mammal ever lived on Crete, 9 million years ago. It does not only present the natural wealth of the island, but also of the rest of Greece and of the Eastern Mediterranean. In the 800 square metres of the museum, in specially transformed areas, visitors have the opportunity to learn about the geological evolution of Crete, various important geological formations such as caves, the species that once lived on Crete but are now extinct, endangered animals such as the Monk seal and the Bearded vulture, as well as about plants and organisms of all kinds that thrive on the island. The animals are displayed by way of accurate representations, in their real dimensions (dioramas). The museum also has an outdoor botanical garden.
Elounda & Spinalonga Island

Elounda & Spinalonga Island

Feeling for a celebrity hunt? Elounda is the part of Crete where all the rich and famous people come for a vacation. Here you can gaze at all the luxurious villas and hotels but also enjoy the charming old fishing village. From Elounda you can take a boat trip to Spinalonga Island known for its Venetian fortress and being one of Europe´s last leper colony. Spinalonga is a small island-fortress located at the northern entrance to Elounda bay, at a strategic point that secures control over the natural harbour of Elounda. An ancient fortification existed on the site of the fortress that can be seen today, for the protection of the port of the ancient town of Olous. The Venetian fortress of Spinalonga is well-preserved. It has two fortified protected zones. The first, which is lower down, follows the coastline, while the second runs along the cliffs above it. The two strong crescent-shapedfortifications, which were built to protect the port of Elounda with their cannons, stand out. The castle of Spinalonga, together with the fortresses of Souda and Gramvoussa in Western Crete, were considered impregnable, and remained under Venetian rule for many years after the Turkish conquest.
CreteAquarium

CreteAquarium

Explore the wonderful life of the Mediterranean sea. Here you can see hundreds of different fish and other marine species and let your self be fascinated by their shapes and colours. Cretaquarium, as a fruit of scientific research, is coming to give us knowledge and the experience of mediterranean marine world. A part of marine park research, culture, education and recreation of the Cretaquarium, is based on the knowledge, the expertise and the innovation which is produced by the Greeks marine scientists in the last 20 years. Cretaquarium is representing the Mediterranean marine life with modern ways and means and provides a unique spectacle that will always fascinate children and adults and it will inform, educate and sensitize the public about the diversity of Mediterranean species and the habitats.
Trekking at Samaria Gorge

Trekking at Samaria Gorge

The gorge of Samaria is the longest and one of the most imposing gorges in Europe. Perhaps the most popular trekking path of Greece runs along its course. The gorge is 18 kilometres long and its width varies between 150 and 3-4 metres at its narrowest point, which is known as "Sideroportes". The walk down the gorge begins at "Xiloskalo", in Omalós (at an altitude of 1.200 metres) usually, quite early in the morning, since it requires 4-8 hours, depending on the walking pace. Six hours on average are enough for those who wish to enjoy the route without being in too much of a hurry. Walking down the Samaria gorge, one discovers a varied landscape, with water springs, pools and impressive large rocks lying in the watercourse, as well as numerous trees, such as plane trees, pines and cypresses. Trees and deciduous oaks rooted on the highest cliffs, ineffable scents of herbs and an occasional Cretan wild goat (kri-kri) climbing on a steep slope make this gorge unforgettable. After its narrowest point "Portes", the landscape evens out a bit and the watercourse begins to widen. Entrance tickets are re-checked at the outlet of the gorge, to make sure that no one has been left behind or decided to camp inside the gorge. After 18 km of walk, the Libyan Sea is close-by. Accommodation is available in Agia Roumeli. There is also the possibility to take the boat that goes to Loutro, Chora Sfakion, Sougia or Paleochora.
Labyrinth Musical Workshop

Labyrinth Musical Workshop

The Musical Workshop of Labyrinth was established in 1982 by Ross Daly, and is focused on initiating young musicians to a creative approach towards traditional musical idioms from around the world. In this spirit, Seminars and Master Classes are organized, while the Houdetsi Festival, one of the most important musical festivals of Crete, is held here every summer, as well as other concerts. Labyrinth has been housed in an old, beautifully renovated building in the village of Houdetsi (20 km from Heraklion). In Labyrinth one can also see a permanent exhibition of traditional musical instruments from across the world, such as are considered social, historical and cultural expressions of their country of origin.
Venetian walls of the city of Heraklion

