Palace of Knossos / Heraklion
The Palace of Knossos, south of Heraklion – over an hours drive away, is the islands most popular attraction. Dating back to 1900 BC, it was the hub of Cretes Minoan civilisation. Minotaur was said to have lurked in a labyrinth. You’ll be led around the throne room and royal apartments,
With your explorations over here, it’s then on to Heraklion. What you can see here is, among others, the Venetian castle at the port of Heraklion as well as the Venetial loggia that is now the town hall.
Agios Nikolaos (or Aghios Nikolaos,) is a coastal town on the north coast of Crete, 10 klm to the north of our Apartments.
The town sits partially upon the ruins of the ancient city of Lato to Kamara, seaport of Lato Etera (major mountain town of Dorians). In the 3rd century BC, the two cities formed an administrative unit, they worshiped the same deity, Eileithyia, patroness of childbirth and had single coins, which from one part depict Eileithyia or Artemis and from the other the Mercury with the word Latium.
The town sits partially upon the ruins of the ancient city of Lato to Kamara, seaport of Lato Etera (major mountain town of Dorians). The local economy is based on tourism. There is a small lagoon in the city center, Lake Voulismeni. The lake connects to the harbor by a canal opened in 1870. The harbor constitutes a cruise ship station during the summer season. Agios Nikolaos offers the visitor all the advantages of a cosmopolitan tourist area and at the same time all the services of an urban center such an access to a modern hospital.
In Aghios Nikolaos you can visit:
-A park with pine trees above the lake offers panoramic views of the city. A stone path starts from this park, winds between trees and ends at the South side of the lake, where small fishing boats tie up.
-Spinalonga, which is a fortified island used as a leper colony. Some of the buildings and houses are preserved as archaeological sites and there are travel agencies carrying tourists by boat to the island and offering a tour to specific parts of the island that are allowed access.
-The cornucopia, a sculpture that has been made by the renowned artists Sotiriadi brothers and erected a stone patio parathin alos, so it has a background of the Gulf of Mirabello and the island of All Saints.
-The islands of All Saints and the Lighthouse, which are example of the Natural History. They are just a few meters one from the other, however, species of fauna and flora have evolved differently. From the middle of last century, Cretan chamois, the Kri Kri, have been moved on the island of All Saints in order to maintain clean the item.
Elounda is a seaside town on Crete’s northwestern coast, 15 minutes’ drive away Agios Nikolaos and 20 to 25 minutes from our Apartments. It’s an up-and-coming retreat that revolves around a colourful harbour, the main square, authentic Greek tavernas and friendly bars , it also comes with a sandy beach that looks out to the intriguing Spinalonga Island.
Its main beach is a 200-metre stretch of golden sand or after a 5-minute drive you can reach the pebble beach at Plaka, which comes with a promenade backed by tamarisk trees.
Spinalonga is also called the island of tears due to its past as a leper colony. Between 1903 and 1957, it was home to hundreds of Greece’s lepers, who were shipped here and then forbidden to leave.
On Spinalonga, you can take a guided walk around the remains of the colony, which was established within the walls of a huge Venetian fortress; you can walk at its main street with the old shops and houses where the lepers attempted to live ordinary lives and, also look round the old hospital.
On this trip, you’ll ride a boat from Elounda, where returning from Spinalonga you can have lunch in a local tavern.
Kritsa is located 11 klm inland from Agios Nikolaos and 20klm from our Apartments . It is a traditional village with old houses and narrow streets on the Lassithi (Dikti) mountains. Kritsa nestles in a bowl at the foot of the Dikti Mountains, under a red overhang of rock known as Kastellos.
From many points throughout the village there are views across the olive groves that produce delicious award-winning oil, down to the coast and up to the rounded Thripti Mountains that spectacularly fill the eastern view.
Places to visit on the way to or from Kritsa are the church “Panagia Kera”, where you can see the wonderful frescos painted in Byzantine times, or the well preserved ancient Dorian city of Lato, which is one of the most fully preserved cities in Greece and may be the best example of the Classical-Hellenistic period in Crete.
