Known by the Greeks as ‘Megalónisos,’ or the ‘Great Island,’ the island of Crete is the biggest of Greece and has a long and varied history. Steeped in historical and cultural heritage, Crete is the most visited of the Greek islands. It has also been of paramount strategic importance for thousands of years, thanks to its location close to the junction of three continents and at the heart of the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Throughout the centuries the island went through numerous changes of government and influences. The Minoan, the Ancient Greek, the Roman, the Byzantine presence on Crete can still be found nowadays. The island fell under Arab rule too, but the Venetian period that lasted for four and a half centuries made one of the most important territories in the Mediterranean Sea.
Crete was under Ottoman rule for nearly 230 years before it was liberated in 1897 and later united with the Greek state. So many cultures blended and co-existed on that piece of land in the middle of the sea, so it created a unique mix that is different from any other place on Earth. And it deserves to be seen and experienced.
Crete has a total coastal length of over 1000 km, and some of the most spectacular beaches not only among the Greek islands but around the Mediterranean region as a whole are to be found there. The most significant cities such as Heraklion, Chania, Rethymno, and others stand on the shoreline. The sea brought so many important cultural and economic benefits to the island that made the area so significant even today.
The town of Chaniá is the capital of the Prefecture of the same name and the second largest town in Crete, with a population of 60.000 inhabitants.
FUN FACTS ABOUT CRETE
Crete is the largest island in Greece, and its beaches stretch for over 160 miles.
It’s also the 5th biggest island in the Mediterranean, only behind Corsica, Sicily, Cyprus, and Sardinia.
While the island of Crete is part of Greece, it is very tied in culturally with nearby Italy as well. Being the southernmost island in Europe, it also shares Arabic roots with North Africa. The diversity can be seen in the culture, art, and food throughout Crete.
Crete was the mythical birthplace of the Ancient Greek supreme deity. According to the legend, Zeus was born in a cave on the island before rising to the status of God of thunder and Mount Olympus superpower.
Another world-famous legend was born on the island too – that of Zorba the Greek. The fiction was created by Nikos Kazantzakis – probably the most prominent writer not only in Crete but in the country as a whole in the last century. The island is also known as the birthplace of the renowned Renaissance artist named El Greco (The Greek) – his real name was Doménikos Theotokópoulos.
While it’s the largest Greek island by area, Crete is also the most populated. The island of Crete has over 600,000 people, and when you consider Greece only has 10 million overall that’s quite impressive!
There are only a handful of pink sand beaches in the world, and Crete boasts two of them! You can find this unique colored sand at the beaches of Balos and Elafonissi.
Crete is also home to Europe’s largest palm tree forest! The palm trees of Vai Beach are said to have sprouted from date seeds spit out by Pirates arriving in ancient Crete.
Goats are on the roads, in the fields, and even climbing up the rock walls! Many different species of animals can be found on Crete, but the most famous is the native mountain goat Kri-Kri.
Samaria gorge is the most famous Cretan gorge. With a length of 11.18 miles, it is known as the longest trekking gorge in Europe.
The European Union awards its best beaches the “Blue Flag” across 49 countries all over the world. The country of Greece is in second place on that list, and you’ll be happy to know that Crete has 112 of those stunning beaches!
All animals in Crete are harmless! In ancient Crete mythology, Hercules executed all the dangerous animals to honor his father Zeus.
penetrated my pores,
expanded my whole being.
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
not the filling of a vessel
like a heated opal through the air;
We hoisted sail; the wind was blowing fair.
For the blue lands that to eastward lie.
our religion, our arts have their root in Greece”