Heraklion, Crete (Greece)
Heraklion, the capital of Crete, is the largest city and port in Greece. It has become one of the most visited places in Greece due to its excellent recreational facilities and rich cultural heritage.
According to HEALTHINCLUDE, Heraklion was founded by the Arab Saracens in 824 AD. on the spot where the ancient Minoan harbor once stood. The city was in the hands of the Saracens for 140 years. During this time, it became a haven for pirates who brought looted wealth here. In 961 AD Heraklion was conquered by the Byzantines. During the siege, which lasted a year, it was completely burned. All wealth was taken to Constantinople, and, according to legend, about 300 ships were needed for this. In 1210, power over the city passed to Venice.. Although the locals did not like the Venetians, under them the city turned into a cultural center. Many residents of Crete went to study in Italy. One of them was the famous painter El Greco. From the 15th to the 17th century, the city experienced its heyday thanks to the development of education, painting schools and church culture. This time became the “Golden Era” for the city. The Venetians surrounded Heraklion with fortress walls that have survived to this day. Every Cretan between the ages of 14 and 60 had to participate in its construction. The walls are truly huge, in some places their width reaches 60 m. Currently, you can see two of the four gates of the ancient fortress wall surrounding the old city: the Gate of Pantokrator (or the Gate of Chania listen)) in the western part of the wall and Jesus Gate on the south side.
Acquaintance with the rich past of Crete and Heraklion can be started from the Historical Museum. Finds of the Byzantine and Venetian period of rule in Crete, historical documents from the post-Byzantine period to the present day are stored here. But perhaps the most remarkable part of this museum are the works of the Cretan icon painters El Greco, Michael Damaskinos, Theofanis and Georgios Klontzas. No less interesting is the Archaeological Museum, which contains finds from different times from different parts of the island and where some of the treasures of the Knossos Palace are kept. In the Museum of Natural History you can see the characteristic flora and fauna of Crete.
In Heraklion many churches and cathedrals of various eras have been preserved. It is worth visiting the cathedrals of Agios Titos (X century), the largest cathedral in the city; Agios Mark (XIII century), one of the first churches built by the Venetians; Agios Minas and Pantanassa, where the works of Cretan painters of the 18th century are kept; the church of Agios Aikaterini, where an exhibition of works by Cretan Renaissance masters is currently running; the monastery of St. Peter and Paul (XIII century), which at one time was the most important monastery in Heraklion; The Cathedral, which is one of the most significant in all of Greece.
Among the more modern architectural monuments of Heraklion the graceful houses of the Miliara, Tsahaki and Chatzidaki families, built in the neoclassical style, the private shop “Bon Marche”, which combine elements of neoclassicism and characteristic Balkan architecture, should be noted.
Heraklion is famous for its fountains from the Venetian and Turkish eras. Especially for them, aqueducts, cisterns and wells were built. Venetian fountains are decorated in the style of old Heraklion.
3 km from the city are the ruins of the Knossos Palace, where a piece of jewelry depicting a bee was found, which is the talisman of Crete and is still being made by the jewelers of the island.
On the western coast of Malia Bay, 26 km from Heraklion, one of the most popular resorts of northern Crete, Hersonissos, is located., which is famous for its magnificent beaches and a large number of shops, bars, restaurants and discos that attract thousands of tourists, especially young people.
Agios Nikolaus, Crete island (Greece)
Agios Nikolaus is one of the most popular resorts in Crete. It is located in the eastern part of the island on the shores of the Mirabello Gulf, 80 km east of Heraklion. Agios Nikolaus is the administrative center of the prefecture of Lassithi. The resort is known for its microclimate, which is created by the mountains surrounding it; precipitation here is less than in other parts of the coast. In Greek, the name of the city means St. Nicholas. Saint Nicholas has long been considered the patron saint of Greek sailors. Agios Nikolaus got its name from the Byzantine church, which is located on the Limenas peninsula. The church was built in the 7th-10th centuries AD. Nowadays, you can see frescoes of the 8th-11th centuries here.
City Center – Vulizmeni Lake, which connects to Mirabello Bay and is considered bottomless. This lake is round, it has a diameter of 137 m and a depth of 64 m. According to legend, the goddess Athena (Athena) bathed here. The most interesting thing is that the lake is freshwater. The embankment stretches along Vulizmeni with many cafes and shops where tourists like to gather. Another popular place for walking is the Iosif Koundouros embankment in the western part of the city. Life is seething here around the clock – cafes, restaurants, bars and discos are open day and night.
In Agios Nikolaus, it is worth visiting the Archaeological Museum which was opened in 1969. The museum is considered one of the most significant in Crete. Here are the finds from the Neolithic to the end of the Roman era. Among the archaeological sites, one can also distinguish the ruins of the ancient cities of Lato (4-2 centuries BC) and Spinalonga (16 century AD). The ruins of Lato are located east of Agios Nikolaus, and Spinalonga – to the north on the peninsula of the same name. In Spinalonga you can see the ancient fortress, which was built by the Venetians in the 17th century to protect against the Turks.
To the east of Agios Nikolaus lies the Lassithi Plateau. Its average height is 1000 m above sea level. On the plateau along the valleys dotted with windmills, jeep safaris are arranged. During the summer in Agios Nikolaus hosts the “Lato” festival with exhibitions and performances by pop and theater celebrities.
The best beaches of the resort are Kitriplatia and Ammoudi (both are located near Lake Voulismeni), as well as Almiro, 2 km from the city. All of them have been awarded the Blue Flag of the European Union for the cleanliness of the waters and coastline.
Not far from the Spinalonga peninsula on the coast is the fashionable resort of Elounda, which is known throughout the world for its luxury hotels and golf courses. Istron resort is located 9 km from Agios Nikolaus.