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Home : Holidays : Europe : Greece : Crete, Basic Facts

Crete, Basic Facts

Greece is divided into many regions and the regions consist of many islands. Greece islands are very popular tourist destinations by many European to the north to escape the winter cold. Nnisos Kriti = island of Crete. Crete is a region of Greece, it is the biggest island and the most southern one, except for the little island of Gavdos.Crete is 260 km (160 miles) long and 56 km (35 miles) at it's widest point. The area is 8,260 sq km (3,190 sq mi). Population is close to 600,000. The population of Greece is 10,665,989 (2003 estimate). The language widely spoken is Greek and the main religion is Greek Orthodox.

Currency: Euro is the new currency of Greece since 2001.

Main Cities and Towns:

North coast: Heraklion (200,000), Chania (80,000), Rethymnon (30,000), Agios Nikolaos, Sitia.

South coast: Ierapetra, Mires, Timbaki, Paleochora.

Airports: There are five airports in Crete but only three of them are used for passenger flights: the Heraklion airport, the Akrotiri airport close to Chania and the Sitia airport. The airports of Kastelli and Timbaki are military airports.

Harbours: In Crete there are two main harbours: the Heraklion harbour and the Souda Bay harbour. The harbours in Rethymnon, Agios Nikolaos and Sitia are much smaller. Along the south coast there are various fishing ports.

Mountains: Crete is a mountainous island and the island's history, as well as the personality of its inhabitants was greatly affected by these mountains. In the west there are Lefka Ori (White Mountains): 2453m, in the center there is Mt Idi (Psiloritis): 2456m and in the east there is Mt Dikti: 2148m. Cretan mountains form a continuous chain from one end of the island to the other and they make Crete look much larger than it really is.

Rivers: Rivers in Crete are short and they dry up in the summer months. Rivers which flows year-round are the river at Preveli in southern Rethymnon district and the river at Vrisses in Chania district.

Lakes: the lake of Kournas, a small but beautiful lake with many taverns around it.

Islands: There are several small islands very close to Crete: Gavdos island is the southest border of Europe and it is populated. The islands of Hrissi or Gaidouronissi, Koufonisia, Dia, Paximadia, Gramvoussa are much smaller and not populated. Most of them are popular destinations for one-day cruises from Crete.

The Cyclades island of Santorini or Thira is close to Crete also and there are daily cruises to it too.

Administration. Crete is one of the 13 administrative divisions of Greece. In Crete there are 4 Nomoi or Prefectures and many Dimoi (Municipalities). Each Dimos is consisted of various towns and villages.

Economy: The main sources of wealth in Crete are agriculture and tourism. The cultivation of the olive tree is very important in Crete and excellent virgin olive oil is produced here. Other important products include oranges, grapes and vegetables from greenhouses. Honey, cheese and herbs are of excellent quality also. Finally, big numbers of sheep and goats are raised in Crete.

History. Cretan History starts at 6000 BC, when the island was first inhabited. The best known period is the Bronze Age (2600-1100 BC), the period of the Minoan Civilization. During that period Cretans colonized Cyclades Islands and in Crete the palaces of Knossos, Festos and Zakros were built.

While Egyptians were afraid of the "Big Blue", Minoan ships used to travel and trade all around Mediterranean Sea. The cultural influence of the various nations Cretans came in contact with, gave birth to this civilization that we still admire and which is considered to be the first high-level civilization in Europe.

LINKS:

- Crete - 8,000 years of history (6000 BC - 2000 AD): Neolithic Period - Minoan Crete - The Occupation Period

- The Battle of Crete

- The Greek Flag and the Greek Anthem

The Land: The north coast is the main tourist area of Crete and all cities are located there. The southern coast is the ideal place for the tourist who is in search of an isolated beach. Unfortunately as each year passes and their whereabouts become known, such beaches become a little more difficult to find. Naturism is a common practice on many isolated beaches. The south is also a good place if you want to train yourself in driving in narrow and very winding roads.

Away from the coastal regions, the interior is a far less well known part of Crete. This is the mountainous area of Crete; the roads may be really bad, the road signs are of little help and it's hard to find an English speaking person. Here is the place to search for small villages without the familiar "Rent a Room" or "Restaurant" signs. It is the place to meet the real Cretans: proud and friendly people, with a great sense of humor, ready to help you in any way they can and offer you a glass of "raki" (the locally produced colorless drink). When you meet them in the road just smile and say "kalimera=good morning", "kalispera=good evening" or "yasas=hello". If you ask for some information and want to thank them, then "efharisto= thank you" is the right Greek word.

The People: There is a very good description of Cretan people by the Frankish Bishop of Athens, L.Petit:

" They are a truly admirable people who learnt to hold on stubbornly throughout the tumultuous events of forty centuries to their native character and local speech. Courage, mingled with an independent spirit that is often close to downright disobedience, a lively wit, vivid imagination, and a language full of images, spontaneous and unaffected, love for every kind of adventure, an indefatigable urge for freedom, that goes hand in hand with an insatiable desire for bravado... A fertile land that has always given birth to the worthiest of men both in Church and State, in science and letters, in the economy and in war..."