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AMAZING HOLIDAYS IN CRETE, GREECE

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Destination Crete

Crete's archaeological heritage: The most famous excavation sites in Crete

At every turn you will experience on Crete how history and myth intertwine. For hardly any other place in Europe has such an eventful past as Crete.

The history of Crete, the largest Greek island, is inextricably linked with exciting myths and legends that have been handed down. Already the legend around the birth of the father of the gods Zeus by Rhea on the island of Crete proves the status of traditions and the proud look into the past.

Also the European history is directly connected with Crete, because once the most powerful god of the ancient world Zeus kidnapped the nymph Europa and brought her to the picturesque Greek island. Here they made the oath of eternal fidelity under the plane tree of Gortis. And it was also here that their son Minos was born - the founder of the first European advanced civilization, the Minoan.

As you can clearly see, during your visit to Crete you cannot help but become acquainted with the fascinating mythical world of the ancient world. The archaeological sites, some of which can be visited on this picturesque island, are also based on this world.

1

The Minoan Palace of Knossos

The ancient town near the island capital Iraklio has gained worldwide fame for the magnificent palace of Knossos. The gigantic palace is one of the largest Minoan buildings on the island and still impresses today with its excellently preserved structures and wall paintings. The municipality of Knossos was densely populated from the Neolithic Age until the Byzantine period. Its heyday was in the 17th century BC, when Knossos became a leading city-state and the religious and political centre of the island. Today you can admire the five-storey palace with an area of around 21,000 square metres. Around 800 rooms, rich decorations, elaborate staircases, magnificent columns, breathtaking murals and colourful frescoes give you a small impression of the splendour that must have once reigned here.

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2

The Minoan Palace of Festos

The Minoans were smart people. Above the vast Messara plain, which then as now was the granary of Crete, they built their central sanctuary and the palace of their ruler on a hill overlooking everything. A first palace city was built around 1900 BC. After its destruction, a new palace was built as in Knossos. People lived in Festos until the 2nd century, before the settlement was finally destroyed by warriors from the rising, neighbouring city-state of Gortys.

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3

The ancient city of Gortys

Well hidden in the middle of a lush olive grove you will find the ancient city of Gortys in the south of Crete in the Messara Plain. It is known above all for the "Great Inscription", which is the oldest code of law in Europe. According to tradition, the city was founded by King Minos - although archaeological finds indicate that it was first settled in the Neolithic period. Ancient mythology has marked this place as the place where Zeus and Europe fathered their children Minos, Sarpedon and Rhadamantys. This historical site has been uncovered by archaeologists since 1884, who have brought an impressive ancient world back to the surface. Be it the early Christian Titus Basilica from the sixth century, the Roman Odeion, the Temple of Apollo or the impressive amphitheatre - the trip to Gortys promises you an exciting journey through time in an ancient metropolis that has even found its way into Homer's Iliad myth.

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4

The ancient city of Aptera

On a rock plateau over 1000 m long and about 200 m high near Chania, people lived for 2000 years in the ancient city of Aptera. Already around 1300 BC they settled here, in the 4th century BC they minted their own coins. Systematic excavations have only taken place in this millennium and have brought to light, among other things, a particularly beautiful ancient theatre. Equally impressive are two huge cisterns from Roman times.

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5

The ancient Falassarna

Ancient Falassarna experienced its heyday in the Hellenistic period between about 350 and 67 B.C., so it had about 300 particularly good years. Initially it was an important port for the navy of Hellenistic rulers, later it developed into a notorious pirate's nest. That is why the Romans destroyed the city in 67 BC. Traces of settlement have already been proven for the Minoan period and classical antiquity.

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6

The ancient city of Eleftherna

The ancient city of Eleftherna

Eleftherna was one of the most important Cretan city states in Greek and Roman antiquity. Cretan archaeologists have only been digging here since 1985 and are now planning to continue digging. What they have already found and what they will find in the future will find its place in the ultra-modern Archaeological Museum, which opens in 2016. For visitors, the excavations are an experience not only because of their historical dimension, but also because of the landscape and nature. If you like, you can also wander through the whole area on foot instead of by car or motorcycle.

