Palace of Knossos

Travel guides for Crete abound with information related to the Palace of Knossos complex in Heraklion – and for good reason.  These Minoan ruins, subject of much controversy with regard to how they were discovered and reconstructed, are definitely worth a visit.

Taking the National Highway, there is a well marked exit for Knossos.  Directions are a little less clear once you are actually on the exit ramp though, but we sorted ourselves out easily enough.  The road out to Knossos is busy, with lots of roundabouts and traffic lights – but it’s a straight shot once you are on it.  As you arrive at the site, it is well marked with accessible parking and plenty of spaces.

Entrance to Knossos

Entrance to Knossos (after we left)

How to get there:

Click on “View larger map” to enter your starting point and get driving directions to the palace of Knossos.

We decided to visit this year as soon as the site opened for the season.  Knossos is very large, extremely popular, and jammed with visitors in high season.  We wanted to beat the crowds and take our time to discover the story of this archaeological gem.  In order to hit the site as soon as it opened, we decided to stay the night before in pretty Agia Pelagia, which is on the coast to the northwest and about a 30 minute drive from the site.

Exploring the Palace of Knossos

Where to begin with Knossos?  According to Homer, Knossos was the capital of Crete and where the powerful King Minos ruled.  Excavations have confirmed that Knossos was a place of great importance.  The palace complex is made up of a central courtyard, surrounded by living quarters, work and storage spaces.

Map for visitors of Palace of Knossos

Map for visitors of Palace of Knossos

There are grand staircases, a royal road, great halls, a theater, basements and workshops. There are reconstructions of the Little Palace, Minoan Villas, the Royal Villa and a House of the High Priest.  The Minoan frescoes discovered at the site now rest in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion and reproductions are painted in their place at the compound.  These frescoes are the earliest examples of paintings in Greece.

Once inside the entrance, you will have the opportunity to hire a tour guide to take you around the site.  We declined, however, there is so much to learn about the area that it would be worthwhile to have a knowledgeable person guide you.

Over the last decade, the Knossos Urban Landscape Project, has continued to excavate in the Knossos Valley.  They have uncovered artifacts and ceramics from as far back as the Iron Age, and have discovered that the entire site is much larger than previously recorded.

We highly recommend a visit to Knossos, especially if you can get there before the crowds.  There is an on-site gift shop, cafe, and the surrounding area also has several places to grab something to eat.