The island of Crete has everything to offer, mountainous landscapes, wonderful historical towns, charming traditional villages and harbours, ruins of the Minoan civilization and other archaeological sites. Crete is the most Southerly point of Europe at the point where Europe, Asia and Africa meet.
The climate of Crete is one of the best in Europe enjoying 300 days of sunshine per year and mild winters. The Cretan diet is reputed to be one of the healthiest in the world, it has been proven to greatly reduce the risk of heart disease and other ailments and continues to be the subject of study by the scientific community.
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Crete is an island of dramatic landscapes, fabulous mountain ranges, cut through by dramatic gorges, vast plateaus atop of the mountains, fertile plains in the lowlands, hidden coves and beautiful beaches along the dramatic coastline. The peaks of Crete's White Mountains (Ori Lefka) stretch skyward to a height of 2,400 metres, And Europe’s deepest longest gorge (Samaria) holds an abundance of flora and fauna, Lasithi plateau is an immense area for crop growing, with plentiful orchards and fields of assorted produce.
The islanders (Cretans) are as distinctive a race as the island itself, (which only became part of Greece in 1913). They are passionate, independent, very hospitable and proud of their heritage and love showing the best of their island to interested visitors. Crete still remains the perfect idyll, if you go out and explore this beautiful island, you will return home with precious memories and a longing to return to the wonderful island of Crete.
The Cretan diet is reputed to be one of the healthiest in the world, an abundant amount of indigenous ingredients, and deep- rooted cooking traditions make Crete a food lover's paradise. Try feasting in the villages in the mountains away from the tourist areas. Here you will find family run tavernas, often there is no menu to browse, or pictures of food, the owner just tells you what is cooking for that day, alternatively you may even be invited into the kitchen to choose what you would like to eat from the selection of meats, cheeses, pastries and vegetables and asked how you would like them cooked. This can take some time so be prepared to stay awhile, talk to the locals, have a few drinks and savour the moments before your specially prepared food comes to your table. The more adventurous foodie will enjoy trying: SALIGKARIA snails that are a delicacy in Crete TSIGARISTO wild goat fried in olive oil with salt and pepper for a simple seasoning and the juice of fresh lemon. STIFADO tender chunks of meat (rabbit/ lamb) moist with a tomato sauce sweet baby onion and cinnamon. BOUREKI zucchini flowers that are fried, And of course local cheeses; KEFALOTIRI, MIZITHRA, STAKA, ANTHOTIROS (All with the delicate flavours of the mountain herbs) Or go to the smaller fishing villages and try the catch of the day, charcoal grilled, fresh fish or octopus caught that morning.
After such indulgence of food you may feel like walking it off! Then try the 11 mile/ 17-kilometre hike through the SAMARIA gorge (only do the long way on an organised trip) from the steep descent at XLYSKALO (1,200 m above sea level) you walk past the abandoned village of Samaria, amble back and forth over the river bed several times and between walls of 600 m (2000ft) narrowing to just 3.5 m (11ft) wide this is known as the iron gates, and then down to the sea, and then it's onto the boat to HORA SFAKION to pick up the coach for your return (September would be the best time to do this walk). If you don't feel up to this then slightly less taxing is IMBROS gorge which is near CHORA SFAKIA it has fewer visitors and is still quite dramatic, or try ZAKROS gorge otherwise known as the valley of the dead, it has caves that the MINOANS used as tombs.
Crete's Historical Sites
If that sounds far too energetic then think about visiting the many historical sites on Crete, be it GREEK, ROMAN, or VENETIAN. The most famous is the Minoan palace of KNOSSOS discovered by Sir Arthur Evans. There were other settlements on Crete there is a ruined palace at MALIA, it was associated with King SARPEDON, the brother of King MINOS, and there was PHAESTOS, with its enigmatic disc, and many more explore them for yourself. There are also museums at: Chania; Archaeological Museum, Historical Archives of Crete, Naval Museum of Crete Rethymno; Archaeological Museum, Historical and Folk Art Museum, Heraklion; Archaeological Museum, Historical Museum, St Catherine of Sinai, Archanes.
The Music Of Crete
Crete has its own style of music, THE MATINADES, they tell of love, loss and death. If you are in Crete and there is a PANAYERIE (festival) then you may see dancers perform the PENTOZALI and PIDIKTOS from eastern Crete, or the HASAPIKOS (butcher's dance) inspiration for the dance in the film ZORBA THE GREEK, with accompaniment from a Cretan lyre or mandolin-like LAOUTA.
Zorba The Greek
Talking of ZORBA, Nikos Kazantzakis author of the book based his character on someone he met whilst trying to run a coal mine on the Peloponnese in 1916, he tells the story set on Crete his homeland which he enthused about all aspects of the island's history, culture and landscape. He is buried in Heraklion there is a small museum in his birth village of Mirtia (known as VARVARI) situated south of Heraklion. You may also wish to visit IERAPETRA, the home of the heroine of the book MADAME HORTENSE, The film of ZORBA THE GREEK was a triple Oscar winner and starred ANTHONY QUINN, was filmed in PLAKA and KOKKINO HORIO up the coast from SOPHIA'S HOUSE. The towering cliffs of STAVROS on the AKROTIRI PENINSULAR were used as ZORBA'S Mountain for sliding the tree trunks down to the mine. Also, on the AKROTIRI PENINSULAR you will find the COMMONWEALTH CEMETERY where the British and commonwealth troops killed in the 1941 battle of Crete are buried and the Germans at MALEME the Cretans honour the sacrifice with an annual memorial service held in May.