Crete Attractions Kríti
Area of island: 8,331 sq.km/3,217 sq. miChief town: IráklionApproaching Khaniá, Cape Spátha (on its northern tip, remains of a shrine of the nymph Diktynna) is seen on the right, the peninsula of Akrotíri (ancient Kyamon) on the left.
Between the two is the wide sweep of Khaniá Bay (often exposed to storms coming from the north).Ahead can be seen the White Mountains (Lefká Óri). The boats anchor in the open bay, the large ferries beyond the Akrotíri peninsula in Soúda Bay, the only good harbor on the island, which offers a sheltered anchorage for a whole fleet of ships in any weather.Approaching Iráklion, Cape Stávros, an important landmark, is seen on the right; on the left is the bare island of Día (known to the Venetians as Standia; alt. 265m/869ft; wild goat reserve), a haven of refuge in a northerly storm.Ahead is Iráklion Bay, bounded on the west by Cape Panayía.Crete, the largest of the Greek islands and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean, lies some 100km/60mi southeast of the Peloponnese at the southern limit of the Aegean Sea.The most southerly outpost of Europe, it is an important link in the chain of islands which forms an arc between southern Greece and Asia Minor. It extends for 260km/160mi from east to west, varying in width between 12km/7.5mi and 57km/35mi. It is dominated by three karstic mountain massifs: in the west the Lefká Oàri (White Mountains; 2,452m/8,045ft), which are usually snow-capped; in the center of the island the Psilorítis range (Iàdi Oàros, Mount Ida, 2,456m/8,058ft), which also has a good deal of snow; and in the east the Díkti range (2,148m/7,048ft). These jagged mountains with their scanty growth of vegetation are the home of the wild goat (Capra aegagrus), an ancestor of the domestic goat. Agriculture in this karstic terrain is possible only in the depressions (poljes).Between the mountain ranges are fertile plains (Mesará; Omalós, Lasíthi), with plantations of palms, olives, bananas and oranges; in the south early vegetables are grown.While the south coast for the most part falls steeply down to the sea, the north coast is flatter and more indented. On the north coast are Khaniá, the island's capital Iráklion and Réthymnon, its third largest town.The climate is Mediterranean, with relatively mild and wet winters and completely dry summers of subtropical heat (six to seven summer months). The island's main sources of revenue are agriculture and, increasingly, the tourist trade.The earliest traces of human settlement, by incomers from North Africa, date back to the seventh millennium B.C. From the third millennium B.C. there developed a pre-Greek Bronze Age culture which reached its apogee between 2000 and 1600 B.C. and is known as the Minoan culture, after the legendary King Minos. The cultural and economic influence of Minoan Crete, and also the political authority of this first maritime power in the Mediterranean, were felt as far afield as the Iberian peninsula. Then, around 1400 B.C., for reasons that are not clear, Minoan power collapsed. It may have been a catastrophic earthquake, perhaps following the volcanic explosion on the island of Santorin, which destroyed the Cretan cities; or the island may have been ravaged by invaders. Whatever the cause, Crete never recovered its former importance.Towards the end of the 12th century B.C. Dorian Greeks conquered most of the island. In 66 B.C. Crete - an important base in the Mediterranean - was occupied by Rome. When the Roman Empire was divided in A.D. 395 Crete fell to the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire. In 824 it was occupied by the Saracens, but was recovered by the Empire in 961. From 1204 to 1669 it was ruled by Venice, when the people of Crete fought a long and bitter struggle for independence. Nevertheless the period of Venetian rule saw a considerable cultural flowering on Crete. Among the artists of this period was Domenikos Theotokopoulos, better known as El Greco, who was born in Fódele, near Iráklion, in 1541 (d. Toledo 1614).In 1669 Crete was captured by the Turks, who did not relinquish it until 1898. After a period of independence the reunion of Crete with Greece was finally proclaimed on October fifth, 1912 on the initiative of Elefthérios Venizélos (b. 1864 in Mourniés, near Khaniá), a lawyer and liberal politician who later became prime minister of Greece. In the spring of 1941 German airborne forces occupied Crete, which, lying between southern Europe and Africa, was of great strategic importance, and remained in occupation until May 1945.Iráklion airport, 5km/3mi east; Khaniá airport, 12km/7.5mi northeast, at Stérnes on Akrotíri peninsula; Sitía airfield, 5km/3mi north. Scheduled flights Athens-Iráklion several times daily; Rhodes or Salonica to Iráklion, several flights weekly; Athens-Khaniá, several flights daily; Rhodes-Sitía via Kárpathos and Kásos, several flights weekly.Boat services from Athens (Piraeus)-Iráklion and Athens (Piraeus)-Khaniá, twice daily (10-14 hours; cars carried); sailings, several times weekly, to Cyclades and to Rhodes via Kásos and Kárpathos.Areas of Crete were affected by the forest fires that swept across regions of Greece in the summer of 2007.
