Out of all the Greek islands, Heraklion is one of the most pristine, not to mention traditional. A paradise in its own right, Heraklion is a slice of Crete that will have you hungry for more. Whether you are a water sports enthusiast and want to witness sights from a jet ski, or are keen to tuck into authentic Greek cuisine, 2017 Heraklion holidays will definitely not disappoint.
As the capital of the island and the fourth biggest island in all of Greece, you can anticipate plenty of fun in the sun during your time in this coastal city. From lazy days at the beach, to evenings perfecting your etiquette at fine dining establishments, there’s something for everyone in Crete's largest city.
The birthplace of El Greco, Heraklion is a haven for holidaymakers. Charge your camera and get set for a history-rich tour around the metropolis. If the archaeological sites do not tempt you to book your holiday in Heraklion, the modern aquariums, traditional eateries and friendly atmosphere sure will.
Most popular hotels in Heraklion
At a glance
- Currency: Euro
- Language: Greek
- Time Zone: GMT +2
- Average flight time: 4h 5m
When to go
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Scuba diving professionals and beginners jet off to Crete every year to see marine life beneath the Mediterranean ocean's surface. Heraklion is a great place to dive and if you take a trip to the city's outskirts, you will come across Watercity. One of many water parks in Heraklion, it features whirlpools for the kids and daring slides for the older visitors.
Watch as ferries and ships dock at the local port, before getting a better understanding of the municipality's past at the Ottoman Vezir Mosque, Lions Square fountain and Agios Minas Cathedral. Numerous museums are based in Heraklion, including the Historical Museum of Crete, Museum of Visual Arts, and Lychnostatis Open Air Museum.
Wine and Dine
The staple ingredients used by the Ancient Greeks to prepare most dishes were milk, cheese, figs, grapes, olives and wheat. Culinary traditions haven’t changed all that much to this day, with most restaurants whipping up meals consisting of locally grown or sourced ingredients.
Fine dining and wine go hand-in-hand in Crete. After all, Greece was Europe's first territory to produce wine. Moscofilero, Assyrtiko and Xinomavro are three types of grapes that produce a range of fruity wines. Sink your teeth into a pitta bread drizzled in tzatziki, grilled meat and vegetables on skewers, or a pork-filled gyro at one of the area's recommended eateries. For a memorable gastronomic experience, book a table at Paralia Tavern, Herbs' Garden Restaurant or Peskesi Restaurant.
Don't forget to say efharisto, or ‘thank you’, once you’ve finished your meal. Since the Greek take their food so seriously, manners can go a long way when on holidays in Heraklion.
The selection of hotels in Heraklion are designed with family-friendly facilities, such as swimming pools and children's entertainment. As tempting as it might be to stay at your luxury hotel during a Heraklion holiday, it would be a shame not to discover what else the city has to offer. Young children and adults will be amazed by the jellyfish and hunter sharks they see at Cretaquarium Thalassocosmos. This aquarium is housed inside an old American military base, adding to its allure. Playgrounds, parks and Blue Flag beaches also make this part of Crete suitable for families.
Action and Adventure
Crete is an island with diverse terrain, from its caves and canyons to its coastline and countryside. Take the chance to get active when on holiday in Heraklion by joining a Jeep Safari to some of the island's most remote sections. Highly rated, ATV tours are fun for the whole family and will take you on a journey through forest trails.
Alternatively, spend a day splashing in the pools and experiencing various rides at Watercity Waterpark. If hiking is more your kind of thing, the mountaineering and trekking excursions, such as the Mountains of Ida day hiking trip, will satisfy the adventurer within. Boat tours and water sports are a must for thrill-seekers on holidays in Heraklion.
Life's a Beach
Crete is known for its sandy beaches, the vast majority of which have been awarded Blue Flag status. So, which beaches are worth visiting? Well, Matala is top of the list for its enchanting rock formations and well-maintained stretch of coastline. However, the 65-kilometre journey might be too far for some people who holiday in Heraklion.
An alternative choice is Agia Pelagia. This large resort is based 10 kilometres east of Heraklion and its beach is split into two sections. A profusion of facilities and amenities are on offer just like they are at the nearest beaches, Kalamaki, which is two kilometres away, Karteros-coast, and Komos.
Feel the intensity of the nightlife scene wash over you while you holiday in Heraklion. A broad selection of clubs and bars can be found in the town itself, as well as in nearby Ammoudara and Malia. Some nightclubs are open until the morning, whereas other venues present visitors with live entertainment until midnight.
For holidaymakers who are travelling as part of a group and really want to let loose, Amnesia, Apollo, and Banana are three must-visit clubs. Visit in summer and you can guarantee that a well-known DJ will be getting partygoers in the mood. Murphy's in Hersonissos is a club that plays a variation of music genres, as does New York club.
Planning on spending some quality time with your one and only? Stand atop one of the highest points at The Palace of Phaestos and take a few minutes to capture the beauty that surrounds you and your partner. This will be a moment to remember and if you manage to visit in time for sunset, the atmosphere at the ruins of this former Minoan palace is sure to leave you speechless.
Waterfront restaurants are a magnet for couples. Couples with an interest in history might wander around The Palace of Knossos, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, and Historical Museum of Crete. Kayaking to one of the secluded coves and stargazing on the sand is a romantic way to spend a day in heavenly Heraklion.
Mycenaean Greece is where the country's culture evolved from. Classical Greece had the biggest influence on Greece as we know it today, with the Roman and Byzantine Empires playing a role in cultural change. Its location between the east and the west adds to Heraklion's charm, where the religion originates from paganism.
Don't be surprised if you arrive in the city to a festival or celebration of some kind, because the local people take pride in dancing and singing to honour the saints. Listen intently as the sound of Greek music fills the air – a reminder of the inspirational artists who were born and raised in Greece, such as Theodorakis and Kalomiris. Commonly played folk songs you can tap your feet to when on holiday in Heraklion include Rebtiko, Nisiotika and Kantada.
Approximately 98 per cent of the country's population are Christians Orthodox, while the remaining small percentage commit to the Jewish, Roman Catholic or Muslim faith.