Most Southern Island of Crete
Crete is the most Southern part of the European Union. Its surface area achieves the 6.3% of Greece’s surface. Crete’s geographical variety and natural opulence, combined with the climatic propitious circumstances, brought the historic base of Crete’s economical and political development.
The largest island of Greece has an enormous attractive power. Most of the guests get repeaters. Many people say, that Crete is the centre of the globe, the island of passion or an image of God.
"Crete 's mystery is extremely deep. Whoever sets foot on this island senses a mysterious force branching warmly and beneficently through his veins, senses his soul begin to grow" Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco
Crete (Greek ÊñÞôç)
Classical Latin Crēta, Vulgar at 8,336 km² (3,219 square miles) 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 (ca. 2600-1400 BC), the oldest civilization in Europe.
Crete was the centre of Europe's most ancient civilization, the Minoan, often referred to as the 'cradle' of European civilization. Little is known about the rise of ancient Cretan society, because very few written records remain, and many of them are written in the undeciphered script known as Linear A. This contrasts with the superb palaces, houses, roads, paintings and sculptures that do remain. Though early Cretan history is surrounded by legends (such as those of King Minos; Theseus and the Minotaur; and Daedalus and Icarus) that have been passed to us via Greek historians/poets (such as Homer), it is known that the first human settlement in Crete, dating to the aceramic Neolithic, introduced cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and dogs, as well as domesticated cereals and legumes.
In Ancient Roman times, Crete was involved in the Mithridatic Wars as Rome suspected them of backing Mithridates VI of Pontus. Marcus Antonius Creticus attacked Crete in 71 BC and was repelled. Rome sent Quintus Caecilius Metellus with three legions to the island. After a ferocious three-year campaign Crete was conquered for Rome in 69 BC, earning this Metellus the agnomen "Creticus." The result was Gortyn being made the capital of a province that at times joined Cyrenaica to Crete.
Byzantine and Ottoman Era
Crete continued to be part of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine empire, a quiet cultural backwater, until it fell into the hands of Arabs (see Al-Hakam I) in 824, who established an emirate on the island. In 960 Nicephorus Phocas reconquered Crete for the Byzantines, who held it until 1204, when it fell into the hands of the Venetians at the time of the Fourth Crusade. The Venetians retained the island until 1669, when the Ottoman Turks took possession of it.
In the partition of the Byzantine empire after the capture of Constantinople by the armies of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Crete was eventually acquired by Venice, which held it for more than four centuries. During Venetian rule, the Greek population of Crete was exposed to Renaissance culture. During the 17th century, Venice was pushed out of Crete by the Ottoman Empire, with most of the island lost after the siege of Candia (1648–1669), possibly the longest siege in history.
Modern Greek State
The Greek War of Independence began in 1821 and Cretan participation was extensive. An uprising by Christians met with a fierce response from the Ottoman authorities and the execution of several bishops, regarded as ringleaders. Between 1821 and 1828, the island was the scene of repeated hostilities. Contemporary estimates vary, but on the eve of the Greek War of Independence as much as 45% of the population of the island may have been Muslim. Some of them were crypto-Christians who converted back to Christianity; many others fled Crete because of the unrest. By 1900, only 11% of the population was Muslim -- they were usually called "Turks" regardless of language, culture, and ancestry. Those remaining were forced to leave in 1924 in the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey. (See Cretan Muslims and Cretan Turks for fuller discussion and documentation.)
In World War II, Crete provided the setting for the Battle of Crete (May 1941), wherein German invaders, especially paratroops, drove out a British Empire force commanded by General Sir Bernard Freyberg.
Coordinates: 35° N 24° E
Total Isles: 25
Area: 8,336 km² (3,219 sq.mi.)
Highest Mountain: Mt. Psiloreitis (2,456 m (8,058 ft))
Prefectures: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion, Lassithi
Statistics: Population: 623,666 (as of 2005)
Density: 75 /km² (194 /sq.mi.)
