Crete (Greece: Κρήτη) is the biggest of the Greek islands and one of the biggest in the Mediterranean Sea. With a total area of 8336 km2, it is about 260 kilometers long and 60 to 12 kilometers wide. It has a wide variety of shorelines and is about 1065 kilometers long.
Humans have inhabited the island since at least 130,000 years, during the Paleolithic Age. Crete was the centre of Europe’s first advanced civilisation, the Minoans, from 2700 to 1420 B.C. Due to its strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea, Crete has been the apple of contention among many conquering aspirants over the centuries. The Minoan civilization was overrun by the Mycenaean civilization of mainland Greece. Crete was later ruled by Rome, followed by the Byzantine Empire, Andalusian Arabs, Venetians and Ottomans. In 1898, the Cretan people obtained independence from the Ottomans, officially becoming the Cretan state, and later in December 1913 became a part of Greece.
The island is mainly mountainous, and its character is defined by a high mountain range stretching from west to east. It includes Crete’s highest point, Mount Ida (Psiloritis, 2456m). The mountain range of the Lefka Ori (White Mountains) with 30 summits above 2000 meters in altitude. The mountain range of Dikti with an altitude of 2148 meters. Further to the east are the mountains of Thripti, with an altitude of 1476 meters.
Crete is home to many gorges. In the single region of Sfakia, and at a distance of 35 km, there is a concentration of 15 parallel gorges. One of these is the renowned Gorge of Samaria National Park, a World Biosphere Reserve. There are several plateaus also. The largest of them is the plateau of Lassithi, on Mount Dikti at an altitude of 850 meters. The Omalos plateau, in the White Mountains at an altitude of 700 metres, the Askifou plateau. Finally, Nida to Psiloritis at 1400 m altitude.
The present climate of Crete is characterized as the gentle Mediterranean, with clearly separated seasons. Winters are rainy and mostly mild and summers are warm and dry.
The southern coast, including the Mesara plain and the Asterousia Mountains, falls into the North African climate zone, and thus enjoys much sunnier days and high temperatures throughout the year. The sea temperature is rather high during the winter also, so swimming is possible in the winter. West Crete (Chania province) gets more rainfall.
Lastly, there have been significant changes in the height of the Cretan coast and sea level. The west coast of the island is known to have experienced intense uplift as a result of tectonic action.
Crete is an all-year-round tourist destination. There is a variety of different outdoor activities to choose from, depending on the season. Touring ski, mountaineering, canyoning, rock climbing, trekking and hiking, Via Ferrata, sea kayak and MTB, are some of them.