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Crete, the largest Greek island, is washed by the waters of the eastern Mediterranean, and so enjoys a mild climate. An island where Myth meets History, where the age-old Cretan culture has its roots in the long-ago, where the sea meets the mountains and unspoiled nature coexists with modern tourist infrastructure. Crete has a thousand faces: one for each and every sort of traveller: the naturalist, the explorer, the cosmopolitan, the lover of history and culture. The list is long and all-encompassing!
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Crete is surrounded with history and beautiful scenery. You will never get bored: always there is some new landscape or geological feature, some unique eco-system, or beach of outstanding natural beauty! At the same moment, Crete is a cosmopolitan island, whilst nonetheless retaining those elements which belong customarily to the folk tradition.
The Old Town of Chania
The old town of Chania embodies the long history of the city; in the picturesque alleys, visitors can see the marks left by every civilization that has settled here for a period of time in the past. Venetian, Ottoman, Neoclassical monuments and architectural elements, old neighbourhoods, historical sites and a lot of local colour characterize the old town of Chania, which is justly called by some “Venice of the East”. It used to be surrounded by walls, however only parts of them survive today. It extends inland from the Venetian port and it includes the districts of Topanas, Splantzia, Kasteli, Santrivani and the Jewish quarter. The old town of Chania, full of different sounds and colours, figures in every visitor’s photographs. The Venetian and Turkish monuments, the neoclassical buildings, the narrow alleys with balconies full of flowers, the traditional knife shops and Cretan boot shops, the promenade along the Venetian port, the lively restaurants and cafes, all make up a vivid picture of a historical city that remembers the past and celebrates the present. In front of the city, there is the Venetian port of Chania, including the Venetian lighthouse, is one of the symbols of the city and a favourite walking area for locals and visitors alike.
The Minoan Palace of Knossos
Knossos, the largest and most brilliant centre of the Minoan civilization, is located 5 kilometres south of the historical centre of the city of Heraklion. In the labyrinthine arrangement of corridors and rooms of the palace complex, many scholars have visualised the famous Minoan “Labyrinth”. Such a notion of the existence of a labyrinth may be only a mythological remembrance of a great civilization, however one could say that it really does correspond to the architectural structure which can be seen today in Knossos. Twisting corridors and stairwells which used to connect as many as five storeys, create a truly labyrinthine complex. There, visitors can admire important architectural innovations, such as water supply systems and sewer networks, shafts for the lighting and ventilation of the lower levels of the palace complex, and rooms equipped with baths and sanitary facilities that almost match modern constructions in ingenuity and function. It is believed that the first palace complex of Knossos was probably built in the 19th century BC and was destroyed in the 17th century BC. It was later rebuilt (16th century BC) in a remarkable, functional way, as one can ascertain by seeing the surviving ruins. In the mid 15th century BC, Knossos is believed to have reached its acme, which lasted until approximately 1450 BC; then, an extensive natural disaster occurred, probably due to an eruption of the volcano of Santorini(known as the “Thera eruption”).
The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion
The Archaeological Museum is located much in the center of Heraklion: it is one of the most important Archaeological Museums of the world, thanks to its unrivalled collection of artifacts from the Bronze-age Minoan culture – the first of note on what is now European soil. The exhibits cover a period of ten millennia, from the Neolithic era until late Roman times. A tour would start on the Ground floor: the halls are dedicated to the Neolithic and Minoan cultures. Organized chronologically, covering all phases of the Minoan civilization, the rooms channel you from the Pre-palatial period (3000 - 1900 BC), through three phases of Palaces, down to the Post-palatial era (1350 - 1000 BC). The introductory texts in each room explain the key features of each period – and so the evolution of culture. In these halls the visitor is held entranced by objects of Minoan art and craft: jewelry and seals, pottery and metalwork, ivory, faience and glass. Items of the daily life, items used in religious worship, items from the burial chamber. Through further and often thematic texts are clarified the practices and ways they organized their economic, religious and social life. Among the exhibits are some of the most famous Minoan icons: such as the Snake Goddess, the Phaistos Disk, the Ring of Minos and the Mallia wasp (or bee) pendant. And many, many more! Visitors to the museum can admire unique artifacts recovered from the excavations at the Palaces of Knossos, Phaistos, Aghia Triadha, Malia and Zakros – let alone the numerous other major centers and sites of Minoan Crete.