Postal Code: 72x xx, 70x xx, 71x xx, 73x xx, 740 55, 74x xx
Area Code: 284 x0, 2810, 289x0, 282x0, 28310, 283x0
License Code: AN, HK, HP, XN, PE
Crete is one of the 13 regions into which Greece is divided. It is the largest island in Greece and the second largest (after Cyprus) in the East Mediterranean. Crete has an elongated shape - 260 km from east to west and 60 km at its widest, although the island is narrower at certain points, such as in the region close to Ierapetra where it has a width of only 12 km. It covers an area of 8,336 km² and has a coastline of 1046 km. To the north Crete borders with the Sea of Crete (Greek: Êñçôéêü ÐÝëáãïò), to the south it is bordered by the Libyan Sea (Greek: Ëéâõêü ÐÝëáãïò), to the west the Myrtoon Sea, to the east the Karpathion Sea. Its population is 650,000 people (as of 2005). The island lies approximately 160 km south of the Greek mainland.
Crete is extremely mountainous and is defined by a high mountain range crossing it 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 ( [show location on an interactive map] 35.18° N 24.82° E) 2,456 m);
* the Dikti mountains (2,148 m);
* Kedros (1,777 m);
* Thripti (1,489 m)
These mountains gifted Crete with fertile plateaus like Lasithi, Omalos and Nidha, caves like Diktaion and Idaion cave, and gorges like the famous Gorge of Samaria. The protected area of the Samaria Gorge is the home of kri-kri. Cretan mountains and gorges are refuges of the endangered vulture Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus).
Crete straddles two climatic zones, the Mediterranean and the North African, mainly falling within the former. As such, the climate in Crete is primarily temperate. The atmosphere can be quite humid, depending on the proximity to the sea. The winter is fairly mild. Snowfall is common on the mountains between November and May, but rare at the low lying areas - especially near the coast when it only stays on the ground for a few minutes/hours. However a truly exceptional cold snap happened in February 2004, during which the whole island was blanketed with snow. During summer, average temperatures are in the high 20's-low 30's (Celsius), with maxima in the upper 30's to mid 40's.
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; consequently in southern Crete date palms bear fruit and swallows stay year-long, instead of migrating to Africa.
The economy of Crete, which was mainly based on farming, started changing visibly during the 1970s. While an emphasis remains on farming and stock breeding, due to the climate and the terrain of the island, there has been a drop in manufacturing and an observable expansion in its service industries (mainly tourism-related). All three sectors of the Cretan economy (agriculture, processing-packaging, services), are directly connected and interdependent. The island has a per capita income close to 100% of the Greek average, while unemployment is at approximately 4%, half of that of the country overall. As in other regions of Greece, olive growing is also a significant industry.
The island has three significant airports, Nikos Kazantzakis at Heraklion, the Daskalogiannis airport at Chania and a smaller in Sitia. The first two serve international routes as the main gateways to the island for travellers.
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 flights to Iraklion were last year 20% of the total of charter flights in Greece. In sum more than two million tourists visited Crete last year. This increase in tourism is reflected on the number of hotel beds, which increased in Crete by 53% from 1986 to 1991 while in the rest of Greece the increase was 25%. Today the tourism infrastructure in Crete caters to all tastes. There is accommodation of every possible category, from large luxury hotels with all the facilities (swimming pools, sports and recreation facilities etc.), to smaller family owned apartments, to camping facilities. Visitors can arrive at the island through two international airports in Heraklion and Hania, or by boat to the ports of Heraklion, Hania, Rethimno and Agios Nikolaos.
2007: Plans for a container port
Newspapers have reported that the Ministry of Mercantile Marine is ready to support the agreement between Greece, South Korea, Dubai Ports World and China for the construction of a large international container port and free trade zone in southern Crete near Tympaki. The plan is to expropriate 850 ha of land. The port would handle 2 million containers per year. As of 2007, there has been no official announcement of a project that is not universally welcomed due to its environmental, economic and cultural impact.
