Hop On Hop Off Bus Heraklion, Greece
At the cruise port in Heraklion on the island of Crete in Greece, hop on hop off (or hoho) busses wait for cruise passengers near to the cruise terminal. The terminal is not where the ship docks, but the port shuttle brings passengers there from the ship because it docks in a container port and people are not allowed to walk through the port area.
If you just take the hoho bus around as a tour and never get off the round trip takes about an hour. The posted signs at the stops had it coming once hourly, but during our visit they were not going by those signs and just came by every half hour or so at no specific time. When you buy the ticket you get ear phones, which you can plug into a jack by your seat and get narration in your language of choice, and they had a pretty good list of languages to choose from.
The narration will sometimes talk about what is coming up at the next stop, sometimes tell tales of the mythology of the local area, and sometimes mention things the bus is going to drive past. When it has nothing to say it just plays music. If there’s no sound at all either the volume (which you can adjust) isn’t turned up high enough, or you got a jack that doesn’t work, which happened to us with one of the jacks for our seat on one bus. Even if you never got off the bus you would get a tour of the area and learn something about it if you listened to the narration.
It just cost 22 euros apiece when we were there so we bought the tickets. Any of the stops where nobody wanted on or off the driver just kind of mentioned what stop it was in passing, but never actually stopped, like the first one between the port and the Venetian castle.
The Venetian castle is near where the marked path for those who choose to walk into town ends at the marina, and is the second scheduled stop for the hoho bus, though the first place where ours actually stopped.
Next it stops at a couple of museums. Some people got off at the one with the dinosaur outside. The next few stations the driver just mentioned in passing, though the recorded narration had quite a lot to say about the Jesus Gate, which is one of the gates in the Venetian walls.
The Jesus Gate was more than just a gate in ancient times as the aqueduct that once supplied water to the city ran through it. A new arched gate was added in the 1970’s for cars to pass through. The original gate is a few meters west. It was restored in 2014 and now houses a permanent exhibition about the famous Cretan writer Nikos Kazantzakis. The rooms inside the gate were originally used for weapons storage and accommodations for gate guards as well as lodgings for important officials. It got the name Jesus Gate because a small church once sat in that spot.
The narration also gave some history on the Venetion wall, saying that it was so sturdily built that it kept the Ottomans at bay for over 20 years before they finally broke through and conquered the city, at which time most of the people who had been living there moved to other islands.
The bus actually pulled into a parking lot and stopped at Knossos, the major archeological attraction of that area. The ruins there have several layers built atop one another with the oldest layer being an ancient city. Newer ruins were built atop the original city in an older and then newer Minoan palace, rumored to be the location of the labyrinth of the minotaur. All of it is ruins now, with some restorations done in the late 1800’s in the fashion of what people of that era thought things would have looked like before they were ruins. Some preservation has been done since to other areas as well, though more in the form of adding protective roofing, not rebuilding. You do have to buy an entrance ticket to see Knossos. There are lots of little gift shops across the street.
The next place of interest after Knosses is the city center, also a popular stop for people wanting to get off the bus. The bus route map shows a walking route through the city that goes by a fountain, but we just wandered aimlessly through the streets between shops.
We got chicken skewers for lunch at a little open sided stand. It was a permanent store, but you get things at the edge of it from outside and only the people who work there can go inside. Dessert was chocolates from a little bakery, ice cream, and chocolate shop.
If you get back on the bus from the city center it had one more stop between there and the port, but the map showed nothing of interest there so it was likely just a place for people to start their journey if they were staying in a hotel nearby.
It’s a nice walk from the port to the city center. The marked path goes along the seashore and passes along the edge of a marina.
We did not get back on the bus after wandering around the town for a while. Instead we walked back stopping at the Venetian castle and then walking the seawall out to the lighthouse before returning to the port. We had lucked out with dry weather for most of the day, but it started to rain while we were somewhere between the marina and the cruise terminal so we were a bit wet by the time we got to the ship.