Hersonisos is one of the best developed resorts on Crete.
History, the resort today, esplanade, Lychnostatis Open-Air Museum, Aqua World, Acqua Plus, Piskopiano and surroundings, Museum of Rural Life and more.
The coastal town of Hersonisos (or even Chersonisou) is one of the most developed resorts on Crete with numerous luxurious hotels, shops, restaurants, bars and also rural tavernas in the original place. The seaside resort is actually only the port of the original village still located in the hinterland and is strictly speaking Limin Hersonisos.
During the ancient times the town of Hersonisos was colonized by the Tyrrhenians, who occupied the city of Lyttos. The colonists brought a wooden figure from Artemis and built a temple to their honor, the remains of which were recently found at the Elliniko Livadi site.
In the 4th century BC the port of Hersonisos – previously the port of Lyttos – became an independent city, as discovered coins confirm.
The city reached its peak during the Roman era, as can be seen from the still existing ruins.
During the first Byzantine era, Hersonisos was the seat of the bishopric founded by Saint Titus with large churches, such as the early Christian basilica with a base area of 56 x 23.70 yd, one of the largest in Crete, at the Karti site and another large basilica from the 6th century, divided into three sections with a long, rectangular shape, which is located below the old chapel of Aghios Nikolaos.
Hersonisos is the first major tourist resort east of Heraklion. If one want to be as comfortable as possible by short distances to Heraklion airport via the modern national road, prefers the finest beaches on Crete in the area to Malia in the east or to be satisfied with the daytime on sunbathing and swimming in front of the esplanade, lunch in the numerous restaurants behind, shopping malls in the numerous shops and parties in the bars and nightclubs during night and not far from the hotel, it is of course the right place!
However, those who love tranquility and explore the Cretan tradition are definitely wrong!
Hersonisos is the world of high-rise hotels with video bars, fast food restaurants and Euro discos. The main road Odhos Venizelou of the town is 1 1/4 mile (2km) long and runs parallel to the sea. There is a seemingly endless chain of bars, travel agencies, gambling halls, shops, with car, scooter and bicycle rental companies as well as constant traffic jams and traffic chaos.
Of course, this also means that here is also a lot of competition with food and drink, so that the prices and quality are at an acceptable level, although it is a little better and less expensive in less touristy regions.
There are some really attractive hotel rooms in the town and the villages in the hills still have the original, old districts with pretty, traditional and good tavernas.
In addition to the long stretched sun and bathing beach in front of the esplanade, both west and east of Hersonisos, fine sandy beaches exist.
The most difficult thing here is probably to get a hotel room in the high season from July to August.
Pictures from the main road Odhos Venizelou from east to west:
Along the modern beach esplanade runs a continuous chain of restaurants, nightclubs, bars, bars and even more bars and is only interrupted by the occasional souvenir shops or fish spa.
In the center there is a small, pyramidal fountain with broken mosaics with fishing scenes. These originate from the Roman period and are the only real remnant of the ancient city of Hersonisos, a flourishing port from the classical, ancient Greek to the Byzantine period, which carried on the trade of Lyttos.
The lively sports and excursion harbor west of the fountain was built over the old Roman harbor, and in many places along the beach esplanade one can see the remains of the Roman port facilities, which are mostly below the water level.
The area at the port is a popular spot to watch the sun go down. There one can also see the excavated ruins of the impressive, early Christian basilica with its mosaic floors, while on the other side the remains of the old Roman fish tanks carved in stone are located.
Pictures from the esplanade and beach
Star Beach Water Park
The water park is located east of the holiday resort. Open daily in April and May from 10 am to 6 pm and from June to September 10 am to 7 pm. Free entry, but single fees for most activities.
The Star Beach Water Park is located on the coast just east of the town, with some nice beach sections as well as pools, slides, bars and restaurants and a wide range of water sports from high-speed to windsurfing. The activities for toddlers are usually free, as are the pools and Wi-Fi accesses, but everything else needs to be paid extra, from the sunbeds to the bungee jumping.
