In addition to being the largest island of Greece, Crete is also the southernmost island of Europe and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean by extension of the territory. Its surface extends for about 8305 square kilometers and a length of 260 km. Administratively the island of crete is divided into four prefectures, Hania, Rethymno, Iraklio and Lassithi, but geographically in three zones: Eastern, Western and Central Crete. Its most important city, Heraklion, is located in the center of the northern part of the island, where the tourist industry has developed more, while the southern and western area they are still untouched.
For citizens belonging to the Schengen area, a valid document is not necessary for expatriation, in any case it is mandatory for registration in hotels and for security reasons at border crossings. Citizens of other nationalities should contact the respective Consulates of Greece for information on the formalities of entering the country.
located on the north coast of crete Heraklion Airport, also called Nikos Kazantzakis, in honor to the writer and philosopher famous for the story "Zorba and the Greek", the airport is located about five kilometers from the city centre. The airport structure is small compared to passenger traffic, especially during the high season, there are sometimes frequent delays on flights landing or taking off from crete Airport. As for the purchase of airline tickets best pricing opportunities can be found online by searching the sites of the airlines or on the websites of specialized agencies, avoiding intermediaries in order to pay the lowest possible cost avoiding additional commissions. With departures from Malpensa Airport of milan, it is possible to find bargains and last minute offers.
To get to Crete Nikos Kazantzakis Airport by car or bus you need to go along the Makariou Dikeossinisweg the exit is located and to the east the highway runs along the coast north of Crete and connects all the most important tourist places. In particular city bus number 78 goes to Heraklion bus station, the journey takes about 20 minutes, the bus also stops at the Archaeological Museum.
The airport code HER of crete Heraklion Nikos Kazantzakis is used to abbreviate the name, all passenger flights are found in a single terminal, the major low cost airlines which mainly operate international flights from this airport are Air Berlin, Air One, Condor, easyJet, GermanWings, Jet2, Jetairfly and more. Overall there are 14 low cost airlines with flights to and from the airport. There are no direct scheduled flights from Italy to crete, but some daily flights connect rome and milan with athens, from which it is possible to continue to one of the two airports of Crete Chania and Heraklion. During the summer period, numerous direct connections with charter flights are organized by various tour operators especially in the period between April and October. From Nikos Kazantzakis Airport in the center of Heraklion there is a regular bus service to the city center, in particular, Eleftherias Square. Bus tickets can be bought at the ticket office in the arrivals terminal, outside the airport there are also many taxis, the ride to the center takes about 15 minutes.
Among the services present at the Heraklion Airport we mention Shops and restaurants: Heraklion Airport has one restaurant and five bars.
Duty Free: There is a large duty free shop on the top floor of the airport. with smaller tourist shops on the ground floor.
Luggage Boxes: There is a luggage room in the airport parking lot, open 24 hours a day, luggage can be left there for around 12 euros a day
Parking: There is a parking lot on the airport grounds which is open during the airport's opening hours. there are also private parking lots in front of the airport.
Airport Information Office is located in the arrivals area, near the baggage claim area, it is open 24 hours a day.
Banks and Money Exchange: There are several ATMs in Heraklion, as well as a money exchange office.
The territory of the island of Crete enjoys a typically Mediterranean climate with hot summers mitigated by winds from the Aegean Sea.
The period indicated for visiting the island of crete is between the months of April, May and June during the spring and in the months of September October and November during the autumn when ambient temperatures they are not high in pleasant weather. During the winter the weather is mild and many hotels remain closed with a consequent decrease in tourists. However, the climatic conditions usually allow bathing from April to November.
As far as the classification of hotels in Crete is concerned, the Hellenic National Tourist Board divides the hotels into categories based on certain requirements such as the variety and size of the structures, the furnishing of the rooms, the interior decorations, the size of the rooms and services offered to tourists. In general, the classification is equivalent to that of Italian tourism as follows: Luxury = Luxury. A = first category/4 stars, B = second category/3 stars, C = third category/2 stars. To make reservations we recommend the site specialized Booking.
In Crete, hotel rooms and apartments are usually available to new occupants after 2.00 pm on the day of arrival, and consequently they must be vacated by 12.00 noon on the day of departure, unless otherwise indicated by the accommodation facilities. If, due to personal needs, the tourist wishes to continue using the room after this time, he must request permission from the hotel management, who, depending on the availability of the rooms themselves, will be able to grant the request upon payment, or provide support rooms.
Beds and rooms
Single rooms in Crete are not very frequent, they are located in unfavorable locations and are small in size. Triple rooms often consist of an extra bed in a double room, rooms with a double bed are very rare. In almost all Crete hotels, central air conditioning is regulated by decisions of the respective directions, often the bathrooms do not have bidets.
Services offered during stays.
