Heraklion sights and places to see
For something different, take a ride on one of the little road trains that run along the sea front or tour further afield. The trains are styled to look like old-fashioned steam trains, which is part of their attractiveness. One route that is taken by the Little Red Train company is the Galatas Country Tour. It drives through orange groves in the valleys to the south of the main road, making a brief stop at Ayia Lake to admire the reflection of the snow-clad mountains reflected in the lake and then on to the Allied War Memorial. It stops also at the village square at Galatas to visit the church and the small museum. Such trains have several advantages. There is no glass in the windows so photographs can be taken from the moving train without getting reflections and secondly, as the train has no tracks, it can go just about anywhere. You don"t even have to walk to the nearest station if your hotel is on route it will stop and pick you up.
The suburban areas around the centre of the town are not significant but, the old city within its walls is still, today, moving and impressive and is full of shops, public squares, cafes, bars and restaurants and imposing structures depicting Heraklion"s long history. , amongst which are a variety of different buildings from the periods of Venetian and Turkish occupations. These include the tremendous Venetian castle which protects the port, the Venetian Loggia, The impressive Byzantine church of Agios Titus, The Lions Square, (full of young people both locals and visitors), the cathedral of Agios Minas and the church of Aghia Ekaterini. There is the Central market which is lined with shops selling everything you can think of as well as plenty of taverns and small cafes. For a more romantic setting, the small port of Megalos Koules is lined with fish taverns where you can admire the sunset and watch the little fishing boats coming and going. On a spiritual, intellectual and artistic level, Heraklion has something for everyone. There are wonderful churches and cathedrals, museums and exhibitions and scientific conferences organized throughout the year.
There are several Minoan tombs in the areas immediately surrounding the city. In Gazi, 6km west of Heraklion, for example, some excellent earthenware statues were excavated and are thought to depict the main Minoan goddess. All the statues have their arms raised with other figures escorting them. They date back to the Minoan era and can now be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion.
22km south-east of Heraklion is the medieval monastery of Agarathus. It is considered to be one of the oldest in Crete. It is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin and was a centre for education and civilization. Some priests from this monastery went on to become Patriarchs, for example, Meletius Pegas and Kyrillus Loukaris. The monastery played a significant role during the Ottoman Empire as well.
The Palace of Knossos. The ruins of a Minoan civilization were purchased and excavated in 1900 by the British archaeologist, Sir Arthur Evans. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. The visitor should allow a full day to visit the Palace, taking a guidebook and wandering at will whilst imagining the wealth and power of the legendary ruler, King Minos.