Greece’s largest island has something for everyone: ramblers and epicureans, history buffs and beach bums. From jaw-dropping gorges to ravishing beaches, Crete is so much more than world-famous Knossos.
Travel bucket list idea:
Crete, Greek Islands, Greece|
Knossos is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete, and is known as Europe’s oldest city, dating back to the Neolithic period.
It was the palace of King Minos, founder of the Minoan civilisation that flourished 4,000 years ago. This is also where Theseus slayed the mythical Minotaur, after navigating through the labyrinth with the help of Minos’ daughter, Ariadne.
The size of a small town, the palace itself resembles a labyrinth. With its stunning frescoes, mosaics, ceramic vessels, and painted columns, the site is remarkably well preserved (though some archaeologists object to Arthus Evans’ partial reconstructions of the site).
In the royal quarters, the Throne Room’s walls are decorated with lovely frescoes of mythical griffins.
Getting there & doing it
Just 5km from Heraklion, Knossos is well-signposted and easy to visit independently by car or by bus. However, enlisting the services of a knowledgeable guide will elevate an experience that can be let down by the heat and crowds.
Book your tickets in advance online to avoid the lengthy queues. Buy a combined ticket for access to the equally exceptional Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, where many of the treasures unearthed at Knossos are now on display.
Wear sneakers and a hat and take plenty of drinking water with you. There is minimal shade on the site. After, skip the surrounding tourist traps and head to Armenakis taverna in the nearby village of Vasilies for typical Cretan fare: stuffed cabbages leaves, roast goat, and fried local cheese.
When to do it
Knossos is open year-round (opening times vary seasonally). Off-season is by far the best time to go. In peak season, go as early or as late as you can to beat the crowds and midday heat.
Destination guides including or relevant to this experience
Sparkling seas, sugar-cube villages, cliff-hanging hamlets, ancient temples, delicious Mediterranean food and mesmerising sunsets – the Greek Islands offer so much. Just ask Shirley Valentine.
Round-ups that include this experience
Throughout human history vast empires have risen and fallen into ruin, their culture and customs lost to the sands of time. Thankfully, some outstanding examples remain. Here’s our round-up of the best.