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 Regions of Greece : Crete island

Why Lassithi ?

  • Because at Vai you will find the most impressive palm-tree wood in Europe.
  • Because the European path ends here; and you can go from Spain to Crete on foot!
  • Because of the famous windmills at the Lassithi plateau which, along with the rest of the landscape, make a fascinating natural painting.
  • Because of Elounda, one of the most cosmopolitan European resorts that, also, keeps in contact with every day life and the history of the place.
  • Because the archaeological sites with the Minoan ruins evidence for the greatness of this magnificent civilization.
  • Because the “Dictaeon Andron” reminds that Greek Mythology is still alive.
  • Because the agricultural products and the delicacies of the place are equal in taste, in quality and in creative cooking to those of the rest of Crete.
  • Because nature is unexpected and fascinating here too, with the gorges, the caves, the small valleys and the torrents.
  • Because here you will find the best and clearest sea, more beaches than everywhere else in Europe and the brightest sun.
  • Because the worldwide known Cretan hospitality is still here, despite the invasion of mass tourism.
  • Because of the numerous local feasts ('panighyri') everywhere and almost every day, where food, drink, dance and amusement reach the peak.
  • Because every part of this place is Greece, it is Crete.

About Lassithi

The Prefecture of Lassithi covers the Eastern part of Crete; its extent is 1822 square kilometers , the coast line 400 kilometers approximately, and it counts circa 77 .000 permanent residents. It is washed by the Cretan Sea at the North, by the Carpathian Sea at the East and by the Libyan sea at the South, whereas at the West it borders the Heraklion prefecture. It is divided in 4 provinces: Ierapetras, Lassithiou, Mirambelou and Sitias. Aghios Nicolaos is the capital city of the prefecture.

The coastal partition is deep, with several bays and small coves, capes and peninsulas. The western part of the inland is covered by the Mont Dikti, of a height of 2.148 meters, the place where, according to Mythology, had been born Zeus, the king of gods. No considerable rivers are found in the prefecture’s territory, only several small torrents. It has a Mediterranean climate, very favorable for cultivation. Vineyards, olive trees, industrial and cattle breeding plants, citrus trees and wheat are the main agricultural products cultivated in the area. People are also occupied with fishing and cattle breeding, whereas the recent decades a good deal of the income comes from tourism.

 

As it occurs with the rest of Crete, visiting the villages of the inland is a fascinating experience. Both the natural environment and the character of all these villages make the visitor conceive the kind of beauty they have. Many of them are not affected by tourism, they maintain their traditional features in what concerns the architecture, and their residents proudly maintain a traditional way of life, full of consistence, insistence and dignity. You think that those features emerge from the earth, that it is the place itself bearing them. As in the whole island, both for the landscape and for their character: It is in those villages that the visitor can understand the special characteristics of the Cretan people, experience the hospitality and taste and smell the spirit of the area. Moreover, in the villages of the prefecture, the visitor can attend a wide range of cultural activities, where tradition is blended with everyday life, forming the actual face of culture, the modern face of Crete.

Going from one village to another by car, motorbike, or sometimes on foot is, in most cases, one of the attractions of the place. The secondary roads, often difficult, dirt tracks, leading to them pass through sites extremely scenic and beautiful, and driving, or even walking there, is an unforgettable experience.

Lassithi prefecture has coasts at the North, in the Aegean Sea, at the South, in the Libyan Sea and at the East, in the Carpathian Sea (Aegean). Most of the beaches are sandy, some of them well protected from the winds as they are found within small, protected coves. Swimming starts earlier in the South, where the weather is a bit warmer than in the North.

The natural environment is partly mild and partly wilder; however, you will never find here the wild landscape of Psiloritis or of the Lefka Ori. Extended areas of the inland are dedicated to agriculture and the visitor will come across extended enough fields with vegetables, olive trees plantation and vineyards. Vegetables are also cultivated during winter in greenhouses situated all around at the plain. However, as the mountains are not absent, there are magnificent places there too; small gorges, caves, narrow roads leading to intact, remote, traditional villages.

