20 Wild & Fun Facts About Crete Greece

Fun Facts About Crete Greece

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.

6 Reasons to Rent a Car on the Island of Crete

Largest Greek Island Facts

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!

Crete is the Largest Greek Island

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.

Europe Beach

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.

Is Knossos Palace Worth Visiting on Crete? What to Know First

Largest Greek Island Travel Guide

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.

The Largest Greek Island

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!

Largest Greek Island

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.

→ Pink Sand at Elafonisi: Fun Tips for Visiting the Famous Crete Beach 

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.

→ Book a Boat Cruise to Spinalonga From Agios Nikolaos

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.

→ Vai Beach in Crete: An Adventure to Greece’s Massive Palm Tree Forest

Via Beach 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!!

Largest Greek Island Guide

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. 

Is Knossos Palace Worth Visiting on Crete? What to Know First

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!)

Raki Crete

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.

Greek Facts About Crete

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!

Largest Greek Island Crete

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.

→ Getting Lost in the Hippie Caves of Matala Crete

Hippie Caves of Matala

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.

→ Best Crete Food: Our 19 Favorite Things to Eat & Drink

What to Eat in Crete Greece

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!

Southern Crete Beach

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.

Crete History

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.

Book a 4WD Safari with Olive Oil, Wine Tastings, & Traditional Food

Crete Wine

Have more facts about Crete or any questions for us? Comment below!

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar

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20 Wild & Fun Facts about the Island of Crete Greece

Greece Travel Planning 

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!

When island hopping use FerriesinGreece to compare different routes, prices, and companies. 

 Flights: We always check Skyscanner and Kayak to search for cheap flights. That’s how we got from Crete to Athens for under $50 USD!

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites to get to the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also,  Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget. 

 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.

 Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities in Crete Greece. You can find everything from taking a boat cruise to Balos Lagoon, to a guided tour of Knossos Palace, and Trekking Samaria Gorge.

 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.

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Explore Greece

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  1. April 22, 2022 / 1:58 pm

    Love reading about my favourite island, now my home for the last three years! The food is amazing, people friendly and welcoming, but the older generation still favour boys and the wife is not equal.
    The cities are beautiful, as are the mountains and beaches.

    • Brigitte & Jake
      April 22, 2022 / 9:14 pm

      Crete is such an amazing island! It truly has everything 🙂

  2. david
    July 5, 2021 / 7:08 pm

    Spinalonga, is surely North east and not North west, Its just off Plaka and Elounda which are East of Crete ?

    • Brigitte & Jake
      July 6, 2021 / 2:21 am

      Good call David. Thanks for the correction!

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