God was very generous with this island-diamond, cast on the south side of the Aegean. With the endless dream beaches, old Venetian cities, castles and palm trees, wild canyons and unique archaeological sites, cosmopolitan resorts and traditional tastes, climbing on top of the healthiest Mediterranean diet and the notorious Cretan hospitality, Crete dominates the visitor's travel agenda. Some believe that Crete is the crowded Heraklion, the beautiful cosmopolitan Chania, the historic Rethymnon or the picturesque and quiet Lasithi. But there are many more. Traditional color in the years of unchanged villages of the hinterland (Anogia, Zoniana, Sfakia, Asi Gonia), natural beauty (Samaria Gorge, Diktaio Andro) and "hidden" places, unknown to most, suitable for quiet family holidays.
Ideal for on-road excursions on the road that runs through the island, but also with 4x4 routes, the full of dirt roads Crete, requires the use of a reliable car. Smart Rent guarantees your road safety and promises you unforgettable holidays in Crete, the generous soul of the Mediterranean.
Heraklion, the gorgeous Grand Castle of the Mediterranean, which, despite the constant alterations of its physiognomy, still retains some elements that recall its rich and glorious history. A city of yesterday, with its Venetian harbor and its walls, which coexist harmoniously, with the vibrant contemporary capital of today, with dozens of choices in the field of culture, accommodation, food and entertainment. Walk through historic Handakas (Heraklion) and walk 25th August Street with its neoclassical buildings, the Venetian Loggia and the temple of Saint Titus. It connects the Venetian harbor with the Lion's Square and nowadays pedestrianized, it is the most beautiful backdrop of the sea. The temple of Saint Titus is an ornament in an equally beautiful square, a creation of the second Byzantine period where the saint's head is kept and the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary of Messopanitissa. Whether in daylight or evening, with special lighting, it impresses with its original elaborate figure, stained glass windows and its dome. In the Venetian Loggia (a club of the Venetian rulers) a magnificent work by Francesco Morozini, with the emblematic representations of Lion dominating, where the town hall of Heraklion is now housed. If you are lucky, you might visit a charity bazaar with handmade or second hand items. The temple dedicated to the patron saint of Venice, St. Mark, could not be missing from the Venetian-occupied Herakleion. After its restoration in its original form, as a three-aisled wooded basilica with two rows of columns, it now houses the municipal library, where very often cultural events occur. You will be pleasantly surprised to listen to the adaptations of contemporary songs to be performed by the municipality's philharmonic. Go across the most central and beautiful square of Heraklion, where the Morozini Fountain dominates. It is the hub of the city, a reference point for locals and visitors. Named by Francesco Morozini's manufacturer, to address the city's water scarcity problem. Apart from the four lions (a symbol of Venice) from whose mouth the water runs, the fountain is adorned with mythological representations, dolphins and coats of arms. At a distance of 100 meters, in one of the most beautiful and quieter squares of the city you will find the church of St. Catherine, which has been converted into a Ecclesiastical Museum with a modern approach, using multimedia, touch screens, etc. Besides priceless relics, books and manuscripts which is worth seeing, you will have the chance to get a good taste of the so-called "Cretan School" in hagiography. And a few meters further, the Cathedral of Saint Minas. An imposing temple in the city center. Outside the temple, on the steps leading to St. Catherine's Square, there is the 1941 bomb that never exploded. A little further, the Venetian barracks (Armeria), where the Venetian arsenal was kept. The natural ending of the walk in the old market of the city is the Kornarou Square, where the Bembo Fountain, which bears its iconic Gothic and Renaissance elements, is located. Right next to the Turkish Sembil, the fountain - kiosk, that today serves as a coffee shop. Also, the church of Peter and Paul, which belonged to the Dominican monks, after its impressive restoration, became another point of interest for the city. Also do not miss a visit to the Historical Museum of Crete but also to the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, where modern architectural trends marry with respect to the original philosophy of the building. After visiting the museum, relax on a bench or in one of the cafes of the square by looking at the pigeons. At the harbor stands Koules, the magnificent Venetian fortress that protected the state and served as a prison for prisoners. On the southern wall, the old gate - the entrance of the city to western Crete, the famous Hanioporta. South of the city are the Knossos Palace. Pick a cool day and head to Martinengo bastion, where Nikos Kazantzakis lies, one of the most spiritual men of the country.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL-RELIGIOUS MONUMENTS AND AREAS
The Palace of Knossos and the Ruins of Ancient Phaistos
The center of the first European civilization, which was Minoan, receives one million visitors a year.