The territory of the prefecture is crossed, from Southwest to Northeast, by the last part of the European path E4, which passes through the whole of Europe and Greece and ends up at Crete; in the island the path starts from Kissamos (Kastelli) and ends up at Siteia in the Eastern part.

Lassithi is a pretty wealthy place. Along with the traditional agricultural and cattle breeding activities, which used to be the main occupations of the locals in the past, trade and tourism, as well as other services are today one of the main economic resources. The area attracts a lot of visitors all year round, both Greeks, for business or vacation, and from abroad.

As in the rest of Crete, the history of the area starts as early as the Neolithic times. As excavations, quite extended in the 20 th century, in various sites have shown, not only had it flourished during the Minoan period, but, in fact, it was one of the most important centers of this great civilisation. During the Venetian domination of the island, the role of the area was not as important as Heraklion; however, it seems to have attracted the attention of the Venetian dominants, as it can be suggested from the number of castles and forts, preserved in the territory of the prefecture.

During the Ottoman domination the area participated to all the revolts and revolutions of the island, as the independent character of the people and their fervent desire to live in a free country could not be compatible with being under the yoke of any foreigner.

During the World War II, following this long tradition, the people had strongly resisted to the German occupation and the Italians who followed them, although the place was not a main target for the Germans as Chania or Heraklion.

 

Why Rethymnon ?

• Because, if you visit the area of Preveli and the Preveli Lagoon, you will feel like being at an oasis in Africa.

• Because visiting Idaeon Andron you walk on the steps of Zeus, who was said to have been borne there. And, thanks to the long-term excavation you will go back some 5.000 years and come across the first great civilization in Europe.

• Because Psiloritis, one of the most impressive and beautiful mountains in Europe, a mountain assuring long life, is here and stands proudly as Cretan men do.

• Because of the spirit of Renaissance that is present in the old town of Rethymnon and in the Renaissance festival; and because the old town with the Venetian harbor is a living Museum of Venetian and Ottoman domination.

• Because at Rethymnon the Cretan people, apart from the famous hospitality, know how to enjoy themselves, both in private and in public activities such as the Renaissance Festival, the Carnival, the Treasure Hunt and the unique Cretan Wine Festival.

• Because of the unique herbs, cheeses, wines and dishes.

• Because you may find a lot of marvelous, scenic beaches, with crystal clear water, sandy, pebbly or rocky and choose the one it better fits you.

• Because the many scenic routes combine the wild nature with the mild human cultivation and the fascinating landscape with the evidence of human activity at the place for more than 5.000 years.

• Because of innumerous local feasts ("panighyri") which take place in the Cretan villages where the old style of life is still alive.

• Because of the full facilities of lodging, eating and amusement which is offered to the visitors who choose to stay in the Prefecture of Rethymnon during their vacations.

• Because the Monastery of Arkadi stands there as a symbol to remind to the visitors that important goods require important sacrifices.

• Because Rethymnon and more particularly Anoghia have St. Yakinthos, their own protector of lovers.

About Rethymnon

The Prefecture of Rethymnon covers the central part of Crete; its extent is 1496 square kilometers , the coast line 200 kilometers approximately, and it counts circa 82.000 permanent residents. It is divided in three provinces: Rethymnis, Aghiou Vasiliou and Mylopotamou. Rethymnon is the capital city of the prefecture.

The major part of the prefecture's territory is mountainous, with the mountain Idi, or Psiloritis (meaning "high mountain") to be the highest mountain (2.456metres); at the rest there are small plains and valleys very fertile, and well watered, due to the various small rivers and brooks flowing through them, which, as occurs in Chania, do have enough water even in summer.

The area has a magnificent natural environment; apart from the small rivers and brooks here and there, here too, there are lakes and lagoons, caves and rocks, as well as several gorges both at the North and at the South. The most famous area of natural beauty is the Preveli lagoon, at the South.

