The capital of Crete is a beautiful port city awash in Venetian charms. Heraklion was once known as Candia, capital of the Venetian kingdom of Candia which held the island from 1205 to 1669. The name Candia, in turn, was taken from the Arabic name Khandaq, given by the Saracens in the 9th century. (Heraklion derives from Heracleum, the Roman port on or near this site).
It is indeed the Venetians who left the most lasting visible mark on Heraklion. The capital of Crete is awash in Venetian charms: the fortress over the harbor called the Rocca al Mare and a host of enchanting fountains: the Morosini, the Sagredo the Benbo, and the Palmeti.
The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is a treasure of Minoan findings. A visit here will illuminate the rich cultural and history of the Minoans and enhance your understanding of Crete.
Heraklion is just over 60 km from Agios Nikolaos and makes an excellent day trip destination.
The Palace of Knossos
Near Heraklion is one of the world’s most significant Archaeological sites and also the most engaging. Excavated by Sir Arthur Evans in the early 20th century, this magnificent palace was restored with (some say unbridled) enthusiasm, recalling the glory of the past and stimulating the imagination. It was here that the Minotaur of mythology dwelled in the labyrinth. Frescoes such as the Prince of the Lilies, the Bull Leaper, the Dolphins, and the Griffin are familiar images. They are recreated in the palace to wonderful impact. At the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, you can see the originals, as well as the figurines of the bare-breasted Minoan Snake Goddesses and other treasures.
Just under 60 kilometers from Agios Nikolaos, this is an excellent day trip destination.
Thalassocosmos – Cretaquarium
Crete’s marvelous state-of-the-art aquarium is a wonderful place to acquaint yourself with the biodiversity of the Mediterranean. Experience the beauty of sea life, from the dreamy jellyfish, to the colorful clownfish to the elusive Scorpaena Scrofa. You can also learn about the beloved, protected caretta caretta sea turtle, who nests on the secluded beaches of Crete. The Thalassocosmos-Cretaquarium is also an important research center. It’s also a aquatic hospital – ill and injured animals are treated here and then released back into the sea.
Thalassocosmos is just 45 minutes from Agios Nikolaos by car.
Wine Tour in Heraklion
The beautiful countryside around Crete’s capital city has over a dozen wineries. Come and learn about Cretan wines at the tasting rooms of the Michalakis Estate, Alexaki, Lyrakakis, or any or even all of the other excellent wineries of the region. For an extra special experience, visit the Boutaris winery, a new state of the art winery offering a complete wine experience, including exquisite pairings with Cretan foods. You can even enjoy a cooking class.
The Boutaris Winery is about an hour’s drive from Agios Nikolaos.