Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Crete Travel Guide - Travel S Helper

Crete

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Crete (Kρήτη / Kriti, sometimes spelled “Krete” in English) is the biggest of the Greek islands and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean Sea, behind Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, and Corsica. It is situated south of the Peloponnese, between the Sea of Crete and the Libyan Sea. It is home to Ierapetra, Europe’s southernmost city, which is just approximately 400 miles (645 kilometers) from the coast of Libya. Crete is around 260 kilometers long and 60 kilometers broad. From west to east, the island is split into four prefectures: Chania, Rethymnon, Heraklion, and Lasithi. Crete has a population of around 650,000 people.

While each Greek island has its own unique charm and beauty, Crete is without a doubt one of the most diverse, endowed with a remarkable amount of truly spectacular natural beauty and a wide variety of varied architecture that pays tribute to its ancient Minoan past and chronicles its history of conquest from the Greek mainland, the Venetian era, and the Turkish/Ottoman period.

Certainly, the island has its share of magnificent beaches and ritzy beach resorts, but there is much more to discover, from rugged mountain peaks (some of which remain snow-capped for much of the year) and breathtaking gorges to metropolitan cities and sleepy traditional villages where donkeys carrying vegetables are not uncommonly led past cars and scooters. Miles of olive trees and vineyards, palm palms, and desert-like vistas may be found. There are several stunning Byzantine churches and monasteries in the area, many of which are available to the public. There are old ruins all throughout the place. In fact, almost anything that can be found in Greece can be found here.

Tourism in Crete

The main tourist destinations and communities are concentrated around the island’s northern shore, where a major highway (dubbed the New National Road) runs east/west from one end of the island to the other. Branches travel south from large cities, making parts in the south more accessible despite their distance from the north’s major cities. Due to the harshness of the terrain, the south coast is mostly underdeveloped, with the exception of the southern city of Ierapetra. This is also true of the interior’s rough hilly terrain.

The great majority of tourists remain inside the confines of one of the island’s major northern towns and explore the island from there. It is a huge island, made even larger by the difficult roads, and it takes time to thoroughly explore. Vacationers from Europe seldom stay more than two weeks, thus many will simply tour the main attractions and the region near their resort. Nonetheless, a substantial number of Europeans remain longer, return year after year, and grow to know the island intimately.

There are certain regions (particularly all-inclusive resort hotels) that are more appealing to and promoted to one or more nationalities than others. Visitors come from all around Europe, although the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, and France send the most. A significant proportion of these guests select all-inclusive hotels. If you want to stay in one, you need do some research to find out which nationalities are catered to. You probably don’t want to be the only person who speaks English at a hotel where the majority of the guests speak French or Russian.

Settlements along the shore, with the exception of large port cities and towns, were constructed on hills above the ocean. This technique dates back to ancient times, and its goal was to allow locals to notice pirates and other intruders from afar. They might then rush to the sea to confront them, or they could retreat higher in the mountains. Today, various villages on the sea have sprung up as tourism boomed in the 1960s and 1970s. These newer lower settlements are known as “kato” (o), whereas the older higher villages are known as “epano” (). Most cities and villages, particularly around the coast, will be divided between higher and lower parts. When asking for directions, make it clear if you are heading kato or epano.

Climate of Crete

Crete is located between two climatic zones: the Mediterranean and the North African, with the majority of the island lying within the former. As a result, Crete’s climate is largely Mediterranean. Depending on the closeness to the sea, the atmosphere may be rather humid, but winters are quite warm. Between November and May, snowfall is widespread in the highlands but uncommon in the lowlands. While certain mountain peaks remain snow-capped for the whole of the year, along the ocean, snow only lasts a few minutes or hours. A really unusual cold wave, however, hit the island in February 2004, blanketing the whole island in snow. During the Cretan summer, average temperatures range from the high 20s to the low 30s Celsius (mid 80s to the mid 90s Fahrenheit), with maximums in the upper 30s to the mid 40s.

The south coast, including the Mesara Plain and Asterousia Mountains, is in the North African climate zone, which means it has more sunny days and high temperatures all year. Date palms grow fruit there, and swallows stay all year rather of migrating to Africa. The rich area of Ierapetra, on the island’s southeastern tip, is famed for its outstanding year-round agricultural output, with all types of summer vegetables and fruit grown in greenhouses throughout the winter.

Geography of Crete

Crete is Greece’s biggest island and the sixth largest in the Mediterranean Sea. It is situated in the southern Aegean Sea, dividing it from the Libyan Sea.

The island has an extended form, spanning 260 kilometers (160 miles) from east to west, measuring 60 kilometers (37 miles) at its broadest point and narrowing to as little as 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) at its narrowest point (close to Ierapetra). Crete has an area of 8,336 km2 (3,219 sq mi) with a coastline of 1,046 km (650 mi); to the north, the Sea of Crete (Greek: o); to the south, the Libyan Sea (Greek: ); to the west, the Myrtoan Sea, and to the east, the Karpathian Sea. It is located around 160 kilometers (99 miles) south of the Greek mainland.