Tourism is the basis of the Cretan economy. The island is partly very green despite only having around 60 days of rain per year.
There are many contrasts in this region, you can go from incredible beaches to impressive mountains, from big (and chaotic) cities to really small picturesque villages, from very dry, almost desert areas to very green zones like the springs in the center.
The language used in Crete is Greek, although in main cities and touristic areas people have no problem understanding English. Even in small villages you usually have no problem for basic things like shopping or eating.
The spoken dialect of Greek in Crete is similar to the one of the mainland Greece but it might have some small differences.
The island has three significant airports, Nikos Kazantzakis at Heraklion, the military airport Daskalogiannis at Chania and a new public airport in Sitia. Chania airport is much smaller and far less busy than Heraklion airport. Sitia airport serves currenly only a small number of domestic flights, mainly to/from Athens. Crete flight schedules. There are long term plans to replace Heraklion airport, which is too close to the city, by a new inland airport at Kasteli, southeast of Heraklion.
Ferry services from Athens (Piraeus) to Iraklion, Rethimno and Hania and from Thessaloninki and the Cyclades to Heraklion. Information unter: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask us for all the ferry schedules to/from Crete and the rest of the Greek islands.
Hire a car, as long as you have your driving license with you. Our special rates include best conditions and you can be sure, that the car is safe. Petrol stations often close around 7 pm, particularly in villages. Most petrol stations expect you to pay cash - they serve you, so you can choose for them to fill the tank or put in petrol to a cash value. On the National Highway, there are service stations, but they are often 50 kilometers or so apart - make sure you fill up with petrol before bank holidays and Sundays when you may have more difficulty finding an open petrol station.
Public transportation is fairly frequent and timetables quite trustworthy. Bus drivers usually divert from their marked routes to enter little villages if asked to do so. Bus services along the north coast and towards the south coast are excellent, reliable, frequent and cheap. Just do not forget, public busses have timetables that can not always match with your travel plans and you lose precious time of your holiday.
Crete has many ferry connections for example: You can go from Pireaus to Heraklion with Minoan Lines, to Chania with ANEK Lines or Hellenic Seaways, to Ayios Nikolaos and Sitia with LANE Lines. LANE also operates routes from Ayios Nikolaos/Sitia to Rhodes and other greek islands. In the summer, there are daily catamarans (hydrofoils) from Heraklion to Santorini. The trip takes about 2 hours. Hellenic Seaways and SeaJets offer these sailings. You can also go to Crete by ferry from the Peloponnese (Gytheio) and Kythira island. This ferry lands on the west part of Crete, in Kissamos port.
Along the road free southwest coast operates a ferry line, with connections between Paleochora, Sougia, Agia Roumeli, Loutro and Hora Sfakion (Sfakia). There is also a connection with the islet of Gavdos, Europe's southernmost point (Cape Tripiti). Information under: email@example.com
some of our highlights are:
* The ruins of the ancient Minoan civilization in Knossos, Phaistos and the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
* The big variety of landscapes in a short distance: the wilderness and solitude of the Cretan mountains some hundred metres away from the coast.
* The eccentric culture of Crete in the traditional cafes (kafeneia).
* The gorge of Samaria
* The southern coast of Rethymnon prefecture. There are some beautiful beaches, many accessible only on foot. The monastery at Prevelli is of particular historical interest as the site from where Abbot Agathagelos Lagouvardos sheltered and assisted the evacuation of Allied troops during WWII.
* Visit the Archaeological Site of Knossos - and its famous palace, major city of the Minoan civilization 4,000 years ago, with a professional tourist guide.
