Heraklion prefecture, is named after the island's capital city Heraklion, and is visited by more tourists than the other three provinces of Crete put together. Heraklion is Crete's biggest prefecture and the southernmost land mass in Greece and consequently has the longest growing and tourism season in Europe.
Besides having the biggest seaport on the island, Heraklion also boasts Crete's only international airport, Heraklion International, which is conveniently located just out side of town. The other airport is in Chania and is smaller.
Heraklion prefecture also has a high concentration of major and minor Minoan sites, including Knossos, Phaestos, Archanes, Phourni, Malia,Tyllissos , Ayia Triada and Gortys. Plus the Heraklion Archaeological Museum the second most important museum in Greece.
There are also many seaside resorts on its north and south coasts. Over developed in the north and less so in the south.
Just as they must have antiquity its not uncommon for a Notia wind from the Sahara to blow over the prefecture covering cars and streets with a light coating of red dust. Sometimes vestiges of this dust even reach as far north as Athens.
Of the beaches on the north coast, those to the east of Heraklion are heavily built up for package tourism and in July and August are rather crowded for a good 50 km or until past Hersonissos (Chersonissos) and Malia. However, the north coast beach of Malia is worth noting because it can be combined with a visit to the nearby Archeological site of the same name. As you can see in the picture left Malia beach gets rather crowded in August.
Beaches on the south coast of Heraklion prefecture are far less less developed and a totally different world as you'll see below.
To the west of Heraklion along the coast, are high cliffs fronting the sea almost continually to Rethymno, with only two beach resorts, Ayia Pelayia and Bali.
With Knossos, Malia, and Phaestos all easily accessible from anywhere in the province, in summer, the Minoan sites of Heraklion Prefecture are inundated with millions of tourists. These sites had importance in antiquity and were situated where they were for a variety of reasons. Accessibility was important in ancient times and its important now. Knossos is a snap to reach from Heraklion town, you can take the bus, its only 5 km or go for it and rent a car.
In connection with these sites, millions visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, just north of Platia Elevtherias which houses most of the important finds including the reconstructed frescoes.
Some of the best agricultural land in Crete is south of Heraklion, with good vineyards, especially around Archanes, at the foot of Mt. Yiouhtas, which is visible from the sea as one approaches the harbor of Herakleion.To the west is Mt. Psiloritis/Idha, the highest peak in Crete. The south coast is rather undeveloped and has few roads, though Ayia Galini has become a resort as well as Matala. The archaeological sites of Phaestos, Ayia Triadha and Gortys, all in the south of the province, account for the large number of tourists that visit the area.