Gournes is 15 kilometres east of Heraklion. As you continue east along the old road from Heraklion to Kokkini Hani, the adjoining village is Gournes, which is quite small in comparison, and limited in its facilities.
The name Gournes comes from “gourna” meaning “basin”, and it is thought that there were many watering-places in the area at one time. The evidence still exists, as a “river” basin still runs through the centre of town. In the summer months, however, it is quite dry, but in the winter rainy season, and during the spring thaw, water rushes through here from the surrounding mountains to the sea below.
There are no big hotels in Gournes, but there are several nice smaller hotels, plus tourist apartments and rent-rooms. Gournes was a small, sleepy village until the late fifties, when the big American Air Force communications (no planes) base opened, occupying a substantial portion of the town property.
While the base population eventually grew to about 3,500 servicemen and their families, the surrounding area kept pace. Many of the first hotels and apartments were built in Gournes to accommodate the families of the servicemen and visitors to the base and its civilian work force.
When the Gournes base closed in 1993, the area was a bit shell-shocked, as about 1,000 locals became unemployed and hundreds of apartments and rooms were vacated.