Mt Ida & Mt Psiloritis
The ascent of Mount Ida (Mt Psilorítis, 2,456m/8,058ft) is a rewarding but strenuous climb (warm clothing and supply of food essential, guide advisable). The starting-point is either Kamáres (with the cave in which the polychrome pottery of the Middle Minoan period known as Kamáres ware was found), from which it is about nine hours' climb to the summit, or the village of Anóyia (eight hours). On the north flank of Mount Ida, at a height of 1,280m/4,200ft, is the Idéon Ántron, a Minoan cult cave.
Guides: Private guides for hire on-site.
Mt Psilorítis - Idaian Cave
20km south of Anogia on the upland plain of Nidas, on Mt Psolorítis, lies the sacred Idaian cave. According to mythology, it was here where Rhea hid the baby Zeus from the murderous Kronos.Cult objects have been found here, along with statues and bronze shields and other finds now on display in the Herakleion Archeological Museum.
30-40km/20-25mi west of Áyios Nikólaos is the fertile karstic plateau of Lasíthi (alt. 850m/2,790ft), with the 12,000 windmills (now increasingly going out of use) which irrigate the plain and have earned it the name of the Valley of Windmills.
The small seaside village of Petrás was founded on the ruins of a Minoan city. The settlement is dated to between 2600-2300 B.C., with habitation continuing through to 1450 B.C.
Dictaean Stalactitic Cave, Psykhro
On the southwestern edge of the plateau of the Lasíthi plain, at the village of Psykhró, is the stalactitic Dictaean Cave (Diktaíon Ántron) in which Zeus was believed to have been born.
Sitía (ancient Eteia) is a picturesquely situated little port in eastern Crete, dominated by a Venetian fort. The town, which was destroyed by an earthquake and bombarded by a Turkish fleet commanded by Khaireddin Barbarossa in 1538, is mainly modern; it has a good beach.It was the home of Vintzentinos Kornaros (d. 1677), author of an epic romance, the "Erotokritos", which is still popular. There is an attractive promenade along the harbor (restaurants).In Arkadion Street (parallel to the harbor) is an interesting folk museum.
The Sitía Archaeological Museum contains Minoan-era finds from Sitía, Zakros, Petra and Palekastro. The collection includes statues, vessels, jars, and tablets.
Address: Piskokéfalou 3, 72300 Sitía, Greece
Opening hours: Jan 1 to Dec 31: 8:30am-3pm; Closed: Mon
Always opened on: Assumption Day - Christian (Aug 15), Óhi Day - Greece & Cyprus (Oct 28)
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Greek National Day (Mar 25), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Easter - Christian, 15th of Shaaban - 12th Iman's Birthday - Muslim, Good Friday - Christian
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €2.00, Concession or reduced rate €1.00, Students from EU FREE, Child 18 & under FREE
Useful tips: Admission is free on Sundays from November to March.
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Excursions from Sitía
Five km/3mi east of Sitía, at Ayía Fotiá, can be seen a Minoan necropolis.
Around the beautiful sandy bay of Vái, with the modest village of that name, is the only palm- grove on Crete.
Three km/2mi north of Vái, at Ermoúpolis, are the remains of Minoan Itanos.The ruins are of a big Greek-Roman city.
Some 15km/9 mi south of Sitía is Praisós, with a Minoan villa and a Hellenistic cemetery.
Kato Zakros, Greece
Some 37km/23mi off the southwest coast of Crete lies the wooded island of Gávdos, Europe's most southerly point. This is thought to be the island of Ogygia, home of Calypso, with whom Odysseus stayed for seven years ("Odyssey", Book 7).
Assi Ghonia - Feast Day of St George
The feast day of St George is celebrated with a religious fiesta, followed by a sheep shearing competition. Other old customs are also performed by the local shepherds.
Anogia is a mountain village 53km southeast of Rethymnon. The village is famous for its woven cloth.