Crete is hilly, and its nature is determined by a high mountain range that runs from west to east and is made up of three distinct mountain groups:

  • The White Mountains or Lefka Ori 2,452 m (8,045 ft)
  • The Idi Range (Psiloritis 35.18°N 24.82°E 2,456 m (8,058 ft)
  • Kedros 1,777 m (5,830 ft)
  • The Dikti Mountains 2,148 m (7,047 ft)
  • Thripti 1,489 m (4,885 ft)

These mountains endowed Crete with valleys like Amari, lush plateaus like Lasithi, Omalos, and Nidha, caverns like Gourgouthakas, Diktaion, and Idaion (the birthplace of the ancient Greek deity Zeus), and a multitude of gorges.

Gorges, rivers and lakes

The Samariá Gorge, Imbros Gorge, Kourtaliotiko Gorge, Ha Gorge, Platania Gorge, the Gorge of the Dead (near Kato Zakros, Sitia), and Richtis Gorge and waterfall at Exo Mouliana in Sitia are among the island’s many gorges.

The Ieropotamos River, the Koiliaris, the Anapodiaris, the Almiros, the Giofyros, and Megas Potamos are among Crete’s rivers. Lake Kournas and Lake Agia are the only freshwater lakes in the Chania regional unit. Lake Voulismeni, near Aghios Nikolaos, was formerly a sweetwater lake but is now linked to the sea through Lasithi. Dam-created lakes may also be found in Crete. They are the Aposelemis dam lake, the Potamos dam lake, and the Mpramiana dam lake.

Surrounding islands

Crete’s shoreline is dotted with islands, islets, and rocks. Many are frequented by tourists, while others are exclusively visited by archaeologists and biologists. Some are ecologically protected. The following are only a few of the islands:

  • Gramvousa (Kissamos, Chania) is a pirate island located adjacent Balo lagoon.
  • Elafonisi (Chania), a shipwreck and Ottoman massacre memorial.
  • Chrysi island (Ierapetra, Lasithi), which is home to Europe’s biggest natural Lebanon cedar forest.
  • Paximadia Island (Agia Galini, Rethymno) is the birthplace of the deity Apollo and the goddess Artemis.
  • The Venetian fort and leper colony at Spinalonga, located beside Elounda’s beach and shallow seas (Agios Nikolaos, Lasithi)
  • Dionysades islands and the Palm Beach Forest of Vai in the municipality of Sitia, Lasithi are both in an ecologically protected area.

The island of Gavdos is situated off the south coast, 26 nautical miles (48 kilometers) south of Hora Sfakion, and is Europe’s southernmost point.

Economy of Crete

Agriculture is the island’s most major sector, although tourism is also very vital to the economy. Since the 1970s, the island has been more reliant on tourism; many communities have no other function and effectively shut down during the winter. There are only approximately 60 days of rain each year, and practically every house and business has solar panels installed. The west side of the island is more wooded and gets more rain than the east. Originally, the whole island was covered with forest, particularly cedar and pine. It has been heavily deforested for firewood and to make way for olive groves and vineyards.

Different crops are grown in different places. The soil near Malia is ideal for growing potatoes, bananas, and, to a lesser extent, oranges. Malia bananas are extremely popular. They’re little and delicious. As you travel through town, you’ll see a lot of roadside kiosks selling potatoes and bananas. The bananas are dangling from a single huge stalk. Indicate how many you want, and the dealer will cut them off for you. In many supermarkets, a huge branch will be propped up on the floor in the vegetable aisle. A sharp knife will be inserted, and you will be able to cut off your own bunch. Oranges from the region between Rethymnon and Chania are in high demand. Driving that section of the National Road will uncover countless booths along the side in what seems to be the middle of nowhere, attended by elderly men and women. Ierapetra is well-known for its enormous nurseries, some of which have significant cut flower export operations, notably for long-stemmed roses and lilies. Many different types of flowers, herbs, and strawberry plants are produced on the island for export and purchase. Herbs of various types, walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, and honey are cultivated and produced all across the island, and you may find vendors selling their fresh goods along the roadsides.

Languages on Crete

Modern Greek is spoken by all Cretans. In churches, formal Classical Greek is still used. Because Cretans are quite devout, many of them know at least some Classical Greek.

There is an unique Cretan dialect that is similar to Modern Greek but with a few variances. Most Cretans will be familiar with this dialect, and elderly individuals (particularly in tiny mountain settlements) will still speak it. The word for “no” is one example. In Modern Greek, it is oxi (), pronounced “ohi.” It is simply pronounced “oy” in Cretan.

You will have minimal difficulty if you solely speak English, since the bulk of the population speaks at least some English. A huge number of persons, particularly in the tourism business, are very competent in the language. The school system on the island is outstanding, with English being taught beginning in first grade. It is, nonetheless, a good idea to learn at least a few simple words so that you may welcome people in their native tongue. Many people would consider it impolite if you go into a store and just ask whether they speak English; you may receive a strong “no,” even if the individual does speak English. Making an effort to say good morning in Greek initially can help to break the ice.

Many Cretans speak other languages as a result of their work in the merchant sea, living or studying in other countries, or just spending a lot of time conversing with English-speaking guests. The island attracts a great number of visitors from all over the globe, particularly from northern Europe, therefore many people working in the tourism business will speak other European languages. Menus at tourist-oriented taverns are generally in various languages, including Russian, French, Italian, English, and German. Certain places are more popular with certain ethnicities, and those working in the tourism business are more likely to be fluent in that language.

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