The center of Minoan civilization and capital of Minoan Crete lay 5km south of Heraklion. Knossos flourished for approximately two thousand years. It had large palace buildings, extensive workshop installations and luxurious rock-cut cave and tholos tombs. As a major center of trade and the economy, Knossos maintained ties with the majority of cities in the Eastern Mediterranean. Wealth accumulation and the advancement of an urban lifestyle were the hallmarks of this zenith, which began circa 2000 BC and was typified by magnificent monumental buildings and a complex social structure.
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
Operating within the wider University of Crete framework, the Natural History Museum of Crete fulfills 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.
Founded in 1953 by the Society of Cretan Historical Studies (S.C.H.S.), the Historical Museum of Crete (H.M.C.) 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. The process of enriching the collections, extending exhibition space and redefining the museum's aims has never ceased. Prolific research and publishing activity, the organisation of temporary exhibitions, educational programmes and the use of audiovisual media all form part of the modern educational role adopted by the Historical Museum of Crete over time. The same approach also includes the gradual re-organisation of the collections on display so as to appeal to a wider range of visitors, thus offering them the opportunity to understand the many facets of historical development on Crete.
The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is regarded as one of Europe's most important museums. The present building was constructed between 1933 and 1937 to plans by P. Karantinos, on the site of the imposing Venetian Franciscan friary destroyed by an earthquake in 1856. The museum brings together archaeological finds from all over Crete, covering over 5500 years of the island's history. Pride of place is given to the treasures of Minoan civilisation, the entire historical course of which can thus be appreciated. Justly regarded as the home of Minoan civilisation par excellence, the museum houses the most important collection of Minoan antiquities the world over. Since November 2006 the museum has been closed for interior 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
The Museum of the Battle of Crete and National Resistance (1941-1945) was founded by the Municipality of Heraklion in May 1994.The museum's aim is to collect, preserve and exhibit relics from 1941-1945 in an appropriate manner, as well 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 aims to cultivate interest and respect for the history of Crete.
The magic of the sea bed and the diving experience into such a familiar yet unknown world -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 north-eastern Crete, in Lasithi, next to the town of Plaka. It is near the Spinalonga peninsula ("large Spinalonga") - which often causes confusion as the same name 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 choose among 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, opened to the port. It has a diameter of 137 meters and a depth of 64. The locals refer to this lagoon by simply calling it "The lake". 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.
The impressive cave of Zeus, the God of Hospitality, Philoxenia as we call it in Greece. The Diktaean Cave, is located above the village Psychro in Lassithi Plateau at an altitude of 1025m. Plateau of Lasithi is a valley on top of the mountain Dikti, full of old windmills, small picturesque villages and great landscapes. The cave, which has an area of 2200 sq.m, is well lit and the paths in it come along a well-designed path of 250m length. 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”. The cave itself has been associated with stories like that of the seer Epimenides who "slept" here for 57 years, the kidnap of Europe by Zeus, the birth of Minos, the Harpies, etc.
The palm beach of Vai is one of the largest attractions of Crete. It features the largest natural palm forest in Europe.For tourism Vai was popularized 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 backpacker tourists from the whole world, leading to a mixture of chaotic campground and garbage dump. 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.