This small settlement is about 15 kilometers east of Heraklion. Its place name comes from the Greek word for "basin," as it drains water from the surrounding higher land during the winter rains, but dries up in the summer. Gournes is a quiet place of small hotels.
Much of the town property was occupied for several decades by a US Air Force communications base. About 3,500 servicemen worked there at one time. This led to the building of hotels and apartment buildings. When the base closed in 1993, about 1,000 villagers lost their livelihoods, devastating the little town.
Gournes has been coming back slowly since then, and has a reputation as a quiet holiday destination close to the capital. The former base property has been used to build the Crete Aquarium "Thalassokosmos" (SeaWorld), one of the best in Europe. Reviews of Thalassokosmos mention its cleanliness, its variety of sea life, and its emphasis on Cretan sea life.
Visitors and residents here do most of their shopping at nearby Kokkino Hani and Gouves due to lack of stores in Gournes. The 1 kilometer-long seafront is nice, though, with a nice beach, jetties and a small marina. The best beach is at the west end of the Gournes seafront.