Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and the second largest (after Cyprus) of the Eastern Mediterranean. It lies in the Southern Aegean Sea, at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa.
Crete is 260km long with the widest point being 60km and the smallest, 12km. There are high mountain ranges from West to East of the island. The White Mountains to the West with Mt Gingilos at 2,453 meters, in the middle is the Ida Mountains with Mt Psiloritis at 2,456 meters and to the East is Mt Dikti at 2,148 meters.
These mountains are gifted with lush and fertile plateaus such as Lassithi and Omalos, wondrous and mythological caves such as Diktaion and Idaion and many gorges with the most famous being the Samaria.
The population of Crete is around 630,000 and over a third is located in the three major cities of Heraklion, Chania and Rethymno on the North coast. Although globalisation, tourism and economic growth have changed the way of life on the island, the Cretans still preserve the bonds with their rich folk traditions and cultural heritage.
At every opportunity, people will dance the Pentozalis, Haniotikos and Maleviziotikos with the Madinades and Rizitika songs resounding at every celebration.
The extra virgin olive oil, fresh fruit and vegetables constitute the basis of the local cuisine as it has done for thousands of years, and made the Cretan diet renowned worldwide for its benefits on longevity and good health.
The Cretan economy is made of mainly three sectors – Agriculture, Processing/Packaging and Tourism – all are directly connected and inter-dependent.
With the excellent climate of the island, beautiful landscape and exciting resorts, it's no surprise that tourism is the most dynamic sector which attracts more than three million visitors each year.
Crete is also known for the quality of its agricultural products such as olives, grapes, potatoes, oranges, lemons etc. The main products that are exported within the European Market are:
- Raisins (sultanas)
- Wine (produced in Crete since 2000 BC)
- Olives and olive oil
- Fresh fruit (grapes, citrus, melons, kiwis, avocados)
- Fresh vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines, peppers, beans)
- Pharmaceutical / aromatic plants / herbs (oregano, mint, thyme, dictamus)
Flora and Fauna
The geographical location of the island, climate, variety of altitude and terrain gives an amazing diversity of flowers, plants, trees, bird species, wildlife and marine life.
Wild Cretan flowers including rare orchids (many of which are endemic and only grow in the gorges) add colour and sweet smelling scent all year round to the beautiful island.
This herb was made famous by Hippocrates for its medicinal properties and is used by locals today to make Cretan tea.
This lovely bright pink flower is a member of the Iris family and can be found in abundance in olive groves and meadows from April to June.
This aromatic plant (commonly referred to as Monks Pepper) is said to be an aphrodisiac for women but quite the opposite for men! The deep purple and violet flowers are today harvested for medicinal purposes.
Also known as the Sea Lily, this exotic and fragrant plant flowers on sandy beaches from July to October. Minoan artists were inspired by the elegant flower and depicted its beauty in the frescos at Knossos Palace.
The fauna of Crete is as diverse as the flora with many endemic and rare species of birds, animal and marine life.
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
On certain beaches in Crete (Maleme and Tavronitis included) the sea turtle returns to its birthplace each year to nest and lay eggs. The hatchlings are protected under International Law so, great care should be taken when using the beach during the reproduction period of June to August.
This magnificent bird of prey is common in Crete and you will almost certainly see one from your terrace during your stay.
This huge raptor (also known as "Bearded Vulture") with a 3 meter wingspan, is one of the rarest in Europe and can be spotted (if you're lucky!) in the high mountains on rocky crags.
The symbol of Crete, the Kri-Kri was depicted in Minoan Art and inhabits the White Mountains, Samaria National Park and the islet of Agios Theodorou. This animal is very shy of humans and is rarely seen.