Except where not expressly indicated, ancillary services such as rental of beach umbrellas, deckchairs, sporting activities in general and excursions, are always understood to be paid. The sun loungers, deck chairs and umbrellas on the beach and in the swimming pools are available subject to availability. Some ancillary services such as recreational activities and sports facilities, as well as the services connected to them, may remain inactive if climatic conditions or technical failures prevent their correct functioning. It is specified a purpose that a refund cannot be requested for such deficiencies.
Greece remains one hour ahead of Italy, both during the summer time period and during the solar time, when in Italy it is 3 pm in Greece it is 4 pm.
Italy and Greece are connected by remote selection. To call Greece from Italy it is necessary to dial the international prefix 0030 followed by the area code and the user's number. Consequently, to call Italy from Greece, dial the international prefix 0039, then the city prefix and finally the subscriber's number. The GSM network covers the whole territory of Greece therefore mobile phones enabled for telephone traffic can be used. Calling from hotels you pay a surcharge on the cost of the call. You can use public card phones available in souvenir shops and supermarkets. Telecom Italia has set up a toll-free number 'italy direct 008003911' which allows you to make collect calls from any telephone at the cost of one click, but many hotels disable this service from the telephones in the rooms.
In the country the official language spoken is Greek, English is very widespread, in tourist destinations German and French are also spoken, Italian is often understood and spoken.
The official currency in crete is the Euro as the nation belongs to the European Community, in the Hotels and the most common credit cards are usually accepted in the main shops. It is also possible to withdraw cash with the Bancomat enabled for international circuits.
How to get there
By car it is possible to embark on the ferries departing from Piraeus, but in any case the cheapest and most comfortable means remains the plane with flights charters from major European cities, available and frequent during the holiday period from April to October. The majority of tour operators use the airport of Heraklion but lately with the development of tourism in western Crete the destination can be the airport of Hania. However, there are several scheduled flights from Europe to Athens with coincidences for the island of Crete.
Banks - Post offices - Pharmacies.
The major banks are based in Heraklion in Via XXV Agosto and are open from Monday to Friday from 8.30 to 13.30, the branches are present in tourist locations. To carry out any operation it is necessary to present a personal identity document. While the Post Offices in Heraklion are open from 8 to 20. Pharmacies are indicated with a green cross, generally in tourist areas they are open every day from 9 to 22.
For those who want to follow the liturgical celebrations in Heraklion near the port in via Hepimenidou there is the Church of San Giovanni Battista, while in Réthymno near the Venetian fortress there is another church dedicated to the same saint.
Due to its size of the territory, the island of 'Crete' offers a wide variety of beaches scattered along its entire perimeter of coast, Among the main ones should be reported, near the capital Heraklion, the wide and sandy beach of Amoudara, heading east we find the beaches of Hersonissos, Gouves, Malia, Elounda, Aghios Nikolaos, Almyros and Sitia, up to the famous beach of Vai complemented by one of the largest palm groves in Europe. To the south we find the Matala beach in the Libyan Sea, famous for its caves carved into the rock, while offshore of Ierapetra we note the paradise of white and fine sand of the Island of Chrissi. West of Heraklion are the beaches of Georgioúpolis, Gramvoussa, Falássarna, Elafoníssi and finally to the south in the Libyan Sea the beach of Frangokástelo
Considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete, Elafoníssi is an islet connected to the mainland by a long white strip of fine sand, with a tropical turquoise sea.
Located in the north-eastern part of the island, the Vái beach, very popular with tourists, owes its celebrity to the palm trees that grow inside the beach.
First discovered by the hippies, the beach is located on the southern coast of Crete famous caves excavated in antiquity by the Romans, they were burial places.
Among the other beaches to visit on the island of Crete we mention in the province of Lassithi, Myrtos , Sissi, Kato Zakros, Agia Fotia, Pahia Ammos, Makrigialos, Paleokastro, Hrissi and Istros.
In the territory of Iraklio we find to the north the beaches of Agia Pelagia, Malia, Hersonissos, Gouves, Kokini, Karteros of Amnissos, Analipsi, Amoudara, Linoperamata, while to the south, Tsoutsouros and the beaches of the Gulf of Messara are worth visiting.
In the area of Rethymno the beaches of Preveli, Damnoni, located on the south coast e along the northern coast Agios Pavlos, Plakias, Rodakino, Agia Galini, Petres, Panormos, Bali stretch of sand, 20 km long. of the city of Rethymno.
In the province of Hania many beaches are located along the north and south coasts of crete, to attend in the northern part Chrissi Akti, Falassarna, Platanias, Glaros, Kalamaki, Agia Marina, Stalos, Kalyves, Gramvousa, while in the southern area the beaches of Pahia Ammos, Halikia, Paleochora, Sougia, Glyka Nera and finally the beautiful and wonderful Elafonissi, definitely not to be missed.
