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Picturesque Agia Pelagia: A Gateway to Two Popular Cretan Cities

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Last Updated on November 12, 2019 by epapp

Agia Pelagia is one of the most beautiful fishing villages on the northern coast of Crete, similar to Fiskardo, Kefalonia.

Albeit beautiful, tranquil Agia Pelagia is a bit more limited with excursions compared to Chania, where we began our Cretan journey.

However, this laidback village provides the perfect gateway for exploring Heraklion and Rethymno, two of Crete’s most popular cities.

Here are my top suggestions for visiting picturesque Agia Pelagia and using it as a springboard to explore beyond.

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Exploring Rethymno & Heraklion from Agia Pelagia, Crete

Exploring Agia Pelagia & Beyond

What to Expect in Agia Pelagia

Agia Pelagia is ideal for individuals, couples, and families looking for a relaxed, low-key beach holiday.

This scenic village originally served predominantly as a small port for transferring wood and coal to Heraklion before 1965.

However, Agia Pelagia has made tremendous strides in tourism due to investors building up the land in the 1960’s.

As a result, it’s become one of the most popular tourist resorts of Crete. It’s a postcard place of beautiful beaches, stunning water caves, and numerous tavernas.

Staying here offers the best of both worlds: A stepping stone to Crete’s larger cities and a tranquil escape at day’s end.

Visit Agia Pelagia Beach:

I recommend visiting the area’s central beach if you’re staying in Agia Pelagia.

Agia Pelagia Beach, Crete

This sandy beach is equipped with umbrellas and beach chairs as well as diving centers, for the more adventurous traveler.

In addition, there’s also a row of tavernas right along the shore, offering visitors a lovely water view with their meal.

Agia Pelagia Beach, Crete

This laidback beach is conveniently located just steps away from Seascape Luxury Residences, where my husband and I spent a wonderful two nights.

We also had a peaceful dining experience at two different tavernas along the shore during our time here.

Where to Stay in Agia Pelagia:

I recommend basing yourself in Agia Pelagia and staying at Seascape Luxury Residences. That way, you can relax and then venture out to explore some of Crete’s larger cities.

Seascape Luxury Residences logo
Seascape Luxury Residences exterior

My husband and I felt like true Greek residents staying here because these newly-designed units are actually personal apartments!

It was a refreshing change from the standard hotel room with only a bed and a bathroom.

All apartments are equipped with a full kitchen and modern amenities, including an oven/range, microwave, mini refrigerator, and a dining table.

Furthermore, there’s a small market located just around the corner from the property if you wish to prepare your own food.

Seascape Luxury Residences kitchen

Each unit also has a living area with a comfortable sofa bed.

Seascape Luxury Residences living area

Above all, I loved that our apartment was so clean and new!

Hotel Amenities:

We also had an enormous balcony overlooking one of the residence’s two outdoor pools.

Seascape Luxury Residences balcony

Yes, you read that right. There are two pools here. Talk about luxury, right?!

One pool is on the main level and has a poolside bar behind it. The other is up a flight of stairs, overlooking the property.

Agia Pelagia
Seascape Luxury Residences pool bar
Seascape Luxury Residences pool

The property also offers a convenient in-room dining service. Simply select what you want from their menu and they’ll deliver it straight to your room.

The menu offers a range of food, including breakfast items, snacks, sandwiches, and desserts. There’s also an extensive drink menu of cocktails and refreshments.

How to Get Here:

Seascape Luxury Residences is located at Agia Pelagia 715 00, Greece. I highly recommend renting a car to explore this area and beyond.

Visit Heraklion

Heraklion is the capital of Crete and the island’s largest city.

It’s known for numerous archaeological and historic sights, such as the famous Palace of Knossos.

Sights to See in Heraklion:

We didn’t spend much time in Heraklion, but we did hit a number of the famous sights during our brief time.

1. Old Venetian Harbor:

Old Venetian Harbor, Heraklion

The Old Venetian Harbor is one of the highlights of the city and considered one of the most significant landmarks of Crete. It’s located about a 15-minute walk north from the city center.

The harbor includes a jetty that stretches out for 2km in order to provide a walking path for visitors. It’s also home to the famous Koules Fortress.

You’ll find a map of the city along the harbor to help you navigate to the area’s most famous sites.

Heraklion city map

2. Koules Fortress:

Koules Fortress, Heraklion

The Koules Fortress (Castello a Mare) is located at the entrance of the old port of Heraklion. It surrounds the harbor and guards the entry to the port.

The fortress was originally constructed in the early 16th century by the Republic of Venice and remains beautifully intact today.

Heraklion: 30 minutes from Agia Pelagia

3. Agios Titos Church:

Agios Titos Church, Heraklion

Agios Titos Church was originally a 19th-century mosque. It was rebuilt from scratch as a Greek Orthodox church after an earthquake in 1856. The church is dedicated to St. Titus.

4. Bembo Fountain:

Bembo Fountain, Heraklion

There are several fountains in Heraklion’s city center.

Bembo Fountain is one of the most historically significant, as it marked the beginning of running water in the city.

5. Morosini Lions Fountain:

Morosini Lions Fountain, Heraklion

Morosini Lions Fountain was built in 1628 when Crete was under Venetian rule. The fountain was intended to serve as a small-scale replica of San Marco Piazza in Venice.

6. Venetian Loggia:

Venetian Loggia, Heraklion

The Loggia is an ornate City Hall structure built during the Venetian period. It’s actually considered one of the most architectural monuments of that time.

