Facts about Crete

We found 24 facts about Crete

The largest Greek island

The history of Crete goes back thousands of years, and its continuity, as the Greeks say, lies in nature. At every turn, there are traces of the past.

Even during the construction of houses by locals, one comes across remnants of the ancient world, which are most often meticulously buried by them for fear of bureaucracy stopping construction for many years. Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, is home to just over 600.000 people, yet more than three million tourists arrive there every year, attracted by the ideal climate, warm, expansive beaches, excellent cuisine, and historic sites.

Crete is a Greek island located in the Mediterranean Sea.

It is the largest and most populous island of Greece and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean, after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, and Corsica. It is the 88th largest island in the world.

Its area is 8336 square kilometers.

It is located about 160 kilometers south of mainland Greece, It is located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea, separating the Aegean Sea from the Libyan Sea.

The island has an elongated shape-it stretches 260 kilometers from east to west.

It reaches 60 kilometers at its widest point and narrows to just 12 kilometers near Lerapetra, a town on the southeastern coast.

Crete is a mountainous island, and its character is defined by a high mountain range stretching from west to east.

It is formed by six different mountain ranges:

  • White Mountains (Lefka Ori)-the highest peak Pachnes, 2454 meters
  • Idai Mountains with the highest peak Psiloritis (Mount Ida, Timios Stravos)-2456 meters, the highest mountain in Crete
  • Asterousia Mountains-1231 meters
  • Kedros-1777 meters
  • Dikti (Dicte)-2148 meters, a range in the east of Crete. According to some versions of Greek mythology, Zeus grew up on this mountain, in the cave of Dictaeon Antron
  • Thripti-1489 meters
Mediterranean, continental and African climates meet in Crete, resulting in what is said to be the healthiest climate in Europe, with an average annual temperature of 20 degrees Celsius.

Summer in Crete lasts the longest in all of Greece. Summer temperatures there reach up to 38 degrees Celsius.

There are only two freshwater lakes on the island, Kournas and Agia.

Lake Voulismeni, which lies on the coast, was formerly a freshwater lake but is now connected to the sea. There are three artificial lakes formed by dams: Aposelemis Dam, Potamos Dam, and Mpramiana Dam.

There are a number of gorges on the island, such as Samaria, Imbros, Kurtaliotiko, Ha Gorge, Platania Gorge, Aradaina, and others.

One of the most spectacular unique places in Crete is the Kuraliotiko waterfall, located in the gorge of the same name. The waterfall is about 40 meters high.

Crete is surrounded by many islands and islets.

Many of them are accessible to tourists, some only to archaeologists and biologists. Some are ecologically protected. These include:

  • Gramvousa - a pirate island opposite the Balo lagoon
  • Elafonisi - there is a plaque on the island commemorating the tragic event of 1824, when several hundred (640-850) Greeks, mostly women and children, were killed by Ottoman soldiers. There is also a large wooden cross commemorating a shipwreck from 1907. It was the passenger steamer Imperatrix, which sank off the coast and still rests at the bottom of the sea
  • Chrysi - it is home to the largest natural cedar forest (Cedrus Iibani) in Europe
  • Paximadia - these are two small, uninhabited islands that from a distance look like one. Locals call them Elephantaki, because they look like an elephant lying in the water, with its trunk facing west. According to Cretan mythology, on these islands, the goddess Leto gave birth to the god Apollo and the goddess Artemis
  • Spinalonga (Kalydon) - a fortified island that was once used as a leper colony
  • Dionysades - a small group of Sitia islands that is part of a protected area with many rare plants and animals, including Eleonora’s falcon (Falco eleonorae), which finds refuge there.
Crete was formed from uplifted underwater mountain ranges.

Fifteen million years ago it was part of continental Europe. The western parts of the island are an extension of the Dinaric Mountains. The island is in constant motion and is currently moving southward at a rate of about a centimeter every 250 years - that’s how far Africa is moving away from Europe.

Crete is located on the so-called Aegean plate (a small tectonic plate located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea).

