Crete (Greek: Κρήτη / Kriti, occasionally spelled "Krete" in English) is the largest of the Greek islands and is located in the Mediterranean Sea between the Sea of Crete and the Libyan Sea, south of the Peloponnese. Crete is approximately 260 km long and 60 km wide. Crete consists of four prefectures: Chania, Rethimno, Heraklion and Lasithi. If there was a beauty contest for Greek islands, Crete would surely be among the favorites. Indeed, some say there is no place on earth like Crete. This view is strongly supported by those fortunate enough to have visited the island. Crete, with a population of approximately 500,000, is not just sun, sea and sand; it is a quite distinct place full of vitality, warmth, hospitality, culture and of course an excellent infrastructure.
Tourism is the basis of the Cretan economy. The island is partly very green despite only having around 60 days of rain per year.
Crete was the center of the Minoan civilization, a sophisticated Bronze Age culture: the island bears 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 Towards the end of the Late Bronze Age, the Minoans were superseded by Mycenaeans from the Greek mainland.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 mainstream 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, New Zealand and Australian) troops and the people of Crete during the 1941 Nazi invasion of Greece.
The language used in Crete is Greek, although in main cities and touristic areas people have no problem understanding English. Even in small villages you usually have no problem for basic things like shopping or eating.
The spoken dialect of Greek in Crete is similar to the one of the mainland Greece but it might have some small differences.
The island has three significant airports, Nikos Kazantzakis at Heraklion, the military airport Daskalogiannis at Chania and a new public airport in Sitia. Chania airport is much smaller and far less busy than Heraklion airport. Sitia airport serves currently only a small number of domestic flights, mainly to/from Athens. There are long term plans to replace Heraklion airport, which is too close to the city, by a new inland airport at Kasteli, southeast of Heraklion.
Ferry services from Athens (Piraeus) to Iraklion, Rethimno and Hania and from Thessaloninki and the Cyclades to Heraklion.
Hiring a car is easy, as long as you have your driving license with you. Check, though, that the insurance is comprehensive, and make sure when you take the car that all previous marks on it are recorded so that you don't get charged for these! Insurance on hire cars doesn't usually cover the underside of the car, or damage to tires. Gas stations often close around 7 pm, particularly in villages. Most gas stations expect you to pay cash - they serve you, so you can choose for them to fill the tank or put in gas 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 gas before bank holidays and Sundays when you may have more difficulty finding an open station.
Information about car rental rates for Crete is available online for visitors who wish to make their car reservation online.
The list of car rental companies providing car rental services on Crete:
Public transportation is fairly frequent and timetables quite trustworthy. Bus drivers usually divert from their marked routes to enter little villages if asked to do so. Bus services along the north coast and towards the south coast are excellent, reliable, frequent and cheap.
Crete has many ferry connections for example: You can go from Pireaus to Heraklion with Minoan Lines, to Chania with ANEK Lines or Hellenic Seaways, to Ayios Nikolaos and Sitia with LANE Lines. LANE also operates routes from Ayios Nikolaos/Sitia to Rhodes and other greek islands. In the summer, there are daily catmarans (hydrofoils) from Heraklion to Santorini. The trip takes about 2.5 hours. Hellenic Seaways and SeaJets offer these sailings. You can also go to Crete by ferry from the Peloponnese (Gytheio) and Kythira island. This ferry lands on the west part of Crete, in Kissamos port.
Along the road free southwest coast operates a ferry line, with connections between Paleochora, Sougia, Agia Roumeli, Loutro and Hora Sfakion (Sfakia). There is also a connection with the islet of Gavdos, Europe's southernmost point (Cape Tripiti). Here you find the timetable.
Crete is famous for its tasty and healthy cuisine. The Cretan Diet was the subject of study that revealed its great health benefits and nutritional value.
A good tip is to join any of the hundreds of traditional fiestas in villages which offer great food, wine and live folk music.
Unlike in most regions in Greece, Feta is not produced and is not very popular in Crete. However you will find a very good variety of delicious locally produced Cretan cheeses, such as:
Snails cooked in various ways (one of the most traditional dishes of Crete), Smoked ham (apaki) and smoked sausages (loukaniko), traditional mountain goat or lamb cooked in various ways, cretan pilaf (chicken and lamb risotto served with goat's butter), souvlaki (pork meat, lamb, chicken or fish on skewers).
Dakos (Greek: Ντάκος - Cretan rusk with tomato, feta cheese, olives, oregano and olive oil), Horta vrasta (boiled greens with olive oil and lemon juice).
The Cretans themselves eat out late, after 10 or 11 PM, and often in a group. They prefer dinner in a good taverna, a small local restaurant offering the local cuisine. Most dishes are fresh from that day. The menu is only for tourists, Cretans ask the waiter for specialties, and have a look in the kitchen or in a 'vitrine', glass display case. Dinner is usually outside.
Fresh fish becomes more and more rare, and is expensive, priced by its weight. Restaurants and tavernas by law have to display if the fish that they offer is fresh or frozen. Thus, always ask your waiter to show you the fish and weight it in fron of you before you order.
Greek people seldom have breakfast. They do enjoy a copious lunch.