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Hersonissos in Crete

Many civilisations have focused their attention on Crete throughout the centuries. Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and has always been considered strategically important. Different nations have conquered the island and many of their influences are still found in Crete's buildings, its food and its culture.

Today the main source of Crete's revenue is tourism although agriculture plays a large part too. Many local people are involved in tourism as a source of revenue and, in quieter months, can be seen working in the fields on the olive harvest.

There are many places to stay in Crete, from tiny fishing villages which are as quiet today as they were centuries ago, to more built up towns with a vibrant nightlife. One of the most popular places for tourists is Hersonnisos which lies around 20 miles east of Heraklion on the road to Aghios Nikolaos. Hersonnisos today is probably the most sophisticated city on the island. The original community was Old Hersonnisos which was originally built through fear of pirates and which has since been developed into a splendid tourist town. Piskopiano and Koutouloufari are two picturesque villages which nestle in the foothills overlooking the town.

Apartments and hotels are available in the area to suit all tastes and budgets. There are luxury resorts with conference facilities as well as small tavernas where the food is still cooked in the time honoured way. Restaurants abound selling a variety of foods and the area specialises in seafood as well as traditional Greek cuisine.

There are plenty of shopping opportunities in Hersonissos as well as car rental, water parks and an 18 hole golf course. There are daily cruises to Dia (Zeus), a neighbouring island, as well as to other small beaches and coves. To the east of Hersonissos are small pebble beaches, ideal for those who enjoy solitude. The area is perfect for swimmers and those who enjoy water sports and snorkelling. The water is warm and inviting.

Crete is known for its good weather. The island can proudly boast over three hundred and thirty days of sunshine per year. The temperatures rarely drop below 20 degrees centigrade and the air is often humid. Most days are sunny from sunrise to sunset and this is a good reason to come here. As Hersonnisos lies on the north coast of Crete the weather here is positively Mediterranean.

The town of Hersonissos itself offers good shopping for clothes and jewellery as well as tourist goods. There are popular nightclubs and bars, many of which offer traditional Greek music based on the bazouki which is an instrument with a very distinctive sound. Little ones are well catered for too. There are many ways to keep children amused such as the two water parks, the "happy train" or a visit to Hersonnisos Aquarium. Some restaurants even provide play areas where children can amuse themselves whilst adults enjoy a meal and a drink.

Some hotels provide entertainment which means that some tourists rarely leave the premises but this is a shame as Crete offers such beautiful sights. Hersonissos is perfectly placed for travel around the whole of Crete, either by bus or by rented car. Bus services are very good although hiring a car can mean you are free to explore at will. And there is much to see on this island if you are interested in nature. Wild flowers and herbs grow in abundance in the hills in the centre of the island and their scent can be caught on the evening air.

There is much historical and natural interest in Crete and there are various tour companies offering tours to the island's places of interest. One such place is Knossos, an ancient Minoan palace. The palace is well preserved with colourful wall paintings and a layout of an ancient central heating system. The Minoan civilisation flourished on the island for about five hundred years and was excavated by a British Archaeologist, Sir Arthur Evans. In fact Knossos is one of the main reasons why many people choose to visit Crete and it is easy to reach from Hersonnisos.

Various UK airports offer direct flights to Heraklion or to Chania, two of Crete's large towns. Another way to get there is by ferry from Piraeus (the port of Athens). Excellent ferries depart regularly in the evenings and the crossing takes between six and nine hours. Arriving in Crete in the early morning hours is a fabulous way to start to a holiday. As the sights of Crete slowly emerge you will feel a sense of excitement wondering what this lovely island has to offer. One thing is certain – you won't be disappointed.