The capital of the island and the largest city. In the middle of the north coast, is also the transport hub with the international airport and the sea port, resulting in that most of tourism traffic arriving in Crete will pass from Iraklion at least twice.
The city has a population of 120.000 the fifth largest in Greece.
Iraklion in ancient times serves as a port of Knossos but it is only in the 9th century AD that it appears as a town founded by the Saracens, at that time occupiers of Crete.
It soon became the slave trade center in the Mediterranean, to be soon after taken over by the Venetians who built immense fortification walls, that stand intact even today, called it Kandax which was later paraphrased to become Candia.
During the four centuries of the Venetian occupation of Crete, many buildings were erected that are excellent examples of Venetian Architecture of that time, and many of them exist today.
The Basilica di San Marco and the Loggia are two such specimens, while the Morozini fountain with its four lions has even given its name in the central spot of the town.
A busy town, a communications hub that receive and distribute most tourism traffic arriving on the island, but light industry and Agriculture in the periphery, also affect the life.
Iraklion is very privileged today, to have in its suburb list, famous names like Knossos, the most prominent city of the Minoan era.
Linked directly with Knossos, is the Iraklion Archaeological Museum housing most findings not only from Knossos but other Minoan Palaces like Phaestos in the south, Malia on the east and Zakros at the extreme east of Crete. Of course, one will find many more items exposed in this very interesting museum from numerous other excavations around the island which is definitely not short of history. There are more museums in Iraklion but those of Byzantine art and the private of Nikos Kazantzakis have to be mentioned for their importance.Now let us get on our jeep because we are going to race together around Crete, to have a quick glimpse of the island.
Let's go then. We drive south, leaving Iraklion passing through its Hanioporta gate on the way to Mires. In our first stop in Messara plain we will visit the site of Gortys the Roman capital of Crete, Agia Triada, and of course the Minoan Palace of Phaestos. A refreshing stop for a swim in the Lybian sea waters, at Matala, and immediately after to Agia Galini the small resort hanging on the cliff above the fishing port.
Our route will take us to Plakias and further but we do not have time to stop at Preveli because after a stop in Fraggocastello we arrive in Sfakia. Here we park the car by the small port, to take the boat for Agia Roumeli. We are going up to Samaria Gorge the lazy way. We just walk for an hour or so until we arrive at the Iron Gate and return to get the boat back to Sfakia.
Now drive up to Hania the 18th century capital of Crete with its charming old town surrounding the Venetian harbor.
The road takes us due east on the way to Rethymnon the trendy resort of Crete with its beautiful beaches and the modern hotels. A brief stop will be the historic monastery of Arkadi but the next part is even more exciting.
We take the road climbing the slopes of Psiloritis,to the unique village of Anogia, all the way up to Idaion Andron the cave on the Nida plateau. Part of the road is not even paved yet but with such scenery never mind the dust.
Down we go now to Iraklion via Tilissos and we should stay here tonight. There are so many hotels, it will not be difficult to find a room.
Tonight we can try one of the many taverns of Iraklion hidden in the back streets for a Cretan meal and perhaps some drinks later at Lion's square. In the morning we have an other long trip to take.
We start with the palace of Knossos and then on to Archanes.
From there we are going to cross the vineyards of Iraklion past Peza and Agies Paraskies on our way south east via Arkalohori to Ano Viannos. A brief stop to refresh with a drink under the Old Oak in the village center and then on to Ierapetra for a boat trip to Chrisi island the last European land in the south.
When we are back from this little paradise, we drive another unconventional route north of Ierapetra to Kato Horio on our way to Thripti Plateau and from there to a high peak at 1500m at Afentis. The view here is breathtaking. Half of Crete is at your feet.
Now we decent to Orino and carry on our way to Sitia to visit the palm forest of Vai, after a quick stop at Toplou on the way. After a dip in Vai we are going south to Kato Zakros because there is one more of these Minoan Palaces to visit and a nice beach to swim.
Late tonight we will be back in Iraklion. That is when we separate. You can find your own resort and the hotel you like at the price you want. Maybe, one day, we meet again on this beautiful island, but in the mean time ...
Have a nice holiday in Crete!!