Mass tourism at Knossos

During our stay on Crete we also booked a one-day trip to the historical site of the palace of Knossos. Ever since we decided to spend our summer holiday on the island I’ve wanted to go there, simply because I love the legends around the Minotaur and the labyrinth since I’ve been a child. Luckily, our hotel had a tour operated by a local tourism company on offer. On the negative side that tour would have to start and end with 3 hours spent on a bus as our hotel was in Kolymbari which was on the far west of the island while Knossos was moe or less in the center.

The fun started with the way the tickets were organized: Money for them (20€ per person) was collected on the bus by the tour guide who then went to the ticket booth on site. Admission for children was free but they had to be EU citizens and so had to come with the guide to the ticket booth. Something like this works for like 20 or 30 people, but we were by far not the only group there at that time. The result was a completely crowded entrance area with people not sticking with their groups and tour guides trying to find everyone again. The tickets themselves were basically QR codes that were manually scanned by a staff member because the automatic doors were broken.

Once inside, the groups were herded through the whole complex with tour guides trying their best to make themselves heard while not waiting for other groups in front of them to vacate the space. Honestly? I’ve never seen a more crowded and chaotic outdoor archeological site. At the heart of the complex is also an opportunity to see some of the restored rooms but there was a long queue for that without any shades so we skipped that.

The only slightly cool place at the whole palace complex

In general, I was really disappointed by the visit. While what has been unearthed and restored is beautiful, there is were little there to keep you occupied. There are few info-plates but you cannot really read them when being part of a group. It also doesn’t help that most of the antiquities that were found in the palace complex and surrounding area have been moved to the archeological museum in Heraklion or other cites.

Personally, if you absolutely want to see the real palace, do so in the off-season or at least on a cool day. Sadly, get a non-group ticket is also problematic since then you’ll have to enter a really long ticket queue. That being said, it’s probably more enjoyable to go through the site without a guide and without hundreds of people around you.

At least the issue with the tickets could easily be solved by using e-tickets. Groups can handle that on the bus ride or do the whole ticketing through the hotels especially since the end-result is just a QR code anyway. As for the rest, the whole site lives only from its name. People go there because it’s Knossos and that’s it. Even stuff like info-guides etc. are organised by the travel agencies and not by the site itself. We had radios that linked us to our tour-guide who then told us everything about the individual items. TUI offered some kind of tablet with a ridiculous cardboard sun-shield.

Anyway, would I go there again with the knowledge I now have? No, definitely not. I’d rather spend the day at the beach and go through the palace on Google Maps…