The Natural History Museum of Crete
A museum in Heraklion where you can find a lot of interesting things for all ages. There are a discovery centre for children, an earthquake simulator, small aquariums and terrariums housing living animals from this region, a large collection of fossils, and a replica of the largest mammal ever lived on Crete, 9 million years ago. It does not only present the natural wealth of the island, but also of the rest of Greece and of the Eastern Mediterranean. In the 800 square metres of the museum, in specially transformed areas, visitors have the opportunity to learn about the geological evolution of Crete, various important geological formations such as caves, the species that once lived on Crete but are now extinct, endangered animals such as the Monk seal and the Bearded vulture, as well as about plants and organisms of all kinds that thrive on the island. The animals are displayed by way of accurate representations, in their real dimensions (dioramas). The museum also has an outdoor botanical garden.
Elounda & Spinalonga Island
Feeling for a celebrity hunt? Elounda is the part of Crete where all the rich and famous people come for a vacation. Here you can gaze at all the luxurious villas and hotels but also enjoy the charming old fishing village. From Elounda you can take a boat trip to Spinalonga Island known for its Venetian fortress and being one of Europe´s last leper colony. Spinalonga is a small island-fortress located at the northern entrance to Elounda bay, at a strategic point that secures control over the natural harbour of Elounda. An ancient fortification existed on the site of the fortress that can be seen today, for the protection of the port of the ancient town of Olous. The Venetian fortress of Spinalonga is well-preserved. It has two fortified protected zones. The first, which is lower down, follows the coastline, while the second runs along the cliffs above it. The two strong crescent-shapedfortifications, which were built to protect the port of Elounda with their cannons, stand out. The castle of Spinalonga, together with the fortresses of Souda and Gramvoussa in Western Crete, were considered impregnable, and remained under Venetian rule for many years after the Turkish conquest.
Explore the wonderful life of the Mediterranean sea. Here you can see hundreds of different fish and other marine species and let your self be fascinated by their shapes and colours. Cretaquarium, as a fruit of scientific research, is coming to give us knowledge and the experience of mediterranean marine world. A part of marine park research, culture, education and recreation of the Cretaquarium, is based on the knowledge, the expertise and the innovation which is produced by the Greeks marine scientists in the last 20 years. Cretaquarium is representing the Mediterranean marine life with modern ways and means and provides a unique spectacle that will always fascinate children and adults and it will inform, educate and sensitize the public about the diversity of Mediterranean species and the habitats.
Samaria Gorge
The gorge of Samaria is the longest and one of the most imposing gorges in Europe. Perhaps the most popular trekking path of Greece runs along its course. The gorge is 18 kilometres long and its width varies between 150 and 3-4 metres at its narrowest point, which is known as "Sideroportes". The walk down the gorge begins at "Xiloskalo", in Omalós (at an altitude of 1.200 metres) usually, quite early in the morning, since it requires 4-8 hours, depending on the walking pace. Six hours on average are enough for those who wish to enjoy the route without being in too much of a hurry. Walking down the Samaria gorge, one discovers a varied landscape, with water springs, pools and impressive large rocks lying in the watercourse, as well as numerous trees, such as plane trees, pines and cypresses. Trees and deciduous oaks rooted on the highest cliffs, ineffable scents of herbs and an occasional Cretan wild goat (kri-kri) climbing on a steep slope make this gorge unforgettable. After its narrowest point "Portes", the landscape evens out a bit and the watercourse begins to widen. Entrance tickets are re-checked at the outlet of the gorge, to make sure that no one has been left behind or decided to camp inside the gorge. After 18 km of walk, the Libyan Sea is close-by. Accommodation is available in Agia Roumeli. There is also the possibility to take the boat that goes to Loutro, Chora Sfakion, Sougia or Paleochora.
The E4 European Walking Trail
Another way to experience the island of Crete is to walk it – by way of the E4 European Walking Trail, traversing virgin terrain and rare ecosystems! 91 hiking routes – Total length of 560 km!
Bra att veta
Crete has an average of 300 days of sunshine a year – one of the best climates in Europe. Generally and for the greater part of the island there exists a temperate Mediterranean climate, although the winter sees snow on the mountains. Broadly speaking, the winter in Crete is relatively mild, spring, autumn and summer are sunny and warm, even hot. The rainfall is concentrated from autumn until spring, highest at the west of the island, lessening as one goes east. The prevailing winds are westerly; in the summer, a wind from the north, the "meltemi", can bring a much appreciated coolness – and ideal conditions for surfing. Further, in the summer (and winter ones too), the Livas (a southerly wind from the African continent) can bring hotter blasts – and sand!
