Crete is the southernmost region of Greece
and Europe. It is the largest Greek island and one of the
largest in the Mediterranean basin. Separating the Aegean
sea from the Libyan sea, Crete is a physical boundary between
Europe and Africa.
Description: Crete is 260 km (160 miles)
long and 56 km (35 miles) at it's widest point. The area is
8,260 sq km (3,190 sq mi).
Population: Close to 600,000 inhabitants.
The population of Greece is 10,665,989 inhabitants (2003 estimate).
Religion: Greek Orthodox
Currency: Euro is the currency of Greece
CITIES AND TOWNS
|North coast: Heraklion (200,000),
Chania (80,000), Rethymnon (30,000), Agios Nikolaos, Sitia.
South coast: Ierapetra, Mires, Timbaki, Paleochora.
Airports: There are five airports
in Crete but only three of them are used for passenger flights:
the Heraklion airport, the Akrotiri airport close to Chania
and the Sitia airport. The airports of Kastelli and Timbaki
are military airports.
Harbours: In Crete there are two main harbours:
the Heraklion harbour and the Souda Bay harbour. The harbours
in Rethymnon, Agios Nikolaos and Sitia are much smaller. Along
the south coast there are various fishing ports.
The local climate is one of the mildest and healthiest in
Europe. On average, winter in Crete is mild and summer warm
and sunny. Average year temperature is 19o C. During June
and throughout the summer, expect the temperature to range
from 24o C to 34o C with a mild sea breeze usually moderating
the heat. Local time is +2 GMT.
Diverse landscape is typical around the island.
The magnificent White Mountains, Psiloritis and Dikti rise
in the centre of the island, forming a continuous chain from
one end of the island to the other and making Crete look much
larger than it really is.
There are several fertile plateaus, with the Lassithi plateau
being the most prominent amongst them. Parts of the island
are split by deep gorges, such as the famous Samaria Gorge.
Imposing mountains are rocky terrain alternate with a coastline
full of astounding beaches, some secluded, others long and
sandy, all with crystal clear waters.
The north coast is the main tourist area of Crete and all
cities are located there. The southern coast is the ideal
place for the tourist who is in search of an isolated beach.
Unfortunately as each year passes and their whereabouts become
known, such beaches become a little more difficult to find.
Naturism is a common practice on many isolated beaches. The
south is also a good place if you want to train yourself in
driving in narrow and very winding roads.
Rivers: Rivers in Crete are short and they
dry up in the summer months. Rivers which flows year-round
are the river at Preveli in southern Rethymnon district and
the river at Vrisses in Chania district.
Lakes: The lake of Kournas, a small but
beautiful lake with many taverns around it.
Islands: There are several small islands
very close to Crete: Gavdos island is the southest border
of Europe and it is populated. The islands of Hrissi or Gaidouronissi,
Koufonisia, Dia, Paximadia, Gramvoussa are much smaller and
not populated. Most of them are popular destinations for one-day
cruises from Crete.
Crete is also renowned for its variety of vegetation, particularly
famous for olive trees, orange groves, vineyards and vegetable
gardens. Medicinal herbs and fragrant shrubs-laudanum, dittany,
marjoram and thyme – grow in rocky areas and the mountain
picks host the Kri-Kri, the cretan goat, a protected species
you might encounter wondering in the National Reserve of Samaria
|Administration: Crete is one of the 13 administrative
divisions of Greece. In Crete there are 4 Nomoi or Prefectures
and many Dimoi (Municipalities). Each Dimos is consisted of
various towns and villages.
Economy: The main sources
of wealth in Crete are agriculture and tourism. The cultivation
of the olive tree is very important in Crete and excellent
virgin olive oil is produced here. Other important products
include oranges, grapes and vegetables from greenhouses. Honey,
cheese and herbs are of excellent quality also. Finally, big
numbers of sheep and goats are raised in Crete.
History: This island’s fertile soil
and towering peaks witnessed the development of the Minoan
civilization (2800-1150 BC), one of the most important in
the history of mankind. Cretan History starts at 6000 BC,
when the island was first inhabited. The best known period
is the Bronze Age (2600-1100 BC), during which Cretans colonized
Cyclades Islands and in Crete the famous palaces of Knossos,
Festos and Zakros were built.
While Egyptians were afraid of the "Big Blue",
Minoan ships used to travel and trade all around Mediterranean
Sea. The cultural influence of the various nations Cretans
came in contact with, gave birth to this civilization that
we still admire and which is considered to be the first high-level
civilization in Europe.
|Away from the coastal regions, the interior is
a far less well known part of Crete. This is the mountainous
area of Crete; the roads may be really bad, the road signs are
of little help and it's hard to find an English speaking person.
Here is the place to search for small villages without the familiar
"Rent a Room" or "Restaurant" signs. It
is the place to meet the real Cretans: proud and friendly people,
with a great sense of humor, exceptionally hospitable and independent
ready to help you in any way they can and offer you a glass
of "raki" (the locally produced colorless drink).
When you meet them in the road just smile and say "kalimera=good
morning", "kalispera=good evening" or "yasas=hello".
If you ask for some information and want to thank them, then
"efharisto= thank you" is the right Greek word.
Taste the cretan cuisine, considered as one
of the world’s most healthy diets, listen to the sound
of traditional lyra playing local music, be amazed by the
scenery. Let yourself live this exciting atmosphere and experience!
There is a very good description of Cretan people by the
Frankish Bishop of Athens, L. Petit:
"They are a truly admirable people who learnt to
hold on stubbornly throughout the tumultuous events of forty
centuries to their native character and local speech. Courage,
mingled with an independent spirit that is often close to
downright disobedience, a lively wit, vivid imagination, and
a language full of images, spontaneous and unaffected, love
for every kind of adventure, an indefatigable urge for freedom,
that goes hand in hand with an insatiable desire for bravado...
A fertile land that has always given birth to the worthiest
of men both in Church and State, in science and letters, in
the economy and in war..."
(From: "History of Crete", Theoharis
Detorakis ISBN 960-220-712-4)