Venetian walls of the city of Heraklion

Heraklion had been fortified already in the years of the First Byzantine period (330-840 AD). These fortifications were supplemented by the Arabs (840-961), the Byzantines (961-1204), and the Venetians, after 1211. Indeed, the looming Turkish threat compelled the Venetians to reinforce the defence of the capital city of Regno di Candia(Kingdom of Crete), using the latest technologies of the time. The fortifications that can be seen today were based on the designs made by the Venetian architect Michele Sanmicheli, and they were built somewhere between 1462 and 1560. The main wall was three kilometres long, and had four gates and seven bastions. It was surrounded by a large moat which had additional bastions on the outside that do not survive today. The fortification works of Heraklion are rightfully counted among the most important in the Eastern Mediterranean, regarding their size, aesthetics and their functional superiority.
Trekking at Agios Nikolaos Gorge

Trekking at Agios Nikolaos Gorge

The gorge of Agios Nikolaos is flanked by the peaks of Ambelakia, to the east, and Samari, to the west. It is considered as the most important gorge of Psiloritis and of Central Crete, and it was named after the Byzantine chapel of Agios Nikolaos which is located at its southern entrance. It extends along the imposing southern part of Psiloritis, from the north heading south, and it connects Rouvas forest to the north with the valley of Koutsoulidis river to the south, in the Zaros area. The gorge is 4 kilometres long in total. It begins north of the chapel of Agios Ioannis, where there is a recreation area, and ends up at the Monastery of Agios Nikolaos, to the south. Passing through the gorge takes 4 hours. The largest section of the route, which is 2,7 kilometres long, is landscaped and ideal for mild recreational activities, such as walking, mountaineering, rock climbing. This magnificent environment is also great for those who love nature and enjoy watching wildlife species in their habitat.
Nikos Kazantzakis Museum

Nikos Kazantzakis Museum

“My father’s family comes from a village called Varvari”, wrote the famous Cretan author Nikos Kazantzakis in his book "Report to Greco". This village, known today as Mirtia (15 km from Heraklion) is where the Museum of Nikos Kazantzakis is located. Visiting the museum, one has the opportunity to become acquainted with the personality of the author, by way of his personal correspondence and diaries, various other personal items and momentos from his travels, seldom published photographs, models of theatrical sets and costumes from theatrical performances of his plays, rare audio-visual material, as well as works of art inspired by his books.
Plateau of Lassithi

Plateau of Lassithi

At an altitude of 850 m, the Lasithi Plateau is the largest mountain plain in Crete – and the only one occupied all the year round. Today this huge polje of the Dikte massif has been transformed into a giant garden. Up to a few years ago irrigation was managed by thousands of small windmills. The Dictean cave, above Psychro village, is where – according to legend – Zeus was raised. Neolithic and Minoan finds are quite extensive. There are numerous traditional settlements at the plain, where you can taste local delicacies and drink some shots of the traditional raki drink. Lasithi plateau and its surroundings are also ideal for trekking walks or even biking or mountain biking!
Traditional Festivals & Fairs

Traditional Festivals & Fairs

Every summer the traditional festivals and fairs act as real attractions in Cretan villages for natives and foreigners alike. In particular, they provide occasions for social gatherings and the maintenance of old customs and ways. The festivals are usually connected to a religious occasion, taking place in the village square where there is dancing to the strains of the lyra and the lute – of course with lashings of local foods and wines aplenty. Sometimes these traditional festivals are organized around a local product... focused on the same. Thus we have the Potato festival (Tzermiado on Lasithi plateau), of Wine (Dafni, Heraklion inland), of Pottery (Thrapsano, Heraklion), of Citrus Fruits (Garazo, Mylopotamos), of Shepherds and their Cheeses (Zoniana, Mylopotamos) and so on… The local product has a field day in all sorts of ways – and be assured there will be fun, music and dancing!
Toplou Monastery

Toplou Monastery

Panagia Akrotiriani (Our Lady of the Cape) Monastery, colloquially known as Toplou, is one of Crete’s most impressive and historic monasteries. It is a true bastion and a living museum of the island’s monastic history. To make the most of the limited space inside the fort’s walls and the safety they afforded, cells were built across three storeys. Some of the murals of its small but solemn and stirring two-aisled church that is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and to Saint John the Theologian still survive, and its chancel screen features noteworthy 18th century icons. The monastery was already thriving in the 15th century, as is evidenced by a number of icons from that period. The Ecclesiastic Art Museum houses some of Crete’s most significant icons, including Megas ei Kyrie' (Great Art Thou, Lord) a 1770 icon by Ioannis Kornaros. The icon is made up of four main sections, further separated into 57 smaller areas, and includes hundreds of faces which come together magnificently to depict the Great Blessing of Waters. The organic vineyards on the monastery’s grounds produce wine of excellent quality and it is also possible to visit the winery.
Trekking at Zakros gorge (“Valley of the dead”)