* Check more sites of interest to visit by consulting the Hellenic Minister of Culture web-site
* Listen to traditional Cretan music: Lýra is the dominant folk instrument on the island; it is a three-stringed fiddle, direct descendant of the ancient Lyre, which is held vertically, resting on the thighs of the player and is played with a bow like a violin. It is often accompanied by the Cretian lute (laoúto), which is similar to both an oud and a mandolin. The film Zorba the Greek helped to expand the audience for Cretan folk music; popularity peaked from about the middle of the 1970s to the middle of the 1980s.
* Complete the walk down the Samaria Gorge from the Omalos plateau to Agia Roumeli on the Libyan Sea, at which point tourists sail to the nearby village of Hora Sfakion and catch a coach back to Hania. The walk takes between four and seven hours and can be strenuous, especially in high summer.
* Avoid overcrowded and touristic places as they are ugly and don't offer any of the qualities of Crete. In general, the North coast is much more busy and touristic than the South coast.
* Go walking in the mountains.
Please see all our excursions and activities...
Crete is the most delicatessen place of Greece, famous for its tasty and healthy cuisine. The Cretan Diet was the subject of study that revealed its great health benefits and nutritional value.
A good tip is to join any of the hundreds of traditional fiestas in villages having great food, wine and live folk music.
Unlike most regions in Greece, Feta is not produced and is not very popular in Crete. However you will find a very good variety of delicious locally produced Cretan cheeses, such as:
* Graviera: (Greek: ÃñáâéÝñá) The standard hard cheese; there are many types and tastes. Taste before buying.
* Myzitra: (Greek: Ìõæßèñá) A fresh cheese made of ewe's milk. It is sometimes made of goat's milk (in which case it is called "katsikisia") or mixed milk. A good goat's one will taste like these expensive French "chèvre frais".
* Anthotiros: (Greek: Áíèüôõñïò) from the words "anthos" (flower) and "tiros" (cheese) it is a very mild, soft spring cheese made when the sheep pastures are still full of flowers. The closest popular cheese is the Italian mozzarella, although it is quite different.
Snails cooked in various ways (one of the most traditional dishes of Crete), Smoked ham (apaki) and smoked sausages (loukaniko), traditional mountain goat or lamb cooked in various ways, cretan pilaf (chicken risotto), souvlaki (pork meat, lamb, chicken or fish on skewers).
Fish and seafood
Sardines (Greek: óáñäÝëåò) , barbounia (Greek: ìðáñìðïýíéá - red mullets), kalamarakia (Greek: êáëáìáñÜêéá - fried squids), atherina (Greek: Áèåñßíá - fried tiny fishes), Octopus (Greek: ×ôáðüäé - sundried or drunken)
* Dips and sauces
Tzatziki (dip made of garlic, oliveoil, greek yogurt and dill), taramosalata (Caviar dip), melitzanosalata (eggplant and garlic dip),kopanisti or tyrokafteri (cheese dip).
* Salads and Vegetables:
Dakos (Greek: ÍôÜêïò - Cretan rusk with tomato, feta cheese, olives, oregano and olive oil), Horta vrasta (boiled greens with olive oil and lemon juice), Greek salad (Greek: ×ùñéÜôéêç) (cucumber, tomatoes, onion, feta cheese and olives), kolokithakia tiganita (fried courgettes), melitzanes tiganites (fried eggplants), kolokythokeftedes (courgette crockets).
Amigdaloto (made with almonds), sfakianopita, tyropitakia, spanakopitakia, kaltsouni, Greek yogurt with honey.
See also our recipes...
The Cretans themselves eat out late, after 10 or 11 PM, and often in a group. They prefer dinner in a good taverna, a small local restaurant offering the local cuisine. Most dishes are fresh from that day. The menu is only for tourists, Cretans ask the waiter for specialities, and have a look in the kitchen or in a 'vitrine', glass display case. Dinner is usually outside. Fresh fish becomes more and more rare, and is expensive, priced by the weight. Restaurants and tavernas by law have to display if they offer fresh, or frozen, fish.
Greek people seldom have breakfast. They do enjoy a copious lunch.
The know the best restaurant of each region of Crete. Just ask your representative.
