Purple Hearts Heraklion Travel Guide
It’s hard to pinpoint just one bit of this gorgeous island to focus on. It’s in a great location right in the middle of Africa, Europe and historically, Asia Minor. The weather is heavenly, with hot summers of at least 30 degrees, and waters of up to 27. And it’s even the place where Zeus is said to have grown up, so if it’s good enough for a God… Heraklion is good enough for us!
You may have heard a little something about the beaches in Crete, but they really have to be seen to be believed. Sun-kissed and sandy, the beaches of Crete and Heraklion in particular are quite simply a joy.
For sporty types: Kokkini Hani is a little sandy beach just over 15 miles from Heraklion is a wind-surfer’s dream, it’s known for its north-west winds.
Family Ties: Amoudara has a three mile-long organised beach, with long stretches of warm sand to whip up a sandcastle and crystal waters to take a refreshing dip when tired hands demand it.
Best for beach bars: Ayia Pelagia, the long sandy beach of Malia, is about a half hour drive from Hearklion, but is well worth it for the soft sandy beach and vibrant atmosphere.
Ideal for everything: Matala. In a small valley, you’ll find this beautiful long beach in a quiet bay. Made famous in the ’70s after it was ‘discovered’ by hippies, it’s long been a top choice with visitors. It’s got every activity and amenity you can think of – from umbrellas, water sports and beach volley courts to heaps of bars, restaurants and cafes.
Acqua Plus Water Park: A whopper of a water park at 50 acres, it’s situated just round the corner from Crete Golf Club. It’s surrounded by lush gardens and the slides are hidden between towering palm trees. It’s home to dozens of slides, pools and games, which is more than enough to keep little ones on their toes for a day (or even two!).
Watersports: If you’re not content with the water park, you’ll be able to find plenty more water activities during your time in Heraklion. Thanks to gorgeous, crystal clear waters, snorkelling is a must, while jet-skiing, banana boating, pedaloes, canoeing and windsurfing are growing steadily more popular.
Historical Museum of Crete: A great place to take the kids to learn about the evolution of this wonderful city. On top of that you’ll find paintings by the famous artist El Greco and contemporaries.
Hiking: You know that bit in the middle of your holiday when you’re thinking, ah, really I need to do some exercise, we’ve got just the ticket – a network of hiking trails crosses the region across the mountains. The E4 trailer goes across Mount Psiloritis in the west to Mount Dikti in the east. You’ll find lovely villages, with traditional oil or wine pressing, springs to enjoy fresh water and stunning views.
Festivals and religious celebrations: Crete is filled with celebrations throughout the year. Usually centreing on food and culture, there’s always something going on. One of the most vibrant is the Heraklion Summer Festival, held by the local council to celebrate the rich culture.
Cretan Ethnology Museum: Discover the historic folk life of the island at this cosy museum, home to metalworks, furniture and pottery that demonstrate a culture that dates back thousands of years.
Greece is famous for its music and Crete is no different. Of course you’ve got the busy, super clubs but there are lots of traditional treats in store if you go looking for them.
Get into the folk spirit in Big Fish or Zatheri two well-known clubs in the centre of Heraklion. There you’ll find the best in Cretan music. Grab yourself a tiny glass of the local Raki (it’s strong stuff!) and let your mind drift along to the sounds of the live lyra.
Of course, if you like your nights out a little more action packed, the big clubs in Heraklion like Amnesia, Banana, Status, and Zig Zag offer everything from pumping sound systems, laser light shows and epic parties, to make sure you get the clubbing experience you’re looking for.
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Heraklion is the largest region of Crete and it has got the most people, but that doesn’t mean it’s bustling with busy bodies constantly. A quick trip outside the city limits and you’ll find yourself surrounded by olive groves and vineyards, charming little villages and ancient history brought to life.
The vast site of Knosses is unmissable. Once the royal family’s home, it was also the admin centre of the region. It’s got a Throne Room, a West Wing, even a Double Axes Room, how Game of Thrones!
Practically next door you’ll find Arhanes, an ancient palace complex which was home to the Turks and was a huge ancient Minoan settlement.
Ta Leonataria: The beloved landmark of ‘The Lions’ is right in the middle of town. It was once the centre of the colony during Venetian times, now the stately marble fountain is one of the city’s favourite spots.
Loggia: In the centre of Heraklion you’ll find the Loggia, one of the best monuments to showcase Crete in Venetian times. It was a place built for noblemen to gather and talk about the important economical and social issues of the time. Now it’s Heraklion Town Hall, but still worth a look to see it in all its architectural wonder.
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Everything. Eat it all. Crete is known, even in Greece, as a foodie’s heaven. A perfect time to go is in July when the Wine Festival of Daphnes kicks off. You’ll find lots of interesting foods on offer, from snails cooked with groats (a kind of grain), rabbit with herbs, and lots and lots of pastries, with savoury cheese fillings or dripping in honey. We’re drooling just at the thought.
Loukoulos: is seen as one of the best restaurants in the city, with delicious pastas and meats on offer, while it prides itself on stealing visitors hearts!
Kounies: A taverna offering great views to the sea and delicious meat and fish, it’s hard to beat Kounies for a top notch dinner out.
Vromiko: This isn’t the name of a particular restaurant, but the delicious street food you can pick up anywhere and everywhere. Getting acquainted with souvlaki, the famous Greek kebabs is a must. For next to nothing you’ll get a belly fill of delicious chicken or pork, wrapped in pita to keep you going.
Ippokambos: A favourite with locals, this place is famous for its seafood. Imagine the freshest fish you can think of, cooked simply but perfectly. This place is usually busy, so it’s a good idea to book ahead.
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