Worth Seeing (Tour of Crete) - Guided Motorcycle Tours

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Worth Seeing (Tour of Crete)


Knossos

Knossos is the site of the most important and well known palace of Minoan civilization. According to tradition, it was the seat of the legendary king Minos. The Palace is also connected with thrilling legends, such as the myth of the Labyrinth with the Minotaur, and the story of Daidalos and Icaros. The site was continuously inhabited from the Neolithic period (7000-3000 B.C.) until Roman times. The Linear B tablets (Mycenaean script) of the 14th century B.C. mention the city as ko-no-so.

Intensive habitation occurred mostly in the Minoan period, when the so-called first (19th-17th centuries B.C.) and second palaces (16th-14th centuries B.C.) were built along with luxurious houses, a hospice and various other structures. After its partial destruction in 1450 B.C., Knossos was settled by Mycenaeans from the Greek Mainland. The city flourished again during the Hellenistic period (sanctuaries of Glaukos, Demeter, other sanctuaries, chamber tombs, the north cemetery, and defensive towers were made) and in 67 B.C. it was captured by the Roman Quintus Caecilius Metelus Creticus. The Villa of Dionysos, a private house with splendid mosaics was built in the same period.


Phaistos

was one of the most important centers of Minoan civilization, and the most wealthy and powerful city in southern Crete. It was inhabited from the Neolithic period until the foundation and development of the Minoan palaces in the 15th century B.C. The Minoan city covered a considerable area around the palatial center. After the destruction of the palace in the 15th century, the city continued to be inhabited in the Mycenaean and Geometric periods until the 8th century B.C. Later, the temple of Rhea was built to the south of the old palace. The Hellenistic city was extremely prosperous; houses of the period are to be seen in the west court (upper terrace) of the palace. In the middle of the 2nd century B.C. it was destroyed and dominated by the neighboring city of Gortyn. Traces of habitation dating from the Venetian period are scattered in the whole area. The archaeological investigation of Phaistos started in 1884 by F. Halbherr and continued by the Italian Archaeological School of Athens, under the direction of F. Halbherr and L. Pernier in 1900-1904 and by Doro Levi, in 1950-1971. Along with the excavations, consolidation work was carried out by the Italian Archaeological School. Some of the monuments, mainly the old palace and the royal quarters of the new palace, were protected under plastic sheds, while others, like the storerooms of the new palace, were covered with a concrete roofing.

Elafonissi and Vai

There a number of environmentally protected areas across Crete. Elafonisi and Vai are such sites. Elafonissi is one of the most beautiful beaches of Crete on the northwest side of Crete and Vai is Europe’s only palm tree forest located on the northeast edge of the island. The sand of Elafonisi beach is not yellow, but pink! It is a wide sandy beach with a lot of shallow bays. There are little islands in the bays where you can walk to through the seawater. The water is clear blue. At Elafonissi there is a magnificent panoramic view that inspires its tourists! On the other side, at Vai, every year hundreds of thousands of tourists come to photograph the palm trees. On the beach you have a nice view over the palm tree forest and are at awe of their beauty.

Spinalonga

Spinalonga is an islet at the entrance of Elounta bay. In antiquity it held a fortress of the Olounites. In 1579 the Venetians built a mighty fortress there, which remained under their rule even after the Ottoman occupation of Crete in 1669. During the last years of the Ottoman occupation, it was a safe refuge of Ottoman families. In 1903, by law of the Cretan government, it was appointed as the place of stay for the lepers of Crete, who were sent there for isolation from the rest of the population. Today Spinalonga islet is one of the main attractions of the area and there are several daily trips from Agios Nikolaos with small boats and canoes.

Lasithi Windmills

Lasithi windmills are the most significant group of windmills preserved on Crete. They occupy the northern entrance to the Lasithi plateau and are the landmark of the whole area. Today 24 windmills are preserved (out of the original 26), 7 of which extend to the south of the road that enters the plateau while the rest are built to the north of it. All the mills belong to the one-sided type of windmill that grinds in a standard position, always in the same direction of the wind. Windmills of this type are preserved on Crete and on Karpathos (or Carpathos) but the Cretan ones are generally more carefully built and more elegant. The group of windmills have been declared a work of art since 1986. The mills belong to individuals and some of them have been restored while others still remain half-ruined. Two of the twenty-four windmills have been restored by their owners.

Ideon Andron (Cave)

According to Greek mythology, Leader god Zeus, was born in Crete. Two caves high in the Cretan mountains contest the honor of being known as the birthplace of the greatest god of ancient Greece: the Dikteon Cave in south-central Crete and the Ideon Cave on the highest mountain in Crete (Psiloritis). There is no information describing exactly where Zeus was born, and each cave has its own adherents. The important thing, however, is that Crete is the birthplace of Zeus, in a way which has many points of similarity to the birth of Christ, many centuries later, in another cave in what is now the state of Israel. There is a long mythical tale behind Zeus’s birth, there are prophecies and omens, which also refer to the War of the Titans when Zeus overthrows Cronus.

