Crete lies at the point where the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa meet. It is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean with an area of 8,335 square kilometers.
The climate of Crete is probably the mildest in Europe. The strong northwesterly wind, the meltemi, moderates even the hottest months of July and August. Rainfall is rare during the summer months. Autumn is Crete's mildest season, when temperatures are often higher than in spring. The mountains that run across the island act as a barrier to the weather, often creating different conditions in northern and southern Crete. Three mountain ranges form a sort of spine stretching across the island. In western Crete, the Lefka Ori or White Mountains occupy a large area within the prefecture of Chania and contain more than 40 peaks over 2,000 meters high. The highest peak in this area is Pahnes, at 2,452 meters above sea level.
Some of the most characteristic natural beauties of the Cretan scenery consist of the famous Cretan gorges which begin at the mountainous areas of the island and end to the sea. The green gorges a abound with rare species of flora and fauna which are protected by strict rules, as they are unique throughout Greece. Among them, one can admire rare species of cypress-trees, platans, pine-trees and wildflowers.
The most famous and significant gorge of Crete is the infamous gorge of Samaria, which impresses with its size and unique natural beauty, while on its slopes, one can ad ire the famous wild goat of Crete which is found nowhere else in Greece. other significant gorges are the gorges of Imbros, Aradena, Agia Eirini, Kourtaliotis river and Tipoliano.
Crete is well known for the Cretan goat, otherwise called which is found mainly in the Gorge of Samaria. The archaeological excavations, which have brouth to light many a wall paintings of the , testify to the view that this animal was worshiped on the island during antiquity. Its rareness is one of the reasons that led to the Gorge of Samaria becoming a national park. However, have been spotted in the nearby islands of Dia, Theodoros and Aghioi Pantes.
From the Cretan countryside, there could not been absent animals less rare, which are found in many parts of Greece. Among them, the rabbit, the wild cat or fourogatos and a unique kind of mouse. Among the birds, in the Cretan mountains we distinguish the golden eagle and the eagle Gyps Fulvous, while there are many kinds of traveling birds which make a stop on the island as they travel to the south.
Chania prefecture, often informally termed 'Western Crete', is a beautiful and in many parts unspoilt part of the island. Districts include verdant Apokoronas, mountainous Sfakia, and Selino in the far South West corner. Some other notable towns in the Chania prefecture are: Hóra Sfakíon, Kastelli-Kissamos, Paleohora, Maleme, Vrisses, Vamos, Georgioupolis and Kalives.
The natural park of Samaria Gorge, a major tourist attraction and a refuge for the rare Cretan wild goat or kri kri, is in the South of the prefecture of Chania. The White Mountains or Lefka Ori, through which the Samaria, Aradena, Imbros and other gorges run, are the limestone peaks topped by snow until May that occupy much of Chania prefecture. They contain more than 40 peaks over 2,000 meters high. The highest peak in this area is Pahnes, at 2,452 meters above sea level.
Western Crete is popular with tourists for its spring flowers that linger on into early May in the mountains. Birdwatching is also popular, with the lammergeier and golden eagle especially sought for. As an island, Crete has many endemic species of plant and animal.
Crete's only freshwater lake, Lake Kournas, is in the prefecture close to the border with Rethymno Prefecture, 47 km from Chania. It is relatively large, with a perimeter of 3.5 km. The lake used to be called 'Korisia' after ancient 'Korion', a city thought to be in the area with a temple to Athena. The lake used to be reportedly full of eels but now is better known for its terrapins and tourists. Tavernas and pedalo rental shops line part of the shore. Overall, however, the lake retains its beauty, the White Mountains reflected in the mirror-like waters.
Chania is located along the northern coast of Crete, and is the second largest city of Crete and the capital of the Chania Prefecture. Chania enjoys a normal Mediterranean climate, with sunny and dry summers and mild and rainy winters. Between April and October you can expect practically every day to be clear and sunny. Minor early heat waves have been known to occur in March or April, during a Saharan dust event, but typically heat waves are not terribly common. Snows and frosts are also not common in Chania. For the most part, the weather is always beautifully clear and warm.
Chania is filled with beautiful ancient visions and places to see. Despite the fact that during World War II Chania’s Old Town was bombed heavily, it is still considered to be the most beautiful urban district located on Crete. The central area of the old town, Kasteli, has been inhabited since the Neolithic times, and is found on a small hill next to the seafront. The Old Town’s main square is the Eleftherios Venizelos Square. Here you will find the heart of activities for tourists.
Other beautiful landmarks to visit while in Chania are found in Kasteli. The Kasteli Archaeological Area and part of the Byzantine walls are very popular destinations to see. The remains of the Government House of Palazzo of the Venetians dates back to the 17th century, and the former Santa Maria de Miracoli Monastery was constructed in 1615. In Splantzia you will find the Dominican Monastery of St. Nicholas from the early 14th century, the Church of St. Rocco from the early 17th century, and the Minaret of St. Nicholas.
Head to the shore, and on the harbor you will find the Faros, a lighthouse from the 15th century. Other things to see on the harbor include the Mosque of the Janissaries, the Venetian Shipyards, Neoria, from the late 16th century, and the Bulwark of St. Nicholas of Molos.
On Halidon Street are located the Stivanadika, or traditional leather stores, and on bulwar Sabbionara you can visit the Church of Agioi Anargyroi and the Bulwark San Salvatore. Be sure to leave time to visit Kissamos, where you will find that the ancient Greek traditions and myths are still alive.
