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Heraklion or Iraklion ( ; ), is the largest city and capital of Cretemarker. It is also the fourth largest city in Greecemarker. Its name is also spelled Herakleion, a transliteration of the ancient Greek and Katharevousa name, , or Iraklio, among other variants. For centuries it was known as Candia, a Venetian adaptation of the earlier Greek name Χάνδαξ (Chandax, "moat") or Χάνδακας, which in turn came from the Arabic . The English form Candy, derived from French Candie, meant the city of Candia or all of Crete (as in Twelfth Night 5.1). Under the Ottoman Empire, it was called Kandiye. In the local vernacular, it is often called Κάστρο (Kástro, "castle") and its inhabitants Καστρινοί (Kastrinoí, "castle dwellers").

Heraklion is the capital of Heraklion Prefecture, with an international airportmarker named after the writer Nikos Kazantzakis. The ruins of Knossosmarker, which were excavated and restored by Arthur Evans, are nearby.


Heraklion is close to the ruins of the palace of Knossosmarker, which in Minoan times was the largest centre of population on Cretemarker. Though there is no archaeological evidence of it, Knossos may well have had a port at the site of Heraklion as long ago as 2000 BC.


The present city of Heraklion was founded in 824 AD by the Saracens who had been expelled from Al-Andalusmarker by Emir Al-Hakam I and had taken over the island from the Byzantine Empire. They built a moat around the city for protection, and named the city ربض الخندق, ("Castle of the Moat"). The Saracens allowed the port to be used as a safe haven for pirates who operated against Byzantine shipping and raided Byzantine territory around the Aegean.

Byzantine Era

In 961, the Byzantines, under the command of Nikephoros Phokas, later to become Byzantine Emperor, landed in Crete and attacked the city. After a prolonged siege, the city fell. The Saracen inhabitants were slaughtered, the city looted and burned to the ground. Soon rebuilt, the town of Chandax remained under Byzantine control for the next 243 years.

Venetian Era

Α part of the Venetian walls in Heraklion

In 1204, the city was bought by the Republic of Venicemarker as part of a complicated political deal which involved among other things, the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade restoring the deposed Byzantine emperor Isaac II Angelus to his throne. The Venetians improved on the ditch by building enormous fortifications, most of which are still in place, including a giant wall, in places up to 40 m thick, with 7 bastions, and a fortress in the harbour. Chandax was renamed to Candia in Italian and became the seat of the Duke of Candia. As a result, the Venetian administrative district of Crete became known as "Regno di Candia" (Kingdom of Candia). The city retained the name of Candia for centuries and the same name was often used to refer to the whole island of Crete as well. To secure their rule, Venetians began in 1212 to resettle families from Venicemarker on Crete. The coexistence of two different cultures and the influence of Italian Renaissance lead to a flourishing of letters and the arts in Candia and Crete in general, that is today known as the Cretan Renaissance.

Ottoman Era

After the Venetians came the Ottoman Empire. During the Cretan War , the Ottomans besieged the city for 22 years, from 1648 to 1669, the longest siege in history. In its final phase, which lasted for 22 months, 70,000 Turks, 38,000 Cretans and slaves and 29,088 of the city's Christian defenders perished. Under the Ottomans, the city was known officially as Kandiye (again also applied to the whole island of Crete) but informally in Greek as Megalo Kastro ("Big Castle"). During the Ottoman period, the harbour silted up, so most shipping shifted to Haniamarker in the west of the island.

Modern Era

An outdoor market in Herakleion

In 1898 the autonomous Cretan Statemarker was created, under Ottoman suzerainty, with Prince George of Greece as its High Commissioner and under international supervision. During the period of direct occupation of the island by the Great Powers (1898-1908), Candia was part of the Britishmarker zone. At this time the city was renamed "Heraklion", after the Roman port of Heracleum ("Heracles' city"), whose exact location is unknown.

With the rest of Cretemarker, Heraklion was incorporated into the Kingdom of Greece in 1913.



The port

Heraklion is an important shipping port and ferry dock. Travellers can take ferries and boats from Heraklion to a multitude of destinations including Santorinimarker, Ios Islandmarker, Parosmarker, Mykonosmarker, and Rhodesmarker. There are also several daily ferries to Piraeusmarker, the port of Athensmarker on mainland Greecemarker.


Heraklion International Airportmarker, or Nikos Kazantzakis Airport is located about 5 km east of the city. The airport is named after Herkalion native Nikos Kazantzakis, a Greek writer and philosopher. It is the second busiest airport of Greece, mostly due to the fact that Crete is a major destination for tourists during summer. There are regular domestic flights to and from Athens, Thessaloniki and Rhodes with Aegean Airlines and Olympic Airlines. Also flying to and fromAthens is Athens Airways, whereas Cyprus Airways and Aegean Airlines fly to Larnaca. Furthermore, Sky Express operates direct flights to Aegean islands such as Rhodes, Santorini, Samos, Kos, Mytilini and Ikaria. During the summer period, traffic is intense and the flight destinations are from all over Europe (mostly Germany, UK, Italy and Russia). The airfield is shared with the 126 Combat Group of the Hellenic Air Force. Take-offs in a westerly direction pass directly over the town of Heraklion, making it a very noisy city.

Highway Network

European route E75 runs through the city and connects Heraklion with the three other major cities of Crete: Agios Nikolaosmarker, Chaniamarker, and Rethymnomarker.

Public transit

There are a number of buses serving the city and connecting it to many major destinations in Crete.

Travel by car

You can travel many destinations in Crete by car. If you haven't your own car, you can try to hire it from different local or worldwide car hire companies. One of the cheapest car hire companies is Decode Car Hire that offers cheap car hire Crete Airport(Heraklion Airport).


Cretemarker has a warm Mediterraneanmarker climate. Summers in the lowlands are hot and dry with clear skies. Dry hot days are often relieved by seasonal breezes. The mountain areas are much cooler, with considerable rain in the winter. Winters are mild in the lowlands with rare frost and snow. Because Heraklion is further south than Athensmarker, it has a milder climate.

Colleges and Universities




The city hosts three football clubs:

Ergotelis FC use the Pankritiko Stadiummarker, which was built for the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics, while OFI moved after their relegation to the second division in 2009 back to their old Theodoros Vardinogiannis stadium.

Famous natives

Heraklion has been the home town of some of Greece's most significant spirits, including the novelist Nikos Kazantzakis, the poet and Nobel Prize winner Odysseas Elytis and the world-famous Greek painter Domenicos Theotokopoulos (El Greco).


Scientists and Scholars


Film industry








Local TV stations

  • Channel 4
  • Kriti TV
  • MyTV
  • tvCreta

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Heraklion is twinned with:

See also



  1. The War for Candia

External links

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