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Heraklion, capital of the island of Crete, its main port and industrial hub, is also the fifth largest city in Greece. Having been occupied by several foreign countries, Crete has a fascinating history. The Historical Museum of Crete in Heraklion covers Crete history from early Christian era to modern times. In the eastern part of Heraklion the Heraklion Archaeological Museum exhibits archaeological discoveries spanning 5,550 years.
The sophisticated Minoans, the oldest known civilisation in Europe, lived in Crete, and the whole island is an archaeological and historical gem that would best be seen travelling in a Heraklion rental car.
You will be flying into Heraklion International Airport, about three miles east of Heraklion, a 10-minute drive with a Heraklion car rental.
Knossos Palace, Crete’s largest Bronze Age archaeological site, is a 15-minute drive away with a Heraklion hire car, and must not be missed. The original palace, built around 2000 BC and destroyed by an earthquake, was linked with the Labyrinth myth: King Minos of Crete is said to have built it to keep away the half-human half-bull Minotaur.
Many young European tourists enjoy going to Malia, a 35-minute drive east of Heraklion. It is an important archaeological site but it also has a bustling nightlife with bars, nightclubs and events featuring big name DJs. Visitors travelling with children might like the Cretaquarium, a 20-minute drive east of Heraklion, for an deep sea experience in Mediterranean waters, including scary hunter sharks.
A Heraklion car hire is available from one of the following companies:
On a Saturday, drive one hour in your Heraklion hire car, to a market in Mires. Situated in the fertile Messara valley, this is a great place for shopping for fresh olives, vines, mandarins, lemons and vegetables.
Another place of interest is Matalia in the south of the island (an hour and 20 minutes by car) with artificial caves on clifftops, which were used as tombs in the 1st and 2nd centuries. In the 1960s, hippies lived in these caves, and it was famously referred to in Joni Mitchell’s song, Carey.
Chania, in the westernmost side of Crete, is a two-hour journey to the west of Heraklion in a Heraklion rental car. It is an area of outstanding beauty for its beaches and crystal sea water. The old town is lined with examples of medieval architecture. The ancient site where modern Chania is was called Kydonia and was so important in the history of Greece it is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey.
You must be older than 18 years old to be able to drive in Greece with a foreign driver’s licence. Always carry a valid driver’s licence, proof of insurance, ID (passport) and your car hire papers.
Drive on the right side, overtake on the left. Wearing seat belts is compulsory. Unless you speak Greek, it is best to use a GPS device for directions.
Greek drivers are known to be impatient, drive aggressively and often ignore driving rules, so stick to your own right lane and don’t get in the way of others speeding ahead. The speed limit on Greek motorways is about 80mph and 32mph in residential areas. This does not stop some Greek drivers from going much faster. There are no motorways on any of the islands.
Excited about planning your break in Heraklion and other parts of Greece? Check out this city guide and use the Expedia search tool to help you find the best car hire, flight and hotel deals and research the best attractions and activities.
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