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Heraklion: Crete’s window to the world

When you visit Crete, it is but natural for your first stop on the island to be Heraklion, or more specifically, the Heraklion airport or the Heraklion port.  Heraklion city, also known as Iraklion, is Crete’s capital city and window to the world – the centre of its economy, commerce and development, as well as the heart of its tourism and cultural endeavours.  Located 5 km east of the city is the Heraklion International Airport, the second largest and second busiest airport in the whole of Greece.  The city is also a major port of call for cruise ships and cargo liners.

A Brief History of Heraklion

knossos minoan palace near heraklionHeraklion is the jewel of Crete, and it is a status that it has enjoyed since olden times.  Very close to Heraklion is the palace of Knossos, the centre of the ancient Minoan civilisation, which is the first civilisation that ever grew in the European continent.

Though Crete coexisted with its neighbouring country of Greece during the Hellenistic period of European history, it was conquered by Rome in 69 BC in a military conquest by Quintus Caecilius Metellus.  With the fall of Rome, Crete became part of the Byzantine Empire.  In 1204, Crete became a holding of the Venetian Republic.  At this time, Heraklion became known as Candia.

Under Venetian rule, Heraklion and the whole of Crete went through an enormous cultural development.  This came to end, however, when Crete was taken by the Turks and became a territory of the Ottoman Empire. 

Crete finally gained its independence from the Turks in 1897.  In 1913, the island-country united with Greece.

Heraklion Today

heraklion and the heraklion portToday, Heraklion remains the cosmopolitan centre of Crete, with a population of around 200,000.  It is home to Crete’s premiere cultural, technological and educational institutions such as the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, the Historical Museum of Heraklion, the Technology Park and the University of Crete.

Crete is an important tourist destination not just in Greece but in the whole of Europe, and visitors to Crete enter the island mostly through Heraklion.  The island receives around three million tourists every year, especially during the summer months.

Some tourists come to the city via ferry boat.  Ferry boats travel regularly to Heraklion from Athens in mainland Greece and Thessaloniki.  Travel time through ferry boat from Athens takes eight hours, while sailing from Thessaloniki takes an entire day.

Most tourists to Crete enter the island through the Heraklion Airport.  The airport is also known as the Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport, named after the most important writer and philosopher that Greece produced in the 20th century.  As mentioned above, the Heraklion International Airport is the second largest and the second busiest airport in Greece.

Being a cosmopolitan city, Heraklion teems with life.  There are many sights to see and places to go for entertainment in Heraklion.  Bus lines serve as the main mode of transportation through the city, but the best way to travel around the city is by getting a rental car, which is easy to get and brings a lot of convenience to travelling around the city.

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