The largest and most splendid Minoan palace on Crete fully conveys the grandeur of the first advanced European civilisation. The huge palace complex, the home of the mythical king Minos, dates from the 2nd millennium BC and astounds with the excellence of its architecture and construction. The Throne Room, the Piano Nobile and the magnificent murals that adorn the royal apartments and the halls elicit awe and wonder.
The second most important Minoan palace on Crete was built 4000 years ago on a plateau with incomparable views of the Messara Valley. This was the kingdom of King Minos’ brother, Rhadamanthys. The views of Mount Psiloritis to the north are breathtaking.
Heraklion Archaeological Museum
One of the leading European museums and a vast repository of Minoan artefacts, housing the world’s most important collection of prehistoric antiquities, including treasures such as the iconic “Phaistos Disc”, one of the greatest archaeological riddles in the history of mankind.
The Mountain Villages
The Cretan mountains are full of delightful villages characterised by wonderful architecture, age-old customs, and an authentic way of life. Discover the famous Anogia with its long musical tradition; rebellious Sfakia, like the wild west transplanted to the steep slopes of the White Mountains; charming Archanes, with its superbly restored houses and tradition of winemaking; the enchanting Vamos, a jewel of stone and ochre surrounded by olive groves; and the historic Theriso, famous for its role in the 1905 Cretan Revolution.
Europe’s longest and most famous walkable gorge is a spectacular rocky ravine that runs the 16 km from Omalos to Agia Roumeli. Its narrowest passes reach a majestic 500 metres in height. The Samaria National Park has been designated by UNESCO as a "unique biosphere reserve".
Crete’s most historic monastery is built in a stunning location at the top of a gorge, surrounded by vast olive groves and vineyards. In the centre of its courtyard is the 16th-century church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, an excellent example of Cretan Renaissance architecture with an ornately decorated facade. The monastery contributed decisively to the 1866 Cretan Revolution against the Turks and has been declared a “European Monument of Freedom” by UNESCO.
The Dictaean Cave
The sacred cave of Zeus, located in the village of Psychro on the Lasithi Plateau, is said to be the mythological birthplace of the father of the gods. It is impressively decorated with stalagmites and stalactites in strange formations, such as the "Mantle of Zeus" hanging over its lake.
The Fortress Towns
Aristocratic, atmospheric and timeless, the island’s fortress towns offer visitors a fascinating glimpse of medieval Crete: the fairytale Old Town of Chania, the “Venice of the East”; the Venetian Old Town of Rethymnon with its strong Renaissance ambience; and the imposing old Heraklion, with the strongest walls in the Eastern Mediterranean, overlooking the iconic Koules Fortress.
Built around the beautiful Mirabello Bay, the picturesque town of Agios Nikolaos is one of the most attractive and popular places on the island. The walk to the harbour with the elegant mansions around Lake Voulismeni is unforgettable.
Known internationally as the “island of outcasts”, the legendary Venetian castle situated opposite the cosmopolitan resort of Elounda was a leper colony from 1903 to 1957. Its eerie beauty attracts thousands of visitors every year.