Crete (Greek Κρήτη, modern Greek transliteration Kríti) is the largest of the Greek islands and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean.
Crete is a popular tourist destination; its attractions include the Minoan sites of Knossos and Phaistos, the classical site of Gortys, the Venetian castle at Rethymno, and the Samaria Gorge, as well as many other natural sites, monuments, and beaches.
Crete was the centre of the Minoan civilization the oldest civilization in Europe.
Crete is extremely mountainous, and its character is defined by a high mountain range crossing from West to East, formed by three different groups of mountains. These are: the White Mountains or Lefka Ori (2,452 m); the Idi range (Psiloritis 2,456 m); the Dikti mountains (2,148 m); Kedros (1,777 m); Thripti (1,489 m)
These mountains gifted Crete with fertile plateaus, such as Lasithi, Omalos and Nidha ; caves, such as Diktaion and Idaion ; and gorges such as the famous Gorge of Samaria. The protected area of the Samaria Gorge is the home of kri-kri, while Cretan mountains and gorges are refuges for the endangered vulture Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus).
The south coast, including the Messara plain and Asterousia mountains, falls in the North African climatic zone, and thus enjoys significantly more sunny days and high temperatures throughout the year. In southern Crete date palms bear fruit and swallows remain year-long, without migrating to Africa.
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 Iraklion 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 Hania, or by boat to the main ports of Heraklion, Hania, Rethimno, and Agios Nikolaos.