Archaeological Museum of Crete
With exhibits covering a period of 5,500 years, with rare finds of prehistoric Minoan civilization until later years.
Archaeological Museum of Heraklion
A reference point of Minoan civilization, one of the largest and most valued of Greece, but one of the most important in Europe. The famous Disk of Festos steals the show.
Historical Museum of Crete
With exhibits from the early Christian years to the 20th century.
Museum of the Combat of Crete and National Resistance
With a collection - a memorial to the monumental resistance.
He guides us to the secrets of the Mediterranean Sea World, part of a Marine Research, Culture and Leisure Park
Agios Georgios (Dia)
Dia is a small uninhabited island, 12 miles north of Heraklion, where every summer excursion boats approach it, giving the visitor the chance to admire the scenery and swim in the crystal clear waters. Following the path to the west, we meet the chapel of Ascension, with the blue dome where there are two wonderful and quiet beaches.
The beach of Agiofarago is 80 km south of the city of Heraklion at the exit of the homonymous gorge. To get here, you have to drive to Messara and after passing Siva, reach the Odigitria Monastery from where you take the left dirt road to Kali Limenes. After a four-kilometer course, turn right and continue through the valley until you find an impasse. Leave your car in the large parking lot, but not under the few trees, because the goats in the area, in their attempt to eat the leaves, will destroy it. Then cross the canyon for about half an hour until you get to the beach. Prefer the easy hiking between vertical rocks and impressive arches, beautiful caves and stony lakes with crystal clear sea salt, where you can gather for household chores. You can also climb the rocks to the east, in front of Vourbulitis, an incredibly beautiful sea-filled pond. The view from above will enchant you, and when you get to the beach and see the deep blue of the sea, on the one hand licking the pebble beaches and on the other breaking - usually calmly - into the mountains that sink sharply into it, you will justify this choice.
As a fairy tale, the black Aspees beach is located in one of the most remote and inaccessible areas of the Asterousia Mountains, about 58 km south of Heraklion and 4 km from the settlement of Treis Ekklisies. Its name is due to the landslides made by the light-colored rocks in square caves of smaller or larger size. This view, combined with the lush turquoise sea and the dark sand of the beach, creates unique images. Access is possible only by boat from the nearest port of Tsoutsoura or that in Treis Ekklisies.
At the entrance of the imposing gorge of Midris, 63 km south of Heraklion, a single seaside settlement is built, where the ancient Inatos, the port of Prianssus, was built. It has tourist infrastructure, but it is also a destination for a quiet family holiday, making it the summer resort of the locals in the Libyan Sea. Swimming in its crystal clear sea is considered a medicinal one because of its high iodine and salt content. It presents archaeological interest, since in the cave, north of the village, there were tributes dedicated to the goddess of childbirth, Ileithia, clay figures and Egyptian figurines of faience. But even in the whole area, Minoan objects of incredible technological evolution have come to light which the American army secretly took to enrich its know-how. In the Kerkelos area (meaning Zeus's foot), the coast is full of beautiful caves and karstic formations. Drakospilia is well known and east of the beach lies Aliori, a small Minoan settlement.
Beaches of Hersonissos
Just 28 km east of Heraklion, it is probably the most popular tourist resort on the island. With clear seas, certified with blue flags and sandy beaches, it is flooded by thousands of people who want comfortable holidays in organized places. On the east, we find beaches clearly quieter. It is worth a walk to the lighthouse and visit the chapel of Agia Paraskevi, part of which is built in the rock. On Kastri Hill there are remnants of mosaics of the Early Christian church.
