Iraklion (Heraklion or Herakleion GR: Ηράκλειον) is the largest urban centre in Crete, the capital of the region and the economic centre of the island. The first European civilisation, the Minoan civilisation, flourished on this land 5000 years ago. Currently the population of Iraklion is approximately 150.000 people. It is a very dynamic and cosmopolitan town, particularly during the summer period when thousands of visitors can be seen shopping in the market or visiting the museums and other places of interest. Today Heraklion is the top choice for tourist destinations in the Mediterranean. The city is also the commercial and scientific centre of the island. During the last 20 years the city has made remarkable progress in the academic and technological fields...
Hania (or Chania GR: Χανιά) is the capital of the Prefecture of the same name and the second biggest town in Crete, with a population of 60.000 inhabitants. It lies (Coordinates 35°31' N 24°1' E ) along the North coast of the island, about 55 km west of Rethymnon and 140 km west of Iraklion (Heraklion). Hania's old town (although it was heavily bombed by Germans in World War II) is considered as Crete's most beautiful urban district, especially the Venetian harbour with its 16th century lighthouse and the Mosque of the Janissaries ("Giali Tzamissi", built 17th century). Many of the old buildings have been restored as hotels, restaurants, shops and bars, making the old town a lively and colourful place, especially during the tourist period.
Rethymnon (GR: Ρέθυμνον) is the capital of the Prefecture of the same name and it is built between the two other large cities of Crete. The town still maintains its old aristocratic appearance, with its buildings dating from the 16th century, arched doorways, fountains etc. The Fortezza castle, at the top of a low hill named "Palaiokastro" dominates the town. It was built in 1590 to protect the city from the pirates raids and the Turks.
Agios Nikólaos (GR: Αγιος Νικόλαος), with 9.500 inhabitants, is the capital of the Lassithi province of Crete. It is built around a picturesque lake at the north-western side of the Mirabello bay, the biggest bay in Crete. Major administrative, cultural and communications center, Agios Nikolaos is one of the most developed tourist areas, not only in Crete but in Greece in general. Thanks to the beautiful coasts, the great sights and the cosmopolitan life, this lively city hosts every year thousands of visitors without losing one bit of its tranquility and traditional hospitality.
The famous Palace of king Minos and the centre of the Minoan civilisation 5km south of Iraklion. The Great Palace covered an area of 20.000 sq. meters and had 1.400 rooms. Every section of the Palace had a specific use. In the west side of the Palace were the chambers of the ceremonies, of the administration and of the public storehouse...
The most magnificent collection of Minoan art and culture in the world, unique in beauty and completeness is housed in this museum. The exhibiton of the museum is organized in chronological order, ranging from the Neolithic period to the Roman era (4th century A.D.) and geographically, according to the provenance of the finds.
Excavations began in Crete in the second half of the 19th century. In 1878, Minos Kalokairinos, an antiquarian from Iraklion, discovered the Palace of Knossos and did some preliminary excavation work there. In 1884, the Society for the promotion of education under its president, Iosif Hadzidakis, collaborated with Halbherr in excavating the Idaean Cave and the Cave of Eileithyia at Amnissos, and at both these sites wealth of votive offerings were found. In the same year the "LAW CODE" , an important ancient text, was discovered at Gortys.
The archaeological site, the palace, the findings - The Festos Disc. According to mythology, Phaistos (or Festos) was the seat of king Radamanthis, brother of king Minos. It was also the city that gave birth to the great wise man and soothsayer Epimenidis, one of the seven wise men of the ancient world.Excavations by archaeologists have unearthed ruins of the Neolithic times (3.000 B.C.).
From Neolithic Period (6.000-2.600 BC) to WWII. European civilization began on this island, the southernmost of the Greek isles, which lies symbolically midway between Africa, Asia, and Europe and which — punctuated by three major mountain ranges slashed by deep gorges — measures only 260 kms from end to end with an average width of about 45 kms.
Located in the valley of Messara, Gortys or Gortyn (GR: Γόρτυς or Γόρτυνα) is a must visit for all visitors to Crete. It was inhabited during Bronze Age times, but its rise to glory came almost a millennium after the downfall of the 'Minoans'. Gortyn was a prosperous city from around the middle of the 5th century BC through to the early 9th century AD, when it was finally destroyed by the Saracens (824AD), never to be rebuilt.