Information about Crete
Crete is the fifth-largest island in the Mediterranean and the largest in Greece, covering an area of 8,335 square kilometres. Crete is elongated, 257 kilometres long, reaching 60 kilometres at its widest point and just 12 kilometres at its narrowest near Ierapetra.
Crete is the island of surprises and contrasts. High mountains and deep gorges, archaeological sites next to traditional villages where life continues at an unhurried, friendly pace, clear blue seas off golden sands. It was here, at the crossroads of the three continents of antiquity, that Zeus was born, the king of the Ancient Greek gods.
During the Minoan period, Crete produced the first civilisation, in the anthropocentric Western European meaning of the word. It was here, too, at Kali Limenes, the Fair Havens, that Paul the Apostle landed and preached the Christian faith.
The geographical position of Crete attracted many invaders, from Romans, Arabs, Crusaders and Venetians to Ottomans and Nazis, while the epic 25-year resistance of the island against the terrible Ottoman Empire, and its legendary resistance during the Second World War (Battle of Crete, May 1941), are admirable examples of the indomitable Cretan spirit.
Many famous artists and statesmen, including El Greco (Domenicos Theotokopoulos), Venizelos (father of modern Greece), Kazantzakis (the great writer and philosopher), Kornaros (the Homer of modern Greece), Elytis (Nobel Prize for literature, 1979), were born in Crete.
Crete is divided into the Prefectures of Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Lassithi, which are in turn divided into districts. All the main cities of Crete are on the north coast. From west to east, these are: Chania with approximately 100,000 inhabitants, Rethymnon with a population of approximately 30,000, Heraklion with approximately 200,000 inhabitants, Agios Nikolaos with 10,000 and Sitia with 10,000. The total population of the island is 600,000.
The climate of Crete
The climate of Crete is probably the most temperate in Europe. In summer the northwesterly etesian winds, the meltemia, keep the heat at bearable levels. Rainfall is very rare during the summer months.
Autumn is the mildest season in Crete, with temperatures often higher than in spring. The mountains rising along the length of the island act as a weather barrier, meaning that the climate is often completely different in the north and south of the island. Check the Weather in Crete