Crete (Κρητη / Kriti, occasionally spelled “Krete” in English) is the largest of the Greek islands and is in the Mediterranean Sea between the Sea of Crete and the Libyan Sea, south of the Peloponnese. Crete is approximately 260 km long and 60 km wide. Crete consists of four prefectures: Chania, Rethimno, Heraklion and Lasithi. If there was a beauty contest for Greek islands, Crete would surely be among the favorites. Indeed, some say there is no place on earth like Crete. This view is strongly supported by those fortunate enough to have visited the island. Crete, with a population of approximately 650,000, is not just sun, sea and sand; it is a quite distinct place full of vitality, warmth, hospitality, culture and of course an excellent infrastructure. Crete is well known for its seas and beaches but it has a very contrasting landscape. The island goes from fertile coastal plains to rugged mountains and from busy metropolitan cities to very peaceful hillside homes. If you travel throughout Crete you can clearly see remnants of Roman and Turkish aqueducts and architecture from when these people invaded the island long ago. Crete was the center of the Minoan civilization (circa 2700-1420 BCE), the first advanced civilization in Europe.
Crete has been able to preserve much of its culture. Cretan Greek has been maintained as the spoken dialect, and Cretan wine is a traditional drink. The island is known for its music (typically performed with the lyre) and has many indigenous dances, the most noted of which is probably the Pentozali. Cretan authors have made important contributions to Greek Literature throughout the modern period; major names include Vikentios Kornaros, creator of the 17th century epic romance Erotokritos (Greek Ερωτοκριτος), and in the 20th century Nikos Kazantzakis In the Renaissance, Crete was the home of the Cretan School of icon painting, which influenced El Greco and through him subsequent European painting.
Crete is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece. Fifteen percent of all arrivals in Greece come through the city of Heraklion (port and airport), while charter journeys to Heraklion last year made up 20% of all charter flights in Greece. Overall, more than two million tourists visited Crete last year, and this increase in tourism is reflected on the number of hotel beds, rising by 53% in the period between 1986 to 1991, when the rest of Greece saw increases of only 25%. Today, 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. Some of the most famous tourist attractions include the Minoan sites of Knossos and Phaistos, the classical site of Gortys, the Venetian old city and port of Chania, the Venetian castle at Rethymno and the Samaria Gorge.
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