Iráklio has been Crete’s capital city since the 9th century, C.E. Before that, Górtys (Roman Gortina) had held that position, but the Arabs who captured the island in the 820s destroyed that city so thoroughly that it was effectively uninhabited afterwards. The Arabs, in whose economy piracy played an important part, needed their principal city to be near the sea, and they chose a small Greek port named Heraklion after the mythic hero Herakles, around which they built large, strong fortifications. They named the place Rabd-al-handaq (‘castle of the moat’), which became Chándax or Chándakas in Greek (and Candia and Kandiye to the Venetians and Turks who came later). Its name was also, for a long time, the one most commonly used for the whole island. The name of Heraklion was forgotten, and only restored in modern times for reasons of Greek national pride. The spelling we're using here reflects the modern Greek pronunciation. (The standard spelling is Ηράκλειον, but the last letter, an n, is generally not pronounced.)
Getting to Iráklio
Click the map icon at the right for a view of the route we took to get here, dark blue for the bus.
Excursion to ancient sites
While staying in Iráklio, we spent two days in the company of George Papadópoulos, a stellar guide, who took us to the ancient sites of Górtys, Phaistos, and Agía Triáda in his car. The icon on the left shows this excursion on the map (in purple, since George’s car is neither a bus nor a taxi. (On the previous day, he had also driven us to Knossós, but that’s so close to Iráklio that a map isn’t called for.)

Move your cursor over the images below for a menu of our day-by-day narratives, our photo gallery of Iráklio, and our first two galleries devoted to archaeology. Clicking any image after it opens will take you to the named page. (If this method doesn’t work well for you, you can use the Journey link in the menu bar above or else the site map.)