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.
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Heraklion is the most vibrant region all over Crete. It’s home to the capital of the island, 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 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.
Map of Heraklion
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 fourth important city in Greece doesn’t close for Winter. Life goes on as usual in Heraklion. Lots of student 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 international airport of Heraklion “Nikos Kazantzakis” (HER) is the second busiest airport in the country. It receives flights from Greece’s most important cities all year round, as well as from the city of Larnaka, in Cyprus.
In Summer, many flights arrive directly from other European countries. People traveling from the IS, Canada, Mexico, Latin America, Australia, Asia, and Africa will 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.
The commercial port of Heraklion is located in the center of the city. It’s quite simply to get to Heraklion from Athens with by ferry. There are daily connections all year round from the port of Piraeus and the navigation time is about 6 hours.
The companies reaching the port of Heraklion are ANEK Lines and Minoan Lines.
Form this port it’s also possible to travel to different Greek islands in Summer. As far as frequencies are concerned, there are daily summer ferries to Santorini, and weekly services to Mykonos, Naxos, Ios, and Paros.
Three times a week, there’s a connection to the islands of Karpathos, Rodhes, and Kassos, in the Dodecanese.
How to move around in Heraklion
The fast northern highway connects Heraklion to all the other regions of the island. To reach the different coastal villages of the region, it’s necessary to drive along the Old National Road.
From Heraklion, there’s a road connecting the city to the Messara Plains and the villages near Matala. Another important road passes right in front of Knossos Palace and goes through the important wine area of the region until the village of Arkaloxori.
Just like anywhere else in Crete, there’s no better way to move around than driving your own car. If need more info, check this tips to rent a car and drive safely in Crete.
In Heraklion, there’s an extensive public bus network connecting the most important settlements around the region 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. Inside the station there’s a lounge, a restaurant, and a cafeteria, as well as a luggage storage service. From here you can take the bus to Chania, Rethymnon, and Agios Nikolaos.
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.
The old bust station is located in front of the Megaro Hotel (at 63 Efessou Street). From here depart the buses to Knossos Palace.
What to see and do in Heraklion
Best things to do in Heraklion
In this article you can read about the best places to visit in the city and the rest of the region. Discover wineries, museums, beaches, and stunning archaeological sites.
Heraklion itinerary for 1-3 days
If you have just a limited timeframe to visit the capital of Crete, head directly to this clever itinerary with things to do whether you’re staying for 1, 2 or 3 days in town.
This is the best self-guided tour you could find to visit the magnificent Archaeological Site of Knossos, just a few minutes away from town. Check the top things to see and the smart tips to visit.
Don’t miss a journey back to the Bronze Age. Walk along the corridors of one of Crete’s most outstanding museums to learn everything about the Minoan civilization.
Practical guides to visit Heraklion
Best places to stay in Heraklion
In this article, you can check the best hotels in the city center, as well as in other nearby regions, such as Amoudara, Agia Pelagia, Matala, Hersonissos, and Malia.
Discover the wine region of Heraklion
Pay a visit to one of the most significant wineries in the village of Alagni, right in the heart of the wine region of Heraklion, to learn about the different local grape varieties.
Gavalas Cretan Wines
Are you eager to discover how wine production works in a small family winery of Heraklion? We paid a visit to one of the best wineries of the region, in the Vorias village.
Best beaches in Heraklion
Check one of the most famous places in Crete, the hippie beach of Matala. Discover also the nearby site of Faistos, the Red Beach, and the ruins of Kommos.
Heraklion with kids
Kids are fascinated by the Minoan world and the myth of the Minotaur. If you travel to Crete with the whole family, check this unique theme park not far from the city of Heraklion.
Children are always big fans of dinosaurs. This dino-themed park close will fascinate both kids and adults with their museum, the dino hospital, and the fabulous 7D cinema!
Are you ready to explore Crete? It can be the trip of your lifetime. Get in touch if you need extra help to plan your itinerary. Or check this guide if you’re touring West Crete. You’ll find detailed info about where to go, what to see, where to eat, and more!
Coming to Crete any time soon? These fantastic resources will help you organize the trip!
- Start by heading right to my post with helpful tips to plan a trip to Crete, which goes over every detail you need to know, from when it’s best to travel to what documents you need, or how to get a SIM card. You can also check my post to plan a Crete trip with kids!
- Probably, you’re also planning to spend some time at the beach on the island. Check my guide to the best beaches in Crete to choose the one you like the most. Read this article to decide what area suits best to stay in Crete, or check this post is you still don’t know all the things you can do in Crete.
- Finally, to have updated information about the island, join my private group on Facebook about Crete and download a copy of my West Crete Travel Guide to have it always with you on the island!
Finally, make sure you’ve got everything you for a hassle-free trip!
- I never move around the island with any of these… my Osprey backpack has been the most loyal travel partner over the last 5 years. It’s sturdy, light, roomy, and super comfortable! I just love it. To visit the old town, archaeological sites, and museums, this little crossbody bag is always around.
- When driving around Crete, I always pack my Michelin map, clear, accurate, and easy to read and my Nikon D7200, I’m lost without any of them. In summer I also carry good sunscreen lotion, the sun on the island can be pretty aggressive.
- Greece, and especially Crete, is a fairly safe destination, however, I’m sure you know that it’s always better to travel with an insurance policy for complete peace of mind. My favorite? World Nomads. Already left home? Buy your travel insurance online now!
- Always bring with you a good travel guide to Crete! The best Crete Travel Guide I’ve found so far is the one published by Lonely Planet. It has all the information you need.
- Airfares to Crete can vary immensely from one airline to the other, make sure you always compare ticket prices with a powerful search engine. Getting to Crete can be really comfortable with an airplane, but nothing beats the romantic experience of traveling by sea. I always choose Let’s Ferry to visit other Greek islands or to travel directly to Crete from Athens. It has a powerful search engine to get the right ticket you need!
- If I need to book accommodation in Crete or anywhere else, I personally use Booking.com. Their Genius Loyalty Programme allows me to find better fees. As they say, the more you stay with them, the more rewards you get.
- Road trips in Crete are the most authentic way to explore the island. Find the cheapest rental car using a good car rental search engine. Discover Cars searches over 500 trusted rental companies for you to find the best deal. Compare prices for rental cars in Crete here.
- Sometimes, the best way to get to know a place better and make the most of your time on Crete is to join an organized tour. GetYourGuide has a great selection of proposals that help you save time and money. From cooking lessons to archaeological site tours, skip-the-line attractions, and even airport transfer!
Do you have everything you need? Then you just have to get ready to discover Crete, Greece’s most beautiful island!
This guide to Heraklion is updated regularly with new content.
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About the Author
Hola! I’m Gabi. I moved to Crete to explore the island all year round.
I love taking pictures and driving on the mountain roads of Crete.
I’m a beach freak and on this island, I’ve found heaven on earth!
The Tiny Book – Crete Travel Blog