Places and urban centers to visit
To visit during your stay in Crete the urban centers of Iráklio, Réthymno, Haniá, Mália, Agios Nikólaos, Georgioúpoli and others, rich in Minoan history and Venetian buildings in memory of past eras. As for the archaeological sites between i major ones we remember the Palace of Minos in Knossós, the famous Minoan finds of Festós and Górtina.
Located in the central northern part of the island of Crete, Iraklio is the most visited city among the Cretan urban centres. The territory of its province includes four major Minoan sites of Crete, Knossos, Phaistos, Agia Triáda and Mália, as well as the most popular holiday resorts such as Mália, Hersonissos and Limáni. The locality of Iraklio has become a modern and busy center but generally the tourist does not stop in the city, preferring the vacation spots located in the eastern part of the island. The accommodation facilities created along the northern coast are numerous and modern, while the southern ones are less accessible and have small hotel centres. Highlights Mátala former hippy hangout with sandy beaches and famous rock-cut caves.
The third urban center of the island of Crete, it is located along the northern coast in a central-western position. It is the smallest of the four Cretan provinces, its territory is mainly mountainous and is bordered to the east by the reliefs of the Idi Oros and to the west by the Lefká Ori, the famous white mountains. Immense stretches of sandy beaches extend to the sides of the city of Rethymno with tourist facilities mostly concentrated in the eastern area. The urban development of the southern coast is very limited where to reach some bays you have to go along rough paths. Several tourist excursions reach the urban centers of Agia Galini and Plakiás, while the main cultural attractions in provicia consist of the monasteries of Préveli and Arkádi.
The western part of the island of Crete is represented by the province of Hania, its surface is devoid of important archaeological sites, but offers wonderful natural landscapes for the tourist, from huge mountains to beautiful beaches. The southern coast is sparsely populated, the mountains drop sheer into the Libyan Sea, with few holiday resorts. The gorges and valleys inserted between the Lefká Ori mountains are impressive, where by its characteristics we remember the Samariá Gorges. Several excursions leave from the port of Hania located on the north coast adjacent to the historic center of the city.
other urban centres
Due to their tourist or archaeological importance, among the other urban centers Gouves, Malia, Hersonissos, Elounda, Aghios Nikolaos, Georgioupolis and Mátala.
Excursions and trips can be booked in Crete. To get to know the island of Crete better, during your stay it will be possible to take advantage of the various trips and excursions organized locally by the various tour operators or local travel agencies. Among the main ones we remember the Palace of Knossos, the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, visit of the western part of Crete, Matala, the Gorge of Samaria, Spinalonga Island, Lassithi plateau, cruise to Santorini, Chrissi island, Cretan evening and finally a visit to the island of Gramvoussa.
Knossos and Heraklion Museum
Among the main excursions we mention the visit to the archaeological site of the Palace of Minos at Knossos, the famous Museum of Heraklion with all its historical artifacts and free time in the city for shopping.
During a dinner with typical Cretan dishes, shows with local music and dances are performed.
Festos and Libyan Sea
Dedicated visits to the archaeological sites of Gortyna and Festos, with a stop for swimming on the beach of Matala.
Full day cruise to the volcanic island of Santorini with free time to visit the capital and bathing on the beach.
Holidays and tourism in Crete
The phenomenon of mass tourism on the island of Crete began around the 60s with the birth of the first hotels along the northern coast near the most beautiful beaches. At the beginning of the 20th century the first foreign visitors showed interest exclusively in the archaeological finds of the Minoan era, today the island of Crete welcomes about a quarter of the tourists who visit Greece.
Well served by communications by sea and by airports, tourists go on holiday to Crete through tourist agencies and various tour operators who offer trips and stays in all-inclusive hotels at truly favorable prices. Tourism has now become of fundamental importance for the Cretan economy, even if the numerous constructions of hotel structures have often disfigured the natural beauties. Despite the recent expansion, Heraklion airport does not meet the demands of holidaymakers during the high season. the same goes for reception in hotels where the increased tourist flow has not been adapted to the possibilities of stays.
Stays and cultural visits
The west coast still remains quiet, underdeveloped from a tourist point of view. Crete was the cradle of the first advanced civilization in Europe, the Minoan one, which flourished from 2800 to 1450 BC. To visit during the stays, the palace of Knossós, the most beautiful of the Minoan sites of Crete, stands on the outskirts of the capital Iráklio. Major towns include Iráklio, Haniá and Réthymno, with numerous splendid Venetian palaces. Paleohóra, on the southwest coast. While on the southern coast of the island, there are the villages of Loutró and Hóra Sfakíon, reachable only by boat. The climate of the southern coast of Crete is so mild that it is possible to swim in these waters from April to November.
