Discover Crete Island

Crete simply has it all!

Crete is the largest island in Greece, and the fifth largest one in the Mediterranean Sea. Here, you can admire the remnants of brilliant civilizations, explore glorious beaches, impressive mountainscapes, fertile valleys and steep gorges, and become part of the island’s rich gastronomic culture. Crete is, after all, a small universe teeming with beauties and treasures that you will probably need a lifetime to uncover!

Lasithi

Lasithi (Lassíthi) region. Welcome to the easternmost and least mountainous region of Crete, where the population resides in four semi-urban centers: Áyios Nikólaos, Ierápetra, Sitía and Neápoli. The mythical palm tree forest of Váï, the Gulf of Mirabello, the windmills on the Plateau of Lassíthi (the largest in Crete), beaches lapped by crystalline water, beautiful cities and luxurious hotel resorts all make up a rather fascinating world.

agios-nikolaos-voulismeni

 

Due to its geographical position between Africa, Europe, and Asia Minor and due to its mild climate, Crete became a center of culture as early as Neolithic times. The first prehistoric settlements appeared in Crete around 6000 BC while in 2600 BC settlers who knew how to craft bronze arrived in Crete. It was then that the illustrious course of theMinoan Civilization began, reaching its peak around 1950 BC with the erection of the imposing palaces in Knossos, Faistos, and Malia.

Heraklion

The largest and most densely populate region on the island of Crete is Heraklion (Iráklion). Nestling picturesquely among two imposing mountain ranges – Ídi (Mt Psiloritis) to the west and Dikti (Lasithiótika mountains) to the east– Iráklion boasts exceptional archaeological treasures, significant coastal settlements, a series of picturesque villages, vast valleys with olive groves and vineyards as well as the best organised tourist infrastructure in Crete. A unique combination of urban scenery and natural wealth makes the region of Iráklion an appealing all-year-round destination.

Heraklion

Rethymno

Rethymno (Réthymno) region: Crete’s smallest prefecture located between White Mountains and Mt Psilorítis (also called “Ídi”), is synonymous with gorgeous mountainscapes, marvellous beaches, Cretan lyre melodies, tsikoudiá spirit served with “oftó”, legendary caves, historic monasteries and monuments, traditional mountain villages and luxurious holiday resorts. Feel the essence of Incredible Crete in this mountainous, remote and self-sufficient region of the island of Crete.

Rethymno

Chania

The region of Chania (Haniá), on the western side of the island, is dominated by the impressive White Mountains (in Greek: Lefká Óri) and its famous National Park, which occupy the largest part of the region.The Prefecture of Chania provides tourist services and activities of all kinds, satisfying all the choices. The city of Chania maintains unaltered all of its characteristics, from the time of the Venetian Rule up until today.

Wandering around the Old Town’s maze-like alleys with the beautiful Venetian mansions, the fountains and the elaborate churches will help you discover well-preserved historical monuments. Get familiar with the city of Chania by wandering around in its streets, visiting its museums and admiring the different architectural styles presenting the historical route of the city. Chania is a paradise for food and wine lovers. Here you can taste the famous Cretan cuisine with a glass of excellent Cretan wine. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit many wineries, where you will get to know the varieties of the Cretan terrain, the special local gastronomy and – let’s not forget – the outstanding Cretan hospitality!

Chania

History

Mythology has it that it was in a cave of Crete where the goddess Rhea hid the newborn Zeus.  In that cave, Zeus was brought up by the nymphs while the demonical Kouretes would strike their shields loudly so that Cronus may not hear the crying of the baby Zeus and eat it.  It was also to Crete that Zeus, disguised as a bull, took Europa so that they may enjoy their love together.  Their union produced a son, Minos, who ruled Crete and turned it into a mighty island empire of the seas.  In Minoan times, even Attica would pay a tribute tax to Crete, until Theseus, the Athenian prince, killed the Minotaur.  The truth behind the myth is the existence of a mighty and wealthy kingdom and of a civilisationthat is considered the most ancient one on the European continent.

In 1450 BC and again in 1400 BC the Minoan Civilization was successively devastated possibly due to the eruption of the volcano of Thera and was eventually led to its decline.  In the wake of the devastation the Dorians arrived to settle on the island.  They were later followed by the Romans.  After the Roman rule, Crete becomes a province of Byzantium until the arrival of the Arabs who occupied the island for an entire century (824-961 BC).  During the Arab domination, Crete became the lair of pirates who were based out of Chandakas, present day Heraklion.

Next, Crete fell under Byzantine rule again until the arrival of the Venetians who occupied the island for approximately 5 centuries leaving their stamp on the island’s culture.  After the fall of Chandakas in 1669, the Turkish Occupation began marked by ferocious and bloody uprisings.  At the end of the 19th century Turkish rule came to an end.  The Cretan State was created with the King of Greece as the island’s High Commissioner. In 1913, Crete was finally joined officially with Greece.

The most seductive beaches in Crete

Pictures of the heavenly Balos lagoon in Chania are featured in all the travel guides and glossies, as is the endless beauty of famous Falarsana, one of the best beaches in the Mediterranean. Exotic Elafonissos attracts thousands of visitors every year. Crete’s ‘hidden jewel’ and the largest beach on the island is located on the outskirts of Rethymno – 12km of sand that boasts a Blue Flag.

Episkopi and Petres have fervent young fans, while noteworthy in the south are the alluring beaches of Preveli, Plakia, Agios Pavlos (with its huge sand dunes), Ligres and Triopetra. InHeraklion, Malia and Hersonissos attract tourists from all over the world. Endless kilometres of golden coastline surround Ierapetra, in the Lassithi prefecture. The celebrated palm forest in Vai is one of the most spectacular sights in Crete, where palm trees embrace the golden sand, while the beaches of Elounda and those around Agios Nikolaos are not to be missed.

A priceless gift of culture and history

On Crete you’ll find some of the most significant attractions in Greece: famous archaeological sites such as the Minoan palaces of Knossos, Phaistos, Malia and Kato Zakros. You’ll also visit important monasteries, some built in the 15th century and even earlier: Preveli monastery in southern Rethymno, the monasteries in southern Heraklion and the historic Arkadi and Toplous monasteries.