Geography and Natural History
Crete is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean with a land mass of approximately 8,331sqm. It is 255 km long and varies between 12 km and 56 km in width and there is one place in eastern Crete where one can see both the Cretan and Libyan seas. The island is divided into four administrative regions, known as Nomos, Chania in the West, Rethymnon and Heraklion in the Centre of Crete and Lassithi in the East. The magnificent landscape of Crete is very mountainous with great gorges, caves and high plains. There are four mountain ranges, the Ida mountains in central Crete (2,456m high), the Lefka Ori or the White Mountains (2,452m high) in the west, the Dikti Mountains (2,148m high) and the Sitia Mountains (1,476m high in the east of the island.
There are endless opportunities to go walking and trekking in the mountains, most of which are covered in a variety of trees and shrubs, and have verdant high plains and plateau with fabulous vistas.
Aside from the majestic and awe inspiring mountain ranges of Crete, the variety of its wonderful coastline is equally stunning. Out of the total length of its 1047 km coastline, there are 155 km of beaches, most of which lie on the north coast, while in contrast, the south coast is a haven of little bays and small sandy coves ideal for swimming. On the north coast there are vast glorious sweeping bays, the most striking of which are Kissamos, Souda, Almiros, Malia, Mirabello and Sitia. The beautiful Bay of Souda is the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean. The most spectacular of the Cretan gorges is the famous Samaria Gorge, which at 18 km long is the largest gorge in Europe. From somewhere in the region of a total of 3,000 caves, the cave on Mount Ida and Mount Dikti have become the most famed for their rich archeological discoveries.
Cretan flora and fauna is well known for its vast variety. The great changes in climate and geology over millions of years have had a profound effect on the island's plants and animals and as a result of this, today there are many varieties which can only be found on the island of Crete. One is welcomed by the picture postcard Mediterranean vista of endless blue sea and the mesmerising silver green hue of olive trees, where once there were towering Cypress trees and pine forests. Crete attracts many people who are interested in plants and they come to see the rich variety of flowers, herbs and trees.