Heraklion Prefecture covers an area of 2,641 sq. kilometers (1,017 sq. miles) and is inhabited by some 300,000 people. It is mountainous, with the mountains of Idi and Asterousia occupying its southern part and coast. Matala beach on the south is the most well known of the few beaches in Heraklion. The wonderful beach of Matala with its turquoise waters and the fine beaches of Analipsi, Amoudara and Tsoutsouros are some of the many beautiful beaches embellishing the coasts of the prefecture of Heraklion. The north coast is also lined with fantastic beaches, visited by thousands of people. Some of those beaches are proposing umbrellas, sun beds and water sports while others are almost deserted. Off the north coast, Ida islet is part of the prefecture.
The climate in Heraklion is Mediterranean, which can become rather hot in midsummer. The mountains have much cooler weather during the summer, with winter temperatures dropping around the freezing point, and with eventual snowfall.
Among its many beauties, the prefecture of Heraklion also possesses numerous picturesque villages, which are, like the villages of Ano Vianos and Epano Arhanes, perched on top the hills or mountains. A plethora of attractive beach resorts and lively seaside villages are also
embellishing the prefecture and lying in front of sandy or pebbled beaches. Taverns and different accommodations are available in the villages.Heraklion is the main city on the island of Crete.
The city, built on a fairly steep hillside, has a huge harbour to accommodate ferries and cruise liners, and an international airport with flights to Heraklion regularly landing there. Heraklion is busy, bustling and full of hotels, fast food outlets, shops and traffic. The main square of Plateia Venizelou is a pedestrian mall sporting cafes and restaurants, with some fascinating shops in the surrounding streets.
Like many Greek cities you will find in Heraklion that its architecture was influenced by Venetian occupation, and a Venetia fortress dominates the harbour. The pride and joy in Heraklion city is its archaeological museum, which contains the world's most comprehensive collection of artefacts from the Minoan civilization. Heraklion is close to the major archaeological site associated with the Minoans at Knossos. It is possible to hire a car or take a tour to explore the various archaeological sites on the rest of the island.
About three miles (5km) south of Heraklion, the Minoan palace at Knossos is one of the world's greatest sightseeing experiences. The palace originally had many storeys, was built of ashlar blocks and had walls decorated with splendid frescoes. The remains visible now are actually not those of the original palace, which was built around 2,000 BC and destroyed by an earthquake about 1,700 BC. A subsequent more complex palace was then constructed.
The coastline in Heraklion city also provides numerous beaches and warm clear water, ideal for swimming and enjoying a variety of
watersports. The most beautiful beaches are to be found east of the city stretching between Kartero and Malia.
The various touristy resorts of the prefecture also propose a lively and varied nightlife and the possibility to drink and dance until dawn.