Insider's Guide to Heraklion

Major attractions, tips and our top things to see and do.

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Heraklion Suggested Itineraries

By Viator, November 2014

4 56 Reviews | Add your review

The fifth-biggest city in Greece, Crete’s capital buzzes with energy, mixing ancient origins and modern-day big-city bustle. Away from Heraklion there are beaches for relaxing, ancient ruins to explore, lovely villages and one of the world’s most famous gorge hikes.

Day 1: Heraklion

Follow the encircling Venetian walls to soak up the city’s medieval past, then spend a few hours boning up on Minoan history at the city’s archaeological museum. With your head spinning with images of bulls and topless goddesses, make your way to the excavated ruins of the legendary Palace of Knossos, just outside Heraklion. The reconstructions of the original courtyards, private apartments, baths and, in particular the lovely frescos, brilliantly convey palatial life in Minoan times. If you just can’t get enough ruins, head to Archanes in the late afternoon, to explore the ruins of the summer palace and necropolis.

Day 2: Around Crete


Next day, head out of the city to visit a classic example of a Venetian castle at Frangokastello, or explore yet more Minoan ruins to the east of the capital at Malia. Then get a taste for big town life on Crete at Hania or Rethymno. Both towns boast a stunning mix of Venetian and Ottoman architecture, with lovely old town centers to explore, Venetian harbors, museums, churches and mosques. Perhaps the best thing to do in Hania and Rethymno is to sit back and soak up the village atmosphere from a waterfront taverna looking onto the port.

Day 3: Hikes and beaches

For active types it’s time to dust off your hiking boots and walk Europe’s longest gorge hike, the Samaria Gorge. The legendary trail follows a riverbed enclosed by soaring cliffs, and the trail’s end is marked by a welcome beach at Agia Roumeli.

Or take your pick from a string of lovely beaches to reward your efforts. If you’re holidaying on Crete with the family, pack a picnic and head to Golden Beach near Hania, with everything you need for a day at the beach. For a more secluded swimming spot, choose Makriyialos on the south coast.

Tours & Tickets

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Santorini Island Day Trip

3.5 star rating: Worth doing 6 Reviews

Get to know Santorini on a full-day independent trip from Crete, and see as much of the island as you wish! Either soak up the sun with a book on the beach, or ...  Read more

Location: Heraklion, Greece
Duration: 12 hours (approx.)

From USD $176.45

Ancient Palace of Knossos Tour

3.5 star rating: Worth doing 18 Reviews

Explore the Minoan Palace of Knossos and the nearby city of Heraklion on a 5-hour Crete tour! With an expert local guide, walk around the ruins and excavations ...  Read more

Location: Heraklion, Greece
Duration: 5.5 - 6 hours

From USD $59.98

Full Day Tour to Samaria Gorge

4.5 star rating: Recommended 19 Reviews

Enjoy this excursion to the prized national forest of Crete, the Samaria Gorge - the longest and most beautiful gorge in Europe.

Location: Heraklion, Greece
Duration: 16 hours (approx.)

From USD $69.70

Full Day Tour to Spinalonga Island with BBQ Lunch

4 star rating: Recommended 13 Reviews

From the pretty village of Elounda, reached by traveling the northern coastal route, take a boat to the island of Spinalonga. This former leper colony ...  Read more

Location: Heraklion, Greece
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $77.19

Heraklion Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour

Discover the sights of Heraklion on this fun, open-top hop-on hop-off bus tour. Admire panoramic views of top Heraklion attractions and hop on and off at any ...  Read more

Location: Heraklion, Greece
Duration: Varies (1 full loop lasts 60 minutes)

From USD $18.99

Private Tour: Greek Cooking Class in Crete

Learn how to cook moussaka, meatballs, dolma and more on a 5-hour private Greek cooking class in Crete! As a local host talks to you about cooking on the ...  Read more

Location: Heraklion, Greece
Duration: 5 hours (approx.)

From USD $160.76

Crete Coastline Sightseeing Cruise Including Marathi Beach

Soak up the sun and the sights on this full-day cruise of Crete’s gorgeous coastline. Relax on deck as your boat slips away from the port and out onto the open ...  Read more

Location: Crete, Greece
Duration: 9 hours (approx.)

From USD $65.82

Imbros Gorge Hiking Day Trip Including Traditional Cretan Snack

Escape into the Cretan countryside with a walk through Imbros Gorge, a cool, rocky ravine that makes for an easy walk. Stroll for about 5 miles (8 km) through ...  Read more

Location: Crete, Greece
Duration: 11 hours (approx.)

From USD $53.17

Crete's Wine and Olives Safari Tour from Chania

Hop in a Land Rover and let it take you on a culinary and cultural journey through Crete. This Greek island is renowned for its wine and olive oil. On this ...  Read more

Location: Crete, Greece
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $88.61

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