Top Chania car rentals and Crete attractions
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Heraklion is the island’s capital and a pleasant surprise for first-time visitors. The Old Town is a maze of lovely pedestrian streets lined with shops and restaurants. Huge trees provide ample shade in the squares, where you can linger over a coffee for hours at an outdoor café. Heraklion is also an obvious base for visiting Knossos and exploring central Crete. Like many of Crete’s finest coastal towns, it gained its present layout under the Venetians, who ruled from 1204 to 1669, a period which saw a considerable cultural flowering on the island, producing artists such as El Greco, from Fódele, near Heraklion. The noted 20th-century writer, Nikos Kazantzakis (author of Zorba the Greek, 1946) was also from Heraklion, and you can see his tomb within the old town walls.
Before a visit to Knossos, to better understand the ancient history and people of Crete, go to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in the centre of the city. The findings from the palace are stored, preserved and displayed in the museum. There are frescoes, pottery, jewellery, weapons and sculptures from the Minoan civilisation, but also discoveries from the Neolithic and Roman eras. Don’t miss the implausibly delicate Malia Pendant, made circa 1800 BCE. Just outside the capital city of Heraklion, the Palace of Knossos once served as the political centre for the Minoans, who created the first sophisticated civilisation in Europe. At the entrance you’ll find dozens of certified guides eager to show you the wonders of the palace, from important archaeological discoveries to the mythological stories of King Minos and the minotaur. Get there early to avoid the crowds, as it is one of the most popular sites in Crete.
Situated on lovely Mirabello Bay in eastern Crete, Agios Nikolaos offers visitors a mix of the modern and the traditional. It is a medium-size port town that is extremely picturesque and has some style and charm, which it exploits to the full. The town’s Lake Voulismeni, which is lined with charming small cafes and boutiques, has been the subject of a number of legends. One myth is that the goddess Athena used to bathe in this almost perfectly circular body of water. Another legend claims that this beautiful lake is bottomless. Agios Nikolaos is one of Crete’s most popular tourist destinations.
Rimmed by more than 1,000 kilometers of coastline, and with stunning beaches backed by mountains that rise more than 2,400 meters, Crete is unlike any other island in Greece. It is the largest of the Greek islands and the fifth biggest island in the Mediterranean. The main attractions on Crete are the incredible golden-sand beaches and turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, but the island is also home to important Minoan archaeological sites, dramatic gorges, lovely cities with Venetian harbors and fortresses, and small coastal towns where you can escape to a leisurely pace of life. On the north coast are the centuries-old harbor towns and cities of Chania, Rethymnon, Heraklion, and Agios Nikoloas, the most popular tourist destinations on the island. The best places to visit on Crete for shopping, nightlife, museums, and cultural attractions are all found along the north coast. See extra info at chaniacar.com.