|A point of reference for people and cultures in three continents, Heraklion occupies the northern part of the island of Crete. Full of excitement and spiritual adventure for its visitors, the area is the cradle of the Minoan Civilization that flourished and expanded approximately 4,000 years ago, leaving behind legacies such as the archaeological sites of Knossos, Faistos, Malia, Tyiissos, Arhanes and many more. The prefecture of Heraklion has several monasteries and a plethora of churches, samples of old architectural forms, housing rare and invaluable icons. Visitors can enjoy the warm hospitality offered by the monks and participate in a mass, and experience a contact with God and tradition.
Faithful to the Cretan gastronomic tradition, local cuisine is simple, original, natural and tasty. Taverns, restaurants and kitchens offer a wide variety of local delicacies, all sharing the Cretan olive oil as their basic ingredient. Wild greens, either raw or cooked, rich dairy products, fresh fish and a range of tasty combinations of meat and vegetables, form a whole, healthy and uniquely palatable diet. A glass of local wine or a shot of homemade "tsikoudia" are inseparable escorts for the magical combinations of the Cretan cuisine.
The prefecture of Heraklion has 26 gorges, some of them inaccessible, while the caves of the prefecture constitute monuments of nature, fascinating creations, decorated with stalagmites and stalactites in innumerable sizes, forms and colours. Located opposite Heraklion, the islet of Dia is the historical habitat of wild goats, offering them ideal living and safety conditions. Dotted with tiny coves and small sandy beaches, the islet is ideal for excursions.
The extended good weather conditions and the combination of mountain and sea create ideal conditions for sports, recreation and activities to suit all tastes, such as swimming, beach volley, windsurfing, ski, paragliding and other sea or land sport activities.
In August 2004, the heart of the Olympic Games beat in Crete, when the Olympic city of Heraklion -- the crossroads of peoples and civilizations, cradle of the first European Civilization and the home of Domenicos Theotokopoulos (El Greco) and Nikos Kazantzakis – hosted Olympic events, the preliminary football games, for the first time in modern history. Visitors can take in the city’s post-Olympic glow and legacy including the fully reconstructed 27,000-seat-capacity Pankritio Stadium, multiple construction and improvement on the road network, the reformation of archaeological sites, new anti-flood projects, as well as new athletic venues in various areas of the prefecture, such as new basketball fields and swimming pools.