* Tsikoudia, also known as "raki", (Greek: ÔóéêïõäéÜ), is the the trademark of Cretan day and night life, a strong clear drink similar to Grappa in Italy or Orujo in Spain. It is made out of the 'must' of grape skins and twiggs after the local production of the white wine. It doesn't taste like aniseed, as opposed to the Turkish raki.
* Although not Cretan, the aniseed ouzo is widely available.
* Beers: There are two major companies that produce beer in Greece: Mythos (Greek: Ìýèïò) and Alpha (Greek: ¢ëöá). Also commonly available are Amstel, Heineken and Carlsberg.
* Cretan Wine: Try the eccentric cretan wine, produced in the island for at least 4000 years. Labels: Sitia, Peza Union. Bottled wine mainly is used by tourists only. The Cretans themselves drink so called 'open' wine, straight out of the barrel, like fresh white wine, and the sometimes very old dark rusty red wine, a bit like port.
* Retsina is available in small bottles, a Greek resinated white wine that has been made for at least 2700 years.
* Greek coffee: coffee with strong taste but low in caffeine, similar to Arabic or Turkish. The Greek coffee (hellenikos, Greek: åëëçíéêüò) comes in levels of sweetness. Glykos - 2 sugars, Metrios - 1 sugar and Sketos - no sugar. In addition there is Varis Glykos which is 2 sugars and extra coffee. Ice coffee, or frappé, is cold shaken coffee out of water and instant coffee, with or without ice cubes, sugar and cream.
If there was a beauty contest for Greek islands, Crete would surely be among the favourites. 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 500,000, 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 a favorite holiday destination for many tourists around the world. Most of the hotels and destinations are at the North coast.
See our resorts...
A mix of "party-hearty" bars, discos and beach life which requires partying till the early hours and surfacing for aspirin in the early afternoon, to try for better pickings all over again - and - several Luxury resort hotels which are somewhat insulated from these noisier pursuits, offering a more tranquil variety of fun in the sun. For many the mere half-hour trip from Heraklion airport allows them to make the best of the time they have for a holiday.
Numerous cafes, theme bars, discos, clubs and more provide a choice collection of intensive entertainment. There is also much to do nearby Hersonissos for families and children. Many large hotels: Bella and Creta Maris, Hersonissos Palace, Knossos Royal Village, Royals Mare Village, Anissa Beach, Annabel Village, Cretan Village, Nana Beach, Royal Belevedere, Semiramis, Zorbas Village. Countless smaller hotels, apartments and domatia. Good, frequent bus service to Heraklion and to the east.
Koutouloufari is a very pretty village above the developed and established resort of Hersonissos on the north coast of Crete, 18 miles east of the capital Heraklion and the airport and 23 miles north-west of Agios Nikolaos. Holidays in Koutouloufari appeal to those wanting to enjoy the facilities and nightlife of a bigger resort while staying in a small village atmosphere. Koutouloufari is a charming place set on the hillside above Hersonissos with excellent views of a broad bay and the port. Koutouloufari holidays are set in a village that still looks and feels like a traditional Crete destination. There are pleasant local shops and restaurants with lots of character. Hersonissos is less than a mile down the hill. Hersonissos is an established busy and cosmopolitan beach and party resort where you will find everything that you might lack in peaceful picturesque Koutouloufari.
Malia (Greek: MÜëëéá) is a coastal town on the island of Crete, 34km west of Heraklion. It is the seat of the municipality of Malia which also includes the villages Mohos, Krassi and the area of Stalis. The town is a tourist attraction, primarily for its prolific archeological site, the beaches and nightlife. The Minoan town ruins lie 3 km east of the site and cover an area of approximately 1km². The original name for the town is not known.
Chania, called in Greek: ×áíéÜ, also transliterated as Hania, is the second largest city of Crete and the capital of the Chania Prefecture. It lies along the north coast of the island, about 70 km west of Rethymno and 145 km west of Heraklion.
