The center of Minoan civilization and capital of Minoan Crete is located 5km south of Heraklion. Knossos flourished for around 2,000 years. Large palace buildings, extensive workshop installations and luxurious tombs composed this major center of trade and economy, connected with the wider region of Eastern Mediterranean.
Operating within the wider University of Crete framework, the Natural History Museum of Crete fulfils all the roles demanded of a comprehensive, modern museum by keeping and developing collections, carrying out research into the natural world, contributing to teaching at all levels in the education system, promoting the unique nature of habitats, in Crete & the Mediterranean.The museum's impressive growth over the last decade reflects the competence and professionalism of its staff, as well as the growing need in society for proper information concerning the environment.
The Historical Museum of Crete was founded in 1953 and presents a comprehensive view of Cretan history from early Christian times to the present day. The original goal of those founding the Historical Museum of Crete was to collect and preserve valuable archaeological, ethnographic and historical material deriving from the medieval and modern periods in Cretan history. Extensive research and publishing, organizing exhibitions, educational initiatives and audiovisual media all form part of the modern educational role adopted by the Historical Museum of Crete over time, which helps us understand the many facets of historical development in Crete.
Heraklion Archaeological Museum is one of Europe's major museums. The present building was constructed between 1933 and 1937 to plans by P. Karantinos. The museum brings together archaeological finds from all over Crete, covering over 5,500 years of the island's history. Since November 2006 the museum has been closed for renovation. A small temporary exhibition housing the museum's most important exhibits is on view in a specially designed room on the north side, off I. Chatzidaki St. Exhibits include the Snake Goddesses, the Phaistos Disk, the La Parisienne and Bull Leaping frescoes and the "Ring of Minos".
The Museum of the Battle of Crete and National Resistance was founded by the Municipality of Heraklion in May 1994. Its aim is to collect, preserve and exhibit relics from 1941-1945, as much as to document and disseminate information on the people's struggle during the Battle of Crete and the German-Italian occupation. In addition to presenting a range of material witnesses to the past, the museum wishes to spark interest and respect regarding the history of Crete.
The sea bed is magical. This type of magic and the diving experience into such a familiar yet unknown world, which is actually the sea world of the Mediterranean, cannot be described in just a few words. The open sea of the Mediterranean, the world of numerous flocks of pelagic fish, marine mammals, as well as large predators and of course sharks! Open daily, 9.30 in the morning till 16:30.
Spinalonga is an island located in the Gulf of Elounda in the northeastern part of Crete, in Lasithi, next to the town of Plaka. It is quite close to the Spinalonga peninsula, which often causes confusion as at the same name it is used for both. During Venetian rule, salt was harvested from salt pans around the island. The island has also been used as a leper colony. Spinalonga has appeared in novels, television series, and a short film. You can select from a variety of boats, available to take you to Spinalonga during the day from three different ports: Agios Nikolaos, Elounda and Plaka.
The monastery of Saint George Selinaris is built in the heart of the gorge Selinari, near Vrachasi village and Neapolis. Next to the monastery passes the National Road connecting Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos, which is the main reason why Selinaris receives many visitors daily. For the Cretans it is considered bad luck to cross the canyon without stopping at St. George. This has prevailed since the past, when the travellers stopped here to rest with their animals.
Lake Voulismeni is a small but charming lake, located in the center of the beautiful town of Agios Nikolaos. In 1867 it was connected to the sea by a canal, which opened to the port. Panoramic views of this magnificent lake are offered by the park located above it. Every year at midnight on Easter, the majority of the city's population gathers around the lake to celebrate the Resurrection with fireworks. Local urban legend states that the lake has no bottom because of the depth which is unusual for the area. Also, cliff divers from all over the world are gathered here every summer for the famous cliff diving contest.
Have you heard about the impressive cave of Zeus? Zeus is the God of Hospitality, Philoxenia as we call it in Greece. This is called Diktaean Cave, located above the village Psychro in Lassithi Plateau at an altitude of 1025 meters. Plateau of Lasithi is a valley which is situated on top of the mountain Diktaio. This is where you will find old windmills, small picturesque villages and great landscapes. The cave features an area of 2200 square meters, it is illuminated properly. Additionally, its paths stretch over a surface of 250 meters. In Cretan mythology three heroines are closely linked to Minos: Pasiphae, Ariadne and Phaedra. Many archaeologists believe that Ariadne is closest to the deity of the cave and her lover, Dionysus. Most researchers identify the cave of Psychro as the mythical Dictaean Cave, as reported by Hesiod. Zeus was born and raised here, with the help of the Nymphs and the Kouretes. For this reason, this also called the “Bethlehem of the Ancient World”.
Vai palm beach is one of the major attractions on the island of Crete. It features the largest natural palm forest in Europe. Regarding tourism, Vai became popular in the 70’s by the last hippies who fled the hot-spots Matala and Preveli. At the beginning of the 1980s Vai was full of backpackers from all over the world. Vai was enclosed and declared as a protected area. The unique forest recovered and the beach became clean again. The palm beach, which belongs to the Moni Toplou, is the touristic center of East Crete, with thousands of visitors each year. Vai lies close to Palekastro beach, the town of Sitia and the Dionysades islands.