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For the famous World War II battle, see: Battle of Crete
Crete Periphery
Περιφέρεια Κρήτης
Capital Heraklion
Prefectures Chania
Population 623,666 (2005)
Area 8,336 km²
Population density 75/km²

Crete (Greek: Κρήτη Kríti; Turkish: Girit; Latin: Candia; Creta) is the largest of the Greek islands and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located at approximately 35° N 24° E.

Tourist attractions in Crete include archeological sites at Knossos, Phaistos, Gortys and many other places, the Venetian castle in Rethymno, the Samaria Gorge and many other minor gorges (Agia Irini, Aradena, etc). Located only 5 km from the center of Chania, Agii apostoli is a popular destination for sight seeing and sports.

Crete was the center of the Minoan civilization (ca. 26001400 BCE), the oldest civilization in Europe.



Main article: History of Crete


Crete is one of the 13 regions into which Greece is divided. It is the largest island in Greece and the second largest (after Cyprus) of the East Mediterranean. Crete has an elongated shape - 260 km from east to west and 60 km at its widest, although the island is narrower at certain points, such as in the region close to Ierapetra where it has a width of only 12 km. It covers an area of 8,336 km² and has a coastline of 1046 km. To the north Crete borders with the Sea of Crete (Greek: Κρητικό Πέλαγος), to the south it is bordered by the Libyan Sea (Greek: Λιβυκό Πέλαγος), to the west the Myrtoon Sea, to the east the Karpathion Sea. Its population is 650,000 people (as of 2005). The island lies approximately 160 km south of the Greek mainland.

Crete is extremely mountainous and is defined by a high mountain range crossing it from West to East, formed by three different groups of mountains. These are:

  • the White Mountains or Lefka Ori (2,452 m high);
  • the Idi range (Psiloritis (35.18° N 24.82° E) 2,456 m) with its peak having the highest prominence in Greece and the 8th in Europe;
  • the Dikti mountains (2,148 m high);
  • Kedros (1,777 m high);
  • Thripti (1489 m)

These mountains gifted Crete with fertile plateaus like Lasithi, Omalos and Nidha, caves like Diktaion and Idaion cave, and gorges like the famous Gorge of Samaria. The protected area of the Samaria Gorge is the home of kri-kri. Cretan mountains and gorges are refuges of the endangered spieces of Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus).


Crete straddles two climatic zones, the Mediterranean and the North African, mainly falling within the former. As such, the climate in Crete is primarily temperate. The atmosphere can be quite humid, depending on the proximity to the sea. The winter is fairly mild. Snowfall had been practically unknown to the plains until the truly exceptional cold snap of February 2004, during which the whole island was blanketed with snow. During summer, average temperatures are in the high 20's-low 30's (Celsius). The exception can be the south coast, including the Messara plain and Asterousia mountains, which fall in the North African climatic zone and thus enjoys significantly more sunny days and high temperatures during the summer, as well as very mild winters—consequently in southern Crete date palms bear fruit and swallows stay year-long, instead of migrating to Africa.


The economy of Crete, which was mainly based on farming, started changing visibly during the 1970s. While there is still an emphasis on farming and stock breeding, due to the climate and the terrain of the island, there is a drop in manufacturing and a big increase on the services industry (mainly tourism related). All three sectors of the Cretan economy (agriculture, processing-packaging, services), are directly connected and interdependent. Crete has an average per capita income which is close to 100% of the Greek average. Unemployment is at approximately 4%, half of that of Greece. As in other regions of Greece, olive growing is also a significant industry.

The island has three significant airports, Nikos Kazantzakis at Heraklion, the Daskalogiannis airport at Chania and a smaller in Sitia. The first two are international serving as the main gates to the island for thousand of tourists.

Famous Cretans


Crete's principal cities are:

Political organization

The island of Crete is a periphery of Greece, consisting of four prefectures (Greek: νομοί):

For amateur radio purposes it is considered to be a separate "entity," ITU prefix SV9.


Crete is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece. Fifteen percent of all arrivals in Greece come through the city of Heraklion (port and airport), while charter flights to Iraklion were last year 20% of the total of charter flights in Greece. In sum more than two million tourists visited Crete last year. This increase in tourism is reflected on the number of hotel beds, which increased in Crete by 53% from 1986 to 1991 while in the rest of Greece the increase was 25%. Today the tourism infrastructure in Crete caters to all tastes. There is accommodation of every possible category, from large luxury hotels with all the facilities (swimming pools, sports and recreation facilities etc.), to smaller family owned apartments, to camping facilities. Visitors can arrive at the island through two international airports in Heraklion and Hania, or by boat to the ports of Heraklion, Hania, Rethimno and Agios Nikolaos.

The plans for a containers' harbour in Southern Crete

The Ministry of Mercantile Marine is ready to support the agreement between Greece, South Korea, Dubai Ports Worldwide and China for the construction of an enormous transit station with international requirements in southern Crete. This port is expected to be under a special status of customs conditions. Chinese investors have shown great interest, with their visits and announcements, for the area in Tympaki, Heraklion.

The design of the port is to confiscate and flatten 850 ha of land, so that more than two million containers to be handled annually in their way to Eastern Mediterranean, the Adriatic Sea, the Black Sea and Greece. There will be a relevant formation of the piers, for handling the daily arrival of hundreds of ships, some of which will be of such a huge size that never have been seen even in the big enough port of the biggest city of Crete and one of the biggest cities of Greece, i.e. Heraklion. It is therefore possible that the area around it will be built with proportionate installations, storehouses and industries, as this is a common issue to similar ports.

On November 23/2005, in an open meeting of citizens and institutions in Tympaki, questions and worries about this project were expressed and the clear result of the discussion was that such kind of development does not fit the profile of the area. It is easy to comprehend that this specific project has nothing to do with the former proposed port in the area of Messara, which has vaguely been reported as the gate of southern Crete.

See also

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