General information about Crete

The island of Crete is the quintessential Greece. An island of long forgotten civilisations, the birthplace of Gods and heroic figures, poets, musicians, writers, artists and radical, inspiring political leaders. From out of Crete emerged great civilizations of the past and evidence of these can still be seen in every corner of its land.

Crete is an island that has, over the centuries, seen countless conquerors, coming from mainland Greece and further afield and, in turn, has seen fierce resistance from its proud and strong people. It is an island of contrasts: majestic mountain ranges and serene plateaux and gentle hills; gentle seas lapping golden beaches and crashing oceans against sheer cliffs plummeting vertically into the water; mythical gods and ancient kings; immense power and inexplicable demise; proud and strong people who are, at the same time, gentle, giving and the proud bestowers of traditional Greek filoxenia.

From all the Greek islands, Crete is the largest and also the second largest in the eastern Mediterranean. It is the southern most island of the Aegean Sea and is strategically located at the crossroads of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa, which, to a large degree accounts for its tumultuous history. Its shores are washed by the Libyan Sea, the Cretan Sea, the Myrtoan Sea and the Karpathian Sea.

The island's appearance is long and narrow, being 260km by 60km the narrowest part measuring a mere 12km in the region of Lerapetra. Around its coastline are numerous islands and islets, some habited and popular tourist destinations whereas others are uninhabited and of interest to mostly biologists and archaeologists.

Crete has a soaring mountain range that traverses the island from east to west. This mountainous landscape has, in turn, created an island that has a plentiful supply of deep ravines or gorges, caves, valleys and high plateaux, dense woods, rivers, waterfalls and even two freshwater lakes and, of course, a coastline of glorious beaches ranging from rocky, pebbly or fine golden or white sands. The island is divided administratively into four prefectures, Crania, Rethymon, Lasithi and Heraklion. The capital of the island is Iraklion in the prefecture of the same name and is the largest town on the island with a population of around 100,000.

Although the island straddles the two climatic zones of both the Mediterranean and North African its climate is more typically Mediterranean being classified as temperate. The summer temperatures are classically dry and hot with average temperatures between high 20s to low 30s Celsius but can reach the high 30s to mid 40s and, depending on closeness to the sea, the humidity can be high in summertime. Winters are usually fairly mild although, in the mountainous regions, snow is common and temperatures can drop to abnormally low levels.

Snow can stay on the tops of the highest mountains for the whole year but it is very rare to have snow in the low lying regions. The southern coast of the island which includes the Mesara Plain and the Asterousia Mountain range falls within the North African climatic zone and consequently has considerably more sun and higher temperatures all year round. .

The Cretans are warm, friendly open people who love life and the company of others. Hospitable to strangers, the Cretans make sure that holidaying on their island will always leave the visitor with a warm glow. As a result of their turbulent and often violent history it is not surprising that they also strongly uphold the values of independence and freedom, and this is reflected in many of their daily customs.

Cretans have very strong family and kinship ties and the Cretan culture is known throughout Greece and beyond for its notorious clan vendettas, which are still ongoing on the island. Traditionally, many Cretan families have guns which they keep at home; this is particularly the case in rural areas. Although the Greek authorities strictly regulate the possession of weapons within its borders, in Crete this is less enforced as it is seen as a cultural tradition.
As a proud and loyal people they are determined to keep their traditions, custom and Cretan dialect alive

The Greek language spoken here has a distinct Cretan dialect and Cretan specific vocabulary. At social gatherings and festivals everyone knows the traditional Cretan songs and dances and many can quote the idiosyncratic Mantinades poetry and play Mantinades based music which is unique to this island. It is quite common to see locals wearing national dress during festivals and also not at all unusual to see people wearing this traditional dress as their everyday garb, especially older people in the more remote regions of the island.

Hidden Gems

The beaches South of the village of Akoumia in Rethymno. One of these beaches is Triopetra and another is Agios Pavlos.
Agios Pavlos is very tranquile with amazing calm waters and perfect sunsets. It is worth staying there for a week. It's a pretty romantic place and not many tourists.
The roads are quite good with not a lot of traffic.
On the beach of Triopetra at Apanemia Tavern, you can eat amazing dishes of Cretan cuisine...

Alexis Zorbas

Alexis Zorbas whom real name was George, a real hero of the famous novel of Nikos kazantzakis Zorba the Greek, became a huge international success from the film director Michael Kakogiannis, who changed the image of Greece and especially Crete to the worldwide audience.
In the film Alexis Zorbas (Anthony Quinn), as well as in the novel. was an open-hearted man, smiling and optimistic, a little boorish, saying wise words, not despairing ,a chatterbox and womanizer, expresses the pain and joy through singing, dancing, drinking and his Tsantouri. Protects defenceless women, considers the greatest sin not to give importance to a woman who wants you, Wanderer and adventurer, is the embodiment of the Mediterranean passion, next to the moderate English intellectual, who was played by another fine actor Alan Bates..

Gramvousa

Gramvousa. You should like climbing and be able to bear the heat, if you go there in the summer, but the view from the top of the Venetian fortress makes you imagine you can see, the other side of the Mediterranean and feel that the goasts of pirates are walking with you. The way up there by boat is seductive, after the Castle a trip to the beach of Balos is a must.

The Cedar forest

The Cedar forest (Kedrodasos in Greek), located in Southwest Crete, 1 km from Elafonisi.
Huge Cedars with thick shade, turquoise crystal clear waters, and few points with pink sand! Because it has nothing else there except free campers, it would be good to have purchased water and edibles from before.
It is a little congeniality to find it. Path to dirt road between greenhouses, so without good instruction you think you end up in the same place, but not constantly. You should ask for information in Elafonissi long before you get to the beach at the first mini-market.

Getting to Crete

Apart from the package holiday offers from numerous travel agencies if you decide to go to Crete by your own, something that we recommend, best way is either to fly direct to Crete or if you are in Greece already get the ferry from Piraeus or fly with the domestic airlines to Heraklion or Chania. From the Cyclades you can catch daily the high speed boat from Mykonos, Ios and Santorini to Heraklion . From Rhodes twice a week there is ferry connection to Ierapetra.

Transport

The best way to explore Crete is by Car. There are many car rentals in Crete and most of them have offices in the big towns like Heraklion, Chania and Rethymno. With a small extra fee they can bring the car in the port or the Airport. Best way to do it is by ringing the company ask the price and arrange your pick up and pick off place. The bus network is excellent. There are buses going almost to every corner of the island, bus tickets are cheap and the service and coaches are good. .

Driving

Like many places in Greece, some of the roads need to be driven on with caution, many hairpin bends, dangerous overtaking and poor road surfaces. However once reaching your destination, you quickly forget the experience of arriving there, but the beauty of the landscape compensates for any inconvenience.
The Venetian fortress of Heraklion crete

The Venetian fortress of Heraklion

Heraklion

old venetian arcade in Chania

Chania old town

Chania

old town of Rethymno

The picturesque old port of Rethymno

Rethymno

Kourtaliotis Bridge

Kourtaliotis Bridge

On the way to Preveli you can stop and admire the wonderful old bridge of Kourtaliotis river

beach of stavros in Crete

Stavros

The beach of Stavros on the north side of Akrotiri where Zorba the Greek was filmed.

Plakias

The vast sandy beach of the wonderful resort of Plakias in south Crete