Crete Island

Crete General Information

Crete (Greek Kriti; called Candia in the Venetian period) is the largest of the Greek islands and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean Sea.
Crete was the center of the Minoan civilization (ca. 2600–1400 BCE), the oldest civilization in Europe
Tourist attractions in Crete include archeological sites at Knossos, Phaistos, Gortys and many other places, the Venetian castle in Rethymno, the Samaria Gorge and many other minor gorges (Agia Irini, Aradena, etc).

Crete is the biggest island in Greece and the second biggest (after Cyprus) of the East Mediterranean. Crete has an elongated shape - 260 km. from west to east and at its widest 60 km, the island is narrower at certain points, such as in the region close to Ierapetra where it has a width of only 12 km. It covers an area of 8,336 km² and a coastline 1046 km. long. To the north Crete borders with the Sea of Crete, to the south it is bordered by the Libyan Sea, to the west the Myrtoon Sea, to the east the Karpathion Sea. Its population is 650,000 people (as of 2005). The island lies approximately 160 km south of the Greek mainland.
Crete is extremely mountainous and is defined by a high mountain range crossing it from West to East, formed by three different groups of mountains. These are:

  • the White Mountains or Lefka Ori (up to 2,452 m high);
  • the Idi range (Psiloritis (35.18° N 24.82° E) 2,456 m);
  • the Dikti mountains (up to 2,148 m high)

These mountains gifted Crete with fertile plateaus like Lasithi, Omalos and Nidha, caves like Diktaion and Idaion cave, and gorges like the famous Gorge of Samaria.

Crete straddles two climatic zones, the Mediterranean and the North African, mainly falling within the former. As such, the climate in Crete is primarily temperate. The atmosphere can be quite humid, depending on the proximity to the sea. The winter is fairly mild. Snow fall is practically unknown to the plains, but quite frequent in the mountains. During summer, average temperatures are in the high 20's-low 30's (Celsius). The exception can be the south coast, including the Messara plain and Asterousia mountains, which fall in the North African climatic zone and thus enjoys significantly more sunny days and high temperatures during the summer, as well as very mild winters - consequently in southern Crete date palms bear fruit and swallows stay year-long, instead of migrating to Africa. Probably the best time to visit Crete is spring and autumn.

Crete's principal cities are:

  • Heraklion (Iraklion or Candia) (275,000 inhabitants)
  • Chania (Haniá) (139,000 inhabitants)
  • Rethymno (69,290 inhabitants)
  • Ierapetra (21,025 inhabitants)
  • Agios Nikolaos (19,000 inhabitants)
  • Sitia (9,075 inhabitants)

Crete is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece. Fifteen percent of all arrivals in Greece come through the city of Iraklion (port and airport), while charter flights to Iraklion were last year 20% of the total of charter flights in Greece. In sum more than two million tourists visited Crete last year. This increase in tourism is reflected on the number of hotel beds, which increased in Crete by 53% from 1986 to 1991 while in the rest of Greece the increase was 25%. Today the tourism infrastructure in Crete caters to all tastes. There is accommodation of every possible category, from large luxury hotels with all the facilities (swimming pools, sports and recreation facilities etc.), to smaller family owned apartments, to camping facilities. Visitors can arrive at the island through two international airports in Iraklion and Hania, or by boat to the ports of Iraklion, Hania, Rethimno and Agios Nikolaos

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