After finding the Scoot Airlines service from Australia to Greece was particularly ‘Age-Friendly’, we decided to also rate Heraklion, capital of Crete.
Soon after landing in Athens in a Scoot 787 Dreamliner, we hopped a domestic flight to Heraklion.
It was our first visit, but we had an itinerary mapped out;
* checking out the age-friendliness of Heraklion Airport and ferry port – including their transfer links
* ditto for the city centre’s pedestrian access
* visiting Heraklion’s huge archaeological museum.
* travelling into Crete’s mountains to the famous massacre village of Anogeia.
* seeing the ruins of the Minoan palace of Knossos, about five kilometres from the city.
* visiting the Agios Titos Church.
We achieved all of this during our brief three-day stay in Crete, but the biggest impression caught us totally by surprise.
The people we met in Crete were among the friendliest imaginable.
Strangers approached us in taverns, thanked us for visiting their island and insisted on paying for our coffee.
If we puzzled over directions in the streets, locals would immediately stop and offer help. And the staff at our hotel – the Atrion – were delightful. Nothing was too much trouble and everything was done with a smile.
Bus drivers politely offered advice at our handful of faltering Greek words delivered with an Australian accent.
And when we once accidentally overpaid a taxi fare, the driver immediately handed back our money and explained that the fare was actually much cheaper.
Our Age-Friendliness rating:
9/10: From our experience, Heraklion is wonderful city that has much to suit all ages. From our brief stay, it seems the island’s greatest asset is the warmth of its people. This has no age barriers – everyone can benefit from experiencing it.
Another surprise: Cretan food is an explosion of taste – similar in some ways to the traditional Greek cuisine, but with its own variations and recipes developed from the island’s distinctive natural environment.
The centre of Heraklion is suitable for all ages. It is a vibrant mix of modern restaurants, fashion shops and traditional street stalls.
Cobblestone streets meander Italian-style from square to square, between fountains and through architecture that reflect the city’s Turkish past.
In the busy 25th of August Street we gazed at beautiful Neoclassical housing banks, travel bureaux and tourist shops.
Locals explained that 25th of August Street may have been first cut by the Arabs in the ninth or 10th centuy – and has always been the main thoroughfare of Heraklion, linking the town centre to the harbour.
During the city’s Venetian period (13th-17th century) it was called the Ruga Maistra (Main Street), while in Ottoman times it was known as Vezir Tsarsi (Vizier’s Market) after the Vezir Mosque.
The modern name of the street is due to a tragic event. On the 25th of August 1898, a mob slaughtered many Christians, including 17 British soldiers and the British Consul.
Midway down this impressive pedestrian street, we were stopped in our tracks by the simplistic beauty of the Agios Titos Church.
Probably the oldest church in Heraklion, this building was erected in the 10th century, but later became a mosque. Re-built in 1872, it contains the skull of Saint Titus, a disciple of the apostle Paul.
The excavations of the Minoan palace of Knossos are another wonder that appeal to all ages and are easy to reach by bus; fascinating to see; and perfectly complements Heraklion’s huge archaeological museum.
If incredibly old civilisations are your thing, then you will certainly get your fix at Heraklion.
We found the transport links to and from the airport and ferry port to be excellent – and ideal for of all ages.
It’s only a small airport and you need to walk across the tarmac to get on and off an aircraft, but the airport process are laid back and relaxed.
The port is busier, with ferries coming and leaving just about every day and connections to the other Greek Islands. Using the ferries is an interesting process, but straight-forward enough for all ages/
Bottom line: we loved Heraklion, its people, attractions and it’s food.