The capital and largest city of Crete is Heraklion. Crete is located about 160 km south of the Greek mainland extending in a direction east - west, south of the Aegean Sea, of which it forms the natural boundary south and north of the Libyan. It is part of the regional government of Greece and is divided into four regional sections: Heraklion, Chania, Lasithi and Rethymno.
The favorable position of Crete at the crossroads of ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean was the main reason of the continuous assertion of the island from different cultures centuries ago . Crete managed to keep the unique and powerful character till today. Religion, the glorious history of antiquity and wild Cretan nature shaped the personality of the Cretans , who kept their brave soul after centuries of Greek slavery.The first European civilization developed in Crete, the Minoan civilization , between 2800 BC and 1400 BC . Even today the palaces of Knossos , Phaistos , Malia and Zakros reflect the splendor of the Minoan culture through the masterpieces of architecture , pottery , gold and silversmithing and painting . In 824 AD Crete was occupied by the Arabs , who made Chandaka ( Heraklion ) the basis for acts of piracy in the Mediterranean Sea. After many failed attempts , the Byzantines managed to set Crete free in 961 . After the conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204, new rulers of Crete were the Venetians until 1669 . During this period Crete experienced a great economic and spiritual prosperity. Large cities were rebuilt , decorate with excellent monuments and fortified with massive walls . Meanwhile, art reached its apogee with great personalities from the worlds of painting , such as El Greco (El Greco) and Michael Damascene . Also , literature , music and theater thrived and produced masterpieces such as Erotokritos and Erophile . All this was brutally interrupted in 1669 when the city of Heraklion , the last fortress in Crete , surrendered after a long siege to the Turkish Ottoman rule . Consecutive revolutions and bloody battles led to the autonomy of Crete in 1897.In 1913 Crete solemnly joined the rest of Greece , honoring the dream of all Cretans the coveted Union. Since the Union of Crete singled political personality of Eleftherios Venizelos, who would later become the greatest leader that ever ruled Greece . However, the fighting of Cretans did not end here, since the Cretan's soul was tested again in the Battle of Crete in 1941 and exalted through the ashes of tens of villages burnt by the Germans.
Crete is the largest island in Greece and the second largest (after Cyprus) in the eastern Mediterranean. Located at the southern edge of the Aegean Sea and covers an area of 8.336 km ². The population is 621,340 people (2011 census). Its length is 260 km long and varies in width with a maximum of 60 km. The coastline presents a deep geographical partition, which shows in Crete over 1,000 km coastline.The island is very mountainous and is defined by a high mountain range crossing from West to East, formed by three different groups of mountains. These are:
The White Mountains (2,452 m).
the mountain Ida (Ida) (2,456 m).
Dikti (2,148 m).
In these mountains due to the existence of the island fertile plateaus the smooth, Nidha and Lasithi Plateau caves like Diktaion and the Ideon Andron and gorges like the famous Gorge of Samaria, the Imbros Gorge, Kourtaliotiko Gorge, the Gorge of dead in Kato Zakros Lassithi etc.
Crete belongs to the Mediterranean climate zone that forms its climate, which is characterized as mild. The atmosphere can be quite humid, depending on the proximity to the sea. The winter is fairly mild and humid, with a lot of rainfall, mostly in the west of the island. Snowfall is rare in the lowlands, but quite common in upland. During the summer, the average temperature ranges under 25-30 degrees (Celsius), definitely lower than in mainland Greece . The flora of the island is threatened by the gradual development of animal husbandry.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Crete is isolated from the rest of mainland Europe , Asia and Africa, which is reflected strongly in the genetic diversity of fauna and flora of the island. The Cretan wild goat ( Kri Kri ) , the Cretan wildcat and the Cretan shrew , as the stenoendemic arthropods and bats of Crete , the fauna of Crete holds many secrets for the evolution of species .Key mammals of the island are the badger , the weasel , the Zouridas ( petrokounavo ) , the hedgehog , the shrews , the dormouse , various species of mice and rats and several species of bats. Also , the waters of Crete can accommodate a large number of marine mammals such as sperm whales , whales, dolphins and porpoises monks. The skies of Crete accommodate a large number of birds of prey , the most important are endangered eagles and golden eagles . Also , the coast of the island is an important sanctuary for sea turtles Caretta caretta and leatherback . Besides animals , there are many endemic species of plants and even stenoendimiki form (isolated in limited areas such as mountain teas (Siderites syrioca)). In Crete there are hundreds of species of orchids , which are a magnet for enthusiasts and researchers of the plants. Also known are the herbs of Crete as dittany and red tulip , which is now found in very few places .
The Cretan dialect is spoken in Crete which is considered the oldest Greek dialect. There is a long tradition in folk song which is a fifteen-poem rhyme. Crete is also known for its traditional music, typical musical instrument of which is the Cretan lyra. Some of the best known musicians Cretans are Nikos Xylouris,Psarantonis and Kostas Mountakis. There is also great tradition in dancing with several different ways which come from ancient dances as Pyrrhic. The most famous dances today are siganos the pentozali, Hanioti, sousta and Maleviziotis. Characteristic also is the Cretan costume usually worn by traditional dance groups.
The island of Crete is one of the 13 regions of Greece and consists of four regional sections:
Heraklion (292.489 inhabitants) in 2001 (304 270 inhabitants) in 2011
Lasithi (76,319 inhabitants) in 2001 (75,690 inhabitants) in 2011
Rethymno (81,936 inhabitants) in 2001 (85,160 inhabitants) in 2011
Chania (150,387 inhabitants) in 2001 (156 220 inhabitants) in 2011
Crete is one of the most popular Greek holiday destinations. 15% of total arrivals in the country are carried through the city of Heraklion. In 2006 , charter flights to Heraklion totaled 20% of all charter flights in the country and in total, more than two million tourists visited Crete this year . This increase in tourism is reflected in the number of hotel beds , which rose in Crete by 53 % from 1986 to 1991 , while the rest of Greece had increased 25%. The current tourism infrastructure in Crete caters wide range of preferences , from large, luxurious hotels, with all the specified facilities ( swimming pools, sports and recreation facilities , etc.) , to smaller family owned apartments or organized camps . The guest access to the island is by air via the international airport at Heraklion and state airport at Chania and Sitia , or sea ports of Heraklion , Chania, Rethymnon , Agios Nikolaos , Sitia and Kastelli Kissamos .
Crete has a well developed road network. The bus is the best and safest means of transportation and is divided into two categories:
1.Buses ( blue) serving the cities from early morning until late evening.
2 .Intercity Buses ( green ) connecting all the prefectures of Crete
There is daily boat connection with Piraeus to the port of Souda (Chania ) and Heraklion , which is the main port of the island. Other ports on the north coast of Crete is the Kissamos , Chania , Rethymnon , Agios Nikolaos and Sitia . There are daily flights from Athens . In Crete there are three airports in Chania, Heraklion and Sitia.