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Crete is the biggest greek island and the most southern one (except for the little island of Gavdos), with a population close to 600.000. The island 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).
Main cities and towns
North coast: Heraklion (200.000), Chania (80.000), Rethymnon (30.000), Agios Nikolaos, Sitia
South coast: Ierapetra, Mires, Timbaki, Paleochora.
Maps of Crete can be downloaded here (zip file app. 650 KB).
The north coast with its sandy beaches is the main tourist area of Crete and all cities are located there. Away from the coastal regions, the interior is a far less well known part of Crete. This is the mountainous area of Crete, a continuous chain from one end of the island to the other: 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. Here is the place to search for small traditional villages and 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).
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.
The climate in Crete is a temperate, Mediterranean climate. The winter is mild and rainy while the summer is hot and dry. The rainy season starts in late October and lasts till March. Snowfalls are extremely rare in the coastal zone of Crete. The winter in the mountainous zone can be very cold with severe snowfalls. Up in the high summits of Mt Ida and the White Mountains the snow stays until late June.
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.
- ChaniaCrete.gr (new window) - A tourist guide of Chania Prefecture in west Crete, with useful information about the history, the gastronomy, the people and the sights of the region.