40 Million Euro ‘Small Hellinikon’ Project Signed for Crete

Greek company REDS S.A. has been awarded the development of the former U.S. base in Gournes, Heraklion, Crete, for 40.2 million euros, the country’s privatizations agency announced.

The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) said that the sale was conducted through the process of electronic auction and that the board will soon convene to ratify the e-auction result.

Dubbed the ‘Small Ellinikon”, after the development of the former Athens international airport, the asset is considered to be a key item in the country’s privatizations agenda.

The real estate property of Gournes consists of a beachfront land plot of 345,567 sqm located 13km from the airport “Nikos Kazantzakis” and 16 km from Heraklion. During the last 20 years, land plots neighboring the property have been developed, the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, the Cretaquarium Thalassocosmos, the International Exhibition and Conference Centre of Crete, etc.

The tender, which follows years of delay, comes amid an emerging investment and building boom on Crete, the Mediterranean’s fifth-largest island.

Long one of Greece’s leading tourist destinations, Crete welcomes more than 5 million visitors a year and boasts several world-class tourist attractions like the Minoan era Knossos Palace, the legendary site of King Minos, and the Minotaur. Over the last two years, foreign investors have engaged in a number of deals and resort projects on the island.

In 2020, Hines acquired five hotels on Crete and Russia-based developer Mirum began work on its long-awaited Elounda Hills resort project in the summer. U.S. investment fund Blackstone recently acquired the Elounda Blu hotel in Crete – its sixth hotel property in Greece – through its Spanish subsidiary Hotel Investment Partners.

At the same time, the Greek government is investing billions of euros to upgrade Crete’s transport and power infrastructure. Work has recently begun on a new 1.5 billion euro international airport in Kastelli — located about 20 kilometers from Gournes – and is expected to be in operation by the end of 2023.

Also, underway is a 2 billion euro highway project stretching along the north coast of Crete, said to be one of the largest public works projects in Europe.

This article was first published here. 

For more Real Estate News & Views on Greece and Europe’s South, head to The Greek Guru.

Visiting Knossos, One of Europe’s Largest Archaeological Sites 

Those wanting to discover one of the largest and richest archaeological sites in Europe should add Heraklion- with its ancient treasures, historical riches, and ruins of the grand city of Knossos to their list.

Knossos Palace was once a thriving spot and the capital of Minoan Crete- it is grander and more luxurious than any other palace of its time. 

Insights Greece - Visiting Knossos, One of Europe’s Largest Archaeological Sites 
Minoan Palace

In fact, Knossos Palace is said to be one of the most beautiful ruins in history, making the striking palaces of Knossos and Phaistos Crete’s most famous and visited ancient sites by both local and international visitors who travel here all year round.

Once the imperial seat of the Minoan King, Minos, Knossos is the perfect destination for history buffs who want to discover more about myths like those of the Minotaur; and the artwork and intricate mosaics allow visitors to feel as though they’ve stepped into a magical world. 

History of the Knossos Palace

-The Minoans slowly began settling in the area starting from the Neolithic period, approximately 7000 BC; until the Mycenaean invasion, then the area was used by the Mycenaeans until it was completely abandoned. 

-Human presence on the site is evident for thousands of years, before the construction of the first palace. 

-Knossos is the largest palace in Minoan Crete. It is double the size of Phaistos, Mallia, four times the size of Zakros, and seven times larger than Gournia.

What you will Discover at Knossos 

Insights Greece - Visiting Knossos, One of Europe’s Largest Archaeological Sites 
A room at Knossos

Walking around the historical site, you will discover a massive civilization that was thriving 4,000 years ago. You will come across a drainage system that is so intricate and villas that were luxurious; many houses were five levels. Public and private areas were adorned with ornate frescoes, pottery, and wall paintings; Minoan artwork is so famous that it continues to inspire artists from all over the world.  

