As is typical for us when we’re cruising we had an excursion booked while on Crete. We like historical elements so we elected to take a trip to Knossos, the largest Bronze Age archaeological excavation site on the island and former political centre of the Minoan culture.
Knossos was very popular. On our arrival at Heraklion we’d seen a fair number of other cruise ships in the port and it was a fair bet that each of them had sent some passengers to the ancient site with numerous others probably on holiday on the island doing their part too. Walking around the excavation was a slow affair as we frequently waited for other groups to go ahead or move on from where our guide wanted to take us and point something out. We were using radios so that we could hear what he said and this allowed some of us to wander away from time to time to take photos away from the crowds.
Knossos was something we were looking forward to on account of its age and historical importance and there were bits of it we liked – its general layout, for instance, and the scale of the location were pretty impressive – but overall we ended up coming away from this excursion a bit disappointed. It took a while for us to really work out what we didn’t like about the place and it wasn’t that it was rammed with people or extremely hot with very few locations to get out of the direct sunlight (although both of those points are true that’s nothing that is really the fault of Knossos); it was the restoration work. There’s probably a good argument that parts of Knossos look very much how they would have thousands of years ago but the jarringly straight lines of wooden blocks or stone plinths in places against the older stones from the site seemed to be a very unsympathetic approach to presenting the area to tourists. We came away from Knossos thinking that parts of it looked like a childish Disney recreation rather than an adult archaeological site and it was the latter we’d hoped to see.
While Knossos was not as good as we’d hoped the excursion was generally handled well. As I’ve mentioned, the heat and exposure was an issue and we went through the water we’d brought along very quickly indeed and needed to top up on our sun block a couple of times. At one point we queued to venture into a structure to see a throne. This took about twenty minutes under blazing sunshine as every other group was trying to do the same thing. The resulting ten seconds to look at the object before being forced out by the crowd made for another disappointing part (and no photo from me) but it was busy; these things happen.
Knossos is definitely worth one visit, but I’m not sure about two. I would recommend it if you’re on the island because no matter what else it’s still a major historical location but it’s possibly the least favourite site of its stature we’ve ever been to. If the day is warm and cloudless then bring lots of water and sun block and if you can time your visit away from tour groups then do so.