The hub of central Crete is the capital city, Iráklion, a busy but convenient base for visits to the nearby Minoan palace of Knossos. The area immediately around the city is less touristy than you might expect, mainly because there are few decent beaches of any size on the adjacent coast. To the west, mountains drop straight into the sea virtually all the way to Réthymnon, with just two significant coastal settlements: Ayia Pelayia, and the more attractive Bali. Eastwards, the main resorts are at least 30km away, at Hersónissos and beyond, although there is a string of rather unattractive developments all the way there. Inland, there’s agricultural country, some of the richest on the island, a cluster of Crete’s better vineyards and a series of wealthy villages. To the south lie the sites of Gortys, Phaestos and Ayía Triádha which can all be visited in a day, with a lunchtime swim on the south coast at Mátala or Léndas thrown in.