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The Island of Crete

The island of Crete is possibly the most impressive and certainly the largest of all of the Greek Islands, Crete’s location in the Mediterranean Sea between the Libyan Sea and the Sea of Crete has placed it in one of the earth’s most idyllic paradises. Its reputation for perfect vacations is down to the sincere warmth of its locals, its rich history and culture and its exceptional infrastructure. Its variety in landscape combined with its archaeological treasures and fantastic beaches make it such a popular spot with international tourists and those seeking permanent residence on one of the islands.


Getting There

The island of Crete is served by three airports; Heraklion’s Nikos Kazantzakis Chania’s Daskalogiannis Airport and the newest of all, Sitia Airport in the town of the same name. There are regular flights to and from the mainland as well as many international charters. You can also reach Crete by ferry from either Thessaloniki or Athens or from other islands like Rhodes and Santorini. On the island there are regular and reliable public bus services as well as taxis and car rental outlets.

A Dip Back in Time

The islands first inhabitants are said to have settled here during the Neolithic era and evidence of their agrarian lifestyle has been found at Knossos. Crete was on e of the Minoans key centres and many ancient legends were set in Crete. During the Mithridatic Wars in 71 BC it managed to stop the Roman general Mark Anthony from landing here, but the romans did finally capture the island two years later. Crete also spent some time under Byzantine rule and later the Ottoman Turks seized control of the island. It was regained by the Byzantines and retained until the Venetians captured it in 1204. Venice reigned here for four centuries and there is much evidence of the Venetian period with much Renaissance architecture and art work. The Venetians also laid down some excellent fortifications at Candia; however these were not enough to stop the Ottoman Turks from regaining the island in 1669. During this period many churches were made into mosques, but the indigenous population was still allowed to attend church and retain their Christianity, although many did convert to Islam. Some Christians revolted to Turkish rule but were met with much force and many executions followed. When the Ottoman’s were finally defeated in Europe, Crete was not included in the London Treaty, which ceded territories to Greece and laid down new foundations for the conquered European territories. The Turkish Sultan gave Crete to Egypt but by 1840 it was returned to Turkey. Crete turned to Greece on numerous occasions particularly as more Christian uprisings took place and after the Balkan Wars in 1913 it finally became part of Greece.

Must See

There are so many things to do and see on this ancient island of Crete that visitors really will be spoilt for choice. Top of the list has to be the remains of the ancient Minoan palace at Knossos. It lies 5 km from the capital, Heraklion and used to be the home of the mythical King Minos. It is this palace that is referred to in the famous legend of the Labyrinth and the Minotaur, as well as the tale about Ikaros and Daidalos. Archaologists have found many relicas and treasures here, which prove that it was inhabited from as early as the Neolithic period around 7000 BC.

Naturally the capital offers many sites, but one worth visiting is the world renowned Heraklion Archaeological Museum, which is home to the most significant discoveries from the Minoan civilisation as well as many artefacts from archaeological digs across the island, like the statues of the Snake Goddess, the eminent Bull-Leaping Fresco and the mysterious Phaistos Disk. It takes at least two hours to get round the museum and should be seen before visiting Knossos.
The small but popular town of Paleochora 75 km to the southwest of Chania houses many treasures including the Acretan Museum next to the main church a sturdy fortress and some impressive Venetian and Byzantine frescoes in its churches. It is also a great place to spot dolphins swimming off the shore or to experience real island culture with the Lent Carnival. In summer there is an open air cinema offering a variety of films.

Another must see is the Samaria Gorge, which extends for 14 km with a drop of 1250 m directly to the sea. The gorge is set in some amazing scenery and there is a beautiful walk up from the coast, which can take several hours but if this sounds too energetic there are buses from nearby towns and ferries from the entrance to the gorge.

Those who are familiar with the film “Zorba the Greek” may remember the music played throughout the movie. This music is Cretan folk music played on a lyre - a three-stringed violin, which rests on the thighs of the player fiddle in an upright position. Many local tavernas play this music and will encourage you to get up and dance – it makes a for a fantastic night out and will enhance your stay on the island of Crete.