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Mediterranean & Adriatic

About Heraklion

Heraklion, Greece

Crete, the largest of the Greek Islands, was home to the Minoans, Europe’s earliest recorded civilization. Today, it offers a heady blend of soft-sand beaches, ancient ruins and a rich Cretan culture all its own. The island’s capital, Heraklion, grew from the riches of the Venetian Empire, which ruled here for four centuries. With such close ties to Italy, where the Renaissance bloomed between the 15th and 17th centuries, Crete likewise enjoyed a surge in the arts and a building boom that helped bolster Heraklion - then Candia - as the most strongly fortified city in the Eastern Mediterranean. Its most famous artist, El Greco, pursued his painting throughout continental Europe and settled in Spain. The sun seems to perennially shine on Crete. Blessed with generous beaches, soaring mountains skirted with vast valleys, deep gorges, coursing rivers and pristine lakes, it is a nature lover’s paradise. Yet it is also heaven for keen observers of culture, where the distinct mantinades - narrative couplets of love accompanied by Cretan stringed instruments, the lyra and laouto - could break out at any number of cafés as you sip tsikoudia, a grape-based brandy distilled in the hills. A proud nationalism is on display everywhere on this welcoming island, from the indigenous dance to the customary black shirts and boot-tucked breeches worn by men, both depicted in the film Zorba the Greek, which was set on the island.