The island of Crete is quickly becoming one of the most popular in Greece, with more tourists visiting than ever before. So what makes it so attractive? Is it the gorgeous beaches and stunning nature of the largest Greek island? The mouthwatering food? Or how about the incredible ancient Crete history you’ll find at every turn? One thing is for certain, Crete is a unique place where you’re sure to learn something new. Here are our 20 wild & fun facts about Crete that you probably didn’t know!
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1. Crete is A Massive Island
Crete is the largest island in Greece, and its beaches stretch for over 160 miles. It’s also the 5th biggest island in the Mediterranean, only behind Corsica, Sicily, Cyprus, and Sardinia.
2. Healing Powers of Cretan Air
The air on the largest Greek island is said to have healing powers and can even perform miracles. In fact, Hippocrates or the “father of medicine” stated this himself!
3. Influence from Everywhere
A quick study of Crete history shows vast influence from other countries and continents. While the island of Crete is part of Greece, it is very tied in culturally with nearby Italy as well.
Being the southernmost island in Europe, it also shares Arabic roots with North Africa. The diversity can be seen in the culture, art, and food throughout Crete.
4. Ancient Crete Goes Back Thousands of Years
Crete history goes all the way back to the Minoan civilization, which started flourishing in 2000 BC! After the decline of the Minoans, Crete was conquered over and over again by different empires.
This includes the Mycenaeans, Dorians, and Romans, as they all wanted a piece of the Aegean island.
5. The Birthplace of Zeus
Would it surprise you to learn that Crete is the birthplace of Zeus? The most important part of life in ancient Crete was its Greek mythology, and the God of Sky and Thunder is said to have been born high in the Cretan mountains.
6. Crete is the Most Populated Island in Greece
While it’s the largest Greek island by area, Crete is also the most populated. The island of Crete has over 600,000 people, and when you consider Greece only has 10 million overall that’s quite impressive!
7. Home to Two Pink Sand Beaches
There are only a handful of pink sand beaches in the world, and Crete boasts two of them! You can find this unique colored sand at the beaches of Balos and Elafonissi.
8. Europe’s Last Leper Colony
Another wild fact about Crete is that it holds one of Europes last known Leper colonies. Just off the shores of the northeast coast is the island of Spinalonga. Greek authorities utilized the small islet as a leprosy colony to treat sick patients from 1903 to 1957.
9. Vast Palm Tree Forest
Not feeling the former Leper Colony? Well, Crete is also home to Europe’s largest palm tree forest! The palm trees of Vai Beach are said to have sprouted from date seeds spit out by Pirates arriving in ancient Crete.
10. Olive Oil Is No Joke
What is Crete’s daily life like? Well, it starts and ends with olive oil! I’m sure you know Greeks consume a lot of olive oil, but let me put it in perspective for you. The average person consumes 1 liter of olive oil per year, while the average Cretan consumes up to 30 liters!!
11. The Palace of Knossos
Although the old city was abandoned in around 1100 BC, the architecture of Knossos remains standing. Amazingly, the palace of Knossos shows evidence that people inhabited Ancient Crete up to 9,000 years ago!
Some historians even have said that it’s Europe’s oldest city. So if you take in one piece of Crete history, this Minoan palace should be it. Just know that some of the archeological site was re-created after its excavation in the early 20th century.
12. Raki is the Nectar of Crete
Dating back to ancient Crete, this clear alcohol has always been a symbol of hospitality and culture. Originally hailing from Turkey, the strong liquor is typically served after every meal (except maybe breakfast!)
13. Goats Are Everywhere
If you’re driving around the island of Crete you may notice something unique about its wildlife. Goats are on the roads, in the fields, and even climbing up the rock walls!
Many different species of animals can be found on Crete, but the most famous is the native mountain goat Kri-Kri.
14. Olive Fields Forever
Another thing you’ll see in nature on Crete is over 14 different varieties of olive trees. I know… We may need to make another facts about Crete list just for the food!
These delicious treats can be found everywhere from deep in the mountains down to the shoreline, and are a huge part of the island’s cultural heritage.
15. Giant Gorges
I’m sure you’ve observed by now that the largest Greek island has a very diverse landscape. The canyons of Crete are hard to miss, as it’s over 400 gorges are the most of any place in Greece. The Samaria Gorge is the biggest in Crete at over 18 km long!
16. Hippie Caves of Matala
Looking to let loose after all this Crete history? Matala may be the place for you! Caves once housing Roman tombs somehow turned into a hippie commune in the 1960’s.
Its most famous resident was musician Joni Mitchell, who lived in the caves for years overlooking Matala Beach. The hippies are long gone from the caves (which you can still explore), but the free love vibes from years ago still remain today.
17. Meze Eating is Everything
Meze is Greece’s version of Spanish tapas or french hors d’oeuvres, as you can order a number of small appetizers and drinks for cheap. This makes it a great way to try some of the island of Crete’s best dishes, including dakos, fried snails, briam, and fresh Cretan salad.
18. The Most Blue Flag Beaches
The European Union awards its best beaches the “Blue Flag” across 49 countries all over the world. The country of Greece is in second place on that list, and you’ll be happy to know that Crete has 112 of those stunning beaches!
19. There are no Dangerous Animals in Crete
All animals in Crete are harmless! In ancient Crete mythology, Hercules executed all the dangerous animals to honor his father Zeus.
20. Cretan Wine
If you’re looking for something a little lighter to sip on than Raki, the island wine is a good choice! Heraklion, the capital of Crete, is home to Greece’s 2nd biggest wine producing zone.
Furthermore, wine is intertwined with Crete’s history as much as anything else, and evidence can be found dating back to Minoan times.
Have more facts about Crete or any questions for us? Comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
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Greece Travel Planning
When island hopping use FerriesinGreece to compare different routes, prices, and companies.
Rental Car: You can book a rental car for around $20 a day in Greece! We use Discover Cars to explore the larger islands with a vehicle.
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
Rhodes: Planning a Trip – Renting a Car – 1 Week Itinerary – 23 Things to Do – Old Town – Elli Beach – Kallithea Springs – Lindos Guide – Lindos Acropolis – Monolithos – Melenos Art Boutique Hotel – 11 Best Beaches – Anthony Quinn Bay
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