About Crete Print

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).
Language: Greek
Religion: Greek Orthodox
Currency: Euro is the currency of Greece since 2001

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 Gorge.

Administration: Crete is one of the 13 administrative divisions of Greece. In Crete there are 4 Nomoi or Prefectures and many Dimoi (Municipalities).  

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.


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)