In Polirrinia you will find a majestic reservoir with an altar and ruins from the Roman era. Other places to visit while in Chania include Falassarna, Gramvoussa, Agnion, Potamida, Agia Sofia, and Diktinna, where there are Byzantine Churches dating back as far as the 10th century. Many things here can be explored on foot, including walking through the mountains and viewing the beautiful waters flowing down the mountainside.
Rethymno is the capital of the Rethymno Prefecture and is located just 80 kilometers east of Iraklion and 60 kilometers west of Hania on the northern coast of Crete. To the east of Rethymno you will find one of the largest sand beaches in Crete, a 12 kilometer beach, and to the west there is a rocky coastline that leads to another 10 kilometer stretch of beautiful beach. Rethymno’s city limits are defined by the Fortetza, a large, beautifully preserved Venetian fortress which overlooks the lovely city below.
Beautiful sights to behold while on Rethymno include the Rimondi Fountain, which was built by A. Rimondi to provide citizens with suitable drinking water in 1626, and the Neratzes Mosque, which was formerly the Holy Virgin church, and used today as a music conservatory. The Porta Guora is the entrance to the town, and today is the only remnant of the defensive wall left.
In the Folklore and History Museum you will find a beautifully restored Venetian building that houses cultural items dating back to the 17th century. The Archaeological Museum holds clay figures, funerary coffers, statues, and other objects dating back to the Neolithic and Roman periods.
Rethymno is the most mountainous province in Crete, and boasts a wonderfully warm and mild Mediterranean climate. Sunshine prevails most of the year and temperatures are mild during every season.
The prefecture of
occupies the far -eastern part of the island and it is divided into 8 municipalities: Agios Nikolaos, Ierapetra, Sitia, Neapoli, Makri Gialos, Lefki, Oropedio (Lasithi Plateau) and Itanos.
It is embraced by three seas: the Cretan Sea in the north, the Libyan Sea in the south, the Carpathian Sea in the east, whilst in the west, the mountain range of Dikti prevails imposingly, spreading its verdant mountainsides down to the plains of Mirabello and those of Ierapetra, in a picturesque contrast.
The land morphology all over the prefecture, with the ever changing, highly contrasting landscape, as well as its unequaled natural beauties, captures the visitor from the very first moment. Its coasts present the same contrasts. Its mild, purely Mediterranean climate, without any abrupt fluctuations, is considered to be one of the healthiest and most pleasant climates, all year long.
In the plains and on the mountain slopes the luxuriant vegetation is present even during the summer, thanks to the olive- groves, whilst during the spring the almond - trees demonstrate the white sorcery of their blossoms everywhere. Moreover, the land fertility, combined with the favorable climatic conditions, is a guarantee for the self- sufficiency of the prefecture, as far as the agricultural, farming and garden products are concerned, products which are renowned for their highest quality and taste. Olive oil, almonds, carobs and particularly the high quality raisin produced in Sitia, are exporting products.
No other prefecture of Crete shows such a particularity as Lasithi. The primary factor of such a particularity is the existence of so many regions which combine natural beauty with historical and archaeological interest. We say "no other prefecture", because the triptych of interests in this prefecture is really unparalleled. Regions as the palm - forest of Vai or the plateau of Lasithi are unique in Greece.
As far as archaeology is concerned, the prefecture is spread with ruins of ancient towns, settlements and buildings, on the other hand the existence of Zakros palace, as well as the ancient town of Gournies, turn the area into a place of high interest for the researchers of the minoan era. Nevertheless, from an historical point of view, Lasithi is of high interest, too, not only because it sheltered Eteokrites , or because Itanos played an important part in the history of Hellenistic times, but also because it was the scenery of bloodshed between Greeks and Turks, during the Turkism Domination.
The visitor of Lasithi can organize his or her tour and easily explore the neighboring area, using any town of the prefecture as starting point. Agios Nikolaos is the picturesque capital of Lasithi, so it is the centre of many starting points for the public buses' destinations. Nevertheless, the visitor who has more time at his or her disposal and would like to be acquainted with Lasithi, should explore various destinations, using Agios Nikolaos, Neapoli, Ierapetra, and Sitia as starting points.
Heraklion Prefecture is the largest of the four prefectures of Crete and is bounded to the Prefectures of Lassithi to the east and Rethymno to the west. It covers an area of 2,641 sq. kilometers (1,017 sq. miles) and is inhabited by some 300,000 people. The capital city of Heraklion Prefecture is Heraklion City, Crete’s largest city and port. The soil is rich in the valleys of the central and northern parts of the prefecture; otherwise it is mountainous, with the mountains of Idi and Asterousia occupying its southern part and coast. Matala beach is the most well known of the few beaches on the south. The north coast, nevertheless, is lined with fantastic beaches, visited by thousands of people. Off the north coast, Ida islet is part of the prefecture.
The prefecture has a Mediterranean climate which can become rather hot in midsummer. The mountains, though, have much cooler weather during the summer, with winter temperatures dropping around the freezing point, and with eventual snowfall.
The main agricultural products of Heraklion are olives and olive oil, vegetables, tomatoes and wine. Peza Valley produces 70% of the wine production of the whole of Crete, which in turn is 20% of the total Greek wine production.
In Heraklion Prefecture, there are most important archaeological sites to visit, among them being the three of the four Minoan Palaces found on Crete: Knossos, Phaestos and Malia.
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