As you stroll through, you will also be able to see how the Minoans used three separate water-management systems and you’ll get up close to the Minoan columns- differing from the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian style Greek columns – these columns are narrower at the bottom and wider towards the top.

Facts about Knossos 

-Knossos Palace is huge and sprawling (43,000 square metres).

-The palace had 1,300 rooms connected with corridors around the main courtyard. 

-The archaeological site of Knossos was discovered in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos, a Cretan entrepreneur who was fascinated by archaeology.  

-In 1900, English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans led excavations in Knossos, which lasted around 35 years. Evans found that the Palace of Knossos was destroyed and rebuilt at least two times; with the first palace built around 1900 BC and the second palace built after 1700 BC.


Insights Greece - Visiting Knossos, One of Europe’s Largest Archaeological Sites 
Clay pots at the site of Knossos

-If you’re planning a trip to Knossos, it’s a good idea to stay in Heraklion, the capital of Crete. There are many options for accommodation, eating, and a great base to explore other nearby sites.

-To fully understand the history and culture of Knossos and to explore it in detail, it’s best to join a tour with a licensed guide.  

Getting there

From the centre of Heraklion, Knossos is about 5km away, which makes it very convenient to get to by car. The Line 2 bus will take you directly to Knossos, otherwise, you can take a 5-minute taxi ride to the site. Alternatively, if it’s not a hot day and you enjoy walking, it’s about an hour’s walk from the heart of Heraklion. 

Best Greek Islands to Visit During Off Season

One of the most commonly asked questions by our readers who plan to visit Greece is, which islands do we recommend during off season? Greek travel and tourism expert Maria Athanasopoulou shares her favourite destinations, outside the peak season, and lets us know why they deserve a visit any time of the year! 

by Maria Athanasopoulou

During this non-summer period, people from all over the world, plan their trips, in order to take advantage of good deals and also to enjoy spots where they can travel with fewer people. So, I recommend two destinations for your vacation in Greece during off-peak; the island of Crete and the island of Corfu. 

The island of Crete

Insights Greece - Best Greek Islands to Visit During Off Season

For me, one of the most beautiful Greek destinations during this time is Crete. In September, October and even November, the temperature is still very high, allowing guests to enjoy the sea, swimming and sunbathing daily, while also avoiding the crowds of July and August, especially when taking part in tours and excursions. 

As for the beaches of Crete, whatever one says will not be enough to do them justice. Most of the beaches really are fantastic and even if you only get the chance to visit one, it will probably be much better than you would have hoped for. Indicatively, I will mention Elafonisi, Falasarna, Balos, Kalamaki, Frangokastelo, Hiona, Paleokastro, Platanias, and Potamos.


If you decide to stay in Heraklion, I recommend ibis Styles Heraklion Central. It is located in the city center. It has large and nicely decorated rooms and serves a very good breakfast.

For authentic Cretan cuisine, I suggest the Courtyard of Defkalion. Traditional Cretan recipes and a very welcoming atmosphere!


In Chania, this beautiful city of Crete, there is so much to see. Just a walk around the Old Port  gives you the opportunity to take in so much history and culture! For your stay around this area, I highly recommend the Domus Renier Boutique hotel, it is an excellent choice that you will not regret. For food, visit the Enetikon restaurant in the Old Port. Try local recipes that will completely satisfy! 

Also, visit The Cellar Restaurant in the beautiful Telonio beach of Kissamos village. The cuisine was excellent and highly recommended! 

Insights Greece - Best Greek Islands to Visit During Off Season


The beautiful Rethymnon is waiting for you and will excite you with its unique beauty. In my opinion, it is probably the most beautiful city of Crete and fully retains its local traditional identity. For your stay, I recommend the Steris Elegant Beach Hotel. Very nice rooms and nice location. 

For eating out I highly recommend Raki Ba Raki Restaurant. You will be thrilled with its local recipes and the excellent taste of its dishes. 

Finally, if you visit Agios Nikolaos, do not forget to eat at the restaurant Archontiko, one of the best restaurants in town. 

