Aptera

Top choice in Hania Province

The ruins of the ancient city of Aptera, about 13.5km east of Hania, spread over two hills that lord grandly over Souda Bay. Founded in the 7th century BC, it was one of the most important city-states of western Crete and was continuously inhabited until an earthquake destroyed it in the 7th century AD. Aptera revived with the Byzantine reconquest of Crete in the 10th century, and became a bishopric. You'll need your own wheels to get here.

In the 12th century, the monastery of St John the Theologian was established; the reconstructed monastery is the centre of the site. Excavations have exposed the remains of a fortified tower, a city gate and a massive wall that surrounded the city. You can also see Roman cisterns, an amphitheatre and a 2nd-century-BC Greek temple. At the western end of the site, a Turkish fortress, built in 1872, enjoys a panoramic view of Souda Bay. The fortress was built as part of a large Turkish fortress-building program during a period when the Cretans were in an almost constant state of insurrection. Notice the ‘Wall of the Inscriptions’ – this was probably part of an important public building and was excavated in 1862 by French archaeologists.

If you arrive outside the opening hours, the only section open to the public will be the ruins of a Roman house.