Crete is the largest Greek island and one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits (such as its own dialect, poetry and music). Crete was the centre of the Minoan civilization (c. 2700–1420 BC), one of the first civilizations in Europe.
It is located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea separating the Aegean from the Libyan Sea.
The island has an elongated shape: it spans 260 km (160 mi) from east to west, is 60 km (37 mi) at its widest point, and narrows to as little as 12 km (7.5 mi) (close to Ierapetra). Crete covers an area of 8,336 km2 (3,219 sq mi), with a coastline of 1,046 km (650 mi), to the north, it broaches the Sea of Crete, to the south, the Libyan Sea, in the west, the Myrtoan Sea, and toward the east the Karpathion Sea. It lies approximately 160 km (99 mi) south of the Greek mainland.
Crete is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece. Fifteen percent of all arrivals in Greece come through the city of Heraklion. The island’s tourism infrastructure caters to all tastes, including a very wide range of accommodation, the island’s facilities take in large luxury hotels with their complete facilities, swimming pools, sports and recreation, smaller family-owned apartments, camping facilities and others. Visitors reach the island via two international airports in Heraklion and Chania, or by boat to the main ports of Heraklion, Chania, Rethimno and Agios Nikolaos.
Popular tourist attractions include the archaeological sites of the Minoan civilisation, the Venetian old city and port of Chania, the Venetian castle at Rethymno, the gorge of Samaria, the islands of Chrysi, Elafonisi, Gramvousa, and Spinalonga and the Palm Beach of Vai, which is the largest natural palm forest in Europe.
Recommended destinations in Crete: