Perfectly placed in the Mediterranean Sea, the largest and most beautiful of the Greek Islands is undoubtedly Crete. The popularity of this diverse island has grown over the years due to its ability to satisfy visitors with sun and sand as well as a vibrant and bustling metropolis. The fertile coast awards the traveller with some of the most amazing beaches known to man and this contrasts well with small cities that pay attention to and maintain infrastructure. Many of the islands 650,000 residents experience the best of both of these worlds by living in one of the many lovely hillside homes that dot the landscape.
Crete has been divided into four prefectures. From East to West they are as follows: Lasithi, Heraklion, Rethymno and Chania. The largest of the cities is Heraklion which boasts the archaeological wonders of ruins of the ancient Minoan civilization known as Knossos. This city also contains a world class Archeological Museum as well as the ruins of Phaistos. Families most often select Rethymno as their destination of choice, as this city caters to them well, while younger travelers in search of a party will enjoy a stop in Malia. Of course, in the summer time, all eyes turn to the harbor town of Chersonissos which transforms itself into one of the party capitals of Europe during those months. For those looking to dip their toes in the southernmost waters of Europe, Ierapetra provides some fine beaches and surf in which to do so.
The driving force behind the economy of Crete is tourism and this has led the islanders to offer a diverse array of sites and environments to visitors. Travelers are often struck by how quickly they can switch gears from the beach to the city, followed by a drive through picturesque mountains only to stop in a quaint village for a traditional meal. Much of island is quite lush in spite of the fact that there is very little rainfall throughout the year. The center of the island contains natural springs that keep that area very green, while many of the outlaying areas can be classified as deserts.
The locals speak mainly Greek, but visitors will find English speakers in the major cities and working the main tourist areas. When visiting smaller villages, a pocket dictionary will aid in things like simple shopping and eating out but as tourism is the primary industry, the locals are always willing to help. In fact, many visitors comment on the friendliness of the local population and their willingness to engage in long and thoughtful conversation with guests. Hiring a local as a tour guide is a fine way to see some out of the way places that might not necessarily find their way into the guide books.
There are three major airports to reach the island as well as a number of ferry services. When sightseeing around the island of Crete you can take advantage of the efficient bus service or if you choose it is quite simple to hire a car for exploring.
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