Crete is surrounded with history and beautiful scenery. You will never get bored: always there is some new landscape or geological feature, some unique eco-system, or beach of outstanding natural beauty! At the same moment, Crete is a cosmopolitan island, whilst nonetheless retaining those elements which belong customarily to the folk tradition.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another way to experience the island of Crete is to walk it – by way of the E4 European Walking Trail, traversing virgin terrain and rare ecosystems! 91 hiking routes – Total length of 560 km!