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Crete Information

useful information and travel tips

Don't miss our suggestions for day trips in East Crete or day trips in West Crete

creteCrete is one of the 13 regions of Greece. It 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, and to the south it is bordered by the Libyan 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 (2453 m)
• the Idi range (Psiloritis, 2456 m)
• the Dikti mountains (up to 2,148 m)
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.

Climate of Crete

crete summerThe 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 enjoy more sunny days and higher temperatures during the summer, as well as very mild winters.

History of Crete

crete gravureCrete was the centre of the Minoan civilisation, a literate and highly artistic Bronze Age culture, the island bearing witness to their achievements in the form of palaces, tombs and sacred sites. Towards the end of the Late Bronze Age, the Minoans were superseded by Mycenaeans from the Greek mainland. Thereafter, Crete very much followed in the classical slipstream of Greece and - much later - Rome.

Crete was the site of an airborne invasion by German troops, and a spirited resistance by Allied (mainly British and Australian) troops and the People of Crete during the 1941 Nazi invasion of Greece.

Airports in Crete

Crete has three significant airports, Nikos Kazantzakis airport at Heraklion, Daskalogiannis airport at Chania and a new public airport in Sitia.

Ports in Crete

crete portEvery major town in Crete has its own passengers’ port: Souda port close to Chania, Rethymnon port, Heraklion port, Agios Nikolaos and Sitia port. There are daily ferries to Piraeus (Athens), as well as to most Cyclades and Dodecanese islands: Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, etc.


crete chaniaCrete is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece. Fifteen percent of all arrivals in Greece come through the city of Heraklion (port and airport). 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.

Getting around in Crete by car

crete car hireHiring a car in Crete is easy, as long as you have your driving licence with you. Check the insurance and make sure that it is comprehensive to avoid unpleasant surprises. Petrol stations often close around 9 pm, particularly in villages. Most petrol stations expect you to pay cash - they serve you, so you can choose for them to fill the tank or put in petrol to a cash value. On the National Highway, there are service stations, but they are often 30 miles or so apart - make sure you fill up with petrol before bank holidays and Sundays when you may have more difficulty finding an open petrol station.

See and Do in Crete

knossos crete•  The ruins of the ancient Minoan civilization in Knossos, Phaistos and the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
•  The big variety of landscapes in a short distance: the wilderness and solitude of the Cretan mountains some hundred metres away from the coast.
•  The eccentric culture of Crete in the traditional cafes (kafeneia).
•  The gorge of Samaria
•  Listen to traditional Cretan music: Lýra is the dominant folk instrument on the island; it is a three-stringed fiddle, direct descendant of the ancient Lyre, which is held vertically, resting on the thighs of the player and is played with a bow like a violin. It is often accompanied by the Cretan lute (laoúto), which is similar to both an oud and a mandolin.
•  Complete the walk down the Samaria Gorge from the Omalos plateau to Agia Roumeli on the Libyan Sea, at which point tourists sail to the nearby village of Hora Sfakion and catch a coach back to Hania. The walk takes between four and seven hours and can be strenuous, especially in high summer.
•  Avoid overcrowded places if you want to experience the “real” Crete.

Check our suggestions for day trips in East Crete or day trips in West Crete.

Eat in Crete

crete recipesCrete is the most delicatessen place of Greece, famous for it's tasty and healthy cuisine. A good tip is to join any of the hundreds of traditional fiestas in villages having great food, wine and live folk music.
In the many traditional tavernas, do not miss the feta cheese, Horta vrasta (boiled greens with olive oil and lemon juice), Greek salad (cucumber, tomatoes, onion, feta cheese and olives), souvlaki, dolmadakia (stuffed vine leaves), gemista (tomatoes and courgette stuffed with rice), fried courgette or aubergine slices, dakos (Cretan rusk with tomato, feta cheese, olives, oregano and olive oil). Seafood is also tasty and not so expensive. Taste kalamari (squid), shrimps saganaki (shrimps in red sauce with cheese), mussels. Octopus (grilled or boiled and preserved in vinegar) and fried small fish like atherina or gavros are favourite dishes for Greek people, but you may have to get used to their taste.

Drink in Crete

crete tsikoudia•  Tsikoudia, is the the trademark of Cretan day and night life, a strong drink similar to Grappa in Italy or Orujo in Spain.
•  Beers: There are two major companies that produce beer in Greece: Mythos (Greek: Μύθος) and Alpha (Greek: Άλφα).
•  Cretan Wine: Try the eccentric cretan wine, produced in the island for at least 4000 years.
•  Greek coffee: coffee with strong taste but low in caffeine, similar to Arabic or Turkish. The Greek coffee (hellenikos) comes in levels of sweetness. Glykos - 2 sugars, Metrios - 1 sugar and Sketos - no sugar. In addition there is Varis Glykos which is 2 sugars and extra coffee.


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