Must see

The Archaeological Museum at Heraklion is a real experience. It is one of the biggest and most impressive museums I have visited! A virtual trip of about 5500 years, from the Neolithic Age to Roman times, awaits the visitor. The Minoan Exhibits and especially the collection of Minoan Frescoes is impressive.

There is no doubt that Knossos is one of the most important ancient cities of Crete. Visitors to the site have the chance to see how the Palace was in ancient times since the monuments are very well preserved. The palace was the house of the ancient King Minos in the Minoan era. Arrange to take the tour with an expert guide to hear all the historical details. The tour lasts about an hour and twenty minutes and be sure to put on your hat and take with you a bottle of water- it is really hot here when the sun is out!

If you love good wine, I recommend a visit to Manosakis Winery, where you will have the chance to listen to the owner’s life story while tasting some excellent wines.

The Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete

It is an olive grove, where after a big fire, the owners created a park with plants from all around the world. Visitors may walk through the paths of the park for almost an hour and a half to view various species of plants and trees and then taste the products produced, in the restaurant located inside the park.

Insights Greece - Best Greek Islands to Visit During Off Season

The island of Corfu 

Another dream destination for your holidays in Greece during off season, is the beautiful island of Corfu. You will enjoy it with fewer people and all your travels will be much easier.


Much has been written about the beautiful island of Corfu! This is an amazing place, with beautiful beaches and very good food. During the summer months, the island is full of visitors. I recommend you visit it before or after the summer months, so as not to encounter crowds. The city harbor, one of the most beautiful of Greece, is the first picture for anybody who reaches the island by sea. 

Corfu Town

A really beautiful city, the capital of the island of Corfu, with strong Venetian, French and English influence, is itself a unique destination. Esplanade, a large and beautiful square, is the largest in the Balkans. If you walk in it, you will admire many stunning buildings and within the small alleys, you will find many small souvenir and trade shops.

Fortress of Corfu

The Fortress of Corfu is one of the most popular attractions of the island. It is the first image that the visitor sees as they approach the capital of the island by the sea. The fortress is really imposing. It is built on a rocky peninsula. The location was perfect for the residents to control all the neighboring coasts in the past. The Fortress is now open to the general public. It is an attraction of the island that is worth seeing. 


One of the most famous sights of Corfu is this green rock that got its name from its shape. It looks like a mouse. In Pontikonissi there is a church dedicated to the Transfiguration of Sotiros. In order to get there, where the visit is short-term in order to protect the natural environment, you will begin across from the cannon, with the boats you’ll find there. It is worth making the circumnavigation of the island with a boat.

Insights Greece - Best Greek Islands to Visit During Off Season


Paleokastritsa is one of my favorite beaches. Also visit the beach of Agios Georgios, the beach of Agios Stefanos, Pelekas, and Benitses. Of course, the island has many beautiful beaches, I’ve just mentioned a few of my favourites.


The emblematic hotel Corfu Palace in the city of Corfu is undoubtedly the best choice for your stay. 

For eating out I highly recommend Paxinos Restaurant in Benitses. I tried some amazing food, with authentic Corfiot flavors. I combined my dishes with red Corfu beer, definitely try it!

For authentic Galaktoboureko I recommend the Milk Bar Periklis Alexis in the old town of Corfu. You will never forget its rich taste.

Please check all the above details before planning your trip, regarding the applicable regulations due to current restrictions.

Maria Athanasopoulou is the founder of the tourism marketing company Respond On Demand. She is also the founder of the non-profit urban company Top Tourism. She serves as the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the World Food Travel Association and she is also a Master Culinary Travel Professional. She serves as ambassador of the World Gourmet Society in Greece and Cyprus, and she also serves as ambassador of Green Destinations. She has given seminars for tourism professionals, as well as many speeches and presentations on tourism issues, in events in Greece and abroad. She is also a Sustainable Tourism marketing expert.