Some Excursions

Excursion to Knossos Archaeological site & to Archanes Traditional Village

Duration: 5 hours approximately

Tour Description:

The imposing palace of Knossos is built on a hill, next to the river Kairatos.

Knossos

This area has been inhabited since Neolithic times (6000 BC). Excavations have revealed that the Neolithic levels at Knossos are among the deepest in Europe. On the site of the Neolithic settlement an important Pre-palace settlement developed in the 3rd millennium. The first Palace was built on the Neolithic ruins sometime after 2000 BC and was destroyed in 1700 BC The second palace was erected on the same spot, even more magnificent and larger than the proceeding one. Around 1600 BC other large structures were built around the Palace, such as the "Little Palace", the "Royal Villa", the "South House" etc., while Knossos developed into a large town with many thousands of inhabitants. A new catastrophe occurred around 1450 BC, but as the finds demonstrate, the Palace was repaired and used again until at least 1380 BC Knossos continued its history as a great city state till the first Byzantine Period. The Middle Ages it declined and turned into a village, known by the name Makrys Toichos (Long wall).

Archanes Village 

Archanes is so close to Heraklion in time and in distance, so much a pleasure too. You pass through Kato Archanes and climb a short distance to the main (Epano) Archanes village.

The large village has little in the way of places to stay, but has been restored and beautified with European Union funds, as well as private initiative. A truly remarkable job has been done here, the place looks great but retains as much atmosphere and as many original features as possible; it is a model for such projects in our opinion. The mayor of ten years, is one of the most active, to the visible benefit of the place, in creating and encouraging the establishment of museum, arts, special and cultural events - general civic quality, most refreshing. The village people are proud of their successful efforts to keep the village alive, clean, traditional and beautiful. They are also genuinely friendly.Archanes has won awards - 2nd best restored village in Europe and 1st in long term development prospects. Streets have been newly stone-paved, there are more splendid displays of blooming flowers, fruit trees and plants in the yards, terraces and balconies of the houses - a walk around the back streets is a pleasure as a result.

Greek Evening

All participants are invited to attend a special Greek night, with traditional Greek cuisine and music.

Tour to Lassithi Plateau including visit to Dictaion Cave and to Kera Monastery 

Duration: 5 hours approximately

Tour Description:

The ascent begins at the village of Mochos. At 8 km. Among walnut and plane trees, the renovated and well cared for convent of Kera Kardiotissa, it is dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin. The view from the terrace of its courtyard is magnificent. The unusual form of this church is the result of four successive building phases. The oldest is the little church to the east, which is used as a bema today with wall paintings from the 14th century. On the iconostasis of the church is the miracle-working icon of the "Panagia Alyssodemenis" ("The Virgin Chained").

According to tradition, this icon had been transferred to Constantinople but returned to the monastery. It was stole again and chained to a column so it could not be taken. But the icon uprooted the column (it is fenced in the courtyard of the monastery) and returned here with it. After the village of Ano Keras the road continues to climb up to the defile of Ambelou, where right and left the road, rise up half-ruined stone-built windmills, which ground wheat till the beginning of the century. At this point it is worth taking a break from the driving to admire the panoramic view. From here can be seen the Cretan Sea and the north coast of Crete. South, to the rear, rises up the mountain mass of Dikte, while before you spread out the acclaimed Lassithi Plateau. Lassithi is a plateau surrounded by mountains with eight natural entrances. It has always been a refuge for the persecuted and a place where revolutions started. During the Venetian occupation, the inhabitants were forced to leave Lassithi for nearly two centuries. Finds reveal that the region was inhabited during Neolithic and Minoan Times. During the Hellenistic and Roman Periods it belonged to the city-state of Lyttos. There were important sanctuaries and religious centers at the Trapeza Cave and at the Dictaian Cave at Psychro. Today there are around 20 small villages on the plateau. After the descent from the defile of Ambelou you meet up with a ring road that goes around the entire plateau. From west to east the road passes through the villages of Ag.Charalampos, Psychro, Avrakonte, Ag.Georgios, Ag.Konstantinos to the Kroustallenia Monastery.

Tour to Aghios Nikolaos & Spinalonga

Duration: 5 hours approximately 

Tour Description:

Aghios Nikolaos (8.500 inhabitants), capital of the Prefecture of Lassithi, is without doubt the most picturesque harbor in Crete. Built on the west recess of Mirabello bay, it is considered to be one of the most highly developed tourist towns in Greece. The history of the town begins in historical times, when it was the harbor of "Lato Etera". It was also used as a harbor during Roman times and the First Byzantine Period.

During the Venetian occupation a fortress was built called Mirabello because of the beautiful view. Nevertheless, the importance of the harbor lessened as the Venetians built another one more protected "The Port of San Nicolo". 

 The Name Aghios Nikolaos is that of the small Byzantine church located on the peninsula of the Port.

Spinalonga

Spinalonga, since antiquity, was the Fortress, which protected the harbor of ancient Olous.

