Photo from www.wikipedia.org
With stunning beaches, awe-inspiring mountains, mouthwatering food and a long and turbulent history that is revealed in every nook and cranny, Crete rightfully sits among the most popular destinations in Europe. Solo and soul travellers, families and honeymooners, all have something new to experience and learn on Greece’s largest island – but few are aware of its great heritage and traditions. Crete is a place full of interesting stories, mysteries and secrets – both ancient and modern. These amazing facts about Crete will fuel your wanderlust and help you understand this fascinating island better.
Check out these amazing facts about Crete to make the most out of your visit
A Matter of Size
One of the most impressive facts about Crete has to do with rankings: Crete is the largest Greek island with beaches stretching for over 250 Km (160 miles). It’s also the 5th biggest island in the Mediterranean, only behind Corsica, Sicily, Cyprus, and Sardinia, and 88th biggest island in the world. Bottom line? Make sure you give yourself enough time to explore as there are so many things to do and see in Crete.
Bonus tip: On the matter of numbers, Crete sports a whooping 112 Blue Flag Beaches – the world’s most recognised voluntary bestowed to beaches that stand out due to their clear waters and cleanliness.
Steeped in Legend
Human presence on Crete dates back at least 130,000 years ago. The island is first mentioned as Kaptara in Syrian literature from the eighteenth century BC. It is also referred to as Capthor in Assyrian archives and the Bible alike. The name Crete first appears in Homer’s Odyssey, and its origins are shrouded in myth. One version attributes it to Cres, the king of the Kouretes – Crete’s first inhabitants who were charged with safeguarding baby Zeus, then hiding from his father Cronus in a cave (there are actually 5.000 of them on the island!). Another theory proposes that the name was derived from Crete, the daughter of one of the Kouretes, who later married Ammon, the parallel “king of the gods” in ancient Egypt’s religion.
Made by history
Europe’s first advanced society and earliest maritime power in the Mediterranean, the Minoans, were named after their legendary King Minos who ruled on Crete some 4.000 years ago. His seat was in the stunning palace of Knossos – and though the city was abandoned around 1100 BC, the still-standing, iconic ruins attest to this civilization’s unprecedented glory. If you are to single out one token of Cretan history, perhaps this great palace should be it.
Yet the Minoans were just the beginning. After their decline, Crete was conquered over and over again by different empires, including the Mycenaeans, the Dorians, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Venetians and the Ottomans – all of whom wanted a piece of this strategically placed island for themselves; and who left their indelible traces in every turn. The whole region of Chania features a stunning mosaic of outward influences, including Baroque buildings, Minarets and Rennaisance monasteries. Make sure to consult with our concierge at the Adeste Chania Luxury Villas to arrange a bespoke visit that linger long in your memory.
Proud and brave locals
Crete underwent endless years of foreign occupation before becoming part of the Greek state in 1913. Throughout the aeons, Cretans have fought ferociously for their independence, and in 1898 after several attempts for liberation, they succeeded in becoming an autonomous state within the – by then crumbling – Ottoman Empire.
The same feisty spirit was once again displayed by the Cretans during the German occupation. While theirs was not the only island involved in World War II, it became the site of some profoundly tragic battles. The most famous was the battle of Crete on May 20, 1941, which remained in history as a turning point in the war, thanks to the joint efforts of civilians, Greek partisans, and a mixed force of soldiers from Australia, Britain and New Zealand.
In the 1960s, Crete’s breathtaking scenery cast a spell on the young and restless spirits who were chasing the sun all the way from America and Europe to India, Nepal and Afghanistan. With a network of artificial caves chiselled on the cliffs, Matala turned into a flourishing hippie commune at the time. The most famous resident of these former Roman tombs was Johny Mitchell – and two of her greatest hits, “California” and “Carey” speak about her “redneck on a Grecian isle” experience in Matala.
Got your curiosity piqued? Stay tuned to our Adeste Chania Luxury Villas blog for more intriguing facts about Crete!