Iraklion (Crete), Greece
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Iraklion is the regional capital and the biggest city on Crete (Greece’s largest island), and a favorite of travelers for hundreds of years. Members of the first great European civilization, the Minoans, were building palace complexes near here 5,000 years ago; these were only rediscovered in the 20th century. The city was founded in 824 B.C.E. by the Saracens, and in the modern era the island and city saw some of the fiercest resistance to invaders: first against the Turks in the 18th and 19th centuries, and then against the Germans in World War II. Even today Crete and its capital maintain a character distinct from that of the rest of Greece. It is a mixture of a certain wildness and traditional hospitality, blended with its history and a harsh but beautiful landscape of hidden plateaus and mountains that tower to almost 2,500 meters (8,200 feet). The people, peaks, ancient sites and stunning coast make it an altogether unforgettable place.