The name Spinalonga is Venetian (Spina = Thorn, Longa = Long)

The Venetians built a fortress here in 1579 to protect the harbour of Elounda, one of the most important and finest fortresses built on Crete. For half a century after the Turkish conquest of Crete, Spinalonga remained in the hands of the Venetians; finally in 1715 the fortress was handed over the Turks and they settled Ottoman families there.

In 1903 the Cretan Republic made Spinalonga into a colony for the lepers of Crete who they were housed on the island for nearly half century.

Museums in Heraklion

Heraklion Archaeological Museum: Thousands of visitors come from all over the world to admire the treasures of the Minoan civilization, which are exhibited in the Herakleion Archeological Museum. The Museum was built in 1937-1940 by Sp. Marinatos and is located in the north side of Eleftherias Square. It is built in the place of the Roman Catholic monastery of Saint-Francis, which was destroyed by an earthquake.

It exhibits findings from all the palaces of the Minoan era (Knosos, Festos, Malia etc.), figurines, Neolithic vessels, frescos, coins, sculptures etc. The exhibition is hosted in 20 rooms following a chronological order, from the Neolithic period to the ancient years. Among the most impressive exhibits are the unique frescos of the Prince, the monkey-gathering crocus, the Ladies in Blue, La Parisienne, the Bull-leaping, the ruton, and the Blue birds. There are also many findings dating back to the Hellenistic and Roman years. Sculptures, burial columns, sarcophaguses, mosaic floors.

The museum also exhibits the famous ring of Minos: It found by someone in the early 20th century, but was only handed over to the Museum in the summer of 2002 by his descendants.(Address: 1, Xanthoudidou street, Eleftherias Square).

Historical Museum of Crete: If you wish to get the full picture regarding the Cretan civilization during the post-Christian years, you should undoubtedly visit the Historical Museum of Crete. On the west of the port, following the coastal road you will find it housed in a neoclassical building, formerly the residence of Andreas Kalokerinos, famous benefactor of the town. You will find very interesting collections of Byzantine sculptures, pictures of Cretan School of Hagiography, coins, heirlooms from the Cretan revolutions, examples of folk art with special textiles, a place dedicated to the great writer Nikos Kazantzakis and Emm. Tsouderos. You will have the opportunity to admire the painting of Dominicos Theotokopoulos "View of Mt. Sinai and the Monastery of St. Catherine", which is his only painting exposed in Crete.(Address: 7, Lyssimachou Kalokairinou street).

Natural History Museum of Crete: The Natural History Museum of Crete offers its visitors a unique opportunity to familiarize with the natural environment of Crete and its particularities, as revealed through the ecological and cultural complexity of the Eastern Mediterranean area.In specially designed rooms of about 800 m2, with realistic representations of natural habitats, various plant and animal collections and plenty of photographic material, the visitor can experience the natural wealth of Crete and continental Greece.?In the rooms where fossils, rocks and minerals are exposed, you can be informed about the impressive geological past of Crete and the Mediterranean Sea. Finally, the botanical garden with the indigenous plants of Crete and the Mediterranean, the projection hall and as well as the bar on the first floor of the Museum can help the visitor combine learning with entertainment and relaxation.( Address: 157, Knossos Avenue).

Lychnostatis Museum: Leaving Chersonisos behind you cannot miss visiting Lychnostatis, the museum of traditional life and folklore heritage of Crete. The museum was created by the adjunct professor of ophthalmology and collector-folklorist Yiorgos Markakis. The Museum was built thoroughly with raw materials (rock - wood - clay) while the use of mechanical means was avoided. Due to its many open-air areas, it can be visited from April1st to October31st. The museum comprises the following sections: a farmer's house("Portego", sitting-room of Kostis Fragoulis), a Cretan urban residence, a "Fabrika", i.e. old olive oil press, a wind mill, a chapel, a shepherd's shelter, a threshing-floor, a wine-press, a distillery for 'raki ' (alcoholic beverage ), a wood oven for ceramics, a weaving and plant-dying workshop, a ceramic workshop, a herbarium, a garden with Cretan fruit - trees, a herb - garden, a flora and cactus – garden as well as a metal resources open air exhibition. There is also a permanent gallery of Cretan folk artists and works of art inspired by the Cretan nature, a 150-seat multiple-use auditorium where seminars, presentations and audio-visual projections are held, and, finally, an 250-seat open-air theatre hosting artistic events.

Nikos Kazantzakis Museum: The Museum of Nikos Kazantzakis was founded in 1984 by the stage designer Yiorgos Anemoyiannis and is housed in the residence of the famous writer (1885 -1957). The interior of the residence has been designed in such a way that it presents the life and work of the writer in eight languages. Exhibits include personal items, letters, manuscripts, the first editions of his books in Greek, as well as audiovisual material in five languages presenting his life and work.

Cretan Ethnology Museum: The museum was established by the Messara Cultural Association in 1973. The exhibition opened its doors in 1988 and in 1992 it received the special award from the Council of Europe. The museum exhibits come from all over Crete. The research center of the museum undertakes various research activities in Crete since1980 and operates as a coordination unit for the study of the Cretan ecosystem (man and environment) covering a period span from 1000 BC until today.

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