CRETE

Crete, an island of rare beauty that fascinates every demanding traveler. It is the southernmost tip of Europe and at the crossroads of three continents and five seas. It is the meeting point of different peoples, across Europe, Asia and Africa and it is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean. It is located in an extremely privileged location, combining a rare composition of geographic and climatic conditions. It consists of four prefectures: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Lasithi. The lti AKS Minoa Palace Hotel, located in Crete’s capital, Heraklion, is an ideal choice for exploring the entire island.

Mythology – History
Archaeological finds on the island of Crete prove the presence of humankind at least 8,000 years ago, during the Neolithic period which was then succeeded by the Minoan period, named after the governor of Knossos, King Minos. This period lasted about 1.500 years and was considered the “Golden Age” of Crete, bringing with it brilliant structures and distinctive architecture that almost reached perfection, since it was during that age when the imposing palaces of Knossos, Phaistos and Malia were built, and still stand until this day.
After the fall of Constantinople, many scientists found shelter in Crete, making the island a center for the arts, sciences and literature, inspired by the Italian Renaissance, by the classical aesthetics and the Byzantine characteristics. It was here that the famous icon painter Damaskinos studied together with Domenico Theotokopoulos – El Greco, while some of the most important personalities of Cretan literature of that period were Georgios Hortatsis, writer of the dramatic work ‘Erofili’ and Vincenzos Kornaros, writer of the ‘Erotokritos’. The Cretans are known to have a proud and unyielding soul and still maintain innumerable customs from those times, until this day. Cretan weddings can last up to days while copious amounts of the Cretan local drink, tsikoudia or raki are generously offered during their celebrations.

HERAKLION

HERAKLION - CRETE

Heraklion is a beautiful, seaside city that took its name from the sanctuary of Heracles. A city linked to the mythical Minotaur, a friendly metropolis, a beautifully diverse city with tall buildings and countless narrow streets and squares.

Sites worth visiting:
Hanioporta, that dates back to the second half of the 16th century, the City Fortress with impressive 3 km long Venetian walls, Eleftherios Venizelos Square, the central square of Heraklion with the fountain of Lions that features astonishing relief decoration on its basins. The church of St. Mark that was built by the Venetians, the metropolitan church of St. Minas, one of the most impressive temples in terms of size, location and the interesting wood carved decorations that depict images from the 18th century. You can also visit the Historical-Ethnographic Museum, the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, the Museum of Minoan Culture, the Museum of Cretan Ethnology and the Municipal Museum of the Battle of Crete.

CHANIA

CHANIA - CRETE

On the northern coast of Crete, 2 1/2 hours away from Heraklion, the city of Chania will make an impression, enchanting its visitors from the very first glance. The old town, with its narrow streets branching through the Venetian walls, is an inexhaustible place to discover on foot.

Within the city, visitors can admire the Cathedral of Chania, the church of Agios Nikolaos in Splantzia, the church of Agia Magdalene, the Lighthouse which is city’s trademark, Neoria, the guarding places of Venetian ships, the temple of Hassan Pasha, the unique Agora of Chania plus others. Sites of the wider area are the Venizelos’ Tombs that offer panoramic views of the city, the Chrysopigi Monasteries, the Aptera archaeological site, as well as the natural beauty of the Holy Apostles. In the city, there are several museums to visit, such as the Archaeological, Historic, Naval, Folklore and War Museums.

RETHIMNO

RETHIMNO - CRETE

At an hour away from Heraklion, Rethymno and its old town stand out for their alluring beauty. Rethymno is considered to be a living museum of monuments, and it still retains all those elements that have been fascinating the visitors for years: the Byzantine and Venetian churches next to the minarets and Turkish fountains, the old houses with their kiosks, the quaint streets and the arched passages, thus combining the Venetian architecture with the oriental aesthetics of the Ottoman era.
Samaria Gorge:
It is the most spectacular and longest gorge in Europe with a total length of 18 km. It has been declared a national park, in order to protect its rare flora and fauna, while it takes 6 to 8 hours to cross. The gorge offers spectacular views, beginning from Xyloskalo and following the river bed along a gorgeous forest with tall trees. The most beautiful part of the route is the so called Iron Gate, where the two sides of the gorge are only 3 meters apart and 600 meters high.