The official population of the municipal area is 53,373 but some 70,000 people live in the greater area of Chania.
Most of the visitors believe that Chania isGreece`s most beautiful city...
Rethymno, also Rethimno, Rethymnon, Réthymnon (Greek: ÑÝèõìíï), a city of approximately 40,000 people, is the capital of Rethymno Prefecture in the island of Crete. It was built in antiquity (ancient Rhithymna and Arsinoe), even though it has never been a competitive Minoan center. It was, however, strong enough to mint its own coins and maintain a mild urban growth. One of these coins is today depicted as the crest of the town with two dolphins in a circle.
Heraklion or Iraklion (Greek: ÇñÜêëåéï; Italian: Candia), is the largest city and capital of Crete. It is also the fourth largest city in Greece. Its name is also spelled Herakleion (transliteration of ancient/Katharevousa name), or Iraklio, with other variants. For centuries it was known as Candia (Greek: ×Üíäáî or ×Üíäáêáò, Turkish: Kandiye).
Heraklion is the capital of Heraklion Prefecture, with an international airport named after the writer Nikos Kazantzakis. The ruins of Knossos, which were excavated and restored by Arthur Evans, are nearby.
Heraklion shows his visitors its beauty only on the second glance.
Elounda is the most famous cosmopolitan location not only in the island of Crete but also in the entire Aegean Sea much acclaimed for its outstanding establishments in a magnificent natural enviroment. For these reasons, many of its fine hotels, proudly belong to the exclusive category of the Luxury Hotels of the World.
The lagoon of Elounda is shaped between the coast and a small peninsula of 7-8 km length that serves as a breakwater. Today, the peninsula is separated from the mainland by a channel that was dug by the French at the end of the 19th century. A narrow bridge joins the peninsula with the mainland.
Having the distinction of being the southernmost town facing the African coast, Ierapetra enjoys the smoothest, almost rainless weather in Europe, with a temperature that rarely drops below 12 C all year long! No doubt, Ierapetra "the bridge of the Libyan sea" is the sunniest holiday resort in Europe.
Ierapetra combines a brilliant past with a present of economic growth and extension. It has the largest population in the prefecture of Lassithi (East Crete) and the fourth largest in all Crete. In 2001 census 15,400 inhabitants were registered within the town, and the population of the Ierapetra municipality was 23,800.
The visitor can take a leisurely walk in the vivid center of the town, along the coast, in the small municipal park near the Town Hall, or in the quiet picturesque narrow streets of "Kato Mera" - the old part of the town.
The character and charm of the old warm neighborhood has been retained, whilst it has been given new life as a shopping and eating experience for the visitor. A tempting variety of shops, open-air cafes, bars, restaurants and traditional taverns, makes Ierapetra the ideal place to relax, enjoying shopping, eating, drinking or simply wondering around! Pick up a handmade gift from a colorful market stall and enjoy the exciting sounds of busy Cretan life!
Sitia, 18 km from Palekastro and 60 from Ierapetra, with a population of 9500 people, is the easternmost city on Crete and perhaps the least developed. Even during the busy summer peak, Sitia retains a certain charm and laid-back style.
During the Venetian occupation the town of Sitia was destroyed three times. In 1508 by a terrible earthquake, in 1538 by the pirate Barbarosa and in 1651 by the Venetians so as not to fall in the hands of the Turks. For two centuries Sitia ceased to exist as a town, until 1869. The present city was built in 1870. Sitia is the seat of administrative and public services for the county and has road and sea connections with various places in the island and with Pireaus and other Aegean islands.
There is also a small airport with connection to Athens, Kassos, Karpathos, Rhodes. It has been inhabited since the Minoan period. At Petra, to the east of the town, a section of ancient settlement has been excavated. There is a waterfront with restaurants and cafes, a large public beach, and an archaeological museum which holds many of the findings from Palekastro.
