Crete is a land endowed with a rich historical heritage which spans more than nine millennia since its fertile, secure, and strategically placed land mass has been inhabited since the seventh millennium BC. Cultures on the island have sown the land with ancient palaces, cities, villas, and a plethora of exquisite artifacts which date back to the Minoan era.
Knossos was undeniably the capital of Minoan Crete. It is grander, more complex, and more flamboyant than any of the other palaces known to us, and it is located about twenty minutes south of the modern port town of Iraklio.
The second largest palace of Crete commands the fertile Messara plain south of Heraklion. Phaistos palace is not as lavishly decorate with wall paintings, but its architectural plan is exquisite in its design.
The palace of Malia is the third largest palace in Crete, and its existence parallels the cycle of all other palaces. An number of extensive settlements flourished around the palace including a small town, and agora, and the necropolis at Chrysolakos, the "gold pit" where locals used to find golden artifacts.
The smallest of the four Minoan palaces, Zakros is strategically located at the East shore of Crete. Many vessels coming from the East probably found it more convenient to unload their cargo at Zakro, than trying to sail around the ever-windy cape Sideros at the north-eastern tip of Crete.
What today we call "Palekastro" is a Minoan town unearthed at the Rousolakos location near the modern town of Palekastro. It is located strategically at the East shore of Crete adjacent to the sheltered harbor of Chiona, a few kilometers North of the palace of Kato Zakros.
Situated above the bay of Souda, east of Chania, Aptera used to be a very large city . It was founded by the Mycenaeans (although there is evidence of late Minoan civilization), enlarged by the Dorians and was used as a settlement until the Byzantine period. The area covered by Aptera is very large and only a few excavations have taken place so far. The ruins are from different periods.
Situated about 55 km west of Chania, Falassarna is best known for its nice beach and very clean sea. To the north of the beach (10 minutes on foot), you can see the remains of an ancient harbour dating back to the late Minoan period. The settlement was inhabited during the Hellenistic and Roman period and was probably abandoned when the island moved upwards by several meters. The harbour is now almost 6 meters above the sea level.
There is an interesting "throne" (its function is unclear) and a sarcophagus in its vicinity. A little further to the north are the remains of a quarry (it was first thought to be a harbour basin), a round tower and the remains of houses. These are being excavated at the moment. It is also worth walking up the hill, through barely visible remains of houses. At the top there is a little platform with a lovely view.
Situated about one hour by foot to the west of Sougia, Lissos was an important coastal settlement inhabited through the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. Lissos was famous for its healing spring. There are a number of ruins to be seen, especially the small Asklepios (the Greco-Roman god of healing) temple which was famous throughout the region. You can still see a well preserved mosaic floor in it. The whole area is full of ruins, many of them hidden by the vegetation.
On the western side of the valley of Lissos are about 20 small houses with arched ceilings covered in red roof tiles which are supposed to be Roman graves.
Polyrrhenia or Polirinia
Situated about 6 km inland from Kastelli, above the village of Polirinia, the Dorians had built a large town in the 6th century BC on top of a steep hill. Kissamos (the present day Kastelli) was its harbour. There is not much left from the ancient town - only a few walls, some graves and the ruins of temples - overshadowed by the ruins of a Venetian castle.
Elyros is an ancient city, located in southwest Crete, in Kefala Hill, near the village Rodovani and is presently unexcavated. Elyros was flourishing at least as early as the Greek Classical Period, e.g. 500 to 350 BC.In the Classical Period Elyros was the most important ancient city in southwestern Crete, having about 16,000 inhabitants. It was an industrial and commercial city with large weapons production. Syia and Lissos were its harbours. Apollo, Phylakides and Philandros, sons of Apollo and nymph Akakallida, were worshiped there.
In the third century BC Elyros was at war with Kydonia, an important center of Cretan power, located in the modern city of Chania.The citizens of Elyros sent to the Delphi Oracle, a bronze votive complex that represents a goat feeding the sons of Apollo when they were infants. It is also one of the thirty cities that signed the decree with Eumenes B’ in 183 BC.