Since its inception, this plate has been pushing against the African plate, which covers Africa and much of the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean. This thrust, the friction that occurs is the cause of frequent earthquakes.

The earliest references to Crete come from texts of the Syrian city of Mari from the 18th century BC, where the island is referred to as Kaptara.

In ancient Egypt, it was known as Keftiu, which strongly suggests the Minoan name of the island. The current name was first attested in Mycenaean Greek texts in the 15th century BC. In ancient Greece, the name Crete first appeared in Homer’s “Odyssey.”

The first evidence of settlement on Crete dates back to the Neolithic period (6000-3100 BC).

The earliest buildings were built of fired bricks, later dried clay or stone. People mainly cultivated the land and raised animals (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, dogs, cereals, and legumes).

Bronze tools and evidence of the use of the potter’s wheel date from the Early Minoan period, also known as the Pre-Palace period (3100-2100 BC).

Some buildings from this period already had two stories. Gold jewelry appeared in the graves found.

During the period 3000-1500 BC, the Minoan culture developed on Crete.

The Minoans are one of the symbols of Crete. They probably came to the island from Asia Minor and settled there long before the appearance of the Greeks.

Minoans (Keftiu) erected several-story edifices supported by wooden, cracked columns.

They covered the walls with colorful frescoes decorated with images of dolphins, monkeys. They were also excellent at navigating the Mediterranean by boat, which gave them an advantage in this body of water. They did not build defensive walls or sculptures of warriors. They did not leave behind heroic epics, but they did leave paintings depicting images of women with bare breasts and men performing astonishing acrobatics over the back of cattle.

Palaces were then built at Knossos, Phaistos and other towns.

The Minoans developed trade in the eastern Mediterranean to Sicily and the Aeolian Islands.

Around 1450 BC Crete was occupied by the Mycenaeans, the oldest Greek-speaking culture.

All existing palaces on Crete dating from earlier periods were destroyed by the end of the 14th century BC. This was probably done by the Dorians, a Greek people who occupied most of the island during the classical period.

In 69 BC, Crete was conquered by the Romans and established Gortyna as is capital.

In 395 Crete became part of the Byzantine Empire. From the 9th to the second half of the 10th century it was captured by the Venetians, who ruled the island until the Ottoman conquest in 1669. A Greek uprising and declaration of independence followed, but Turkey soon regained control of the island. For 22 years in the 19th century, Crete belonged to Egypt. In 1898 it became an autonomous republic under the protectorate of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1908, the Republic of Crete declared independence, not internationally recognized.

On 13th May, 1913, Crete was incorporated into Greece.

During World War II, the island was the site of the famous Battle of Crete in May 1941.

The battle claimed more than 11.000 soldiers and civilians killed or wounded. German firing squads carried out mass executions of civilians in this and later actions. Two German generals were tried and executed after the war for their involvement in the killing of 3000 islanders.

The main cities of Crete are: Heraklion, Chania, Rethymno, Jerapetr, Ajos Nikolaos, and Gazi.

Heraklion was the capital of Crete from Byzantine times until 1989. For 73 years Chania was the island’s capital, only to have Heraklion become it again in 1971.

With a population of just over 600.000, Crete receives more than three million tourists a year.

For tourists is mainly the northern coast of the island, where infrastructure, hotels, and beaches are well developed. Crete has two main airports suitable for landing large passenger aircraft. These are the airports in Heraklion and Chania.

An enclave of traditional life in Crete is a triangle between mountain villages: Anogia, Zoniana, and Aimonas.

Men in that area of the island wear black shirts and dark scarves on their heads (almost all of them). Such attire is a symbol of the struggle for freedom. The mountainous regions of Crete have always been a point of armed resistance against invaders.

It is an open secret that in these mountainous regions of Crete, on the slopes of the mountains, there are plantations where locals grow marijuana and make handsome profits from its sale.

Reportedly, €1.5 million was revealed in the bank account of one shepherd, which unfortunately he could not document in any way.

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