Heraklion

Crete, Greece

Heraklion is the largest city of Crete and a rather popular destination for travelers from all over the world. It has a rich history, combining traditional Cretan culture with contemporary times.

On Ferryhopper, you can find information about your holidays in Heraklion, its beaches, sights, food and ferry routes. Book ferry tickets to Heraklion online on Ferryhopper in just a few clicks!

The Venetian fortress in Heraklion near the port

The port of Heraklion next to the impressive Venetian fortress

Vacation in Heraklion

Heraklion is located on the north coast of Crete and is the most populated city on the island. As soon as you reach its port, Heraklion welcomes you with both traditional and modern elements. Its center is located near the port and is full of restaurants, cafes, bars and cultural attractions.

With Heraklion as a starting point, adventure lovers can also discover the beautiful natural landscapes, archeological sites and beaches of central and southern Crete.

How to get to Heraklion

There are several ferries from Athens to Heraklion that run all year round. The ferries usually travel at night and the average duration of the trip is 8-10 hours. Heraklion is also connected to other Cycladic islands, like Santorini and Mykonos, and the Dodecanese, such as Rhodes and Karpathos.

Below, you can find more information about ferries to Heraklion.

What to do in Heraklion 

Heraklion is a well-developed city with modern amenities and a strong cultural character. There are several sights and museums in the city and close to it, such as Knossos. You can also find idyllic beaches, popular or isolated, at a close distance from the city. 

Heraklion is an excellent destination for all ages, as there are many restaurants, attractions and nightlife options. Discover the best of Heraklion on Ferryhopper!

Beaches in Heraklion

Crete has some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece. On the north and south coast of the island, you will find stunning beaches that are easily accessible from the city of Heraklion. Most of the beaches have amenities like umbrellas, sunbeds and cafes, while some are more secluded and quiet. 

On the north coast of Crete, we suggest the following beaches for your holidays in Heraklion:

  • Agia Pelagia: this is the beach next to the village of Agia Pelagia. It has coarse sand and turquoise waters, as well as bars and cafes, which are flooded with young people when night falls.
  • Lygaria: it’s a beautiful popular beach with coarse sand and calm turquoise waters. It has amenities like umbrellas, sunbeds, cafes, tavernas, water sports facilities and a diving school.
  • Potamos (river): this is a charming beach with sand and crystal-clear waters near Malia. The beach offers amenities for visitors, but it is quieter and calmer than the beach of Malia.
  • Psaromoura: it's a pebble beach with crystal blue waters. It has a canteen and a big trademark rock that shelters it from the waves.
  • Limanakia Sarantari (small ports of Sarantari): this is a series of coves that have beautiful glassy waters and are sheltered from the wind.

Tip: don’t miss the opportunity to visit the islet of Dia and swim in the magical waters of Agios Georgios and Panagia. 

The southern part of Crete is full of impressive beaches overlooking the Libyan Sea. Ferryhopper recommends that you visit: 

  • Matala: this is one of the most famous beaches in Crete. It has fine sand and deep crystal-clear waters and is known for its man-made caves that have been cut into the rock. It has amenities such as umbrellas, showers, lifeguards, beach volleyball courts, snack bars, restaurants, bars and water sports infrastructure. A large part of the beach has tamarisks that offer their shade to visitors.
  • Agiofarago: this beach is accessible either by boat or with a 30-minute hike in the gorge of the same name. The beach is beautiful, with fine pebbles, crystal-clear waters and imposing rocks.
  • Aspes: this lovely small beach with black sand is accessible only by boat. High cliffs with caves and turquoise waters complete the gorgeous scenery.
  • Listis: it is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete. It has sand and relatively shallow waters and gathers a lot of people. The beach stands out for its large rocks, which are located inside and next to the sea and are ideal for dives! Keep in mind that the beach has no umbrellas or other amenities.
  • Agios Nikitas: to reach the beach, you have to go down 230 steps from the monastery of the same name. The beach is beautiful, with pebbles and crystal-clear turquoise waters.
  • Komos: this is a beach that offers a lot of amenities, such as umbrellas, sunbeds, a lifeguard, showers and a canteen. It has tamarisk trees and dunes, which are full of beautiful white sand lilies!
  • Kaminaki: amazing but difficult to reach, this beach is accessible mainly by boat. It has gray pebbles and crystal-clear waters, and is ideal for seclusion.
  • Kokkini Ammos (red sand): this is a stunning secluded beach with beautiful red sand and turquoise waters. You can reach it by hiking (15-25 minutes) or by boat. Keep in mind that the sea gets rough when a west wind blows.

Beach with blue waters and pebbles in Heraklion, Crete

Tranquil beach with blue waters and pebbles in Crete

Sightseeing and activities in Heraklion

Heraklion has a rich history and is full of impressive sights, monuments, neighborhoods and museums worth discovering. We suggest you take a walk from Liontarion Square to the old port, where the Venetian fortress stands majestically next to sailing and fishing boats.

You should definitely visit:

  • the palia poli (old town) of Heraklion
  • the Venetian fortress
  • the palace of Knossos
  • the Heraklion Archaeological Museum 
  • the Historical Museum of Crete
  • the CretAquarium
  • the El Greco Museum in the village of Fodele
  • the palace of Phaistos

Tip: due to the location of Heraklion in the center of the island, you can easily drive to other major cities in Crete that are difficult or impossible to access by ferry, such as Rethymnon and Agios Nikolaos.

