Iraklion (Crete), Greece

Iraklion, or Heraklion, is the capital of the island of Crete, and the fifth largest city in Greece. It is the birthplace of the painter known in Spain as El Greco, and the modern Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis. While there are many interesting things to see in the city, including some vividly colored frescoes from the ancient Minoan palace of Knossos, it behooves a visitor to make the short trip to that archaeological site and see its magnificence firsthand. Students of mythology will recall that the palace was the legendary home of King Minos, where he constructed a labyrinth to house the monstrous Minotaur. The wonderfully excavated and restored palace is the largest Bronze Age site in Greece, and brimming with artifacts and artworks shedding the only modern light on the vanished Minoan civilization.