 

Rethymnon is a place full of contrasts, with a long history going back to the Neolithic times, with nature left intact in many areas, with a vivid living tradition. The old town of Rethymnon with the Renaissance style centre, the Fortetza, the museums and the endless beach will certainly charm you. And what to recommend about the rest of the prefecture? The scenic villages, the caves, the beaches, or the mountains? And what to say about the people? They will be your friends; they will offer you a "tsikoudia" and may be they will receive you at their homes.

As in the whole island, visiting the villages of the inland is a magic experience, both for the landscape and for their character: most of them are not affected by tourism, they maintain their traditional features in what concerns the architecture and their residents proudly maintain their traditional way of life. It is in those villages that the visitor can understand the special characteristics of the Cretan people, experience the hospitality and taste and smell the spirit of the area. Moreover, in the villages of the prefecture, the visitor can attend a wide range of cultural activities (as the "Yakintheia" in Anoghia), where tradition is blended with everyday life, forming the actual face of culture.

Going from one village to another by car or motorbike is, in most cases, one of the attractions of the place. The secondary roads leading to them pass through sites extremely scenic and beautiful, and driving, or even walking there, is an unforgettable experience.

Rethymnon prefecture has coasts at the North, in the Aegean Sea and at the South, in the Libyan Sea. Most of the beaches at the North and West are sandy, with no considerable protected bays. As a result, they are open to the northern winds and much affected by the "meltemia"(northern summer winds) during July and August.

The southern coasts are open to the South, with no bays, apart from that of Plakias, relatively protected. Several of them sandy and some of them pebbly, the beaches have crystal clear blue water and very interesting seabed, ideal for snorkelling and underwater activities. Swimming starts earlier in the South, where the weather is a bit warmer.

The territory of the prefecture is crossed, from West to East, by the last part of the European path E4, which passes through the whole of Europe and Greece and ends up at Crete; in the island the path starts from Kissamos (Kastelli) and ends up at Siteia in the Eastern part.

Rethymnon is a wealthy place. Along with the traditional agricultural and cattle breeding activities, which used to be the main occupations of the locals in the past, tourism is today one of the main economic resources. The area attracts a lot of visitors all year round, both Greeks, for business or vacation, and from abroad. The University is an additional factor of prosperity for the prefecture in general and the city of Rethymnon in particular.

 

History
The history of the area starts as early as the Neolithic times. As excavations in various sites have shown it had flourished during the Minoan period, whereas during the Venetian domination of the island, it had played a very important role too. As it happens with the rest of the island, it had been the centre of numerous revolts during the Ottoman domination, as the independent character of Cretan people could not stand being under the yoke of any foreigner. During the World War II, following the tradition, the people had strongly resisted to the German occupation; it is characteristic that the village of Anoghia had been totally destroyed and all the male population was persecuted and, when found, executed by the Germans.

 

Why Heraklion ?

Because Knossos is the most important city of the earliest great civilisation on European territory.

• Because the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is one of the most important museums worldwide.

• Because it is in this area that were born the famous painter Domenico Theotocopoulos (El Greco), the writer Nikos Kazantzakis and many other great authors and artists

• Because even here, Psiloritis stands proudly, overlooking the Aegean and its islands to the North and the Libyan Sea and Africa to the South.

• Because its Venetian buildings tell the story of an epoch of high culture and prosperity.

• Because the Cretan hospitality is present even in the areas of mass tourist development.

• Because of the variety of the herbs, the best and most numerous in Europe.

• Because of the countless beaches for all tastes: big, small, noisy, quiet or cosmopolitan, all of them are fascinating.

• Because the scenic routes within the plains with vegetables, along with the impressive mountains is a combination hardly forgettable.

• Because of the numerous feasts ("panighyri") in every place, almost every day of the year, where drink, amusement and fun keep going.

• Because of the variety of accommodation facilities which make staying a comfortable and fascinating experience.

• Because Matala with its caves keep their fame since 35 years.