Crete is also famous for its natural beauty. From Heraklion, you can follow hiking trails, visit many gorges and go to the famous Psiloritis (or Mount Ida) and the Asterousia Mountains. 

For nature and adventure lovers, we suggest:

  • Rouvas forest and gorge
  • Agiofarago
  • Martsalo Gorge
  • Trafoula Gorge
  • Gafari Gorge
  • Astrakiano Gorge
  • Krousonas or Krousaniotiko Gorge
  • Arvi Gorge for canoeing
  • Ideon Cave or Ideon Andron 
  • Santorinios Gorge

Agiofarago gorge in Crete

Trail in the beautiful Agiofarago and the sea in the background

Nightlife in Heraklion

Nightlife in Heraklion is full of energy and includes various entertainment options. You can find plenty of nightclubs both in the center and on the coasts. A great example is the beach of Agia Pelagia, which attracts lots of young tourists and locals at its beautiful bars.

If you wish to explore the more traditional side of Heraklion’s nightlife, there are numerous local festivals, glendia, where you can socialize with locals, drink the famous drink of raki and listen to traditional music.

Food in Heraklion

Traditional Cretan recipes are famous in the entire world and visiting Heraklion is a great opportunity to try them. The city has restaurants and tavernas with delicious Cretan food and you can also try the big, Cretan-style gyros! The alleys of Heraklion are full of hidden little restaurants (and kafeneia), where locals spend their evenings having fun and drinking raki!

While in Heraklion, you should try:

  • antikristo (roast lamb)
  • skioufixta makaronia (traditional Cretan pasta)
  • gamopilafo (Cretan rice dish)
  • staka (Cretan dairy product)
  • chochlioi (snails)
  • kalitsounia (traditional sweets)
  • apaki (smoked pork)
  • eggs with stamnagathi (Cretan wild greens)
  • ntakos or dakos (Cretan meze with rusks, tomato and cheese)

Plate with Cretan skioufixta pasta

Mouthwatering skioufixta, the traditional pasta of Crete

Tip: The most famous traditional Cretan drink is tsikoudia! It is often served as a welcoming treat in restaurants in Heraklion.

Useful information for Heraklion

As Heraklion is the capital of Crete, located in the center of the island, you can find numerous accommodation options, such as hotels and rooms. There are also plenty of bars and cafes, and amenities, such as ATMs, gas stations, supermarkets and pharmacies.

As Heraklion is the most well-connected port of Crete, you can find everything you might need during your stay and easily travel to other destinations by ferry.

Important phone numbers for your stay in Heraklion

Some useful telephone numbers for your holidays in Heraklion:

  • Heraklion Port Authority: +302813406910
  • Venizeleio General Hospital of Heraklion: +302813408000
  • Heraklion International Airport "Nikos Kazantzakis": +302810397129
  • Heraklion citizen service center (KEP): +302813406307
  • Tourist police: +302810274046
  • Heraklion - Lasithi intercity bus station (KTEL Irakliou - Lasithiou): +302810245019
  • Chania - Rethymnon intercity bus station (KTEL Chanion - Rethymnou): +302810221765

Transportation in Heraklion 

Heraklion has a great public transport system and the bus station is 10 minutes away from the port. The airport of Heraklion is about 5 km from the center and it is accessible either by bus (lines 1 and 78) or by taxi. You can also get around the city with your own vehicle or you can rent one to further explore the area around it.

Ports in Heraklion

The port of Heraklion is located on the north coast of Crete, connecting the island to Athens, the Cyclades and the Dodecanese. The terminal for ferries and cruises is located on the eastern side of the port and is easily accessible. On the other side, you can find the Old Venetian Harbor of Heraklion, which is a beautiful attraction.

Island hopping from Heraklion

The port of Heraklion is one of the biggest and busiest ports of Crete. It is connected to many islands of the Cyclades and the Dodecanese. If you want to continue your vacation in the islands of the Aegean Sea, you can take the ferry from Heraklion and travel directly to:

  • Santorini
  • Mykonos
  • Paros
  • Naxos
  • Ios
  • Milos
  • Anafi
  • Syros
  • Tinos
  • Rhodes
  • Karpathos
  • Kassos
  • Chalki

On our interactive Map of ferries, you can find all ferry connections between Heraklion and the Cyclades or the Dodecanese. Organize your trip from Crete to the Greek islands easily and at the best price!

Heraklion ferry: schedules and tickets

Heraklion is connected to Athens with regular ferry services from the port of Piraeus. During the summer, the Piraeus - Heraklion ferry route runs daily. The journey takes about 8 to 10 hours and ferry crossings are usually at night. For this reason, we suggest booking a cabin for a more comfortable and enjoyable trip.

Note: make sure to check out our guide on getting to Crete and easily plan your trip to Heraklion.

Where to book ferry tickets to Heraklion online

Plan your trip on Ferryhopper and travel by ferry to Heraklion! On our platform, you can find all available ferry connections, compare prices, companies and timetables, and book ferry tickets to Heraklion online at no extra cost!

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Nearby destinations

Heraklion has direct ferry connections with 21 ports :

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