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Piskopiano in Crete

Piskopiano is one of three Aegean foothill villages on Mount Charakas, with a steadily growing reputation as the ideal relaxed base from which to explore and discover the many faces of Crete, yet keep in contact daily with an outside world through the inclusive internet facilities of the region. This village of 450 residents lies just 31 kilometres (less than 20 miles) east of Heraklion, Crete's capital city and one of the island's three commercial north coast airports. A bus leaves Heraklion around 17h00 arriving at Piskopiano at 18h00, but there are more buses to Hersonissos, from where a short taxi ride reaches the village.

With its highly traditional, classic, arched architecture, Piskopiano offers a very wide range of accommodation, from exclusive hotels, through to studios and rooms in restored, traditional mansions to let. The village has its tavernas, restaurants and cafes that vie with each other to offer the best of local cuisine as in mezethes, mousakka, dolmades, stifado, roast pork belly, not to mention baklava. Piskopiano pizza is a takeaway dish that enjoys rave reviews.

The village is worth attention in its own right, boasting the ruins of a 6th century basilica to view as well as the 16th century Church of St John (Aghios Ioannis) complete with centuries of renovation. Surrounded by gardens and with high views of the 'wine-dark' sea and the gently shelving beaches and clear waters of Hersonissos bay, the local hotels and villas in the village not only enjoy internet connections, but also offer original, outdoor hillside swimming pool viewing, as well as children's pools and playgrounds.

For those curious about the countryside, an Agricultural Folk Museum, housed in a mid 19th century oil mill displays the professional activities of traditional oil milling, both a cooper and carpenter's workshops and the all-essential forge. It also houses an intriguing collection of traditional Greek musical instruments (such as lyre, lute, tambourasas, pan flute, cithara, trigonon) and a fine collection of early-mid 20th century photography.

Whilst in Piskopiano, visitors are ideally placed for visiting the two neighbouring villages of Palaia Hersonissos and Koutouloufari. The former is noted for its main square taverns with a good local reputation for genuine Cretan cuisine, while the cobbled streets of Koutouloufari that also offer Cretan cuisine, seem to have also won a reputation for jewellers and silversmiths who are able to supply one-off, designer pieces in a fast time frame.

Of course, the coastal city of Hersonissos is only a mile's walk away from Piskopiano. Built in the Minoan period it boasts archeology that includes a Roman aqueduct, the great marble waterfalls, mosaics, buildings and pottery as well as the later cultural influence of Venetians and Turks on the port and city, right up to its present day reputation as an outstanding gift and designer fashion shopping centre.

For children, the star attraction is the suitably named Star beach Waterpark. This, with its waterslide, Go-karts, bungee rocket and live DJs is appealing to children of all ages. But north and east of Hersonissos, many coastal paths lead to quieter more private beaches, such as Chapel and Beach 1 in the north through the Naturists beach and Limanakia beaches down through the hotel beaches to the most easterly Nana Beach.

Visitors who want an action packed holiday will easily find it. Why not book a glass bottom boat day trip, to tour from Hersonissos along the coast, with a break for barbecue, swim and snorkel? If sport is the preferred relaxation, the local 18-hole golf course can be played for a small charge and rents out clubs.

You can enjoy the high view of horseback with a better likelihood of seeing the local fauna and flora. The local stables, called Gregory's Horses, sees the owner matching up his steeds to the rider's personality and then offering guided tours around the Piskopiano region and up into the Lassithi plateau.

Here on the plateau are orange groves, vineyards and small towns, possibly two of the best known being Krassi and Mohos. Lassithi is where scholars identified the cave of Psychro, reputedly where Zeus was born and one of the most important cultural attractions of Minoan Crete.

For those in a lazier mood, the Piskopiano visitor can opt to visit Lychnostatis the Cretan Open Air Museum at Hersonissos, with its farmer and merchant's house, chapel, windmill, olive-oil and wine presses, raki distillery, threshing floor, ceramic workshop, weaving and plant-dying workshop, herbarium, mineral and stone exhibition and a Cretan folk artists gallery. Something for everyone to see and do, with some leg stretching too!