Ancient Minoan Site on Crete
A mere 13 miles (21km) from the clamour of modern Agios Nikolaos stands a site which reminds us what can happen to even the busiest of communities over long periods of time.
Ancient Gournia was a flourishing town during the period of the Minoans, and was first inhabited about 4000 years ago. It stands now deserted on a small hill overlooking the sea and the beautiful Bay of Mirabello, and few visitors take the trouble to make the slight diversion off the busy road between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia. It is a magical place that ought to be seen, however, as it is regarded as the best-preserved of all the Minoan towns on Crete.
Maze of Back Streets
It centres around the remnants of a palace, but one that was significantly less important than Knossos, being only one-tenth of the size. Yet it is that very small scale, and the preservation of the ruins, that make the town come alive much more readily in the imagination. Here is the maze of streets, lined with the foundations of simple one-roomed houses. It is very like the maze of back streets you will find in the older Cretan towns and villages today. The paving of the main street of Gournia still survives, and you are treading where the ancient Greeks trod at the height of the Minoan period, from about 1700-1450 BC.
Ancient Crafts in Ancient Gournia
Most of the remains you see today date from that era, and like other Minoan sites on Crete it was destroyed in a fire caused by that cataclysmic event in 1450 BC that wiped out the Minoans. You can still see the steps that lead up to the palace entrance, and alongside them a massive stone slab, pierced by a single hole, which may have been used to tether animals prior to their being sacrificed. On the other hand, it may simply have been a butcher’s block.
It is known that Gournia was certainly a busy commercial centre, with evidence of pottery, carpentry and metalworking taking place here alongside other crafts such as fishing and weaving. Again, the similarities with modern Cretan communities are evident.
For more information about Ancient Gournia visit the Gournia page on the Minoan Crete website.
Where to Stay on Crete
Other Crete pages
Driving central Crete in three days gives you time to see the highlights including the Minoan palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, the beaches and the Diktean Cave.
Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Central Crete including hotels in Matala, Ayia Galini, and Zaros.
Greece Travel Secrets eats at Vegera in Zaros and finds a cheap but wonderful feast of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes cooked daily with fresh local food.
This Rouvas Gorge walk starts and ends in Zaros in southern Crete and should take three to four hours with a distance of eight kilometres or five miles.
Keramos Studios in Zaros on Crete is an inexpensive two-star hotel/guesthouse with one of the best breakfasts on the island using food from the family’s farm.
The Greece Travel Secrets guide to Zaros in Central Crete, including what to do, where to stay, and where to eat.
Crete (Kriti) is the largest Greek island and its main attractions include the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Samarian Gorge, Chania and Rethymnon.
The largest of the Greek islands, Crete has four ENUESCO sites, which are Sitia, Psiloritis, Asterousia, and the Gorge of Samaria.
The Dalabelos Estate offers luxury eco-tourism accommodation on Crete in the hills near Rethymnon with its own farm, vineyard and olive groves.
Crete’s wildlife and landscape are two of the island’s attractions, including gorges for hiking, rare raptors like the lammergeier, wildcats and ancient trees.
The best things to do on Crete and top things to see include the Samaria Gorge, the Minoan Palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, the towns of Chania and Rethymnon.
Crete festivals and events include Carnival Easter, Whitsun, Christmas, many other religious feast days and public holidays.
Greece Travel Secrets suggests where to stay in Eastern Crete with our favourite hotels in Zakros, Elounds, Sitia, Agios Nikolaos, Istron Bay, Myrtos, Neapolis.
Greece Travel Secrets’ potted guide to Eastern Crete and why you should consider it for a holiday, including seeing Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Vai Beach and Zakros.
How to see eastern Crete in five days, with its beaches, Minoan palaces, timeless villages, unique churches and mountain and coastal scenery.
Greece Travel Secrets discovers Sitia, the main town in eastern Crete, with its relaxing waterfront, inexpensive hotels, good food, and nearby ancient sites.
Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Eastern Crete including restaurants and tavernas in Elounda, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, and Kato Zakros.
Greece Travel Secrets visits Visual Arts Crete who offer accommodation and run art courses at their home and studio in the village of Kastellos near Rethymnon.
Chania is the main city in Western Crete with a lovely setting and a beautiful harbour as well as several museums.
Greece Travel Secrets visits the Crete Botanical Gardens near Chania and finds a wonderland of colourful plants, trees, and flowers filling a lovely valley.
Crete's capital and largest city is Irakleio, also called Iraklion or Heraklion, a large and busy place with good restaurants, museums and historical buildings.
Driving on Crete is the best way to see Greece’s biggest island and here is our driving advice and some information about Greek driving regulations.
These shopping tips for Crete include advice on buying souvenirs like ceramics, icons, jewellery, leather, weavings, wood carvings, and food and drink.
Malia on the north coast of Crete is renowned for its nightlife and beaches but also has the Minoan Palace of Malia, one of Crete's many archaeological sites.
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