Trekking at Zakros gorge (“Valley of the dead”)

This is the most famous and probably the most frequently visited gorge in Eastern Crete. It was named “Valley of the dead”, because of the Minoan cave burials which were found in the gorge. The lovely route begins south-east of the village of Zakros , passes through the gorge and ends up next to the Minoan palace at Kato Zakros. It can be passed through almost all year round. It is 2,5 kilometres long in total, and the elevation difference between the entrance and the outlet is approximately 100 metres.
Trekking at Aradena Gorge

Trekking at Aradena Gorge

The gorge of Aradena is one of the most significant and impressive gorges of Crete. Its entrance is located at the deserted village of Aradena, which is to be found at the western end of the plateau of Anopoli of Sfakia, below the imposing, high peaks of the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) range. Near the entrance to the gorge there is an iron Bailey bridge, which connects Anopoli with Aradena and the small settlement of Agios Ioannis to the west. It is the tallest bridge in Greece and the second tallest in Europe, therefore ideal for bungee jumping. The gorge of Aradena is 7 kilometres long and its impressive walls rise vertically for many tens of metres. The walk down the gorge takes 2½ to 3 hours, a trekking route of medium difficulty. Numerous trees and endemic plants grow in the watercourse and on the high walls, while wild goats, other small mammals and many endangered bird species nest in the cliffs. The gorge ends up through the characteristic, narrow opening of its outlet, at the lovely, secluded Marmara beach. From there, visitors can take a boat or walk to the quiet coastal settlement of Loutro (about 1 hour) or to Chora Sfakίon (approximately 1½ hour).
Arkadi Monastery

Arkadi Monastery

Arkadi Monatery is perhaps the best known monastery on Crete due to the Holocaust of 1866. However, its location and impressive architecture make it all the more special. It is a large fortified complex built during the end of the period of Venetian rule. Apart from the monks' cells, the central building also includes warehouses, premises for processing agricultural products, as well as stables. The impressive two-aisled church, dedicated to Saint Constantine and Saint Helen and to the Transfiguration of the Saviour, is one of the most important architectural monuments of the Cretan Renaissance. It was completed in 1587 and its facade clearly demonstrates the penetration of western architectural trends in 16th and 17th-century Crete. The history of the monastery begins during the Byzantine Empire. From the 16th century onwards, the monastery was a major intellectual centre.
Minoan city of Phaistos

Minoan city of Phaistos

The palace complex and the city of Phaistos were built on a hill, offering a panoramic view, especially to the east, to the north, and to the south. The rich and fertile plain of Messara opens up ahead to the east for a distance of 40 kilometres. On the background, one can see the mountains of Lassithi. To the right, towards the south, the Asterousia mountains come into view. On the left-hand side, to the north, majestic Psiloritis dominates the scenery, together with the verdant hills at its foot. An olive grove with centuries-old olive trees lies to the north-west. The view is magnificent all day long, especially in the afternoon; this panorama alone makes Phaistos well worth visiting. Phaistos was the second largest Minoan city, and an important administrative centre of south-central Crete. The Minoan city covered a large area around the palace complex. Mythology links Phaistos to Rhadamanthus, a brother of Minos, whose dynasty is believed to have ruled in the city. According to another story, it was founded by Phaistos, a son of Hercules. Homer mentioned that the city took part in the Trojan War, led by Idomeneus, king of Knossos and the whole of Crete.
Lake Kournas

Lake Kournas

Between the cities of Chania and Rethymnon, at the north edge of the White Mountains, you can find Lake Kournas, the only freshwater lake in Crete. It lies in a beautiful valley and this is a perfect spot for an afternoon picnic. If there are any orts the ducks waddling around are most likely interested. The lake creates an fascinating environment, which changes with the seasons. In winter the water level rises and the lake grows, in summer it falls, revealing sandy beaches and the spring that feeds it – the Amati. The dark colours at the centre of the lake are the result of algae growth. The ecosystem of the lake and the River Delphina are amongst the most vital on the island, and indeed in Greece too. Correctly the locale has been included in the Natura 2000 network. It is a stopping place for migratory birds, and a spot where one meets many species endemic to the island, or the east Mediterranean. Whether you are swimming in the summer, walking on its shores, sailing in a boat, or on a picnic, Kournas Lake is a destination that can combine many activities – including lunch or coffee in the tavernas on the banks that overlook the turquoise waters.
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