No stay in Heraklion region is complete without a visit to Knossos, only a few minutes away from the centre of town. This Minoan palace, dating from 1700 BC, pays tribute to one of the most advanced civilizations on Earth at that time. See how the kings and queens of the time lived, complete with great artwork, ingenious construction and sophisticated plumbing, all built over 3000 years ago.
On the other side of Heraklion’s northern coast, towards Rethymnon, you will come across Agia Pelagia, a cozy village surrounded by natural beauty and pristine beaches protected from the wind. Here stood an ancient Greek city once that was inhabited by the Minoans some 4,000 years ago. Further down the road and better known for its recent history, the very green village of Fodele invites you to a leisurely walk through its old quarter with beautiful stone houses. Worth visiting here is the El Greco House and Museum where haunting reproductions of the painter’s works are on display.
For a completely different experience, a one-hour drive to the other side of the island on the Libyan Sea will take you to Agia Galini, a small fishing village transformed into a splendid escape for beachside water sports and a good meal by the sea. Once there, visit Ancient Phaistos, one of the most important sites from Minoan civilization where ruins of a palace complex will enchant you. The neighboring city of Gortyna which destroyed and dominated Phaistos in the 2nd century BC, is also not far off. The town which flourished between 1600-1100 BC became a Roman city later on.
While still on the Libyan coast, head to the more secluded is Matala, an idyllic town that also was once home to many historic civilizations. Today it is well known for its caves, used in ancient times as tombs and in more recent times by the hippies of the 1960s.