• Because it is Crete!

About Heraklion

The Prefecture of Heraklion covers the Central part of Crete; its extent is
2.640  square klm, the coast line 250  klm approximately, and it counts circa  300.000 permanent residents. It is divided in  7  provinces: Viannou, Kainourghiou, Monofatsiou, Maleviziou, Temenous, Pyrghiotissis, and Pediados.  Heraklion is the capital city of the prefecture.

Driving from one area to another by car or on motorbike may prove a fascinating experience. The secondary roads, often difficult dirt tracks leading to remote villages, pass from places of extraordinary beauty and driving or even walking there, is an unforgettable souvenir.

The central part of the prefecture's territory is rather flat, with fertile valleys and plains, the most important being the plain of Messara. At the centre of the western part, the mountain of  Idi (Psiloritis for the locals), ending up in the territory of Heraklion prefecture, is a natural border with Rethymnon, although a few of its highest peaks are found in the territory of Heraklion. At the eastern part it is separated from Lasithi by the mountain Dikti, also ending up in Heraklion territory. A rather low mountain chain, the Asteroussia Ori, of a height of approximately 1200 meters  are found at the middle of the Southern part. Being less mountainous than the rest of Crete, Heraklion is densely inhabited and the visitor wandering around will find a lot of villages, pretty close to one another.

As it occurs with the rest of the prefectures in Crete, Heraklion has coasts both at the North, in the Aegean Sea and at the South, in the Libyan Sea. Most of the  beaches at the North are sandy, some of them well protected from the "meltemia" (northern summer winds), due to the existing bays and small coves.

The southern coasts are open to the South, with only one  considerable bay, that of Messara. Partly sandy and some of them pebbly, the beaches have crystal clear blue water and very interesting seabed, for the fans of snorkelling and underwater activities. Swimming starts earlier in the South, where the weather is a bit warmer.

The natural environment is milder in Heraklion compared to the mountainous landscape of Chania or Rethymnon. The central inland part of the prefecture is dedicated to agriculture and the visitor will come across extended enough fields with vegetables, olive trees plantation and vineyards. Vegetables are also cultivated during winter in greenhouses situated all around at the plain. However, as the mountains are not absent, there are magnificent places there too; small gorges, caves, narrow roads leading to intact, traditional villages.

The territory of the prefecture is crossed, from West to East, by the last part of the European path E4, which passes through the whole of Europe and Greece and ends up at Crete; in the island the path starts from Kissamos (Kastelli) and ends up at Siteia in the Eastern part.

Heraklion is a very wealthy place. Along with the traditional agricultural and cattle breeding activities, which used to be the main occupations of the locals in the past, tourism is today one of the main economic resources. The area attracts a lot of visitors all year round, both Greeks, for business or vacation, and people from abroad, mainly from Europe. The University, the other schools of advanced studies and a good number of research centres are  an additional factor of cultural and economic prosperity for the prefecture in general and the city of Heraklion in particular.

The history of the area starts as early as the Neolithic times. As excavations in various sites have shown, not only had it flourished during the Minoan period, but, in fact, it was the centre of this great civilisation. During the Venetian domination of the island, it had played a very important role too; the city of Heraklion, Candia as it was called, was a prosperous city, well fortified, the base for the activities of the Venetians in South Mediterranean.  As it happens with the rest of the island, Heraklion had been the centre of numerous revolts and revolutions during the Ottoman domination, as the independent character of Cretan people could not stand being under the yoke of any foreigner. During the World War II, following this long tradition, the people had strongly resisted to the German occupation; it is characteristic that the villages  of Viannos had been almost totally destroyed and all the male population were arrested and executed by the Germans, in order to make an example of them for the rest of the population.

