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What to see in Greece

Heraklion

Heraklion

Are you wondering what to see in Heraklion? This region of the beautiful island of Crete is known for its many archaeological sites, as well as its white sandy beaches and warm waters. Take a virtual walk with Exoticca through an amazing part of the Greek Islands.

 

What to see in Heraklion: the region

Matala beach, to the south

Matala beach owes its reputation to the communities of hippies who arrived there in the 1960s and 70s. The movement that proclaimed peace and love as the meaning of life was not immune to the charm of the warm waters that bathe the Cretan coast, nor to the golden sands where they paraded their flowery clothes. Matala also has a complex of caves that have served as a refuge. Part of the complex is natural, but another part was excavated during prehistoric times.

As for its location, Matala beach is about 70 km south of the city of Heraklion. You can choose Matala as your base of operations to visit the ruins of the Festos Palace and the Minoan village of Agia Triada.

Festos Palace

The palace of Festos, or Phaistos, is just over 50 km south of the town centre of Heraklion and very close to Matala beach. The palace was built between 1650 and 1400 BC and is one of the best preserved examples of Minoan architecture. The palace became the official residence of King Radamante, the ancestor of Minos

It comes second in our list of what to see in Heraklion, not only because of its beauty, but because it is part of the complex known as Agia Triada.

The palace of Festos houses a courtyard for celebrations, a staircase, a peristyle, an archive whose contents can be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, the royal chambers and other rooms.

Minoan settlement of Agia Triada

Only 3 kilometres from the palace of Festos is the archaeological complex of Agia Triada. This was a Minoan settlement built around 1600 BC consisting of a small palace and the layout of the village that surrounded it.

Moreover, Agia Triada also has the chapel of Agios Georgios, which dates from the period of Venetian occupation. It is worth knowing that this site usually receives fewer visitors, so it is a great place to enjoy in solitude and appreciate the richness of its architectural details and the elegance of its construction.

 

What to see in Heraklion: The city

Heraklion is the capital of this small but rich region of the island of Crete and has its own places of interest. We are including two places to see in Heraklion among our list of recommendations.

Koules fortress

This fortified site was built in the 13th century, during the period of greatest splendour of the Venetian occupation, and it stands today at the entrance to the port of Heraklion. Its main purpose was defensive, but it was destroyed by an earthquake and we do not know what it originally looked like. The current building dates back to 1525 and shows the remodelling undertaken after the earthquake.

It has served a variety of functions at different times, from a barracks and powder store to a warehouse and prison. Many of the heroes of the Greek war of independence, which resulted in the liberation of the country from Ottoman oppression, were imprisoned and tortured in the Koules fortress.

Fortunately, all this history has been consigned to the past and it now offers the traveller a beautiful walk to take at sunset.

The new port of Heraklion

This is the port where large ships and cruise ships bring most of the tourists visiting Crete. The ferries and shuttles that connect the Peloponnese peninsula with the Aegean islands also sail from here.

It is a Mediterranean-style port, perfect for walking and savouring Greek gastronomy. It is also the perfect place to book trips to the nearby islands.

Heraklion Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum must be included in any guide of what to see in Heraklion. It is an essential visit for anyone who wants to fully appreciate the beauty and meaning of the Minoan culture. Its exhibition halls house what is undoubtedly the best collection of Minoan art in the world.

 

What to see in Heraklion, to the north

Knossos palace

The most essential visit, not only in Heraklion, but the whole of Crete, is the palace of Knossos. It is only 5 km south of the city of Heraklion, and the rebuilding work that has been carried out inside makes it the best possible setting to experience what life was like in antiquity.

Minoan culture was one of the most advanced of its time, but there are also Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments at Knossos. 

Fodele, the village of El Greco

El Greco owes his nickname to the country where he was born: Greece. His real name was Domenikos Theotokopoulos and the most beautiful and spectacular examples of his art can be seen in Toledo, Spain. His birthplace, however, is Fodele, a village south of Heraklion. The artist lived and spent the first years of his childhood here.

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