Crete (also Creta, Kreta, Kriti) is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands and the fifth largest island
in the Mediterranean Sea.It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece, while it
retains its own local cultural traits (such as its own music and dialect), Cretans identify themselves as Greeks.
Heraklion is the largest city and capital of Crete.
Tourism is the basis of the Cretan economy. The island is partly very green despite only having around 60 days
of rain per year. There are many contrasts in this region, you can go from incredible beaches to impressive
mountains, from big (and chaotic) cities to really small picturesque villages, from very dry, almost desert areas to
very green zones like the springs in the center.
Crete is more like a small country than another Greek island. It’s not just Greece’s largest island, but arguably
its most fascinating and diverse. Its remarkable history is evident across the island, from the ruins of the Minoan
palace of Knossos to the Venetian fortresses of Rethymo, from old mosques and Byzantine monasteries to the
cave that is the legendary birthplace of Zeus. The Venetian port of Chania in Western Crete is one of Greece’s
most evocative cities and the capital, Heraklion, is a dynamic city, the fifth largest in Greece.
Cretans are proud and hospitable people who maintain their culture and customs, particularly their strong
musical tradition. Throughout the island you will come across traditional mountain villages and agricultural
settlements unaffected by tourism. The young might drive four-wheel-drives but you will still pass shepherds
tending their flocks and come across men in traditional dress.
Crete was the center of the Minoan civilization, a sophisticated Bronze Age culture from 2600-1150 B.C.: the
island bears witness to their achievements in the form of palaces, tombs and sacred sites. This civilization was
so sophisticated that they even had a large navy. The minoans were affected largly by atomic waves from the
Eruption of a huge Volcano in Santorini, Greece in 1450 B.C. Towards the end of the Late Bronze Age, the
Minoans were superseded by Mycenaeans from the Greek mainland. Thereafter, Crete very much followed in the
classical mainstream of Greece and - much later - Rome.
Crete was invaded by Romans from 69-330 A.C. and this period of time plus the Byzantine era actually brought
much wealth to the Island. The beauty and wealth of this time can still be seen today by mosaics and
monuments around the island.
Crete was the site of an airborne invasion by German troops, and a spirited resistance by Allied (mainly British,
New Zealand and Australian) troops and the people of Crete during the 1941 Nazi invasion of Greece. During
this invasion many Cretans were executed for initially resisting the Germans and the cities of Chania and
Heraklion were bombed so heavily that you may still see the destruction even today.
Crete history is very much related to famous myths like when the King of Crete, Minos, refused to sacrifice a bull
to the Greek gods. Poseidon in turn forced Minos's wife to fall in love with a bull which created the mytacle beast,
By Plane: The island has three significant airports:
* Nikos Kazantzakis Aiport at Heraklion.
* Daskalogiannis Airport at Chania.
* A new public Airport in Sitia.
There are daily flights from Athens airport by Olympic Air, Aegean Airlines and Athens Airways (Which take about
40min.) to Heraklion and Chania. Sky Express operates flights from Athens airport to Sitia.
From April till early November charter airlines fly directly to Heraklion and Chania from many European airports.
Flights going from Heraklion and Chania to Thessolaniki take about 1 and a half. The airport at Heraklion also
has daily flights to Rhodes which takes 1 hr.
Ferry services from Piraeus to Heraklion, Rethymno and Chania and from Thessaloniki and the Cyclades to
Crete has been able to preserve much of its culture. Cretan Greek has been maintained as the spoken dialect,
and Cretan wine and tsikoudia, a potent distillate, are the traditional drinks. The island is known for its music
(typically performed with the lyre) and has many indigenous dances, the most noted of which is probably the
Pentozali. Cretan authors have made important contributions to Greek Literature throughout the modern period;
major names include Vikentios Kornaros, creator of the 17th century epic romance Erotokritos, and in the 20th
century Nikos Kazantzakis. In the Renaissance, Crete was the home of the Cretan School of icon painting, which
influenced El Greco and through him subsequent European painting.