Port of Sarandaris
Contemporary picturesque bays, just 27 km east of Heraklion, start from the cape of Sarandaris and reach the port of Hersonissos. The beautiful beaches, such as Sarandaris, with turquoise shallow waters and fine sand, inside and out of the sea, have organized beaches for water sports, beach volley, etc. Many believe that the beaches of nudists are the exclusive privilege of the remote coasts of southern Crete, but also in the bustling north, they do not cease to breathe such beaches, even in tourist places like Hersonissos.
Kali Limenes Beach
They are the largest seaside village of the Asterousia Mountains, just 75 km southwest of Heraklion, where you can reach via an asphalt road. From the village of Pompia in Messara, you pass Pigaidikia, with many turns and a dangerously narrow street, but it is worth the trouble. The second choice is from the Odigitria Monastery, for those who want to taste the Asterousia wildlife, but also for those who visited Agiofarago. Against the settlement, the Little Island emerges, which the locals call "Apostle Paul". There are oil tanks installed for refueling ships crossing the Mediterranean Sea and the Suez Canal. If you exclude this, surely the tranquility of the calm sea enchants you literally. In Kali Limenes, on the hill there is Mikri Spilia, where Apostle Paul lived for two years, before continuing his journey to Rome and to the west, the beautiful beach of Stena.
Beach of Agios Nikitas
To the east of the arid and barren Asterousia, 65 km south of Heraklion, is Agios Nikitas. The fascinating route next to steep and sharp cliffs starts from the village of Achendria, ends at the homonymous Monastery after 15 km. Built on a large hill in the rocks, it dates back to 1640, with old frescoes and a burned ceiling from the Ottomans. The view of the Libyan Sea is exciting. Recessed beside the sanctuary, water runs from stalactites, which is offered to the believers as a holy water. A path of 230 steps, which starts from the Monastery, leads to the totally secluded beach, from pebbles and green waters. To the east there is a huge rock, where you can see the hooves of the Saint's horse. At Gerani cape, there is a lonely palm tree and 300 meters west of the monastery, we meet the chapel of Agios Antonios, a small forest of carob trees and next to it a ravine overgrown by the Palm trees of Theophrastus.
Agia Pelagia Beach
It is located 21 km west of Heraklion, with many small coves and beautiful beaches. It was one of the most important ports of the Venetian occupation. Here was the legendary Arkadi boat, during the Cretan Revolution, feeding the rebels with munitions. North, is the cape of Souda (no connection with Souda Chania), where ruins of ancient Apollonia were found. Further on, the cave of Evresys and a small sanctum, to remind of the finding of the image of the saint, some centuries ago. A few meters further, the beautiful beach of Filakes and to the east Vlychada, an artificial pebble beach where you can only swim from Agia Pelagia.
Asterousia have wonderful hiking gorges, such as Agiofarangos, Trafoula and Martsalos. But the most famous is Gafari, on Mount Psiloritis, which passes through the enchanting forest of Rouvas. Also, Krousson, through which the Minoan trail for Ideon Andron passed, and much more. Close to the town are the green canyons of Karteros, Kanaviano and others. Close to Hersonissos, the Aposelemis River Gorge is located. In addition to these gorges, in Asterousia, in the prefecture of Heraklion, many artifacts are housed, which are insured and used for the training of mainly new canyoners. Arvi's gorge is indeed a miracle of Cretan nature that cuts the Arvis Mountain in two, formed in a massive limestone of Mount Dikti. Along its entire length it forms waterfalls ,of which the most important is Kapnistitis of 85 meters height. The uniqueness is that it penetrates the earth's bosom for 150 meters and creates a cave with underground waterfalls and incredible paths. Without canyoning equipment, crossing is impossible and very risky.
MARINE SPORTS - EXTERNAL ACTIVITIES
Scuba diving, water sports, off-road routes, snow sports, winds, etc. Nature lovers will love it for the opportunities offered for canyonig, climbing, walking in the snow, visiting wetlands, Mediterranean forests, gurgling rivers and mysterious ponds. Smell the rare herbs and taste the fruit of fertile Cretan land.
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