Crete, Greece

Crete, the mega-island with its strange landscapes and rare beauties, is what remains today of the ancient Aegaia, the land that connected, millions of years ago, Greece with Asia Minor. It is the largest Greek island and one of the largest in the Mediterranean, with a total area of 8,260 sq. km and a long, narrow, horizontal shape that looks like a breakwater, as if placed by the Gods to protect the sacred Greek land from the unseen waves of the Libyan Sea. Crete is a crossroads of sea wanderings between the three continents that are bathed by the Mediterranean, for this reason, its fertile lands had repeatedly been the target of the conquerors of the Aegean in the past.
Crete is the largest and most populous island of Greece and the fifth largest in area in the Mediterranean, after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus and Corsica. Its capital and largest city is Heraklion, which is the seat of the region of Crete which includes neighboring islands and islets. With a population of 617,360 inhabitants, approximately 160 kilometers south of the Greek mainland and stretching from west to east, it is washed by the Cretan Sea to the north and the Libyan Sea to the south.

It is an important part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece, preserving its own cultural elements. During the years 3000 BC–1400 BC the Minoan civilization, the oldest civilization in Europe, flourished on the island, with its main centers being Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, Zakros and Gournia where palace complexes were found.

Crete is located at the southern end of the Aegean Sea and covers an area of 8,336 Its permanent population is 623,065 inhabitants, while the actual de facto population is 682,928 according to the 2011 census. It is approximately 260 km long and varies in width from a maximum of 60 km, from Cape Dion to Cape Lithino, to a minimum of 12 km on the isthmus of Ierapetra in eastern Crete. Its coastline presents a deep geographical fragmentation, which in Crete presents more than 1,000 kilometers of coastline.

The island is extremely mountainous with three main mountain ranges, Lefka Ori (2453 m), Psiloritis (Ida) (2456 m) and Dikti (Lasithiotika Ori) (2148 m) crossing it in order from the west as the sunrise. Additional mountains are those of Thrypti (1476 m) in the east, the Asterousia Mountains with the summit of Kofina (1231 m) in the south. To the north of the prefecture of Rethymno rise the Thalia mountains (1088 m.) as well as the autonomous Mount Kentros (1777 m.) in the same prefecture.

In these mountains there are fertile plateaus, such as Omalos in the White Mountains, Nida in Ida and Lasithi, and Katharos in Dikti. On the island there are important caves such as Dikteo and Ideo cave. The main morphological characteristic of Crete is the imposing gorges such as the famous Samaria gorge, the Richti gorge, the Imbro gorge, the Ha gorge, the Mylon gorge, as well as the Kourtaliotiko gorge.

Crete belongs to the Mediterranean climatic zone which gives its main climatic character, which is characterized as temperate. The atmosphere can be quite humid, depending on the proximity to the sea. The winter is quite mild and wet, with quite a bit of rainfall, mostly in the western parts of the island. Snowfall is rare in the lowlands, but quite common in the highlands. During the summer, the average temperature ranges from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius, certainly lower than that of mainland Greece. The southern coast, including the plain of Mesara and the Asterous Mountains, enjoys more sunny days and warmer temperatures during the summer than the rest of the island. The flora of the island is threatened by the gradual development of animal husbandry.

The main mammals of the island are the badger (arkalos in Cretan), the weasel, the marmot (petrokunavo), the hedgehog, the fly, the myox, various species of mice and rats and many species of bat. Also, the waters of Crete are home to a large number of marine mammals, such as puffins, whales, dolphins and Mediterranean seals. The skies of Crete are home to a large number of birds of prey, mainly the endangered vultures and golden eagles, as well as the largest number of vultures in Europe. Also, the coasts of the island are an important refuge for loggerhead or leatherback sea turtles. Also on the island are bred the indigenous Messari horse and the indigenous Cretan Tracker. While the endemic wild goat of Crete, the Kri-Kri, lives free in the mountains.

