The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion
The Heraklion Archaeological Museum, regarded as one of the most important museums in Europe, is located in the center of Heraklion city. During the Venetian occupation period the Catholic Monastery of Saint Francisco used to be in the same place. Until it’s destruction in the earthquake of 1856, it had been one of the richest and most important monasteries in Crete and had contained great Byzantine frescos.
The construction of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum started in the beginning of the 20th century and was completed by 1940. A unique exhibit of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum is the clay disc of Phaistos with hieroglyphics and ideograms inscribed on it. The inscriptions on the disc run in a spiral from the edge to the center of it. The script has not yet been deciphered.
The Archaeological Museum of Rethymno
This museum is located in the town of Rethymno and exhibits various items and relics found all around the prefecture of Rethymno, dating from the Neolithic period to the Roman years. All the finds are organised in a chronological order. Among them are jewellery, tools, figurines and spearheads
from the Neolithic period which have been found in the Gerani Cave and in the cave of Ellenes Amariou. Fine ceramics from the Late Minoan period are also displayed as well as a small Egyptian collection, Hellenistic and Roman statues and an important collection of coins of various periods and regions.
Rethymnon Old Town
The old town of Rethymnon is one of the best-preserved towns of the Renaissance. Lying in the heart of modern Rethymnon, it combines the oriental features of the Turkish period with Renaissance-style Venetian architecture. After the Venetian conquest of Crete (1204), the town of Rethymnon was built according to the rules of Venetian architecture. The original craftsmen were Venetians, but these later were replaced by Cretanmurari, Venetian-trained master builders.
Knossos Minoan Palace Knossos
The famous Minoan Palace lies 5 kilometres southeast of Heraklion, in the valley of the river Kairatos. The river rises in Archanes, runs through Knossos and reaches the sea at Katsabas, the Minoan harbour of Knossos. In Minoan times the river flowed all year round and the surrounding hills were covered in oak and cypress trees, where today we see vines and olives. The pine trees inside the archaeological site were planted by Evans.
The first settlement in the Knossos area was established circa 7000 BC, during the Neolithic Period. The economic, social and political development of the settlement led to the construction of the majestic Palace of Knossos towards the end of the second millennium BC.
Knossos was the seat of the legendary King Minos and the main centre of power in Crete. This first Palace was destroyed circa 1700 BC. It was rebuilt and destroyed again by fire, this time definitively, in 1350 BC. The environs of the Palace were transformed into a sacred grove of the goddess Rhea, but never inhabited again. The Palace of Knossos is the monumental symbol of Minoan civilisation, due to its construction, use of luxury materials, architectural plan, advanced building techniques and impressive size.
Phaistos, the Minoan Palace of Phaistos
Phaistos is one of the most important archaeological sites in Crete, with many thousands of visitors annually. Phaistos is “Φαιστός” in Greek and you may find it also written as Phaestos, Faistos or Festos. The Minoan palace of Phaistos corresponds to a flourishing city which arose in the fertile plain of the Messara in prehistoric times, from circa 6000 BC to the 1st century BC, as archaeological finds confirm.
The history of the Minoan palace of Phaistos, like that of the other Minoan palaces of Crete, is a turbulent one:
The first palace of Phaistos was built in circa 2000 BC. Its mythical founder was Minos himself and its first king was his brother Radamanthys. In 1700 BC a strong earthquake destroyed the palace, which was rebuilt almost immediately. However, Phaistos was no longer the administrative centre of the area, an honour which passed to neighbouring Agia Triada. Phaistos continued to be the religious and cult centre of south Crete. In 1450 BC there was another great catastrophe, not only in Phaistos but across the whole of Crete. The city of Phaistos recovered from the destruction, minted its own coins and continued to flourish for the next few centuries until the first century BC, when it was destroyed by neighbouring Gortys.
Fortezza in Rethymnon
The Fortezza (in this case pronounced “Fortedza” rather than “Fortetsa”) is the Venetian fortress of Rethymnon, almost in the centre of the old town. The giant Fortezza, with its hidden centuries of history, is visible from every corner of the town and offers panoramic views of Rethymnon and the coast to the west.
This is where your experience exploring the Mediterranean sea world begins. Come face to face with hundreds of species and thousands of living organisms. Be fascinated by their behaviour as they reveal the wide variety of shapes, colors, habits and needs of their own world. Learn about them and reflect on what our common future may be.
The caves of Matala
Matala is identified with the man-made caves carved out of the rock thousands of years ago in the steep cliffs that rise above the north side of the bay and beach. No-one is actually certain when the caves of Matala were made. Current thinking is that they are Roman or Early Christian tombs.
Some of the caves, however, contain carved beds and windows, as well as porches, revealing a different purpose: historians believe that some of them were also used as homes long ago – and also more recently, when the “Flower Children” came to Matala.