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The Island of Crete

The island of Crete, is the largest of the Greek Islands, and is the fifth largest Island in the Mediterranean. There are 600, 000 inhabitants on the Island, most of which live in the main cities and towns on the Island. There are 200, 000 people living in the capital of Heraklion. The second capital is Chania with 80, 000 people, and 30,000 residents in Rethymnon. Other main towns and cities include Agios Nikolaos and Sitia which are on the North Coast and Lerapetra, Mires, Timbaki and Paleochora on the South coast.


The island of Crete attracts many tourists each year, partly due to having both peaceful and tranquil towns as well as livelier, buzzing cities. Tourism makes up half of Cretes economic activity, with the other half being agriculture. Crete is a very independent Island and produces excellent produce like olive oil, oranges, grapes, honey, cheese and herbs. Not only do they produce most of their own fruit and vegetables, people in Crete like to be referred to as Cretans and not Greek.

The Island which runs 260km/160 miles long and 56km/35 miles wide, offers great shops, nightlife and interesting places to visit. Crete is home to the well-known Samaria Gorge, the longest gorge on Europe, situated in West Crete in the White Mountains.

Samaria Gorge

The most famous and largest gorge is 18km long. Samaria Gorge is more commonly known to locals as 'farangas' or the 'Great Gorge'. There is a village called Samaria that is located in the gorge. Samaria village used to have inhabitants up until 1962, when they were re-located so that Samaria could be Samaria could be transformed into a national park.

The national park is now open for people to visit, tickets are available near to the entrance and a map of the park is printed on the back of each ticket. Once you have a ticket, you can enter the village and walk through to the other end. The walk usually takes between 4-8 hours depending on your pace. The park is home to many species of animals and it is possible to see some of the local wildlife on the visit. When walking through the national park, you will see the once inhabited houses in Samaria village that are still there today. The village is positioned in the middle of the national park, which marks a half way point. After leaving the village, you continue through the park and give your ticket in at the end, to show that you have left the park safely. Along the way, there are forms of rest-rooms and drinking water from springs, allowing you to stop and take a break.


Gortys is considered to be just about one of the most important cities in Crete. This is due to its much-loved historical and archaeological sights. Gortys is located in South Central Crete; it is about a 40 minute drive south of Heraklion. The city is believed to have been named after its founder, but there are many other myths about where the name came from.
There is a Gortys archaeological site where visitors can see the 'Plain tree of Zeus and Europa, The Church of Titus, The room of the Law code, plus a number of olive trees that have been there on the site for hundreds of years.

Food and Drink

Cretans claim that their food is the best in the world, which is of course a matter of opinion. However, they also say that they have the healthiest diet in the world, which is indeed a fact. Most food, and often alcohol, bought in Crete is produced in Crete. The Cretans produce excellent olive oil, which they refer to as 'liquid gold' and 'the elexir of life'. Olive oil is used in a lot of the Greek cuisine. Other produce of Crete include their honey, which is sold all over the world and also fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Fish is also very popular in Crete, the majority of the fish purchased in Crete, is most likely from the surrounding Greek Rivers and Sea. There is also a fantastic indoor market in Chania, where fish can be bought at a reasonable price. Many towns and villages often have their own fresh fish shop too, so there is a wide choice available.

In a local restaurant or at home, the Cretan specialties are normally Stifado salingariko, which is snail stew and also chirino kritiko, which is pork chops. These dishes are very popular in Crete and of course the traditional Greek specialty – moussaka.

Malotira, also known as mountain tea, is made from special plants found in the mountains. Mountain tea is a type of herbal tea, believed to have qualities to beat colds and flu's.

As for alcoholic beverages, the island of Crete has an excellent range of wine, both home-made and shop bought. There are two famous Greek spirits, ouzo and Raki. Ouzo is anaseed flavoured and Raki is a strong spirit similar to a brandy or whisky. It is custom to drink Raki with traditional Greek snack such as rice dishes, feta cheese, salad, olives or bread.