Ierapetra is the most populated city in the prefecture of Lassithi. It is also the fourth largest city in Crete and the southernmost city of Greece. It is located 20 km south – εαστ of Kounenos Apartments.
The city is located at the site of the ancient city of Ierapytna in south-eastern Crete, surrounded by a number of award – winning beaches, where you can enjoy your swim.
This region comprises some of the most important ecosystems in eastern Mediterranean, such as Chrissi Island. Today, the city is an important commercial centre for exporting agricultural products to Europe, constituting the main economic and commercial centre in the prefecture of Lassithi.
Chrissi Island or Gaidouronisi (“Donkey Island”) is located 8 miles south of Ierapetra, off the Libyan Sea. It is a flat islet, known for its tropical waters depleting the entire colour palette of blues and greens, its protected forest of large junipers and the thousands of shattered sea shells, turning sand pink.
Chrissi bears its name from the amber sand which has covered the entire island, mainly originating from the smithereens of thousands of shells.
The tropical beaches of the island are flooding every day with visitors arriving by excursion ferries departing from Ierapetra in the morning and returning in the afternoon. After a 50 minute trip, the ferry from Ierapetra will drop you off you on the south side of the island, where there is the only port, at Vougiou Mati.
Sitia is a coastal city of eastern Crete in the prefecture of Lassithi. It is located on the north-eastern part of the prefecture, in the innermost part of the eponymous bay, 50 km east of our Apartments. It is the homeland of Vitsentzos Kornaros, the poet of “Erotokritos”. Sitia has a small airport, through which it is connected with Athens and the Aegean islands.
The Palm Forest of Vai
Vai, or more specifically the palm forest of Vai, is one of the most popular attractions in Crete and at the same time one of the most beautiful and unique locations in the entire Mediterranean. It attracts thousands of visitors every year due to its beautiful palm forest. It currently occupies an area of approximately 250 stremmas and it is the largest palm forest in Europe.
The forest in Vai is protected by European Union and many related conventions. It has been characterized as an “Aesthetic Forest”, one among 19 in Greece, and a “specially protected area”.
Vai is located 24 km east of Sitia and about 6 km from Palekastro. In order to arrive to Sitia from Kounenos Apartments you will need about 1 hour, while from Sitia to Vai it will take another 30 minutes.
The Lassithi Plateau is a municipality, as well as a picturesque valley surrounded by mountains. It is located in the prefecture of Lassithi, about 45 km west of our Apartments.
The Lassithi Plateau is oblong, extending from East to West at a length of 10 km and a width of 4-5 km.
In the periphery of the Lasithi Plateau are built 17 villages. Above the village of Psychro is the Dikteon Andro at an altitude of 1020 m. There, according to mythology, Rhea, hidden from Saturn’s fury, gave birth to Zeus. It is considered to be one of the most important internationally known caves, with great mythological and archaeological interest. Inside there is a rich decoration of stalactites, stalagmites and a picturesque lake. The cave, which is full of excavations, has an area of 2,200 sqm and can be visited. The total length of the tourist route is 250 m.
Furthermore, the plateau is known for its picturesque windmills. In the 1950s and 1960s the plateau was one of Europe’s first wind farms.
The Aquarium of Crete
The creation of a large and state-of-the-art marine aquarium in Crete was a challenge for the Cretan society. CretAquarium specializes in the presentation of species and ecosystems from the Mediterranean, a sea of unique biodiversity which gave birth to primeval cultures and welcomes every year millions of visitors from around the world. In its 60 aquariums of different sizes, it hosts 200 different species of the Mediterranean Sea, representing the Cretan and Mediterranean seabed in the appropriate scenery. Furthermore, the Aquarium of Crete nurses injured animals and is continuously enriched with new marine species.
The CretAquarium building complex is located at the site of the former American Base in Gournes, 50 km from Kounenos Apartments.