Crete is the biggest island in Greece. Crete developed one of the greatest prehistoric civilizations that were centered mostly in Knossos, Faistos, Zakro, Malia, and Aghia Trias, while its key location in the Mediterranean makes the island geographically important.
It is located about 100 kilometers southeast of Peloponnisos and lies in an area of 8,331 square miles. It has a population of 492,000 and it is divided into four prefectures: Chania, Rethymno, Herakleio, and Lasithio.
The climate is Mediterranean, similar to the eastern Cyclades (average temperature about 14 degrees C) and there is diversity in temperatures due to the morphology of the land. Winter months in the seaside areas are mild and start in mid-December, while in the south areas of Crete it is warmer.
According to Greek Mythology, Crete has been known since Homeric times, especially Knossos. The king Minos, who reigned in Crete, had his palace at Knossos, and he was well known for the riches of his realm. The Minotaur, which was a monster Minos confined in a labyrinth, is also known through Homer. The first excavations in Crete started in 1878 and the palace of Knossos was revealed in 1930. The palaces at Faistos, Aghia Trias (where visitors can view the remnants of a royal villa), and Malia, as well as other important findings were revealed in the latest years. Knossos palace is one of the most popular sights nowadays.
Crete has got a lot of Museums, such as the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, which includes some of the most important exhibits of the Greek civilization as it provides fascinating insight into the rise and fall of the Minoan civilisation as well as more recent events in Cretan history. It has a plethora of Minoan artefacts while the exhibits include the well-known Snake Goddess, the Bull’s Head and the Phaestos Disc.
Crete offers a great number of outdoor activities including sunbathing, swimming and water sports, while its historical and archaeological attractions will offer visitors unique experiences. Moreover, Crete has a number of amusement parks which cater to the whole family, such as Aquaworld Aquarium at Hersonissos, which displays local sea life including some reptiles such as a Nile crocodile. The exploration of the Caves at Matala is a great outdoor activity that will amuse everyone while the beach nearby is ideal for swimming and sunbathing.
The Museum of Sea Life in Rethymno is also great fun for all the family.
Crete is the best place to shop since you can buy pure local products such as olive oil, honey, sultanas and wine — some of the best in Greece. You can also get herbs, fruit, and dairy products. ‘Raki’ is the local spirit no one should miss. Rethymno, Chania and Aghios Nikolaos are major shopping centres. Carved wooden handicrafts and intricate embroideries can be found in the villages of Zaro, Anogia, Kritsa, and Zoniana, while beautiful pottery is available at Margaritas and several other mountain towns.
The local cuisine is unique. Try traditional dishes at Cretan restaurants all over the island. Visit Akrotiri Restaurant and Horiatiko Restaurant in Agia Marina or Blue Sea Tavern in Malia. Most of the many restaurants and taverns in Crete are excellent.
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