Crete, sometimes also spelled Krete in English, is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, and it is the fifth largest of all the islands in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea. Crete was once the center of the Minoan civilization (circa 2700-1420 BC).
Crete is a very popular tourist destination and roughly 2 million tourists arrive to Crete each year. The island is especially popular among Swedish tourists and you can click here to read more about the Swedish opinion regarding the Greek tourist island. In addition to splendid, sandy beaches the island offers a very contrasting landscape for those who wish to explore more than just the beach. You do not have to travel far from the fertile coastal plains before they give way to rugged mountains, home to the nearly extinct Cretan Wildcat (Felis silvestris cretensis). Crete is also home to a large number of archeological sites, including the Minoan sites of Knossos and Phaistos and the classical site of Gortys. Most of the archeological finds from the Minoan era is on display at the Heraklion Archeological Museum.
Crete is roughly 260 kilometers long and 60 kilometers wide, and inhabited by approximately 650,000 residents. The island is divided into four prefectures:
Major Crete cities
- Agios NikolaosThe capital of the Lasithi prefecture
- ChaniaThe largest city in the western part of the island, has an international airport frequented by a lot of charter flights
- ChersonissosHarbour town famous for its summer time parties
- HeraklionThe largest city on Crete and where you can visit Knossos. About 15 percent of all arrivals in Greece come through the city of Heraklion which has a busy sea port as well as an international airport.
- IerapetraThis city is the southernmost city of Europe.
- MaliaTypical tourist town, especially popular among young party animals from the British Isles.
- RehymnoAlso a popular tourist destination, but caters more to families with young children and less to the wild party crowd.
Things to do while visiting Crete
This is by no means a complete list, it is merely a few suggestions for the prospective visitor.
- Visit the cave where, according to Greek mythology, the infant Zeus was hidden from his father. This cave is located at the Lasithi Platheau in the mountains. The plateau is several thousand feet above sea level and thus provide a pleasant respite from the hot beaches during summer time.
- Visit the ruins of the ancient Minoan civilization in Knossos and Phaistos, and look at the Minoan artifacts at the Heraklion Archeological Museum.
- Visit the monastery at Prevelli, from where Abbot Agathagelos Lagouvardos sheltered and assisted the evacuation of Allied troops during World War II.
- South of the beach of Vai on the eastern coast of the island is another beach. It has no road leading up to it; you access it by walking over a small cliff from Vai. Since there is no road, you can often have this beach completely to your self.
- Visit the former leper colony at Spinalonga island. Boats can be embarked at Agios Nikolaos, Elounda and Plaka. Spinalonga is the island featured in Victoria Hislop’s book “The Island”.