History
Undoubtedly, during the Minoan and Mycenaean periods Knossos was the most important city, the economic and cultural center. However, a small settlement upon a low hill, close to the sea, with  the name Heraklion did also existed, at least since the Archaic period. Several remains of Archaic and more recent times are brought to light during the rescue excavations in the city center, especially at the area of Daidalos st., Xanthoudidou st. Beaufort st. etc.
Strabo informs us that Heraklion was the port of Knossos. The remains from this period are several, the more characteristic being the mosaic floors revealed during the rescue excavation conducted at the area of the Museum.

During the Byzantine period the settlement was called Kastro (meaning "Castle"), but in this period of time Gortyna was the administrative and cultural center. The area is in decline until the Arabic invasion in 824; earthquakes and external invasions contribute to this fall.
The Arabs reinforce the fortification of the town and construct a ditch around the walls; named after this structure, from now on the town will be also called Chandax (meaning "ditch" in greek). During the period of the invasion (824-961 A.D.),  the arabic culture is diffused in the island, until 961 when the Byzantines take back Crete and of course Heraklion; the town recovers from damages and start flourishing again. The walls at the area of Daidalos street should have been raised in that period.

After Constantinople was conquered by the Francs of the 4th Crusade, in 1204, Crete, along with Heraklion  was given to Bonifatius of Monferrat; this latter sold the island to the Venetians who took possession of the island in 1211 and keep it until 1669. During the first years of the Venetian domination Cretan people revolted several times against the conquerors, but from the 15th century onwards, revolts came to an end and a period of peace started for the island. As a result, Kastro or Chandax (Candia as the Venetians called it) knows a new period of development. It is in that times that the Venetians construct the big walls of the city with the 7 bastions, the castle of the port, the harbor as well as many public and private buildings and monuments. Along with the reconstruction of the city, there is a flourishing of the cultural life: painting (the so-called Cretan School of hagiographers, Domenico Theotocopoulos, "El Greco"), literature, poetry and above all theatre reach their peak, thus creating the special Cretan style which continued to develop until the city was conquered by the Ottomans.

After an almost 25-years siege (1645-1669), the Ottomans take possession of the city, which is now called Kastro again and it remains the administrative center of the island. Due to the long period of war the city is almost totally destroyed. The Ottoman government proceeds in extended repairments both of the fortification and of many buildings; however, the cultural renaissance  of the Venetian period and the commercial activities are declining.

A new period of development begins for the city in the 18th century, as the Christian population participates more and more in the economic life of the city.
At the same time, several revolts and revolutions against the Ottoman domination take place. By the mid-19th century the capital city is transferred to Chania, but Heraklion continues to develop and to take part in the revolts and revolutions, up to 1898, when Crete is set autonomous.

In 1913 Crete is encorporated in the Greek state, which signals a new step in the development of the city. Heraklion is extended in space, the population increases and the first signs of urban pull and the needs in buildings for residence and amenities get more pressing. So, development proceeds sometimes in rash, which results in destroying several interesting buildings, mainly of the post-war period.
Even parts of the Venetian walls were sacrificed to "development". In the last decades, however, the Municipality, along with other Foundations of the city are carrying out consolidation and restoration works, aiming at preserving and make broadly known several monuments of the city.
 

Why Chania ?

Because of the wild nature of the Samaria Gorge, the longer European gorge.
Not only will you hike within a landscape of luxurious green and fresh water at your feet, but also, if you are lucky enough, you may come across the wild animals living there, and most of all the famous kri-kri.

•Because the old town gets you back to past times when you stroll around; in the evening, it becomes the heart of amusement and in the small beautiful bars you can find any kind of music and drink.

•Because of the Cretan hospitality which is legendary. But, watch out! Cretan people accept well the foreigner and like to offer. Don't ever refuse their offer; you will offend them.

•Because of the unique herbs, cheeses, wines and dishes like "gamopilafo" and the "Cretan (Mediterranean) diet".

•Because you may find numerous marvelous, scenic beaches, with crystal clear water and choose the one it better fits to your mood and desires.

•Because of the too many scenic routes, which may make your visit unforgettable.