Lychnostatis Open-Air Museum
On the eastern edge of the town, beyond the Star Beach. Open Monday to Friday and Sunday from 9 am to 2 pm. Guided tours (5 Euros) every 60 minutes every half hour.
The entertaining Lychnostatis open-air museum of folk culture is worth a visit, especially one has no opportunity to see the ‘real’ things in the hinterland.
It is the quite authentic looking imitation of a traditional Cretan village in a marvelous seaside location. The different exhibitions show the original lifestyle on the island, which are always displaced more quickly.
There are orchids and herbal gardens as well as authentic demonstrations of local crafts such as ceramics and weaving, as well as collections of lace, embroidery and traditional costumes in the main house.
Concerts with traditional music and dance performances are often given, as well as occasionally more elaborate ‘dance spectacles’ in the evening and seasonal special events such as grape harvest in autumn.
Straight along the main road Odhos Venizelou along to the west and at the lower end of the road to Piskopiano. Open from April to October daily from 10 am to 6 pm. Admission 6 Euros and children 4 Euros.
A small aquarium – not to compare to the Crete Aquarium – which presents, along with many fish and marine life off the coast of the island, also a selection of snakes, lizards and turtles in the reptile garden.
Led by Scots, Aqua World has made a message to protect the environment and many of the here living animals were rescued sick or wounded or exposed as unwanted pets.
2 miles (3km) along the road to the Lasithi Plateau near the golf club. Open from May to October daily from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission 24 Euros, children from 5 to 12 years 16 Euros, free entry to the late day.
Acqua Plus is a large water park, which does not quite reach the extent of the rival Water City further west. The area is a bit smaller and has fewer chutes.
Nevertheless, a good place for a day trip, which is located in beautiful surroundings between the hills and offers plenty of shady places.
Piskopiano and surroundings
In the hills just behind Hersonisos, the three pretty hilltop villages of Koutoulafari, Piskopiana and the ‘old’ Hersonisos give a view of traditional Crete.
They are largely untouched by the influence of tourism and Piskopiano is situated just above the port and is only a short walk, while Koutoulafari is a little further away. Many people go here in the evening to the pretty tavernas or to the Cretan dance nights, which are nevertheless more restrained and more traditional than the events in the resort town of Hersonisos.
Museum of Rural Life
In Piskopiano and open Monday to Saturday from 11am to 2pm and 4pm to 6pm.
The only real important destination for sightseeing in the villages behind Hersonisos is the new and impressive Museum of Rural Life. It is housed in a wealthy mansion in the village, which has been modernized and forms the main part of the museum.
There is also a traditional workshop and barn showing all aspects of rural life from carpentry to olive oil and raki production. Above all, there are some fine examples of traditional weaving.
Bronx Familia Shelter
About 12 minutes drive and around 8.4 kilometers (5.2 miles) south of Hersonisos is the remote Bronx Familia shelter for dogs.
Founder and sole full-time employee Nikos Tsikalakis is happy about every visit, help during the holiday season, the adoption of one of his many dear dogs or a small donation.
Bus connections and taxis
Buses run between Hersonisos and Heraklion practically every 30 minutes from 6:30 am to 11 pm. In the direction of Aghios Nikolaos only slightly less frequently. The current bus timetable for Eastern Crete is available here.
At the western end of the main street Odhos Venizelou there is a taxi place which also can be used for short trips to the neighboring villages. One can also order a taxi by calling 02897022098.
Information and activities on the spot
As there is no official tourist office in Hersonisos, one can contact the local tourist agencies for further information. There is a wide range of tour and day excursions in the area, as well as horse riding, diving, boat trips and car rentals.
Boat trips are offered from the port to beaches and islands in the area. A popular day trip on the boat leads to Sissi and costs around 20 Euros.
There is also a horse Finika, which offers riding trips to the hills or the beach (for about 60 Euros). Riding lessons near the Star Beach Water Park.
Hotels in and around Hersonisos
Overview of currently available hotels in and around Hersonisos at the best price!