Two days in Heraklion (also known as Iraklio) gives you enough time to soak up the Cretan capital’s ancient wonders, inhale some delicious food and wine, and see a folklore show. Don't miss the chance to head further afield to the rugged Lasithi Plateau or the Samaria Gorge, one of Europe’s longest canyons. Read on to find out how.
Day 1: Ancient Adventures
Morning: Start the day by taking in Heraklion’s signature sights. Explore the Palace of Knossos, the 4,000-year-old Minoan city that spawned the mythical Minotaur and his labyrinth. Go deeper into the past at the world-class Heraklion Archaeological Museum. Finally, take in the Venetian Walls and historic Koules Fortress.
Afternoon: You’d be remiss to visit Crete without discovering the island’s wealth of oil, cheese, wine, and olives. Tour markets and artisan stores. Try local favorites such as Romeiko red wine or dakos, Crete’s answer to Italy’s bruschetta. Or, take a cooking class in a restaurant or private home.
Night: The Sea of Crete has kept the island’s fishermen in business for thousands of years. Discover the delicate flavors of Mediterranean favorites such as red mullet or sea bream. Or splurge on delicacies such as slipper lobster, shrimp, or sea urchins. The Old Venetian Harbor is a scenic spot to dine.
Day 2: Island Inspiration
Morning: With two days in Heraklion, you can venture further afield. At 10 miles (16 kilometers) long, the rugged Samaria Gorge is one of Europe’s longest canyons—and it narrows to just 10 feet (3 meters) wide at one point—and a top area hike. Or, stay closer to home with a visit to the Lasithi Plateau, with its thousands of photogenic windmills and the Dikteon Cave, where ancient myth claims the sky god Zeus was born. The mountain trails are great for a 4WD adventure.
Afternoon: Most outdoor adventures from Heraklion last the day. If yours gets back early, take in more of the city’s essential sights, perhaps from an open-top bus.
Night: Wrap up your stay in Heraklion by partying as if you’re at an old-fashioned Greek wedding. Savor island wines and traditional Cretan cuisine as you listen to folk songs and ancient instruments. Then clap along to the infectious rhythms as costumed dancers whirl and leap.