About 28 kilometres east of Heraklion is Limenas Chersonissou or, widely speaking, Hersonissos, an interesting, lively and busy town, the main centre of a summer resort which includes a mixture of rural areas and a large number of picturesque villages.
The local tradition claims that the Etruscans founded Hersonissos and brought the worship of Artemis (Diana) Vritomartis, along with the wooden idol of the goddess, who, thus became the main divinity of the city.
The rich and important relics of the past, show that it must have been a cosmopolitan place even in the ancient times. The most important of them is the Minoan settlement at the western part of the port.
The ruins of various buildings and constructions, such as the constructions of the port, which is can be seen in the sea just under the surface of the water, an open theatre of the period, ruins of dwellings and a beautiful fountain in the shape of a pyramid, found on the pavement of the beach, provide evidence that the town flourished during the Roman era. There are also several Christian monuments worth seeing here, one of which is the church of Aghia Paraskevi at the port, built within a cave-like pening of the rock.
Nowadays, inhabited by approximately 3000 permanent residents, it is one of the most popular vacation destinations and possibly the most developed cosmopolitan resort of the island. There is harbour with yacht facilities from where summer excursion boats can get you to the islet of Dia every day.
There is a range of accommodation of every category and for all budgets. Hotels, studios and rooms to let, as well as camping sites are available for the visitors.
Many taverns, restaurants, cafes and bars offer good food and drink; there is also a vivid and fascinating nightlife.
Swimming is possible at the beach of the town, as well as at smaller beaches of the area. Sea sports facilities, including water parks complete the image of the resort.
The town can’t be considered a traditional one. It is modernly constructed with a cocktail of nightlife, satisfying the tastes of both young and more mature guests. The centre is the noisy harbour area with bars, fast foods, restaurants and numerous other places of the kind on the attractive raised waterfront which stretches along most of the town’s length.
The inner part of the place is the busy central commercial area and the side streets where there is a variety of bars and nightclubs, eateries, games arcades, shops that stay open until late at night, tour agencies, restaurants and tavernas, offer entertainment until late at night or early in the morning.
The small beaches of the main resort get crowded in high season. Much of the coastline is rocky and even some of the sandy beaches have rocky sea entry. During the day you can get a deep sun tan by the pool or on the shore. However, there is full range of water sports, from scuba diving to para-sailing and a couple of water parks offer pleasant summer entertainment. A reasonable central option is a good distance from most accommodation, slightly to the west of the harbour. Farther W are undeveloped stretches of coarse sand, which seem to be more attractive when if they are next to larger hotels which provide loungers and shades.
Heading eastwards is the neighbouring resort of Stalis. The resort also includes the traditional villages of Koutouloufari, Piskopiano and Old Hersonissos, which is about 2 km south of Limenas on the hillside overlooking the main town. These are much quieter and more picturesque places despite their modest modern development.
The outlying hill villages and western coastal agricultural areas are suitable for more independent holidaymakers who seek a quieter, less commercial environment. With a walking tour – if you don’t mind the burning sun - or a self-drive tour to local villages, you get a real taste of traditional Cretan life.
"Lychnostatis" is a folk museum in Limenas which keeps the recent traditional way of life alive and presents the folk culture of the area, including the traditional Cretan dwelling, with a fruit garden, a traditional oil press construction, a church, a windmill and works of Cretan folk artists. Folk dance performances and educational programs both for adults and for children are frequently organized in the exhibition hall of the museum.