Places near Crete
migeros plateau develops just below Psiloritis summit at an altitude of about 1700m. It is formed by a series of small and large depressions which are created along a big fault that fragments all the nortern area of Psiloritis Mountains.
A trail starts from Migero's plataeu leading up to the summit of Psiloritis oferring also a spectacular view of the dolines and the horizontal layers of rocks.
Kouroutes is a traditional village 49km far from Rethimno city (Route: Apostoloi, - Asomatos - Vizari - Fourfouras - Kouroutes) by an altitude of 510 m. Residends: 1940: 303, 1991: 129.
There are two huts on Psiloritis mountain. The nearest is the hut of "Stoubotos Prinos" (1600m.) in the south site of the mountain. You get there from the village of Fourfouras or Kouroutes. From Kouroutes there is a road that goes straight to the hut (in the winter not possible to go by car). From the hut about 3-4 hours to the summit. It belongs to the Mountaineering Club of Rethimno and you have to take the key to get access in the hut.
Kouroutes mountain area: After Vistagi village (8km north from Kouroutes) continue to the south (toward Kouroutes) and prepare yourself for one of the most beautiful routes on asphalt in all of Crete, which takes you to the town of Agia Varvara through Kouroutes - Kamares - Zaros on the road that connects Iraklio and Gortina.
Although it cannot exactly be described as a “mountain route,” it follows the west and south side of
and sometimes takes you to a pretty high altitude from where you can enjoy a great view wherever you look. If the night finds you travelling in this area, you have very few chances of finding “decent” accommodations. Apart from some shabby Rooms to Let in
Platanos, Kamares and a few other villages, there is no place to rent.
Mount Psiloritis is a Historical place. It has a rare ecology. It has a particularly interesting geological formation. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty. It is an historical place of great cultural value and weight. It is a symbol, the symbol of Crete, of manliness, of freedom.
It is both a settled area and a place of productivity where thousands of people live and work and a place of culture and entertainment, which attracts thousands of visitors each year.The mountain range of Psiloritis is situated in the center of Crete and includes the highest peak of the island, Timios Stavros, with a height of 2,456 m. It covers the largest part of the Prefecture of Rethymno and the western part of the Prefecture of Heraklio.Psiloritis, also called Mount Idi, (the name is derived from the Doric “ida” =trees for felling, woods, forest, wooded mountain) is one of the most impressive and beautiful mountain ranges on Crete with profuse geomorphologic, ecological and folklore characteristic. Furthermore it stands as a symbol of Crete and is the source of continuous inspiration.The reasons why the Cretan people have been so aware of the importance of this mountain range since Minoa times can be found in its rich natural beauty, the magnificence and harshness of its peaks and in the way it towers over and dominates the landscape when viewed by the spectator from almost every point of the island.
Psiloritis Mountain in Heraklion Prefecture Psiloritis mountain - The peak
The fact that Psiloritis was the most important place of worship during Minoa times should not be considered as purely accidental. It was probably the only place where Zeus, the king of gods of ancient Greece was definitely worshipped. According to tradition Zeus’ mother helped him to escape and to hide in a cave on the Ida Mountain (Nidas), until he became a man, thus rescuing him from the wrath of his father Kronos. Small paths, many of which have been preserved up until today, led from various Minoan palaces to the Ideon Antron, where people arrived after having passed through plateaux and gorges in the mountain in order to make sacrificial offerings and to worship Zeus. During the period of Crete’s occupation the precipitous rocks and ravines served as hiding places and shelter for the partisans. Today, the visitor is still fascinated by the beauty of Mount Psiloritis. Here, the traditions and skills of shepherds and cheese- makers, manifested in the characteristic “mitata”, have been preserved since Minoan times. A rich tradition of folklore and culture flourishes in the beautiful villages, which surround the mountain, through which the genuine and unaltered art, the wisdom and the civilization of the earlier inhabitants of Crete are continued.
Sources Text: www.psiloritis-natural-park.gr