•Because of the wild Cretan goat, the famous "Kri-Kri"; it is so characteristic and original, that one of the species had been offered as a gift to the president of the United States J.F. Kennedy, during the visit of the Prime Minister of Greece to Washington in 1961.

•Because of the innumerous local feasts ("panighyri") which take place all year round in even the smallest Cretan villages where the old style of life is still alive.

•Because the old port is the best place in the world to enjoy the sunset drinking your ouzo or "tsikoudia" with excellent and genius "mezedes".

•Because of the full facilities of lodging, eating and amusement which is offered to the visitors who choose to stay in this part of Crete during their vacations.

About Chania

The Prefecture of Chania covers the Western part of Crete; its extent is 2.376 square kilometres, the coast line 250 kilometres approximately, and it counts circa 150.000 permanent residents. It is divided in five provinces: Apokoronou, Kissamou, Kydonias, Selinou and Sfakion. Chania is the capital city of the prefecture.

Most of the territory is mountainous, with the mountain chain of Lefka Ori ("White mountains", named so because of the snow covering the tops all year round), to be the highest mountain (2.453 metres); at the intervals there are small plains and valleys very fertile, and well watered, due to the various small rivers and brooks flowing through them, which, unlike to the rest of the Greek islands, do have enough water even in summer.

The area has a magnificent natural environment; apart from the small rivers and brooks here and there, there are lakes and lagoons, caves and rocks, as well as several gorges both at the North and at the South, the most well known among them being the Samaria gorge, the longer in Europe, declared as a National Park and protected by the Greek State.

Visiting the villages of the inland is a fascinating experience, both for the landscape and for their character: most of them are not affected by tourism, they maintain their traditional features in what concerns the architecture and their residents proudly maintain their traditional way of life. It is in those villages that the visitor can understand the special characteristics of the Cretan people, experience the hospitality and taste and smell the scents of the area.

The routes from one village to another in most cases are one of the attractions of the place, since the secondary roads pass through sites extremely scenic and beautiful and driving there is an unforgettable experience.

Chania prefecture has coasts at the North, at the South and at the West; the northern coasts form three large bays: the Kissamos bay, the Chania bay and the Souda bay, the latter being the best protected from the winds. Souda is one of the bigger natural ports in the Mediterranean Sea. The beaches at the North and West are in their majority sandy and very much affected by the northern winds, as the small islets around cannot prevent them from arriving to the coast at all their strength.

The southern coasts are open to the South, with no considerable bays. Partly sandy and some of them pebbly, the beaches have crystal clear blue water and very interesting seabed, for the fans of snorkelling and underwater activities. Swimming starts earlier in the South, where the weather is a bit warmer.

In the territory of the prefecture it is found the last part of the European path E4, which passes through the whole of Europe and Greece and ends up at Crete; in the island the path starts from Kissamos (Kastelli) and ends up at Siteia in the Eastern part.

The place is wealthy enough. Traditionally, one of the main sources of wealth used to be, and still is, agriculture and cattle breeding. However, the attractions of the place, the magnificent nature, the development of facilities and the hospitality of the locals have made of tourism one of the main economic resources for the prefecture. The area is one of the main destinations both of the Greeks, for vacation, excursions and business, but also of tourists from all over the world.

The history of the place goes back to the Neolithic times; it flourished in the Minoan period and was very important during the Venetian domination of the island, mainly due to the excellent port of Souda; it has been the centre of numerous revolts during the Ottoman domination, as the independent character of the people could not stand being under the yoke of any foreigner. During the World War II, it has been one of the most important places of resistance, as the Battle of Crete has taken place in the territory of Chania, due to the interest of the Germans for the airport of Maleme, one of the two main military targets on the island.

 


Regions of Greece: Attica, West Peloponnese, East Peloponnese, Crete Island, Ionian Islands, Cyclades Islands, Saronic Gulf Islands, Dodecanese Islands, Evia, Sporades Islands, Sterea Hellas, Epirus, Thessaly, Central Macedonia, East Macedonia, West Macedonia, East Aegean Islands, Thrace. 

 

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