Top 10 things to do in Heraklion

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Wondering what to do on your next trip to Crete? During your stay in Heraklion, there are plenty of outdoor activities waiting for you! Snorkelling, jet skiing or via ferrata, there's something for everyone!

Heraklion is the capital of Crete. It is a pleasant city on the Cretan coast, with a population of around 310,000. Today, this port city is best known for its archaeological sites and museums. This makes it an ideal destination for lovers of culture and history, including the Palace of Knossos and the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion and its curiosities.

Nevertheless, Heraklion is also a city renowned for its magnificent beaches. As a result, tourism here has also developed around activities, especially aquatic ones. Heraklion is the ideal starting point for discovering the region's most beautiful beaches and islands. But of course, beyond the beaches, the exceptional natural sites in the interior of the island of Crete also attract lovers of outdoor activities such as quad biking, canyoning or via ferrata!

Heraklion is an ideal destination for enjoying all kinds of activities, while enjoying excellent Cretan cuisine and some famous wineries. To guide you on your next adventure, we've put together our top 10 things to do in Heraklion!

1. Take the boat to the island of Dia

Boat to the island of Dia from Heraklion

The island of Dia, located 30 minutes by boat north of Heraklion in the Cretan Sea, is a nature reserve renowned for its crystal-clear waters, with an average temperature of around 22°C. As a protected marine sanctuary, Dia offers a unique opportunity to spend some time in a paradise-like setting and, generally speaking, to observe the rich underwater fauna during a snorkelling session.

There are many boat trips from Heraklion to the island of Dia. This half-day boat trip to the island of Dia is a typical example! With a professional and friendly crew, you can set off to discover the most beautiful bays and beaches around Heraklion: the bay of Agrilia, Agios Georgios or the cave of Panagia. On these excursions, snorkelling is optional and you can simply sunbathe on the beaches or chat with friends and family in the heavenly surroundings.

2. Discover snorkelling from Heraklion

Guided snorkelling with underwater scooter at Mononaftis beach

If what interests you most is admiring the underwater life of the Cretan Sea, then you must try snorkelling near Heraklion! Also near the island of Dia, you can book an activity entirely dedicated to discovering snorkelling from Heraklion. This private excursion takes place in a small group of no more than 5 people and is therefore perfect for a group of friends or a family wishing to go snorkelling for the first time. Accessible from the age of 6, this private activity is a must for snorkelling in complete safety in the clear waters of Dia Island!

If you don't want to take the boat, no problem! You can also start your snorkelling activity directly at Mononaftis beach. Renowned for its diversity of marine life and shallow waters of around 20.8°C, Mononaftis beach is ideal for snorkelling in Heraklion. To cover as much distance as possible, this guided snorkelling activity at Mononaftis beach is done with an underwater scooter.

3. Try your first dive at Mononaftis beach

Diving at Mononaftis beach
Horizon Diving

If you enjoy the underwater world, there's another way to discover the fauna of the Cretan Sea: scuba diving. Even if you don't have any experience, a first dive in Heraklion is an opportunity not to be missed! By diving, you can discover even more of the underwater landscape (reefs, canyons and caves) and meet even more fauna (octopuses, barracudas and moray eels).

Accessible from the age of 8, the first dive at Mononaftis beach is supervised by a certified and experienced team who will accompany you throughout the experience. Quality equipment will be provided and everything will be done to ensure you have an unforgettable time in one of Crete's most beautiful diving spots.

4. Jet skiing from Ammoudara beach

Guided jet ski excursion from Ammoudara beach near Heraklion
H2O Watersports

If you're a thrill-seeker looking for speed, then jet skiing in Heraklion is for you! Head to Ammoudara beach, where you can either hire a jet ski and cruise to your heart's content, or take part in a guided tour to get tips and anecdotes from a professional local guide. Ammoudara beach is a popular and well-equipped beach with beach furniture, showers and bars. It is a popular beach for many water sports.

Hire a jet ski from Ammoudara beach and explore the Cretan Sea in total freedom! From the comfort of your jet ski, you can not only have fun doing tricks, but also discover unique views of the town of Heraklion.

If you prefer, join a guided jet ski tour of Heraklion Bay and set off with a certified instructor who will guide you to the bay's most beautiful beaches, including Paleokastro beach and Theseus beach.

5. Paragliding in Heraklion

Parasailing in Heraklion
Kreta Surf

Also departing from Ammoudara beach, you can take to the skies by parasailing! This activity, which is accessible to everyone aged 7 and over, is perfect for enjoying a view of the mountains of Crete and the sea at the same time. It's also a great way to spend some fun time with friends and family.