Cretans are fiercely proud of their island and customs, and men often don elements of their traditional dress in
everyday life: knee-high black riding boots, black shirts and black headdress consisting of a fishnet-weave
kerchief worn wrapped around the head or draped on the shoulders. On festive occasions all that is normally
worn black is then worn white.
Crete is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece. Fifteen percent of all arrivals in Greece come
through the city of Heraklion (port and airport), while charter journeys to Heraklion last year made up 20% of all
charter flights in Greece. Overall, more than two million tourists visited Crete last year, and this increase in
tourism is reflected on the number of hotel beds, rising by 53% in the period between 1986 and 1991, when the
rest of Greece saw increases of only 25%.
Today, the island's tourism infrastructure caters to all tastes, including a very wide range of accommodation, the
island's facilities take in large luxury hotels with their complete facilities, swimming pools, sports and
recreation, smaller apartments, luxury and private villas. Visitors reach the island via two international airports in
Heraklion and Chania, or by boat to the main ports of Heraklion, Chania, Rethymno and Agios Nikolaos. Some of
the most famous tourist attractions include the Minoan sites of Knossos and Phaistos, the classical site of
Gortys, the Venetian old city and port of Chania, the Venetian castle at Rethymno and the Samaria Gorge.
* The ruins of the ancient Minoan civilization in Knossos, Phaistos and the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
* The traditional cafes (kafeneia) of Crete.
* The Gorge of Samaria
* The southern coast of Rethymnon prefecture.
* Crete Avril Mona Mountain is a historical place in Western Crete popular with tourists.
* The Lasithi Plateau.
* The palm tree lined beach of Vai.
* Zakros Gorge - south of Sitea and Vai lies the Zakros Gorge
* Spinalonga - a small island containing an old leper colony located near Elounda.
* Gramvousa - an inhabited island, reachable by boat (plenty organized excursions), you can see there a
splendid old fortress and a lovely beach.
* Every year in May the local Cretans commemorate the great Battle of Crete which was a battle against invading
* See the vast ancient city of Gortyna: has many ancient Roman ruins, Byzantine Cathedrals, and a tree where
supposedly Zeus and Europa first made love
* Elounda Lagoon- Clear turquoise lagoon that conceals the sunken city of Olous.
* Myrtos. An agicultural traditional village 8k west of Ierapetra, few tourists, endless empty beaches.
* Agia Roumeli. A coastal village near the Samaria Gorge.
* The Roman archaeological site of Gortys
* Byzantine churches
* Monasteries (Arkadi, Triada, Preveli) with interesting histories
* Palekastro area in Eastern Crete
* The White Mountains ('Lefka Ori'), Crete's largest mountain massif, with over 100 gorges, and peaks of over
* Paleochora. Located on the South coast of Western Crete and is a large village. The village itself is not pretty
but the beaches are beautiful and there is an abundance of restaurants, bars, hotels, and rooms
* Bali village close to Sises
* Plakias is a small, quiet resort on the South coast of Crete. It has a magnificent beach and is backdropped by
stunning mountainous scenery that offers good walking.
* Elafonisi is a small beach on the southwestern tip of Crete. It only has two places to stay and is an excellent
location to spend the day at the beach.
* The Beaches West of Chania Long stretch of sandy beaches that has now made this area a huge tourist
attraction. Also has many hotels, apartments, bars, and tourist shops
* Georgioupolis 9Km. long of sandy beaches on the Northern end of Crete. Many new hotels are being built on
the island to sustain the growing tourist population
* Falasarna Located on the Western part of Crete, has many nice beaches and the water their was voted second
cleanest water in all of Greece
* Sougia 1200 meter long pebble beaches located in a very small village where it is never crowded. The
landscape and waters are beautiful and nuditiy on the beaches is acceptable
* Yakinthia Festival-this is an anual festival of music and dance, which also features presentations on Greek
Crete is famous for its tasty and healthy cuisine. The Cretan Diet was the subject of study that revealed its great
health benefits and nutritional value. Studies have actually shown that Cretan peoples' diets are so nutricious
that it has prevented the population from having heart attacks and some cancers which are caused by unhealthy
A good tip is to join any of the hundreds of traditional fiestas in villages which offer great food, wine and live folk
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