Heraklion or Iraklion the birthplace of El Greco and Nikos Kazantzakis can at first seem a nightmare, particularly if you arrive expecting to see a picturesque little island town.
You find yourself instead in the fifth largest city in Greece, it's ugly and modern, a maelstrom of traffic, concrete and dust. But behind this facade and - as with Athens - you can discover a vibrant working small metropolis with a great number of attractive features which do much to temper initial impressions.
Heraklion is the capital of Crete and one of the Mediterranean region''s most fascinating and vibrant cities. It is full of places to discover. With the current efforts to open up the wonderful mediaeval city centre, it speaks to us of a past full of history and great events that reflect its location at the crossroads of three continents.
The city is also the commercial and technological centre of the island. It has a strategic geopolitical position in the south-eastern Mediterranean Sea connecting three continents and many different cultures.
It offers a wealth of museums, a summer-long arts festival, historical sightseeing, amazing nightlife and events throughout the year. Whatever the purpose of your visit, your stay in Heraklion will be one to remember.
Coming to Heraklion for the first time, the visitor nowadays may be somewhat surprised by the changes that are taking place in Crete''s capital city; Heraklion is celebrating its rich history and moving onwards to a future full of potential.
Where, at one time, the number of cars in the city centre would have made walking difficult, you will now find large city-centre spaces cleared of traffic. You can enjoy walking in one of the most historically and socially fascinating cities facing the Mediterranean, on streets free from traffic noise and rush.
Heraklion is my hometown so I'd be glad to help you with this question. Ok herakion's center isn't that big so you can walk it and see some beautiful Venetian monuments. Koule castle on the port, the old walls, liontaria and a bunch of other beautiful buildings are all in about an 1km radius. Don't miss the archeological museum since it's the oldest in Greece and also holds the oldest exhibits (from Minoan era). If you want to go to the palace Knossos on the other hand you might want to grab a cab cause it's a little outside town. If you are looking for nightlife, on this time of the year the locals are in pubs and bars around center and clubs on the port side. If you are looking to get wasted with other tourists you can go hersonissos or malia which are both around 5-10 km outside heraklion although I wouldn't suggest it. For food, do not miss Cretan souvlaki which is absolutely the best and also there are some taverns that serve Cretan kitchen. My favorite is the one called "peskesi". For beaches I would not suggest those that are too close to the city. Get a vehicle and go to "Kokkini", "Ligaria" or "Agia pelagia". Also if you drive, since you are staying for a week, Matala and other beautiful places on the south side are relatevily close. For Crete in general there are many beautiful places you want to be really. I dont know if a week is enough. Vai beach, Elounta and keratokampos on the east side, Gaidouronissi and Gavdos islands, Sfakia village, Agia Galini, Elafonisi, Balos, Fraggokastelo, Paleohora and the most beautiful city of Crete Chania are some of the musts. If you have more questions I'd be happy to help you with my bad English :)
Santorini is not that close to Heraklion. The ferries used to take more than 5 hrs to get there (and back). The catamarans now are much faster but still need 2 hrs to get there (from what I read).
So the boat has to leave early, in order to give you enough time on Santorini itself.
However you need to consider that the trip you suggested, including getting to stations, waiting for the means to leave, and the return trips will take more than 11 hours in total. So you should plan on sleeping on the bus and boat.
You should also consider checking for flights. I expect there will be direct flights from Chania.
If you want to do the boat thing anyway, don't go booking in advance. You will need to check the weather and pick the best day to travel. Travelling by sea is subject to wind. If it's really windy, the trip will not be pleasant, or might even get cancelled (unlikely, but possible).
The visitor may be a little surprised by the changes that are taking place in Crete’s capital city; Heraklion is celebrating its rich history and moving forward to a future full of potential. The number of cars once made walking in the city centre difficult but now you will find large spaces free of traffic. You can enjoy your walk in one of the most fascinating Mediterranean cities that combines traditionally friendly people, fine buildings, open public spaces and view to the sea. Listen to the city’s monuments telling stories about the island that gave birth to gods and revolutions and be inspired by the spirit of Crete.
Heraklion today is living between the fast moving currents of regeneration and a deep desire to maintain links with a past. Both these features define its character. In the last hundred years alone, we have seen huge changes in the buildings and the streets that reflect the changing fortune of Crete. The ‘old town’ is of medieval origin and now offer visitors some fantastic walks in the heart of the city.
If you begin a walk around Heraklion, starting at the fishing harbour close to the modern port, what will strike you first is the Venetian fortress at the harbour gate. The fortress was originally built by the Venetians and called Rocca al Mare but now it is known by its Turkish name, Koules. It has a mixed history; for centuries it was used for protection against invaders, like the great walls and ditches of the city did. These are among the longest city walls in Europe.
In its long history Heraklion gave impressive samples of architecture, sculpture and pottery and brought out great painters and writers. The large number of monuments with wall paintings throughout Crete from the 11th until the 15th century is impressive.
With the fall of Constantinople, but also before that, many famous and anonymous artists took refuge in Venetian Crete where the ideas they brought from the great capital were met and artistically developed with the tradition of the island. With the spreading of the Cretan School in the Balkans and the Mediterranean area (1450-1700), a huge artistic movement was created. This movement reaches its peak in the 6th century and gradually fades with the fall of Candia (1669) and the beginning of the Ottoman rule on the island.
The Heraklion weather in November brings an increase in rain compared to summer and early autumn, but this beautiful Greek resort on the north coast of Crete is still warm and pleasant. Many people love this time as the summer crowds have disappeared and most days have good sunshine and temperatures, making walks through the town and on the beach great fun.