Lato

Lato was one of the most important Doric city-states in Crete, although it must have existed before the "Coming of the Dorians". It is built on a saddle between two hills, at a site protected by possible attacks but also with a splendid view over a large area of the Mirambello Bay. It was named after Leto (Lato is the Doric type), mother of Apollo and Artemis, although the main goddess worshipped in the city was Eileithyia, who was also depicted on the coins cut by the city. Lato was the birth-place of Nearchos, the admiral of Alexander the Great. Before the end of the 3rd century B.C., the inhabitants of Lato participated in the League of the Cretan cities and shared the same laws. Lato made many alliances with Rhodes, Teos, and king Eumenes of Pergamon. However, it was in continuous conflict with the neighboring city of Olous, for the arrangement of the borders between them. The harbor of the city was Lato pros Kamara (modern Aghios Nikolaos), which was flourishing by the middle of the 2nd century A.D. which resulted in the administrative centers being transferred there. while Lato was subsequently abandoned.

White Mountains

The Greek name for these white mountains is “lefka ori”. These mountains are always white during the winter. Even until the beginning of June you will see from a far distance the white parts of snow on the mountains. These mountains are very rough. The Samaria gorge runs through these mountains.

The Samaria Gorge

At about 27 miles from the city of Chania, this is the longest gorge in Europe, measuring more than 11 miles and renowned for its awesome beauty. It is within the Samaria National Park. It is a breathtaking gorge in the southwestern part of the island in the Chania Prefecture, where a hike through the complete gorge takes about five to seven hours, and is only for the physically fit. At some points the passage is just 10 feet wide and at times the steep sides rise to a height of 220 feet. The gorge is cut by a stream which flows between the highest peak of the White Mountains and Mt. Volikas. Hiking down the gorge is permitted from May to the end of October, depending on the weather. At the entrance to the gorge, at Xiloskalo there is a tourist pavilion with a view of majestic Mount Gygilo (alt. 6,800 feet.). On leaving the gorge one encounters the village of Agia Roumeli. The road from Chania to the entrance of the gorge traverses picturesque lowland and mountain villages we worth riding through.

Zakros

The palace at Zakros is the fourth biggest in terms of size, among the Minoan palaces. It was located at an advantageous strategic position, at a protected bay, and was the center of commercial exchange with the countries of the East, as is indicated by the excavation finds (elephants' tusks, faience, copper etc.) It has two main building phases: the old palace was built in c. 1900 B.C., and the new one in c. 1600 B.C., but was destroyed in 1450 B.C. along with the other centers of Minoan Crete. The palace was the administrative, religious and commercial center of the town. After its destruction, it was not rebuilt and the site was used only for cultivation. Burials have been uncovered inside caves on the slopes of the "Ravine of the Dead", as the ravine that stretches from Epano Zakros to Kato Zakros is called.

Fortezza

The Fortezza fortress of Rethymnon was built from 1573 till 1580 by the Venetians, for the protection of the inhabitants by the Turkish threat. It is star-shaped with three gates and six bastions. In the middle, the church of St Nicolo, was turned into the Mosque of the Sultan Ibrahim Han. It consisted of the Commander' s house, the Counselor' s house, barracks, stables, ammunition - storehouses, a cistern and houses which were later destroyed.

Lake Kournas

At about 30 miles south-east of the town Chania you will find the picturesque Lake Kournas. It is the only lake on the island. The mountains surrounding it are reflected in its calm waters. There are taverns in the area for a bite to eat.

Fragokastelo

At about 7 miles east of the town Sfakion, you will find the site of the old Castel Franco (Franchise Castle), built by the Venetians in 1371 as a defense against pirates, Turks and Cretan rebels. There are many such locations around Crete, but this one is rather particular due to its square form with a tower on each corner. It is in a rather good state. Today its ruins dominate the underlying lagoon of crystal clear blue waters.

Minoan Megaron At Vathypetro

The Minoan villa at Vathypetro was most likely the residence of a local ruler. Its architecture is comparable to that of a "Little Palace": it has a central and west court, a small tripartite shrine, a three-columned portico, storerooms and workshops. It seems that the construction of the building was never completed. Interesting elements of its architecture are the installations of a wine-press in the south wing and an oil-press in the courtyard. The construction of the villa started in 1580 B.C. and lasted for thirty years but only the west wing was completed. The interior wall of the east wing had just started to be built when the whole structure was destroyed, possibly by an earthquake, and abandoned in 1550 B.C.

Palaikastro

At the northernmost edge of the eastern coast of Crete lie the ruins of a settlement which flourished during the Late Minoan period (1550-1220 B.C.). At the same site, however, are preserved remains of the Early and Middle Minoan periods (3000-1550 B.C.), mostly cemeteries with well-built ossuaries, and ruins of spacious houses. The site ceased to be inhabited at the same time when Zakros was abandoned (1450 B.C.) but was reoccupied during the Late Minoan III period (1300-1200 B.C.). The city covered a total area of more than 540,000 sq.f., was densely inhabited but not fortified.

Phalasarna

Phalasarna (or Falasarna) was an important harbor of the Classical and Hellenistic periods, of which remarkable installations have been preserved. The city was destroyed by the Roman conquerors. Various excavation campaigns have been carried out since 1968; systematic excavation of the harbor started in 1986.

The most important monuments of the area are: the Hellenistic harbor with defensive towers, today located on the coast; the small temples of the Classical and Hellenistic periods; an ancient mine; a rock-cut throne; and cist-graves.


 

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