How to get to Crete
Crete is connected with the rest of Greece by air (Aegean, Olympic Air, Skyexpress, Minoan Air) and by boat (Minoan Lines, Anek Lines, Superfast, Hellenic Seaways etc). The island has two international airports (Heraklion, Chania) and a national one at Sitia (Astra Airlines) with connections to other transport hubs in Greece. Chania airport is 12 km from the city of Chania and 68 km from the town of Rethymnon. The airport of Heraklion is but 5 km from the city of Heraklion and 65 km from Agios Nikolaos. Similarly, the two major ports of the island are also in Chania and Heraklion, with four smaller: Kissamos, Rethymnon, Agios Nikolaos and Siteia. In the summer (say between Easter and late October) there are frequent flights between Crete and numerous centres inside and outside Europe. For economic travel, visit the Ryanair (to Chania) and Easyjet (Heraklion) websites. Or search on-line for other charter companies too. Within Greece, and in addition to Aegean Airlines and Olympic Airways, take a look at the timetables and routes of Skyexpress and Minoan Air. Whatever you choose, remember that an early booking can bring substantial reductions in the costs.
Getting Around the Island
In Crete, there operate two main bus companies (KTEL for short). For the centre and east of the island, you need KTEL Heraklion-Lassithi and for the west KTEL Chania-Rethymnon. The two companies work in tandem, so one can purchase a ticket that crosses their nominal border. Tickets can be purchased at the main bus terminals/depots.. and on board. The web-sites of the companies provide the main and local timetables: but it is always worth checking by phone, especially where the more local and quieter routes are concerned (there may be but one or two buses a day). Inevitably the buses cannot cover every hamlet, landmark and beach on the island! So for that sort of flexibility and in order to be able to explore at your whim, then it is better to travel by a rented car. In all major, and some much smaller, locations, you will encounter car-rental companies for your needs: tourist resorts and airports also house outlets. Main Chania Office KTEL Chania-Rethymno Kydonias & Kelaidi Str. Tel.: 28210 93052 email: post@bus-service-crete-ktel.com Main Rethymno Office KTEL Chania-Rethymno Kefaloyiannis Str. Tel: 28310 22212 email: post@bus-service-crete-ktel.com Main Heraklio Office Heraklio Port Tel: 2810 246530, 245020 email: info@ktel-heraklio-lassithi.gr Other Cities - timetable information Agios Nikolaos, Tel: 28410 22234 Sitia, Tel: 28430 22272 Ierapetra, Tel: 28420 28237
The main post-offices are open Monday to Friday from 08.00 to 20.00 and Saturday 08.00 to 14.00. Other post-offices will generally be open from 08.00 to 14.00 only from Monday to Friday.
Normal opening hours of the pharmacies are the same as shops during week days. On Saturdays they are generally closed. Each pharmacy has a notice in the window showing which ones are open out of normal hours and the address where they're located.
Useful Phone numbers
Useful telephone numbers in the cities of Crete are listed below: Heraklio Airport: 2810 397800 Port Police: 2810 244912 Olympic Air: 2810 288073 Aegean: 2810 330475 Minoan lines: 801 1175000 ANEK lines: 2810 222481 Taxi: 2810 210102, 2810 361362, 2810 211212 Touristic Police: 2810 283190 Traffic Police: 2810 247790 General University Hospital of Heraklio: 2810 392111, 2813 402111 Venizelio Hospital: 2810 368000, 2810 408000 Chania Airport: 28210 63171, 63264 Port Police (Souda): 28210 89240 Olympic Air: 28210 53760 Aegean: 28210 63366 ANEK lines: 28210 27500 Hellenic Seaways: 28210 75444 ΑΝΕΝΔΥΚ: 28210 95511 Taxi: 28210 94300, 28210 98700 Touristic Police: 28210 25930 Traffic Police: 28210 25903-5 Hospital: 28210 22000-9 Rethymno Port Police: 28310 22276 Olympic Air: 28310 22257 ANEK lines: 28310 29874 Taxi: 28310 24316, 2810 25000 Touristic Police: 28310 28156 Traffic Police: 28310 22589 Hospital: 28310 87100, 28313 42100 Agios Nikolaos Port Police: 28410 22312 Olympic Air: 28410 28929 LANE sealines: 28410 26465 Taxi: 28410 24000 Touristic Police: 28410 91409 Traffic Police: 28410 91423 Hospital: 28413 43000, 28410 66000
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