7. Municipal Art Gallery:

Municipal Art Gallery, Heraklion
Municipal Art Gallery interior, Heraklion

The Municipal Art Gallery is located on El. Venizelou Sq. (Lion Square) in the beautiful Saint Marcos Basilica, built by the Venetians.

This gallery includes exceptional works from Greek and foreign artists.

8. Heraklion Archaeological Museum:

Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete

Heraklion Archaeological Museum is one of the most important museums in Greece and in all of Europe. It’s renowned as one of the best in the world for Minoan Art.

Its exhibits include samples from all periods of Cretan history, spanning a time period of about 5,500 years.

We didn’t go inside, as we wished to spend the majority of our final day in Crete in Rethymno instead.

9. Knossos:

Knossos is the largest Bronze Age archeological site on Crete. It was inhabited for several thousand years until its destruction in 1375 BC, which marked the end of the Minoan civilization.

PRO TIP: Expect to drive – and pay – if you wish to visit Knossos. It’s about a 25-minute drive outside the city center and it’s not free. We drove here before realizing there was an entrance fee. The entrance is gated, so we were unable to see anything inside. We decided to leave and explore Rethymo instead.

PRICING FOR KNOSSOS PALACE:

  • General Admission – 15 EUR
  • Reduced Admission* – 8 EUR
  • Combined Ticket for Palace & Archaeological Museum – 16 EUR
  • Free Entrance – Children under 18 years old, students from EU countries, members of ICOM, ICOMOS, and tour guides

*Reduced admission available for EU citizens over 65 years old and current students from EU countries. All must present valid identification.

What to Expect in Heraklion:

I’ll be frank and say I wasn’t a fan of this city, in an effort to prevent any potential disappointment.

I found it loud, congested, dirty, and overwhelming, particularly on the heels of Chania.

That said, if you’re a history buff, you’ll probably appreciate its famous sights, particularly if you have time for a tour.

Alternatively, if you want to avoid the crowded city center but still experience the best of Heraklion, I suggest spending the day at Knossos.

How to Get to Heraklion from Agia Pelagia:

Agia Pelagia is located 23 kilometers west of Heraklion and its airport. While there are daily buses to Heraklion, the departure/arrival times aren’t always exact. There’s also no bus service at night. You can view the bus schedule here.

To avoid any inconvenience, I recommend renting a car to explore the city at your leisure. Street and lot parking are both available.

Take a Day Trip to Breathtaking Rethymno

Sitting along Rethymno's Venetian Harbor

Rethymno completely exceeded all expectations I had.

I hadn’t officially incorporated it into the itinerary originally because I didn’t think there would be enough time.

However, we made a last-minute decision to come here after an underwhelming experience in Heraklion on our final day.

I’m certainly glad we did! It was truly one of the highlights of this trip.

Rethymno doesn’t have the busy urban feel of Chania or Heraklion, although it’s the third largest city in Crete. It feels more like a romantic harbor town where time moves a bit slower.

This waterfront city honestly blew me away.

So if you’re willing to travel just under an hour from Agia Pelagia (by car), you won’t regret it.

Visit the Venetian Harbor:

I’ve come to realize that most Cretan cities have a stunning Venetian Harbor, and Rethymo was no exception.

Venetian Harbor, Rethymno, Crete

You can walk along the harbor wall to the Venetian lighthouse, pictured below.

After strolling around and capturing some beautiful pictures, there are a number of harbor-front restaurants where you can enjoy the view.

However, my husband and I found the restaurant owners to be a bit aggressive, as this is a rather touristy spot. They’ll try to usher you in as you’re walking by.

If you continue walking through the harbor area, you’ll enter a street lined with palm trees that resembles Los Angeles.

Rethymno town

Here you’ll find an array of shops and additional restaurants. Be advised, restaurant owners can be a bit pushy here as well.

To avoid this, I recommend eating on the other side of the harbor.

Fortunately, we found a spot along the row of restaurants next to the road for the Fortezza. Thankfully, the vibe here was more peaceful and the views here were just as beautiful.

Visit The Fortezza:

The Fortezza (fortress) is one of the other highlights of the city.

Due to limited time, we didn’t hike up to catch the views from above. That being said, we did witness a spectacular sunset here.

Fortezza in Rethymno at sunset
Rethymno, Crete sunset

There’s also an archaeological museum here at the entrance of the fortress. I would’ve loved to do this as well, if time allowed.

A half day definitely wasn’t enough to dedicate to this magnificent city. However, above everything, I’m just grateful we made it to Rethymno at all.

Plus, I now have a totally valid excuse to go back, as I often say!

How to Get to Rethymno from Agia Pelagia:

You can also catch a bus to Rethymno from Agia Pelagia, similar to Heraklion. Alternatively, there’s also a taxi service you can take.

However, I always recommend renting a car if possible, so that you can explore at your leisure.

Have you ever visited Agia Pelagia or the surrounding areas? If so, what were some of your favorite activities? Let me know in the comments below!

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Exploring Rethymno & Heraklion from Agia Pelagia, Crete
Exploring Rethymno & Heraklion from Agia Pelagia, Crete
Exploring Rethymno & Heraklion from Agia Pelagia, Crete
Agia Pelagia fishing village
Agia Pelagia, Crete, Greece
Agia Pelagia, Greece

This post was written in conjunction with Seascape Luxury Residences. They kindly hosted me and my husband during our time in Agia Pelagia. As always, all opinions are my own.

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