Knossos Palace is one of the most significant archaeological sites in the world. It’s also among the most compelling to visit, with a vivid and colourful restoration that brings the ancient world to life.
Fortunately, Knossos in Crete is also located in the island’s central region, close to enchanting traditional villages, natural wonders like caves and gorges, world-class wineries, and pristine beaches.
Knossos is the perfect destination for those who want it all- adventure, nature, culture, and history.
Everything about Knossos, Crete
Where is Knossos Palace Located?
Knossos is just 15 minute’s drive from Heraklion, Crete’s capital and a centrally located port city with Venetian architecture and a fascinating history of its own. It is one of the most prominent historical sites on Crete and in Greece.
How to Get to Knossos
If you arrive at the Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport, you can get your car at the rental center directly at the airport. If you arrive by ferry, a car can be waiting for you at the port. Alternatively, there is a frequent bus service from the Heraklion city buses (more information here), leaving from the port. There are 3 to 5 buses every hour, and there is an app to help you navigate the city bus system. For beaches and other destinations near Heraklion, you can use the KTEL.
The History of Knossos
Often called Europe’s oldest city, Knossos is a wonder of archaeology and history. This was the capital city of the Minoans, an advanced Bronze Age civilization that flourished from 2700 to 1450 BC (to put that into perspective, construction of the Parthenon, built during the Golden Age of Athens, began in 447 BC).
Even visitors not familiar with archaeology and history will be surprised and gratified by what they know of the Minoans- many popular myths of Ancient Greece are tied to this site, including those surrounding the labyrinth. This was a complex maze designed by Daedalus (the same ancient engineer who designed the wings of Icarus) to hold the Minotaur, the fabled bull of the Ancient World, who was eventually slain by Thisseus, son of King Aegeus of Athens.
Thanks to the pioneering work of Archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, who began excavating the site over 100 years ago at the beginning of the 20th century, these myths are brought vividly to life. Reproductions of the original frescoes tell the tales of ages past in glorious color. The Minoans refined architecture is also dramatically restored.
This is an exciting archaeological site with many tales to tell, thrilling for visitors of all ages. To get the most out of your experience we recommend that you visit the site on a guided tour.
What to See and Do in Knossos
Plan plenty of time to explore the vast palace complex, marvelling at the ancient engineering, beautiful architecture, and many myths and stories the palace holds. Afterwards, you may well want to visit the Archaeological Museum of Crete to see the many treasures unearthed in the excavations, including the originals of the frescoes reproduced in the palace.
Regarded as one of the most important museums in Europe, the Archaeological Museum of Crete houses impressive finds from all over Crete, spanning 5,500 years of history. Some notable artefacts on display are: the unique Phaistos Disc with inscriptions of hieroglyphics and ideograms which have yet to be deciphered, the Snake Goddess which portrays clues of the fashion of the Minoan women, the Minoan Frescos which depict everyday life and their color still remains vibrant and enduring.
Other great highlights of the museum are the Minoan jewels which were found on the Minoan burial sites, pay close attention to the Bees jewel which decorates one of the cases. The attention to detail is absolutely remarkable.
Enjoy a Beach Holiday — Gorgeous Beaches near Knossos
Knossos is in the perfect location for exploring some world class beaches. Do you like a sociable, full service beach where you can recline on a sun lounger and enjoy beachside service of coffee, drinks, and snacks? The north coast of Crete has many developed beaches that include not only fully serviced areas, but also exciting water sports and other activities. Malia, about 30 km east of Heraklion town on the northern coast, is world famous for its lively beach scene and nightlife options. Ammoudara, just 5 km to the east, and Tobrouk, just 10 km to the east, are known for their water sports facilities. The north coast of Crete is one marvelous beach after another- the best option is to drive until one suits your fancy.
If you are looking for a wilder experience, then you will absolutely love the beaches of the southern coast of Heraklion. Among these is the world-famous Matala, immortalized in a Joni Mitchell song. This is where the hippies settled in caves in the 1970’s. For an even wilder and more remote beach experience, you may want to visit a beach that can only be reached by hiking or by ferry boat. Agiofarago beach is at the end of a dramatic hike through the Agiofarago gorge, and it takes 20 – 50 minutes. You can also take a boat from Matala or Agia Galini. And speaking of Agia Gallini, this is also one of the most beautiful beaches on the Libyan Sea.
Activities Around Knossos, Crete
A great way to beat the summer heat is to head indoors to one of Crete’s many glorious – and historic – caves. Psychro cave, about an hour’s drive southeast from Heraklion, was a sacred cave of the Minoans. It’s also one of two caves that claims to be the birthplace of Zeus. The other is Ideon Cave, on the slopes of Mt. Psiloritis, about an hour and a half to the southwest.
A world-class winery is less than half an hour’s drive from Heraklion. The Boutaris winery in Skalani, Archanes offers tastings and pairings with local delights in a contemporary state-of-the-art facility.
A visit to CretAquarium is also one of the most interesting things to do in Crete. 2000 sea animals of 200 diverse species introduce you to the complex undersea life of the Mediterranean basin. The aquarium is less than a half-hour’s drive from Heraklion.
Cultural Excursions Around Knossos, Crete
Knossos is in itself a fascinating cultural destination. If you decide you want to know more about the Minoans, you can visit other Minoan Palaces like Phaistos, just an hour’s drive from Knossos to the South. Heraklion’s Archaeological Museum will also give you more insight into this fascinating culture.
While you are in Heraklion, you can also explore its rich Venetian heritage, including the Koules fortress, the Venetian Loggia, and the Morosini Fountain in Lion’s Square.
Make sure to take in local culture by enjoying a coffee in a shady town square and a meal in the picturesque Venetian port.
Knossos is truly the heart of Crete, a crossroads of ancient civilization, natural wonder, adventure, educational excursions, and great beaches for relaxing. You will be amazed by how easy it is to experience it all by car.