Destinations or islands such as Crete are so well known for their beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes and superb facilities for visitors that the history of the place is often forgotten.
Crete is drenched in history going back nearly four thousand years, and though everyone has heard of the Minotaur from their Greek Mythology, few associate it with the island even though the site, Knossos, once the Palace of King Minos, is located a short drive out of the bustling capital city of Heraklion. Knossos is one of the most visited sites on the island. Though many puritans scorn the site since it was reconstructed in the early 20th century by the British Archaeologist Arthur Evans for altering the site, it does make it easier for visitors to understand the way the Palace would have been and helps them to visualise the scenes of the mythology that they know so well.
Knossos was in fact the home of the Labryinth; underneath King Minos’ main Palace was a network of tunnels where the Minotaur (half man/half bull) was kept and who lived on the sacrificed virgins who were brought from Athens for him.
The artefacts from the Palace can also be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion; located at the heart of the bustling modern city with its beautiful Venetian harbour and its own ‘labryinth’ of streets dotted with ancient sites and churches amidst the array of local eateries and shops. Heraklion is known for its food as the Cretans are very particular about what they eat and where the produce comes from, relying on the local vicinity as much as they can; the diet is well known amongst the Mediterranean diets for being one of the healthiest and regardless of whether you eat in the city or the surrounding villages you will most certainly experience the best of Cretan food.
Despite its close location to the city Knossos itself is in an area of outstanding beauty with its green surrounding hills and shaded roads. If you wanted to explore a little further and move away from the touristy restaurants opposite the site you could head towards the traditional wine village of Archanes, also the location of King Minos’ summer Palace. The village is divided into lower and upper and though you will experience good food in both, the upper is certainly very pretty to visit. You could also visit the famous Boutari winery in the surrounding hills.
The wonderful thing about Knossos is it easily accessible to most areas of the island, partly due to its central location and good road network. You can either visit with an organised excursion, though the smaller ones would most definitely be the way to go; or drive yourself and spend the day exploring the rural countryside and surrounding villages.
Combined with the great beaches in the area and many family resorts, it is a great place to base yourself to absorb some of the history of the ancient Myths and Legends from Greece.