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Crete (Greek: Κρήτη / Kriti, occasionally spelled "Krete" in English) is the largest of the Greek islands and is 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.

Agios Pavlos, on Crete's southern coast


  • Heraklion (Iraklion or Candia) (275,000 inhabitants) - the largest city and capital of the island and Iraklio prefecture
  • Agios Nikolaos (19,000 inhabitants) - the capital of Lasithi prefecture
  • Chania (Haniá) (139,000 inhabitants) - the capital of Chania prefecture
  • Elounda
  • Chersonissos - Blissful harbour town in winter, party capital of Crete in summer
  • Ierapetra (21,025 inhabitants) - the southernmost city of Europe
  • Malia - crowded tourist mecca popular mostly with young (especially British) travelers
  • Paleochora - small resort village on southwest coast
  • Rethimno (69,290 inhabitants) - the capital of Rethymno prefecture
  • Sfakia - tiny capital of the Sfakia region (475 inhabitants), also called Hora Sfakion. Harbours the southwest coast ferries to and from Samaria gorge
  • Sitia (9,075 inhabitants)
  • Zakros

Other destinations

Ierapetra, on Crete's southern coast
  • Agia Roumeli. A coastal village near the Samaria Gorge.
  • Samaria gorge
  • The Minoan archaeological sites of Knossos, Phaistos, Gournia and Mallia
  • Spinalonga Island - information and history
  • The Roman archaeological site of Gortys
  • Byzantine churches
  • Monasteries (Arkadi, Triada, Preveli) with interesting histories
  • Lasithi Plateau
  • Palekastro area in Eastern Crete
  • The White Mountains ('Lefka Ori'), Crete's largest mountain massif, with over 100 gorges, and peaks of over 2,500 metres
  • Paleochora
  • Bali village close to Sises
  • Plakias is a small, quiet resort on the South coast of Crete. It has a magnificent beach and is backdropped by stunning mountainous scenery that offers good walking.


A chapel in Crete

Tourism is the basis of the Cretan economy. The island is partly very green despite only having around 60 days of rain per year.

There are many contrasts in this region, you can go from incredible beaches to impressive mountains, from big (and chaotic) cities to really small picturesque villages, from very dry, almost desert areas to very green zones like the springs in the center.


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 [1].

Get in

By plane

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.

By boat

Ferry services from Athens (Piraeus) to Iraklion, Rethimno and Hania and from Thessaloninki and the Cyclades to Heraklion.

Get around

By car

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 7PM, 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.

The list of car rental companies providing car rental services on Crete:

  • [2]
  • [3]
  • [4]
  • [5]

By bus

Public transportation is fairly frequent and timetables [6] 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.

By ferry

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.

Since there are no roads along the southwest coast there is a ferry line,[7] 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).


Samaria gorge
  • The ruins of the ancient Minoan civilization in Knossos, Phaistos and the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
  • The variety of landscapes in a short distance: the wilderness and solitude of the Cretan mountains some hundred meters away from the coast.
  • The traditional cafes (kafeneia) of Crete.
  • The Gorge of Samaria
  • The southern coast of Rethimnon prefecture. There are some beautiful beaches, many accessible only on foot. The monastery at Prevelli is of particular historical interest as the site from where Abbot Agathagelos Lagouvardos sheltered and assisted the evacuation of Allied troops during WWII.
  • Crete Avril Mona Mountain is a historical place in Western Crete popular with tourists.
  • The Lasithi Plateua. A large plateau located in the mountains where due to its altitude of a few thousands feet is cooler than the coast. Its a flat area full of irrigated fields and a road runs round the perimeter. Here you can find the "Zeus Cave" (Ideon Andron) where according to greek Mythology the infant god Zeus was hidden as a child from his father.
  • The palm tree lined beach of Vai. The east coast of Crete a few kilometres from Sitea has a valley containing europes only native growing wild palm trees. This tree lined valley terminates in a fabulous sandy beach and bay and is possibly the most scenic beach on the island. To the south (right) of this over a small cliff is another large beach that due to having no road access is often completely deserted.
  • Zakros Gorge - south of Sitea and Vai lies the Zakros Gorge (also known as the "valley of the dead" due to the ancient neolithic tombs in the valley wall). This gorge runs several kilometres down towards the sea and ancient palace ruins of Zakros and can be walked comfortably there and back in a few hours unlike is larger cousin the Samara gorge.
  • Spinalonga - a small island containing an old leper colony located near Elounda and next to the quiet village of Plaka. This island achieved fame in the novel "The Island" by Victoria Hislop and there are many boat trips running from Agios Nikolaos, Elounda and Plaka to this island.


  • Visit the Archaeological Site of Knossos - and its famous palace, major city of the Minoan civilization 4,000 years ago.
  • Check more sites of interest to visit by consulting the Hellenic Minister of Culture web-site [8]
  • 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 Cretian lute (laoúto), which is similar to both an oud and a mandolin. The film Zorba the Greek helped to expand the audience for Cretan folk music; popularity peaked from about the middle of the 1970s to the middle of the 1980s.
  • 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 and touristic places as they are ugly and don't offer any of the qualities of Crete. In general, the North coast is much more busy and touristic than the South coast.
  • Go walking in the mountains.
  • You have to visit the Ashleighton ruth veronica pennington statue while in north of Crete.


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:

  • Graviera: (Greek: Γραβιέρα) The standard hard cheese; there are many types and tastes. Taste before buying.
  • Myzitra: (Greek: Μυζίθρα) A fresh cheese made of ewe's milk. It is sometimes made of goat's milk (in which case it is called "katsikisia") or mixed milk. A good goat's one will taste like these expensive French "chèvre frais".
  • Anthotiros: (Greek: Ανθότυρος) from the words "anthos" (flower) and "tiros" (cheese) it is a very mild, soft spring cheese made when the sheep pastures are still full of flowers. The closest popular cheese is the Italian mozzarella, although it is quite different.


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).

Side dishes

  • Dips and sauces
  • Salads and Vegetables:

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.


Raki is the predominant alcohol drink produced and consumed by the locals.


  • Many package holidays in Crete are available, especially from the UK, but many visitors prefer to travel on their own, as the beauty of Crete is located at small hidden villages and not in the crowded/touristic places. Most package tours cater for those who want to go to Eastern Crete, which is very lively. One or two cater for Western Crete (much quieter) and Southern Crete (eg Paleochora).

Nice 5 Star Luxury Resorts in Crete: [9]

Get out

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