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The Minoan Palace of Knossos
Koules Fortress in Heraklion Town
The beach of Matala and its caves
Heraklion in Greece, the hometown and resting place of Nikos Kazantzakis, is the largest town of Crete. It distinguishes for its impressive fortress, the Venetian port and the fish taverns along the waterfront. Apart from the town, the entire region is also beautiful and unexplored.
The history of Heraklion started in the Minoan times, as is shown by the close ancient town of Knossos, the most developed of all Minoan towns in Crete. Excavations in Knossos have revealed a flourishing ancient town with an impressive palace and a vibrant cultural life. The town was found almost intact under ashes, which is why scientists believe that this civilization was destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Santorini.
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After the Minoan times, Heraklion flourished again as an important harbor of the Byzantine Empire. After the fall of Crete to the Venetians, the town developed economically because of trade. Attention was paid to the education and many impressive buildings, like the Loggia, were constructed to house public works. This is also when Koules Fortress around the port of Heraklion was built, to protect the island from pirates and from the Turkish fleet.
In the 16th century, Heraklion was conquered by the Turks who kept the entire island under their occupation till the early 20th century. In fact, the town has vivid signs of the Venetian and the Turkish occupation in its architectural structures.
The prefecture of Heraklion is green and very interesting. Pure nature gives way to mountainous villages and sandy beaches are followed by impressive gorges. Driving around the prefecture is an excellent experience to get to know the Cretan landscape. Heraklion has developed a lot in tourism. Most famous tourist resorts are Malia, famous for their vivid nightlife, Hersonissos and Agia Pelagia, while Matala on the southern side of Crete is also much developed. The relaxing sandy beaches and the picturesque villages have made Heraklion a popular tourism destination in Crete.
Heraklion Town also developed in culture and economy. With a large port and an international airport, this is the main travel hub for the island of Crete. It also hosts a vast university and a science and technology park with international fame.