Formerly known as Candia, the island of Crete is the fifth largest of the Mediterranean islands after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus and Corsica. Its geography sees it bathed to the north by the Aegean Sea, while to the south by the Libyan Sea. It has a long and extended shape, from east to west it measures about 238 kilometers, while in width it varies from a minimum of 12 between Ierapetra and Aghios Nikolaos and a maximum of 61. Its overall surface measures 8305 square kilometers.
The conformation of the geography of the soil is mainly mountainous, considering that about a third of the extension of the island is located at a height of more than 500 meters from the sea. Consequently, only a quarter of the surface can be considered flat. It is crossed by three large mountain ranges which reach a height of 2500 meters determining the geophysical aspect. They are the Lefca Ori, Psiloritis and Dikti Mountains which together with the mountains of mainland Greece form the continuation of the mountain system. Deep and wild gorges creep between the various peaks, very famous is the gorge of Samaria considered the longest in Europe with its 18 km.
Highlands and Lowlands
On the island of Crete we also find the plateaus of Lassithi at about 1400 meters and that of Nidia, as well as the plains of Kasteli, Georgioupolis and Messaras which with their crops represent a significant agricultural source as regards the economy of the country for the production of olives, vines and vegetables.
History of Crete.
Considered the place where the Gods were born, the island of Crete had in its history the first evolved civilization in Europe, the Minoan one, which flourished around 2800 and lasted until 1450 BC. According to Greek mythology, this territory was the place where Zeus, the lord of all the gods, was born. In the Palace of Minos the Minotaur, half man and half bull, before being killed by the warrior Theseus, devoured young men and young women in the Labyrinth. Following the Minoan period, the Doric domination followed, then the Achaean one. Due to its strategic location in the Mediterranean it also attracted the interests of the Arabs who occupied it in the period from 824 to 961 BC. C., later the Venetians arrived, then the Ottoman Turks whose dominion began in 1645. After the first Balkan war, with the Treaty of London of May 30, 1913, Turkey renounced all rights over Crete and finally returned to Greece. During World War II, from May 1941, the island to which the Greek government had moved was taken by the Germans and returned to Greece in 1945.
Battle of Crete
Strategic point in the Mediterranean, due to its geographical position it was garrisoned by the British since 1940. The island of Crete saw the first major air landing operation in the history of World War II, which allowed, in May 1941, the German paratroopers to expel the British also inflicting heavy losses.
This resort town located west of Hánia is famous for its role in World War II. German planes in 1941 landed on the runway of the Máleme military airport conquering the strategic place, with consequent loss of human lives, while the allied forces took refuge in the nearby hill called '107'. This hill is the site of the German cemetery and holds the remains of about 4500 fallen soldiers.
British Military Cemetery
In the north-western part of the island of Crete, about five kilometers from Hánia, in the bay of Soúda in an area that slopes towards the sea, there is the British military cemetery where the graves of 1497 allied soldiers who died fighting for defense are found territory during World War II. The names of the soldiers are listed in a special register kept in the offices located at the entrance, although many identities remain unknown.
Mythology of Crete
Legend and mythology of CreteOne of the main characters of the mythology of Crete is identified in Zeus, son of Saturn and Rhea. A prophecy warned Saturn that one day one of his sons would depose him from the throne, for this reason he ate all the children that Rhea bore. But when the father of the Gods and all men was born Zeus, Rhea in agreement with his parents gave Saturn a stone wrapped in some baby clothes, which the father swallowed thinking it was his son. As a result Zeus was kept hidden in a cave on the island of Crete, raised on the milk of the Amantea goat while the Curetes beat their bronze shields to hide the child's crying. When Zeus came of age he defeated Saturn and with the union with the princess Europa the Cretan people were born.
According to tradition and mythology, three were the sons of Zues; Minos, Radamas and Serpedon. When Europa married Asterion, Minos inherited the throne by taking Parsiphae, daughter of the Sun and Crete, as his wife. From their union several children were born, including the famous Ariadne. In those times the sculptor and architect Daedalus arrived in Crete and built the labyrinth where Minos imprisoned his prisoners and the Minotaur in the basement of the palace of Knossos. One day in Athens during the Panathenian races, Androgeus, son of Minos, was killed. To avenge his death Minos declared war on Athens, winning. As a war tribute he claimed to have seven young males and seven young females each year to feed to the Minotaur. To avoid these sacrifices, Theseus, son of Aegeus, left for Crete with a ship which, according to agreements made with his father, had to have white sails on his return in case the enterprise had a happy outcome.
Theseus fell in love with Ariadne who gave him a sword to fight the Minotaur and a ball of wool so as not to get lost in the labyrinth. After a terrible fight Theseus won and in a hurry with Ariadne left for Athens. However, he forgot to replace the sails as he had agreed with his father Egeo, who at the sight of the ship in desperation, believing the worst, threw himself into the waters that still carry his name.