Crete's Heraklion (Iraklion) Prefecture Overview Page Seventeen
Heraklion Capital of Crete
West of Heraklion on the Coast
The coast road, E75, follows the sea and takes you straight to Rethymno, Hania and Kissamos/Kastelli. It is a fast two-lane road, with no passing lanes, and cars are continually passing the slower ones that are hugging the right side. A rather scary road in summer, though one can always take the bus, which goes frequently.
The scenery is steep cliffs and rocky seacoast, but there are a couple of resorts: Aghia Pelayia and Fodhele are the first ones you come to, the latter supposedly El Greco's birthplace. Fodhele is about 3km from the highway and a couple of buses from Iraklio go here a day, and if you walk up to the highway, the buses will stop for you as well. There is a river estuary here with some tavernas along it and an actual village, just inland from the sea. The 14th century church of the Panayia, which has some frescoes, is worth visiting (Mon-Fri, 9:30am-5pm; free). Bali is about halfway to Rethymno from Iraklio, and about 2km from the highway, consists of a village around three small coves. It has, unfortunately, become a package resort, and its beaches isn't so great, though the one called Paradise is the best (though very crowded in high season). Panormos , an appealing village, is the last coastal stop before Rethymno. It is quieter and less touristic than the others with some good tavernas and rooms.
West and south from Heraklion
Most recommended is the road that goes to Tylissos and from there on to Anoyia, which traverses the district known as the Malevisi, famous since Venetian times for its Malmsey wine, which is sweet and strong. One passes through valleys of olive orchards and vineyards on this route.
There is an archaeological site at Tylissos (right) (open daily 8:30am-3pm;1.20 euros). Not much remains of the three excavated Minoan villas, the most interesting items having been taken to the museum in Heraklion, but Tylissos was among the first Minoan sites to be excavated. Hatzidakis, a local archaeologist found evidence of occupation from c.2000 BC (known as the Pre-Palace period) but the three houses, which may have been within a community (rather than spread out, as 'country houses' are understood in the modern sense) were from the New Palace period (as were Knossos and Phaestos). New buildings were constructed after the destruction of 1450 BC, and Tylissos developed into a Greek city during the Classical period. Its rural setting make it a pleasant site to visit, though not terribly easy to comprehend. Features of the houses include many common to other Minoan sites: storerooms with their pithoi (huge clay storage pots), light wells, lustral basins. Linear A tablets were found in one of them.