Heraklion, the capital of Crete
There are four different regions in Crete, each of them with its own unique characteristics, fantastic landscape, and a collection for great things to do. Heraklion is the most important, developed, and populated of all four. It also hosts the capital of the island and this page is dedicated to everything there’s to know about it.
Heraklion is the most vibrant region all over Crete. It’s home to the capital of the island, also known as Heraklion, as well as of one of the most visited landmarks in Crete, the Knossos Palace.
The northern coastal area of the region is overpopulated with hotels and resorts. Yet, moving a few kilometers south is enough to discover the magnificent vineyard of Heraklion.
Coming across villages such as Zaros and Krasi, or the seaside town of Matala are worth a drive through the mountains and gorges of the region.
When to visit heraklion
One of the best things to do in Heraklion is to discover all the cultural centers, museums, and archaeological sites in the region. To do so comfortably, it’s better to visit during Spring, when the temperatures are lower and the number of tourists too. This way, you will avoid waiting in line and will also take advantage of more convenient fees.
Summer is probably the best moment in the year to visit Heraklion and the whole of Crete) if you don’t mind the crowds. Archanes, in the center of the wine region, celebrates the upcoming harvesting season. Other than that, the city hosts an important Art Festival that includes local dances, music, open air cinema, and theater plays.
Wine lovers will enjoy the busy months of Fall, when local wineries bottle the stunning wines produced on the island. During November, instead, you can be lucky enough to witness the joyful moment of raki distillation.
The capital of Crete and the fourth important city in Greece doesn’t close for Winter. Life goes on as usual in Heraklion. Lots of students from all over Greece move to town to attend the university. Shops, several hotels, restaurants, bars, cinemas, and museums remain open for business all year long.
How to get to Heraklion
The port of Heraklion is in the center of the city. It’s quite simple to get to Heraklion from Athens by ferry with the year-round daily connections from Piraeus. The navigation time is about 6 hours.
The companies reaching the port of Heraklion are ANEK Lines and Minoan Lines.
From Heraklion depart daily ferries to Santorini, and weekly services to Mykonos, Naxos, Ios, and Paros during Summer. Three times a week, there’s a connection to Rhodes, Karpathos and other Dodecanese islands.
The international airport of Heraklion “Nikos Kazantzakis” (HER) is the second busiest airport in Greece. It receives flights from Greece’s most important cities all year round.
In Summer, many flights arrive directly from other European countries. People traveling from outside of Europe can fly to Athens and take a connecting flight. The flight time from Athens to Heraklion is less than 45 minutes.
The airport is about 5 km from the city center which can be reached easily with a taxi or public bus.
How to move around in Heraklion
The fast northern highway connects Heraklion to all the other regions. To reach the different coastal villages, it’s necessary to drive along the Old National Road.
From Heraklion, there’s a road connecting the city to the Messara Plain in the south. Another important road passes right in front of Knossos Palace and goes through Heraklion’s wine region. Heraklion has an extensive public bus network connecting towns and villages all year round, with an increase in frequencies during the high season.
The new KTEL bus terminal in town, also known as Bus Station B, is at 102 Efessou Street. From here depart most long-distance buses. The station has comfortable facilities, including a restaurant and a luggage storage service.
From here you can take the bus to Chania, Rethymnon, and Agios Nikolaos.
The old bust station is located in front of the Megaro Hotel (at 63 Efessou Street). From here depart the buses to Knossos Palace. To reach the airport by bus, you have to walk to the back of this new station, the stop is right at the Shell gas station.