Heraklion is an ancient city. Anyone who's interested in life in Ancient Greece will want to make visiting the Palace of Knossos a priority. This site dates back to the Bronze Age, and is often named as Europe's oldest city. Visit the fascinating archaeological museum to see items found at the site throughout the ages, then head out into the old city to see the frescoes and architecture. It's worth taking a guided tour to get the most from a Knossos visit. Back in town, stroll around the sights of the Old Town such as the Cathedral of St Minas or Koules Cathedral. If you're still interested in learning more about Cretan history, there is an interesting Natural History and Archaeological museum in the centre of town too.
One of the main advantages of renting a car in Heraklion is that you have the option of exploring further afield too. Take a drive east through the mountains to Elounda, where boat trips leave for the little island of Spinalonga. A former leper colony, the now deserted island is small enough to walk around in an afternoon. It's the sort of place where time appears to have stood still. Don't miss the little chapel and great coastal views from the path above the town.
Drive in the other direction for Chania, one of Crete's smartest beach resorts with beautiful sandy beaches and all the restaurants, bars and water parks which you'd expect from a busy visitor area.
One of the quietest beaches on Crete is at Kastelli, just west of Chania and easily accessible when you rent a car in Heraklion. On the way back to Heraklion, stop off at Rethymno to watch the sun set at the famous port and lighthouse.
Heraklion is Crete's largest city, main port and has a population of around 140,000. It's on the north coast of the island and the main airport is just outside of town. Ferries depart from Heraklion's port to other Greek islands and to the mainland too. Heraklion's position in the eastern Mediterranean guarantees a year round warm climate, with temperatures rarely dropping below 17C even in the middle of winter. In the summer, the temperature can easily be up into the 30s.
Heraklion and the surrounding coastal resorts cater for an international crowd, so you can expect to find restaurants serving every cuisine you can think of. It's worth seeking out a traditional Greek or Cretan restaurant though. Cheese is possibly the most famous product of the island, and one of the must-try dishes is Kalitsounia, a cheese pastry pie which is sweet and served with deliciously fresh honey.
You are allowed to rent a car in Figari if you are at least 21 years old – some car rentals demand an age of 26 years or have special offers to reduce the age to 18 years - and have held an EU driver’s license for more than a year. Present your driving license, valid credit card and identification for car hire at Figari airport. Remember to drive within the designated speed limits: 50 km/h in urban areas, 110 km/h on 2/3 lane highways and 90km/h on other roads.
Corsican roads follow the beautiful Mediterranean coastline, sometimes passing through alpine mountain ranges with rewarding scenic views. The main highways, T50 and T20, offer a pleasant, smooth drive. However, be prepared to meet several narrow minor routes, especially in the island's rural parts. As most roads pass through mountains, steep drops and sharp bends are common. Avoid making road trips during rush hour in Corsica's main cities, when traffic can slow down greatly.