Thinking of travelling to Crete? Well here are a few simple facts and figures so you know a little bit about the amazing place you’re planning to visit!
Crete sits right down the southern end of the Aegean, with North Africa being the next stop if you kept heading south. Head due east and you’ll end up in Cyprus and in the distant west is Malta. So it’s pretty much in the heart of the Mediterranean. The nearest major Greek Islands are Karpathos, Santorini and Kythera, but there’s several small landmasses that sit off the coast like orbiting moons.
Crete is by far the largest and most populous Greek Island. There’s around 650,000 people living here, mostly residing on the coastal fringes and major settlements. The island is about 260km from east to west, and 60km at its widest. The highest point is the towering Mt Ida, which reaches some 2,456m into the sky. But despite being considered a mountainous landscape, there are also expansive, fertile plains that have been farmed for millennia.
The climate of Crete is quite varied, though generally speaking, it has mild winters, hot summers and loads of sunshine. The coastal fringes can be very humid during the warmer months, and the mountainous interior gets snow in winter. This dynamic climate and hugely mixed landscape makes for a rich diversity of flora and fauna.
So where does everyone live? The largest city and capital is Heraklion, home to over 140,000 people. Chania has about 55,000 residents, and the next biggest city is Rethymno with 34,000 people calling this pretty town their own. There are several other small cities and towns all along the coast, with fewer large centres on the island’s interior. Supporting the populous are service industries, with tourism and agriculture being major economic drivers. Speaking of economy, Crete is a wealthy island, with the necessary infrastructure to support a thriving tourism industry and great roads linking all the major centres.
In terms of history, Crete has a fascinating past, with all the major powers throughout the last 4,000 years having had an impact on the place. The result is a depth of culture and wealth of landmarks unlike much of the world. From Minoan times and the Mycenaean civilisation and classical periods, right through Roman, Arab, Byzantian, Venetian and Ottoman rule – there’s so much to see, learn about and experience across Crete that tells the story of this remarkable past.
The most visible element of the mixed history is the architecture. There are stunning mosques and Venetian fortresses, cathedrals and even a Minoan palace! The natural wonders are on par with the manmade, with gorgeous beaches, caves, gorges and mountain ranges, and for those that like to hike, you’re spoilt for choice.
To learn all about Crete and see how amazing an island it is, make sure you check out series five of the show!