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Heraklion

Heraklion RegionThe prefecture of Heraklion or Iraklion is the largest in area, has the greatest population and the highest per capital income of Crete. There are seven provinces (eparhies) in this prefecture: Malevizi, Temenos, and Pediada on the north coast and Pirgiotisa, Kainourio, Monofatsi, and Viannos in the centre and on the south coast. The main cities are Timbaki, Ano Viannos, Matala, and Mires.

The northwestern area of the prefecture of Heraklion is comprised of the three provinces of Malevizi, Temenos, and Pediada. The main city is Heraklion. This area is the largest of grape - producing areas of Crete and its main products are sultana raisins, Malevizi (Malmsey) wine, and table grapes (Rosaki). In these valleys Sir Arthur Evans, the British archaeologist, excavated the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the remains of a great civilization.

A low mountain range rises in the middle of the prefecture and descends into the Mesara Plain. These fertile plains have been cultivated for thousands of years and have important Minoan, Greek, and Roman archaeological sites -- Festos, Agia Triada, and Gortyn are the major ones. The imposing peak of Psiloritis, 2,456 metres above sea level, is visible from almost all points of the prefecture of Iraklion. It is especially impressive during the winter months when it is snow-capped.

The prefecture of Heraklion has many cultural and historical features to offer the visitor. The finest collection of Minoan artifacts in the world and the sites of one of history's greatest civilizations may be of interest as well as the numerous Byzantine churches and Venetian castles and fountains.

The historical aspects combine with the scenic landscapes of mountains, valleys, and sea to make this a beautiful and fascinating area. The beaches of Agia Pelagia and Hersonissos on the north coast and Matala and Kali Limenes on the south coast will attract the visitor with their warm, clear seas. There are many fine restaurants and tavernas offering Cretan specialities throughout the area.

The eastern part of the Heraklion prefecture has some major resorts near the sea (Limin Hersonisou), some major archaeological sites (Malia), and many important Byzantine churches.

The southern area of the prefecture of Iraklion includes the four provinces of Pirgiotisa, Kainourio, Monofatsi, and Viannos. The most prominent physical feature here is the Pediada Mesaras. It stretches east from Timbaki to Ano Viannos. The plain is between the low mountain ranges of the south and north. The main products of Mesara are cereals, olives, and fruits. and cultivation goes on year-round, aided by the use of hothouses to increase productivity.