Crete is one of the most prosperous regions in Greece. The development of the island has been positively influenced by its geographical position which ensured a mild climate and the number and variety of natural landmarks. Unique historical and cultural heritage greatly contributed to the look of modern Crete.
Crete is a large island which covers an area of 8336 km2. In the Mediterranean Sea in terms of size it is only surpassed by Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and Cyprus. Crete is favourably placed between three continents. The distance to Europe is 110 kilometres, to Asia – 175 km and 300 kilometres to Africa. The shores of Crete are washed by as many as three seas – the Aegean Sea, the Ionian Sea, and the Libyan Sea and the coastline is 1046 kilometres long. The capital is Heraklion.
The north of Crete is in the Mediterranean climatic zone while the south is in the North African zone. Humidity also varies depending on the proximity to the sea. Winter is mild albeit windy. Snowfall is common in the mountains. During the Cretan summer, average temperatures reach the high 20s -low 30s Celsius. On the south coast it's hotter in summer and winter is even milder.
Unique animals and plants
The nature of Crete is fairly diverse. It is famous for magnificent mountains and hot sandy beaches descending to aquamarine waves of the sea. All that contributes to the great variety of rare or even unique species of flora and fauna. The most well-known are sea lilies, loggerhead sea turtles which lay their eggs even on public beaches, and Eleanora's falcon in Lasithi.
About 100 species of plants grow in the valleys and foothills. High up in the mountains and deep in the gorges of the island you can see some really interesting plants and animals. For instance, the Kri-kri (the Cretan ibex) which can't be found anywhere else in the world.
The history of Crete originates from the prehistoric era. Millions of years ago the land that connected Greece with Asia Minor -Aegis – was flooded by the Mediterranean Sea. Only mountain tops were left untouched by the elements and later formed the current outline of Crete and the surrounding islands.
Crete was the centre of the ancient Minoan civilization that existed here in around 2600-1100 BC. There are plenty of historical monuments dating back from Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, periods of early Christianity, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman occupation alongside the ones created by modern Greek civilization.
Venetian fortresses in the harbours, well-preserved old towns and monasteries as well as Byzantine churches are scattered across the whole island. The museums of Crete have collected unique archaeological findings from all eras. Such abundance of attractions can't but make tens of thousands of tourists from all over the world come to Crete.
Crete has a population of about 600 000 people. The citizens of the island carefully preserve their heritage and honour their traditions. These are very religious, honest, sincere, friendly and incredibly hospitable people. They traditionally work in agriculture and stock breeding.
What you need to try
The main products of the island are cheese, wine, various fruit and vegetables and, of course, olive oil. The Cretan cuisine is considered to be one of the healthiest. You can taste wonderful dishes cooked only in Crete and enjoy amazing local and Greek wines in numerous taverns and restaurants all over the island.
What to buy in Crete
The most famous local goods are embroidery, fabrics, icons, ceramics and jewellery.
What do do in Crete
Everyone can find something interesting to do. Those who are keen on water sports will be met by the purest sea, the best coastal waters in Greece and incredible beaches awarded with UN blue flags. Unforgettable routes await hikers. And people who simply want to bathe in the sun will be welcomed by 300 sunny days a year, noisy city beaches and cosy quiet bays.
Crete is equally attractive both for people seeking solitude and for those craving entertainment. Apart from relaxing on a beach you can enjoy busy nightlife that, even in large villages, naturally coexists with romantic charm of Cretan evenings and nights.
Modern Crete is one of the biggest economic and cultural regions in Greece. Tourist infrastructure here is more advanced compared to other islands. Warm sea, pleasant climate, well-developed network of tourist centres and lots of comfortable hotels have made Crete one of the most popular resorts in Europe.
The main attractions include archaeological sites such as palaces in Knossos, Phaistos, Malia and Gortyn, venetian castle Fortezza in Rethymno, the Lasithi Plateau with Zeus' cave, the Samaria Gorge, Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of Arkadi, Monastery of Preveli, the monastery of Kera Eleousa and many others.
And the most important thing
Wherever you are in Crete, historical monuments, natural wonders, unique folk culture and hospitable Cretans await you.