Ano Hersonissos

This village, 26 km from Heraklion, sits on a promontory 110 meters above Hersonissos, which is 2 km away, on the coast. It is the westernmost of a chain of 3 villages on the ridge overlooking the sea and Hersonissos, the other 2 being Piskopiano and Koutouloufari. The 3 are so close to each other that they sort of run together.

While Hersonissos is tourist-jammed, Ano ("Upper") Hersonissos is a much quieter hilltop village within easy reach of the sea. It's also known as Palio ("Old") Hersonissos, while the coastal version is known as Nea ("New") Hersonissos. Actually, "New" Hersonissos is quite old. It was a settlement during Minoan times  (2600-1600 BC), rebuilt after its destruction in the Minoan Eruption in 1600, and did well during the Roman and early Byzantine eras. The village shifted up the hill to its present location in the 400's because of repeated pirate raids and earthquakes. More stable ground was found on the lower slopes of nearby Mt. Harakas, which at least enabled the residents to spot pirate raiders from a greater distance and prepare a defense of the settlement.

Around the middle of the 20th century, as tourism in Greece started taking off, investors bought and developed land along the coast because of its proximity to the capital, Heraklion, and Ancient Hersonissos became New Hersonissos. It's also known as coastal Hersonissos, or Limenas Hersonissou (Port of Hersonissos). There's sort of a running joke about how the higher land was better for farming, so sons of farmers inherited it, while the poorer, alkaline farmland near the coast was given to sons in-law. The tables were turned during the tourist boom, however, when the coastal land's value skyrocketed.

Ano Hersonissos is a quiet, quaint place, away from the crowds of the lower town, but still close enough to enjoy its beaches. Its picturesque stone houses with their outdoor ovens make for nice little walking tours in the village. The tavernas are crowded with both locals and  tourists enjoying the famous Cretan cuisine and local vintages. The main square is often host to weekly evenings of traditional music and dancing.