Information about Crete

GENERAL INFO

Crete, located at the south-east of Europe, is the biggest island of Greece and on of the biggest in the Mediterranean Sea.Crete is divided into four perfectures of Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Lassithi with a total population of approximately 600.000 inhabitants.Despite being a part of Greece, Crete is a place with its own tradition, its own character and its own dialect.  Throughout the history Crete was invaded by different ethnicities and still after these invasions the Cretan culture remained relatively unscathed and retained its roots.

Crete has been established as one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations not only for its natural beauties and holiday treasures but also for its great history. The historic importance of Crete lies on the fact that Minoan Civilization developed on the island and is considered as the first documented civilization in Europe. Ruins of this ancient era of Crete can be found around the island(Knossos, Festos, Gortis) and are attracting numerous visitors each year since they are considered as “must see” places.

samaria gorge

TRANSPORTATION

Crete has three airports;one at Heraklion, one at Chania and one at Sitia. The first two, which are the biggest serve domestic as well as international flights while the last one, that of Sitia, serves mainly domestic flights. The airport of Heraklion is the second “busiest” airport of Greece and the first in terms of the frequency of charter flights. There are international direct flights throughout the year and charter flights especially during the touristic season. Regarding the marine connection, there are five main ports(Heraklion, Chania, Rethymno, Aghios Nikolaos and Sitia) with the biggest and most important being that of Heraklion. There are daily services to and from Athens, which get more intense during the touristic period.

lassithi plateau

ACTIVITIES

Crete offers an unlimited variety of sports and leisure activities, from normal excursions and sightseeing trips to adventurous walks on the Cretan mountains. The E4 trekking route is another alternative activity among others that visitors can undertake. E4 starts in Portugal and ends in Crete, and is another as a main attraction of Crete for people that want to experience the other side of Crete. There are over 155 kilometers of sandy beaches in Crete making it an ideal destination for people that enjoy lying under the sun and the Greek blue sky. All over Crete, visitors can choose between organized beaches or secluded coves.

In villages which are better organized opportunities make themselves available for alternative forms of tourism, such as that of agro-tourism and ecotourism. This allows the visitor to stay in traditional – usually renovated – rural lodging, and become familiar with Cretan nature and the Cretan way of life in the countryside and to taste authentic, local products. Vamos in Apokoronas, Milia and Spilia in Kisamos are villages of such a nature which attract hundreds of visitors worldwide.

INFORMATION ABOUT CRETE

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CULTURE

The rich history of Crete has left the island strewn with hundreds of archaeological sites, large and small. The island reached its zenith during prehistoric times when the Minoan civilization dominated the Aegean and produced a fascinating culture which in turn has left behind a plethora of beautiful art and architecture. Once the Minoan culture fell into decline, the Mycenaean powers of mainland Greece controlled the island, and later the Greeks during the Classical and Hellenistic eras. In turn, the Romans established their authority and ruled Crete.

Consequently, the important archaeological sites found on Crete reflect the different historical eras: Minoan, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, or Byzantine. By far, the most spectacular finds are the Minoan palaces of Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, and Zakros, while the most important artifacts found in excavations are housed in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. This museum’s collection is complemented by museums in the towns of Agios Nikolaos, Chania, and Sitia.

A visit to Crete would not be complete without a visit to the Heraklion Museum, a visit to Knossos and one to Phaistos. For those who want to form a complete picture of Minoan Crete, a visit to the palace of Malia is a short drive from Heraklion. The palace of Kato Zakros would be more of a challenge to visit as it is located on the east coast of the island. Other important archaeological sites of the island include the Minoan towns of Palekastro and Gournia, and a host of smaller settlements like Pseira The most important Classical and Hellenistic sites are the ruins at Gortyn which became the Roman capital of the island, and Lato near Agios Nikolaos.

For those who love ancient civilizations Crete is a huge playground. There is an archaeological site, or a legend around every bend of the road. So many sites fill this beautiful island that it could take a life time to explore them all. In my two weeks I wanted to see the most important sites and artifacts of the Minoan Civilization, and of course I had to distill my visits to what I deemed to be the most important places. While Crete is host to a multitude of Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine sites, I focused only on the remains of the Minoan civilization which is unique to the island. I visited all four known palaces of Crete (Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, and Zakros), and two major towns (Palekastro, and Gournia). These tours along with the exhibits of the Heraklion and Sitia museums allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the Minoan Civilization, and its influence on the development of ancient Greece.

Additionally Crete is the birthplace of numerous great Greek artists and literary figures. Painters (El Greco, Michail Damaskinos),writers(Vicenzo Cornaro, Nikos Kazantzakis) and singers (Nikos Ksylouris) have spread the light of Cretan culture all over the world. Crete is widely known for its traditions and the unique way of living. Many traditions are preserved in villages all over the island. Baptisms and weddings are very special occasions of great importance that last for days. Music and dance are just as intrinsic to Cretan celebrations today as they were in ancient times. Instruments and dance steps provide a strong link wit the past as knowledge is passed from generation to generation.

elounda - spinalonga

GASTRONOMY

Mediterranean diet is famous all over the globe; the thing that is not so famous is that this diet is based on the Cretan nutrition and products. According to studies Cretans have some of the lowest percentages in Europe for deaths caused by heart attacks and different kinds of cancer and present a high average of living. Crete has a wide variety of traditional local dishes and methods of preparing food. Among the famous dishes can be found sarikopiota, snails, rabbit, fresh salads, cheese and many others gastronomical treasures that can be found only in Crete

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CLIMATE

The climate of Crete is on the whole dry throughout the year,with most rainfall occurring between October and March.The summer heat can be moderated by often strong winds while the sea is warm enough fro swimming from the middle of April until November. The island exhibits a great variety of flora and fauna which is unique and rare.Most of the species of flora and fauna are found only in Crete and that is the reason why the island attracts the attention of naturalists especially during the months where the touristic wave is less intense.

With the marvelous climate,unique natural beauty and vast conference and tourist infrastructure. Crete is the ideal destination for every kind of congress,summit,business meeting, incentive, seminar and product presentation. In addition,the island offers the opportunity for research into Minoan,Byzantine and other cultures,as well as studies relating to natural sciences and folklore. The standards of professionalism of the people involved in the congress organisation sector on Crete is very high,due to the island’s success to attract many major Greek and international events.