This parasailing activity from Ammoudara beach lets you soar to a height of 80 metres for 7 minutes. Alone or with a partner, you'll spend a magical moment soaring over Crete's most famous beach with the guidance of professional instructors.

6. Jeep safaris from Heraklion

Jeep safari near Asterousia from Heraklion

Discover the must-sees of the island of Crete on a jeep safari from Heraklion! Explore Crete by jeep and follow the island's roads to some exceptional sites. There are many jeep excursions waiting for you: to Mount Iouchtas, the Asterousia mountains, Matala beach and many more! If you'd like to take the opportunity to sample the island's specialities, there's even a jeep safari with wine and olive oil tasting.

The jeep excursion is accessible from the age of 3, so it can be a good option for visiting with the family if you don't have a car. Don't miss out on this easy and practical activity during your stay in Crete!

7. Quad biking from Agia Pelagia

Quad bike excursion from Agia Pelagia near Heraklion
Quad Safari Peninsula

For more adventure, opt for a quad bike! Be a driver or a passenger and explore the dirt roads near Heraklion, cross rivers and enjoy an unrivalled sense of freedom! If you choose thequad bike excursion from Agia Pelagia, you'll set off with a multilingual guide who'll be there for you the whole way, explaining the mysteries behind the ghost town of Achlada and the traditional village of Folede. Of course, don't worry if you've never been on a quad before! A short introductory driving course is provided.

This quad bike excursion is not only a superb opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, but also to discover the culture of Crete. At each stop, your guide will tell you the history of the area. In short, this activity is a mix between a sporting and a cultural excursion!

8. Canyoning in the Tsoutsouros gorges

Canyoning in the Tsoutsouros Gorge from Heraklion

Canyoning is the perfect way to excel in an unspoilt natural setting! You can go canyoning near Heraklion in the municipality of Viannos. There, a dozen gorges stretch over a distance of 25 km! One of these gorges is the sublime Tsoutsouros Gorge. This is a dry canyon, meaning it is not watery. Explore this unusual place with abseils that start out short and easy, then get progressively longer and steeper!

Canyoning in the Tsoutsouros Gorge is an activity suitable for beginners and children over the age of 12. For 3 to 4 hours, you will descend the canyon, discovering new sights along the way. Depending on the weather and the time of year, there may be water in the gorge until early summer. When there is water, you can abseil down spectacular waterfalls!

7. Via ferrata in the mountains of Asterousia

Via ferrata in the mountains of Asterousia from Heraklion

A cross between hiking and climbing, via ferrata may just be the activity you need to challenge yourself! Go via ferrata in the mountains of Asterousia and enjoy a site renowned for its rich fauna! With a professional guide to guide and advise you, you're guaranteed to have a great time in the sublime mountains of southern Crete.

Located between the Messara plain and the Libyan Sea, the Asterousia Mountains are a UNESCO-recognised biosphere. They have also been classified Natura 2000 for their exceptional birdlife. It's in this exceptional setting that you'll find Crete's only via ferrata! An intermediate level via ferrata, the central point of the Kapetaniana via ferrata is the Mytiki peak, from which you can admire the beauty of the Greek island on one side and the Libyan Sea on the other! Accessible from the age of 12, this sporting adventure is a must for via ferrata enthusiasts in Crete!

10. Hot-air balloon flight over the Lassithi plateau

Hot-air balloon flight over the Lassithi plateau
VIVA let's fly!

Enjoy a memorable aerial experience with a hot-air balloon flight near Heraklion! Take to the skies and admire Crete from above in a calm and silent atmosphere. A hot-air balloon flight is an activity accessible from the age of 6, giving you the chance to share a magical moment with your loved ones. Hot-air balloon flights are regularly organised over the Lassithi plateau near Heraklion.

Thanks to the transfer option, you can do this activity easily from Heraklion. Join professional instructors and set off on a unique aerial journey! Several options are available for your flight, so all you have to do is choose the one that suits you best! Gather your friends and family for a hot-air balloon flight from the Lassithi plateau in Crete!

There's plenty to do in and around Heraklion. While water activities are the most popular, there's something for everyone on this Greek island! So which outdoor activity will you book for your next holiday in Crete? Will you opt for the must-do boat trip or go canyoning in the Tsoutsouros gorges? It's up to you to decide!

And if you don't just want to visit Heraklion and the surrounding area, take a look at our article on the best things to do in Crete!