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About Crete

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Crete Information

Crete is one of the shining jewels of the Mediterranean Sea and visiting Crete is the experience of a lifetime. To make the most out of your holiday in Crete, please read the information below.

Useful Information about Crete

On the map, you will find Crete off the south-eastern shores of mainland Greece. Crete is one of the 13 peripheries that make up the Greek nation and is actually the biggest of all the islands scattered over Greek waters. Its total area is 8,336 square kilometres, making it the fifth biggest island on the Mediterranean Sea.

Crete is a long island, with a length of 260 kilometres stretching from the western to the eastern shore. On the other hand, the width of the island varies from point to point. Its widest measure is 60 kilometres, but at Ierapetra, it is only 12 kilometres wide.

The terrain of Crete is very mountainous. There are three mountain ranges found crossing the island, namely: the Lefka Ori, also known as the White Mountains; the Idi mountain range; and the mountains of Dikti. While these mountain ranges make Crete rough and rugged, they have also blessed the island with such beauties as the Gorge of Samaria and the caves of Dikteon and Ideon.

crete map

Climate of Crete

Owing to its location, Crete has a climate that can be described as temperate Mediterranean. The implication is that summers in Crete are very hot and dry with almost no rainfall, while in winter it is typically wet and chilly. The falling of snow is a rare occasion in Crete, except along the mountainside.

Summer in Crete happens from June to September, peaking at around August. The temperature in Crete at this time ranges between 29°C to 38°C. By the end of September, the temperature begins to drop to between 23°C to 29°C and the rainfall becomes more or less frequent. Crete is coldest in the months of December and January with a temperature of 17°C to 26°C, and the rainfall is most earnest in February.

History of Crete

knossos in creteCrete is a very ancient civilization that has been enriched over time by the conquest of other cultures. The island is the centre of the oldest civilization that has ever existed in Europe, which is the Minoan civilization. The histories of Crete during these olden times, however, are shrouded in myths and legends.

The capital of the Minoan civilization in Crete is Knossos, the ruins of which are now a famous tourist attraction. The eruption of the volcano on Thera in 1400 BC was theorized to have triggered the fall of Knossos and the entire Minoan civilization. Afterwards, Crete became the home of Mycenaean and Dorian tribes migrating from Greece.

The Hellenistic period of Crete saw the island entering a time when various city-states such as Gortyn, Chania and Ierapetra vying for supremacy on the island. It was also a time when piracy became rampant. The conflicts in Crete attracted the attention of the Romans, and after a three-year siege, Crete fell to the might of Quintus Caecillius Metellus and became a province of Rome. The Romans established Gortyn as its capital on Crete.

When the Roman Empire fell apart, Crete came under the rule of the Byzantines. The rule of Constantinople, however, was interrupted in 824 AD when the Iberian Muslims invaded Crete and established their emirate on the island. The Iberian Muslims burned Gortyn down and built the city of Candia for their capital. Candia still remains the administrative capital of Crete under the name Heraklion.

In 960 AD, Constantinople sent Nicephorus Phocas to retake Crete for the Byzantine Empire. But the Byzantine Empire also collapsed, and this opened Crete to Venice, who conquered the island in 1204. Crete became Venetian territory until 1669, when the Ottoman Empire drove the Venetians out of the island.

The Ottoman Empire ruled Crete for the next two hundred years. A series of uprisings by the Christian Cretans that started in the 1820s began to undermine Ottoman rule, until the Ottomans themselves were driven out of Crete. In 1898, Crete became an independent state, and in 1913, as an aftermath of the Balkan Wars, unified with Greece.

Airports and Ports in Crete

The main international gateway of Crete is the Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport. It is the second largest airport in Greece and also one of its busiest. There are two noteworthy airports on the island, however: the Daskalogiannis Airport in Chania, and the domestic airport of Sitia.

The towns of Heraklion, Chania, Rethymnon, Sitia and Agios Nikolaos are built with their own passenger ports. These ports connect Crete to mainland Greece as well as to the other Greek islands via daily ferries.

Accommodation in Crete

As Crete is a major tourist destination in Europe, it is expected to find many hotels operating there, from small, family-run establishments to luxury hotels run by chains. For those who wish to experience Crete independently of any marketing package offered at the bigger hotels, there are also vacation villas, and self-catering apartments.

Car Rental in Crete

It is very easy to hire a car in Crete. All you need to do is to book a car from a rental car company’s website or make a phone call. Most rental car companies can deliver their cars to the Heraklion Airport or to the various ports of Crete.

You would need driving license when you rent a car in Crete. For your protection, you should rent a car that is covered by comprehensive insurance. Another thing you need to know when driving a rented car in Crete is that many gas stations are closed by 7 pm and that many require you to pay in cash. Gas stations are also typically closed on weekends, although the law requires one per area to be open during this time.

Sights You Should Not Miss in Crete

crete beachesCrete is a very beautiful country with so many sites to see. On a holiday in Crete, you should not pass up the chance to:

• Visit the Minoan ruins in Knossos and Phaistos, as well as the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

• Explore the rugged Cretan countryside, away from the beaches and the big towns

• Take a hike down Samaria gorge. The hike often takes four hours to complete, starting from the Omalos Plateau to Agia Roumeli

• Find the more secluded beaches and the more remote areas, away from the tourist crowds and the commercialism

Cretan Cuisine

Cretan cuisine is notably colourful, delectable and healthy to eat. The best experience for sampling the native dishes of Crete comes during the traditional fiestas that happen in the villages. In these fiestas, you can literally feast on great food, exquisite wines and lively folk music.

seafood shrimpsWhen on a holiday in Crete, go ahead and try these native dishes at the traditional tavernas:

• Dakos – rusk with olives, oregano, tomatoes and feta cheese, drizzled with olive oil
• Feta cheese
• Fried courgette
• Fried aubergine
• Gemista – courgette and tomatoes that have been stuffed with rice
Greek salad – a mix of cucumber, onions, olives, tomatoes and feta cheese
• Horta vrasta – green vegetables that were boiled, then seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil

Seafood is also plentiful and tasty in Crete. At a Cretan taverna, you can help yourself to kalamari, which is breaded and fried squid; octopus, whether boiled, grilled or soaked in vinegar; shrimps cooked with a red sauce and cheese; and mussels.

As for drinks, the most famous Cretan drink is the Tsikoudia, a mainstay in tavernas and bars on the island. The wines of Crete have a unique and exquisite taste. The strong and stimulating Greek coffee is another must-taste.

Just like Turkish or Arabic coffee, Greek coffee is very low on caffeine. You can order either glykos coffee, which has two sugars; metrios, which has only one sugar; and sketos, the Cretan version of black coffee.

Useful links about Crete

  • Agia Pelagia, more information about Agia Pelagia in Crete
  • Crete diving, scuba diving in Agia Pelagia, Heraklion and Malia by Crete Diver's Club
  • - The complete island guide
  • Greece index, hand-selected information about Greece
  • Corali Studios in Elounda: Studios and Apartments on the sandy beach of Elounda on the Greek island of Crete.
  • Creta Solaris Hotel Appartments in Stalida, Crete: De luxe apartment hotel ideal choice for family holidays in Stalida in Crete
  • We Love Crete Exposing unique corners of Crete island and her lifestyle; from the coves to the mountains, cuisine, architecture, art and nature of this historic yet cosmopolitan island. Detailed, real information about Crete and her culture, music & villages.