Starting from the capital of Crete, Heraklion, there are countless options for trips to the east, west or south. Chania, Rethymno and Agios Nikolaos is a triptych of cities that you should not miss when exploring Crete. Each city is unique, so you will need at least one day to walk around and discover its hidden secrets.
You can head to eastern Crete to visit Malia, Matala, Hersonissos, Agios Nikolaos, Vai, Elounda, Ierapetra, Sitia and Spinalonga. To the west, you can visit Rethymno with its unique old town and the Venetian fortress of Fortezza and Agia Galini. Continue farther west, to Chania, Agia Roumeli, Balos, Falassarna and Elafonisi.
Heraklion & trips
In order to get to know the city of Heraklion, you can start from the city centre where you can marvel the shopping mall at Daedalus Street, Freedom Square, the Basilica of St. Mark, the Lion Square and its lion fountain, the famous Archaeological Museum and on to Venetian Loggia and the Historical Museum of Crete, the Venetian harbour, the Venetian Fortress of Koule -Heraklion's landmark-, the seaside boulevard and the Museum of Natural History. Close to Heraklion -the new Cretaquarium Thalassocosmos aquarium is open every day - from 10:30 to 17:30 while if you happen to be in town Saturday morning, do not miss a visit to the flea market (bazaar).
For those who love nature, there are many gorges in Heraklion area, with most of them crossing the mountainous areas of Psiloritis and Asterousia Mountains. Near the city, you can find the lush gorges of Karteros, Kounaviano, Silamiano, Almyros and Venerato, while the most famous gorge is that of Gafaris on Psiloritis mountain that crosses the majestic forest of Rouvas. Your tour should also include the monastery of Savvatianon or Savvathianon at an altitude of 440 m. and 20 km west of Heraklion. This is a nunnery, where they keep the very old icon of Ioannis Cornaros, “Great is the Lord”.
The premises of the monastery include also a cemetery, an ossuary, an old mill, the guests' dining room, the old hospice of the monastery, the nuns' cells and the old water-tower of the monastery. At a distance of 200 m, you can also find the cavernous church of Agios Antonios that was deemed to have operated as a separate monastery.
Knossos, a major centre of the Minoan civilisation, home of King Minos and state capital, is built around the hill of Kefalas, 23 km/ 26 minutes* from Pela Mare hotel. We suggest that you start from Heraklion Museum, where you will get a first glimpse of the magnificent palace of Knossos, just by taking a look at the model depicting frescoes and rooms of the palace in their full form and also of other impressive findings. Continue on to the unique archaeological site of the palace, 5 km from Heraklion, where among other things, you will see the royal chambers, the hall of Double Axes and the Queen's chamber with the dolphin wall painting, the Procession Corridor (“Prince with lilies”) decorated with frescos, the Entrance (Propylea) and the famous Double Horns, a series of temples, treasuries, workshops, warehouses, the “Customhouse”, an expiation tank and a stone-built theatre. Great legends accompany the palace of Knossos, like the Labyrinth of Minotaur -which according to archaeologist Evans is the labyrinthine and vast palace of Knossos due to the complexity and multi-level structure of the buildings and corridors -and the story of Daedalus and Icarus.
The archaeological site of Gortys is located 59.6 km/ about 59 minutes* from the hotel. Among other things, you will see the Roman Odeon, the Temple of Apollo in the centre of the ancient Agora, the sanctuary of Egyptian deities- the only one in the entire Crete dedicated to Egyptian deities Isis, Serapis and Hermes Anunis- and Praetorium.
The ancient city of Phaistos is located 71 km/ 1 hour/10 minutes* from the hotel, in the fertile valley of Kato Messara. This is one of the most important centres of Minoan civilisation and was the greatest city in southern Crete in terms of wealth and power. You will be impressed by the magnificent palace of Phaistos, one of the most important Minoan palaces and the second largest (18,000 square meters) after that of Knossos. (*source: Google Maps)
If you love water sports or activities, you can select various fun activities at the water sports stand located in Agia Pelagia. There you can book water toys, ski courses, pedaloes / canoe, funboats / kayaks, glassbottom canoes, banana boat, ringos-rides, fishing trips with guide and of course, diving from the Diver’s Club Crete, diving centre in the middle of the main beach in Agia Pelagia, just 5 meters from the sea (from April until late October or mid-November).
Young children will love the water parks: the Water City Anopolis, the largest water park in Europe and Aqua Plus in Hersonissos, the first water park in the Balkans.
Activities in Nature
The majestic mountains of Crete invite you to explore them through dreamy trekking routes, accompanied of course by experienced guides. First on your list is the Samaria Gorge, the largest gorge in Europe (Prefecture of Chania, White Mountains), followed by Kourtaliotiko Gorge (Prefecture of Rethymno), the Imvros Gorge near Sfakia south of Chania, Agiofarago (Messara region, ends at the Libyan Sea), the Koutsouras gorge, the Mygias Gorge in Anogia, the gorge of Pines in south-eastern Crete, the Gorge of Pervolakia next to Kapsa Monastery (Perfecture of Lasithi), the gorge of Polirinia in Western Crete, the Rouvas Gorge, on the southern slopes of Mount Idi, the Portela Gorge, one of the wildest gorges of Greece and therefore preferred by canyoning enthusiasts, and the Zakros Gorge or Gorge of the Dead, south of Sitia.
An equally popular activity is mountain biking, often combined with mountain hiking and canyoning as well as rowing expeditions on the south coast with sea kayaks. You can choose biking at Lake Kourna or at the north-eastern coast of Mirabello or if you have more time in your hands, you can select more challenging routes up to 35 km, to discover gorges leading to hidden beaches, scented hillsides, cultivated hills and lovely villages of the inland.