Five km south of Heraklion lies Knossos, one of the most important archeological sites in Europe, the legendary centre of the Minoan civilization from 1900 to 1400 BC. The Palace of Knossos, the largest one in Minoan Crete, witnessed two architectural phases and which was devastated by the earthquake of Santorini (1450 BC). The site contains the remains of the palace of Minos, of dwellings occupied by officials, priests and residents, as well as of cemeteries. The Palace was an intricate building complexbuilt around a central court. It was laid out on a surface of 22,000 m2 and apart from the royal apartments, it encompassed were also ceremonial quarters, treasure rooms, workshops and storage spaces.
48 km south of Heraklion lies the archaeological site of Gortyn, boasting finds from the 16th century BC up to the 2nd century AD.
72 km southwest of Heraklion lie the remains of the Phaistos Palace, second in importance in Minoan Crete, inhabited since the Neolithic times. The architectural layout of the palace is identical to the one of Knossos. Here too, rooms are clustered around a paved court. As regards the interior decoration, the Phaistos Palace did not yield many frescoes, however, the floors and walls are covered with stark-white gypsum slabs. The Palace occupied a surface of 9,000 m2 approximately.
The Caves in Matala. They were apparently used as housing by prehistoric people. Many of them contained rock-hewn tombs dating to the Greec-Roman times and the Early Christian period. They became popular after the 1970’s, as they were a must see destination especially of young tourists.