Gournes is a tourist resort located 16km east of Heraklion, between Kokkini Hani and Kato Gouves. The area of Gournes is located in a large fertile plain with many vegetable crops and olive groves. Gournes was in the past a separate village but the rapid development of the region has made it one part of the united beachfront, which now starts in Vathianos Kambos and ends after 23 kilometres, in Malia. Gournes are situated on the 3rd kilometre of this front.
The name of Gournes comes from the Latin “urna”, i.e. troughs with water used for watering livestock. However, another version of the name tells that it comes after the Minoan larnakes (urns) that existed here.
Like most beaches on the north coast of Crete, the beaches of Gournes are vulnerable to north winds. The beachfront of the area is full of small artificial small piers, used for absorbing the wave force and keeping sand in place. Thus, several sandy coves have been formed between these piers. On the west part of Gournes, you will find the long beach of the area, which is well organized with umbrellas and lifeguards.
If you walk to the east, the coast gets rockier and you will meet the exit of the small torrent of the area. 1km on the east, you will see the former American Airbase of Gournes, which was abandoned in the early 1990s. The ransacked ghost buildings and the inefficient Greek state, haunt the region for many years, with the only notable exceptions being the International Exhibition Center of Crete, the Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), the City Hall and the Aquarium. At the west part of the Base, there is a small port, east of which unfolds the longest beach of Gournes. It is a lovely sandy beach, which is not well organized and extends to the east, meeting the beaches of Gouves. Especially, west of the boundary of the Old Base with Gouves, you will find the well-organized municipal beach of Gouves.
If you come to Gournes it is worth visiting the picturesque church of Agios Ioannis Pezetis with the old frescoes, which are built in the valley that comes through the village. Moreover, in the old village of Gournes, you’ll see the old church of the Annunciation. Nearby, a Minoan settlement and cemetery have been excavated, where many vases, figurines and seals were revealed. However, the most popular attraction in recent years is the Cretaquarium, which was the largest aquarium in southern Europe when first built. The aquarium, which is located inside the former U.S. base, attracts thousands of visitors daily.