Gournes is a tourist destination situated 16km east of Heraklion, between Kokkini Hani and Kato Gouves. Its name derives from the Latin term ‘urna’, meaning troughs with water used for livestock. It is located in a large, fertile plain with plenty of vegetable crops and olive groves. In the past, Gournes was a small village; however, it has since become a part of the beachfront stretching from Vathianos Kambos to Malia, with the resort located at the third kilometer.
Due to the strong winds from the north, the beaches of Gournes are susceptible to erosion. To counteract this, many artificial piers have been constructed, which have consequently formed several small coves. The western beach of Gournes is the longest and is well-equipped with umbrellas and a lifeguard. Moving east, the shore gradually becomes rockier and the small river of the area can be found. The former American Airbase of Gournes is located 1km further east, though its buildings have since fallen into disrepair and the only developed parts are the International Exhibition Center of Crete, the Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), the City Hall and the Aquarium.
Gournes is also home to two churches of note; the picturesque Agios Ioannis Pezetis and the old church of the Annunciation. Additionally, a Minoan settlement and cemetery have been unearthed close by, where many vases, figurines and seals have been discovered. Lastly, the town’s most popular sight is the Cretaquarium, which was the largest aquarium in southern Europe when first built and now attracts thousands of visitors every day.