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Guide to the Greek Town of Hersonissos on Crete

The Greek town of Hersonissos, on the island of Crete, is one of the most accessible and friendly locations of all the Greek islands. Offering snorkeling, sun-bathing, ancient ruins, cruises, and all night parties, Hersonissos truly is as luxurious as it sounds.

This town is nothing new. Its origin dates back to the Minoan civilization, one of the largest in the Mediterranean during ancient times. While the Minoans mysteriously disappeared, Hersonissos remained important, especially under Roman rule. Then, due to continuous raids by pirates, the city fell off the map for centuries (in 1900 it had as few as 133 inhabitants).

Port of Hersonissos Crete at dusk

Tourism, beginning in 1960, brought the town back to life, as this beautiful spot was literally redesigned to be the perfect vacation spot. Hersonissos is now a world with one purpose only: encouraging visitors to let loose.

Hersonissos is a very popular resort location, and one of the most popular on Crete. If you’re looking for a luxurious vacation among fellow travelers, this is the place for you. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to explore the unexplored, there are over 6,000 Greek islands to choose from (check out my Guide to Greece’s Most Overlooked Islands for more information).

The town of Hersonissos is actually set back from the beach, but most people mean the beach-front area when they say Hersonissos. For this reason, it’s important to know exactly where your hotel is before booking.

Most of the large hotels are on the east end of the beach, and the small town of Anissaras is a little further east, where you’ll find another collection of nice shops, restaurants, hotels, and bars. The Hersonissos harbor, which is filled with dining options and pubs, is also located on each end of Hersonissos beach. The further west you go, the less crowded the beaches become.

There’s plenty to do in Hersonissos itself, and day excursions to other locations on Crete are also readily available. Day cruises take you across the turquoise-blue waves to nearby islands, coves, and pebble beaches. Below you’ll find information on the best things to do in Hersonissos, including fun activities for kids, as well as practical information.

How to Get to Hersonissos from the Heraklion Airport:

Just 12.5 miles from the city, the airport offers three modes of transportation to get you to town: rental car, taxi, or bus. Taxis cost around 35 euro and take around 25 minutes.

Hotels in and around Hersonissos

Travel Tip: A small number of villages near Hersonissos offer hotels and apartment rentals that are more private than those in Hersonissos. Koutouloufari, Piskopiano, Anissaras, and Stalis are good options.

Marni Village Hotel
This is a great option for travelers on a budget: modern facilities, clean and comfortable rooms, huge pool with poolside drink and dining service. The beach is just a 10-minute walk away.

Grand Holiday Hotel Resort
Located right on the beach in Anissaras, this resort offers bungalows and many luxury services, including adult-only pools as well as child-friendly pools. And, the on-site restaurant offers good food at reasonable prices.

Day Trips from Hersonissos

Travel Tip: You can book day cruises and land excursions in downtown Hersonissos.

Spinalonga Island
Once a leper colony, this island features ruins as well as a Venetian fortress. Hire a guide for a truly in-depth look at this unique place. Afterward, take a swim in calm waters or lie out on its pebble beaches. This excursion also qualifies as an educational trip for kids.

Lassithi Plateau
Located on eastern Crete, this large plateau is said to be home to the birthplace of Zeus. It offers a peaceful drive through small villages that retain their traditional culture. Book an inclusive guide or rent a car and do the drive yourself; make sure to stop and see the folk museums, the windmills, the Psychro Cave where Zeus was allegedly born, and, of course, check out the great Greek cuisine.

Knossos Palace
The most important Minoan ruins on Crete, the palace includes remarkably well-preserved frescos and columns. You can explore the hallways and rooms, making this a great experience for kids. However, be forewarned that the ruins are exceptionally popular, which often leads to an over-crowded experience.

Recreation in Hersonissos

You can’t go wrong anywhere on the coast, but there are a few particularly excellent beaches, especially if you want to beat the crowds. The pebble beach of Stalis (a small village east of Hersonissos) and the beaches just west of Anissaras (west of Hersonissos) are private and welcoming. An eastern section of Hersonissos beach is a nude beach, but it notoriously offers little privacy.

Horse Back Riding
Traditional food, folk tales, and the Cretan countryside all come with a horse back ride. This is one of the best ways to experience the island. Wagons are available for babies and children, and guides make sure everyone feels comfortable.

The Creta Maris Convention & Golf resort offers an 18-hole golf course with spectacular views.

Samaria Gorge National Park offers incredible hikes through one of the largest gorges in Europe. At one point, the gorge grows as narrow as 12 feet, with cliffs of over 3,000 feet on either side. Located on the south eastern side of the island, Samaria Gorge is around 4 hours away from Hersonissos by car.

As promised, the parties never stop at some of Hersonissos’s lively night clubs. The most famous night clubs are the New York Club and Status Club, both of which feature world-renown DJs.

Written by Mattie Bamman for

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Friday 4th of November 2011

I recently visited Hersonissos and like it very much, particularly the El Camino restuarant near the harbour. Whilst there I bought a hand-made necklace with a smoothed natural stone form a shop very close to the harbour (they specialise in these), but I do not know it's name...... I would love to contact them again to order more of their necklaces. Does anyone know their contact details or website address?

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