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7

The late Minoan cemetery of Armeni

The late Minoan cemetery of Armeni is one of the most beautiful archaeological sites on the island. More than 230 graves from the period between 1400-1200 B.C. are hewn out of the rock here, lying close together in a vast forest of Walloon and Kermes oaks.

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8

The archaeological site of Polirrinia

Polirrinia is certainly one of the most unknown archaeological sites of Crete. The remains from the past are located here in a particularly beautiful, lonely mountain landscape and partly even in the middle of a very unspoilt village 'far from the shot'. According to some antique authors Polirrinia was the most important city of West Crete. Archaeological excavations on a larger scale have not yet taken place here - there is probably still much to discover.

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9

The ancient city of Lappa

The idyllic mountain village of Argyroupolis is located at the northeastern foot of the White Mountains in the area of the ancient city of Lappa. There you will find numerous rock tombs dating back 300 years between about 100 BC and 200 AD, which are part of a much larger cemetery in the ancient city of Lappa.

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10

Stalactite cave Dikteon Andron in Psychro (Zeus cave)

One of the highlights among the archaeological sites in Crete is the Dikteon Cave, located near the small community of Psychro. Legend has it that this is the very place where Rhea gave birth to the most powerful god of ancient times, Zeus. The oldest finds from the impressive stalactite cave date back to around 2,800 BC in the early Minoan era. More recent finds prove that the cave, after being used as a burial ground, was used as a place of worship until Roman times. The archaeological exploration of the Psychro Cave, which has an area of approximately 2,200 square metres, began as early as the end of the 19th century. Walking along the 250-metre-long footpath inside, you will pass spectacular stalactite and karst formations and a mysterious sinter lake.

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11

The Minoan port city of Gournia

The Minoan port city of Gournia

If you would like to get an insight into the daily life of the Minoan era, Gournia is the destination of your choice. The ancient port city in the northeast of Crete is located at Agios Nikolaos and is the only completely excavated Minoan city to date. The buildings from the 16th century B.C., grouped around a large manor house, of which the foundations and partly also the foundation walls are still clearly visible today, are located on a small hill by the sea. Between the rather small houses there are cobbled streets and numerous stairway connections, which underline the ring-shaped structure of the small community. Most of the inhabitants were fishermen and farmers, as evidenced by many artefacts that can be attributed to pottery and carpentry.

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12

The Minoan settlement of Vassiliki

The Minoan settlement of Vassiliki

In eastern Crete near Ierapetra you will find an ancient settlement from the Minoan era. The clearly visible foundation walls made of stones piled up on top of each other give a nice impression of the way of life of the people about 2,300 years ago. The archaeological excavations at Vassiliki brought to light ceramic vessels which were coloured in a special way when fired by different flame strengths. This traditional art form entered the general language as the "Vassiliki style".

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13

The Minoan palace in Agia Triada

The Minoan palace in Agia Triada

The Agia Triada archaeological site is a beautiful alternative to Knossos - fewer visitors, a hidden location among the lush groves of the Messara plain and the feeling of being a true first-time explorer promise you a memorable experience. The second largest settlement of Minoan culture in Crete is a villa-like palace complex named after the Church of the Holy Trinity, which is located in the immediate vicinity of the excavation site. Worth seeing is the sanctuary from Mycenaean times in the south-east wing, which houses exciting frescoes made of coloured plaster, as well as the "Court of the Altars", the theatre room and of course the magnificent palace building from the new palace period with alabaster panelling, benches and countless pithoi and vases still preserved today.

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14

The Minoan palace of Kato Zakros

The Minoan palace of Kato Zakros

Not far from Palekastro the fourth largest Minoan palace of Crete stretches out. It is surrounded by an imposing mountain landscape, which gives the ruins of the once flourishing city a very special flair. The most isolated Minoan centre offers you the chance to explore the Minoan culture off the beaten tourist track, because the hike to the ruins of this fascinating city is worth leaving the travel group and heading to the palace of Zakros on your own. It was only discovered about 60 years ago and has remained almost intact due to its remote location. Countless finds, such as clay vessels, crystal vases, everyday objects and many more, prove the splendour of the magnificent building from the new palace period. Among other things, archaeologists were able to unearth the oldest metal smelting furnace in the world at this site. If you feel like it, the narrow gorge behind the palace is worth a walk. The caves carved into the rock were used as ritual burial sites in Minoan times.

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