The island of Crete (transliterated Kríti) is the largest (8261 square kilometres) and most populated island of Greece. Located on the edge of the Aegean Sea, it is 95 kilometers from mainland Greece. Elongated in shape, the territory is mountainous, with the coasts of the northern part gently sloping down to the sea. In addition to tourism, the local economy is driven by agriculture and livestock. The homonymous Greek Region includes several neighboring islets. The major Cretan municipalities are Heraklion, Chania, Agios Nikolaos and Rethymno, capitals of as many peripheral units which in turn include from four to eight municipalities, including the nearby island of Gavdos.
Sea, nature, art, culture, nightlife: Crete, thanks to its characteristics, is able to satisfy different tourist audiences. The peculiarities of the four peripheral units of the island are, starting from the westernmost region, the following.
The coasts of Chania have many beaches, even if those located near the capital of the same name, where there is a fascinating port built by the Venetians, are very crowded: on the west coast of the area there is the attractive beach of Falasarna. An excursion to the White Mountains (Lefka Ori), often covered in snow, allows you to appreciate their natural beauty, such as the Samariá Gorge, a national park. In Kissamos the bay and lagoon of Balos are unmissable; from the town, moreover, you can visit the peninsula of Gramvousa and embark for the island of Kythira. The boats departing from Palaiochora are directed both to the islet of Elafonisi, famous for its pink sand beach, and towards the towns on the southern stretch of coast. In the region there is the Chania "Daskalogiannis" Airport.
Rethymno is characterized by the long sandy beaches of the capital of the same name, where the Venetian architecture also stands out, and by the seaside resort of Plakias, on the southern coast. In the Arkadi Monastery it is possible to visit not only the church but also the historic hall, the cellars, the powder magazine, the museum and the art gallery.
Heraklion has as its capital the city of the same name, the most inhabited, the regional capital as well as the main gateway to Crete both for the presence of the Nikos Kazantzakis airport and for that of the port of Heraklion, the main ports of call on the island. Surrounded by Venetian walls, it houses a museum with important Minoan collections. Behind the beaches, accommodation facilities abound. The Palace of Malia is an important Minoan construction; the town of the same name is very popular with young people for its beaches and above all for its nightlife. The archaeological site of Knossos is located a few kilometers away. Not far from the municipality of Phaistos is the archaeological site Hagia Triada.
Lasithi is the peripheral unit whose capital is the town of Agios Nikolaos, a few kilometers from the seaside resort of Elounda. After the gulf of Spinalonga, in front of the fortified islet of the same name of the time of the Republic of Venice, before the windy coasts of the eastern side, there is the beach of Vai, characterized by the palm forest located behind it. At Gournia, in the Mirabello Bay, we find a Minoan palatial complex.
As far as local transport is concerned, there is no shortage of suburban and extra-urban bus lines, with frequent runs, especially in the morning. If you rent a vehicle, be aware that the less populated centers are connected by small, often ruined roads and there are not many communication routes on the southern coast.
Cretan gastronomy is characterized by cheeses (graviera, myzitra and anthotiros), fish dishes, snails, ham and smoked sausages, goat and lamb meat, pilaf, a chicken risotto, and earthen or seafood kebabs souvlaki, from sauces, salads and vegetables. Even the sweets are very tasty and among the drinks we should mention the tsikoudia, similar to brandy, and the locally produced wine.
Panygiria, festivals based on food, wine and traditional Cretan lyre and lute live music are often organized in the villages.