In addition to animals, there are many endemic plant species, even in narrow-endemic form, i.e. isolated in limited areas, such as Siderites syrioca. In Crete there are hundreds of orchid species, which are a magnet for plant lovers and researchers. Also known are the herbs of Crete, such as dictamos and the red tulip, which is now found in many places. The plants of Crete have been the object of attraction and systematic study by travelers at least since the time of Tournefort (early 18th century) with the basic idea of uniqueness and endemicity. Today, these ideas produce an element of cultural pride and are widely found in Crete, especially in mountainous areas such as Sfakia where many of these endemic varieties are found. Plants, especially the ability of wild and endemic species to withstand mountainous conditions (drought, altitude, wind, etc.) are also found in mantinades and other representations through which modern Cretans talk about their own life and its characteristics of their respective region as they distinguish it from other regions.
The earliest references to the island of Crete come from texts from the Syrian city of Mari dating from the 18th century BC, where the island is referred to as Kaptara. This is repeated later in Neo-Assyrian records and the Bible (Caphtor). It was known in ancient Egyptian as Keftiu or kftı͗w, strongly suggesting a similar Minoan name for the island.

The current name Crete is first attested in the 15th century BC in Mycenaean Greek texts, written in Linear B, through the words ke-re-te (𐀐𐀩𐀳, *Krētes; later Greek: Κρῆτες [krɛː.tes], plural of Κρής [krɛːs]) and ke-re-si-jo (𐀐𐀩𐀯𐀍, *Krēsijos; later Greek: Κρήσιος [krέːsios], 'Cretan'). In Ancient Greek, the name Crete (Κρήτη) first appears in Homer's Odyssey. Its etymology is unknown. One proposal derives it from a hypothetical Luwian word *kursatta (compare kursawar 'island', kursattar 'cutting, sliver'). Another proposal suggests that it derives from the ancient Greek word "κραταιή" (krataie̅), meaning strong or powerful, the reasoning being that Crete was the strongest thalassocracy during ancient times.

In Latin, the name of the island became Creta. The original Arabic name of Crete was Iqrīṭiš (Arabic: اقريطش < (τῆς) Κρήτης), but after the Emirate of Crete's establishment of its new capital at ربض الخندق Rabḍ al-Ḫandaq (modern Heraklion; Greek: Ηράκλειο, Irákleio), both the city and the island became known as Χάνδαξ (Chandax) or Χάνδακας (Chandakas), which gave Latin, Italian, and Venetian Candia, from which were derived French Candie and English Candy or Candia. Under Ottoman rule, in Ottoman Turkish, Crete was called Girit (كريد). In the Hebrew Bible, Crete is referred to as (כְּרֵתִים) "kretim".
The Birth of Zeus
Several ancient myths refer to Crete. According to one Mother Earth emerged from chaos and gave birth to Heaven as she slept. Uranus gave birth to his own children, the seven Titans. The youngest of them, Cronus, married Rhea's sister. There was a prophecy from Mother Earth and Heaven that one of Saturn's sons would dethrone him, so every year Saturn swallowed whole the children Rhea gave birth to, such as Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon . When Rhea gave birth to Zeus, Mother Earth hid him in the Dikteo Andros on the Lasithi plateau in Crete. Cronus thought he had swallowed Zeus when in fact he had swallowed a stone given to him by Rhea. Zeus was raised by the nymph Adrasthea, sister of Io, and the milk of a goat-nymph, Amalthea, while the Curites beat their spears into their shields to cover the baby's cries.

Zeus grew up among shepherds on Mount Ida, in a cave, the Ideo Andros of the Nida plateau of Rethymno. When he grew up he approached Rhea and with her help they made Saturn drink a poisonous potion and from his mouth came one by one all the brothers of Zeus. He led them into a war against the Titans in which he emerged victorious.

The previous myth seems to spring from the depths of ancient times. The pure Cretan tradition presents Zeus as being born and dying every year, contrary to the other Greeks who considered Zeus immortal. The image of the head of the dead Zeus is imprinted in relief on the slope of a hill behind Heraklion (Yuchtas) and can be seen from a great distance as one approaches the city. The myth of the death of Zeus is a continuation and development of the belief of the ancient Minoans about the goddess of natural euphoria who died and was reborn every year.

Jupiter and Europe
In the land of Cana, Agenor and Telephassa had five sons and a daughter named Europe. Zeus fell in love with Europa and transformed himself into an all-white bull. Europa, enchanted by his beauty, jumped on his back and the animal rushed towards the sea. The bull swam away with the terrified Europa hooked on its back. Zeus reached the shores of Crete, where Europa gave birth to three sons, Minos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon. When Zeus left Europe she married Asteria who adopted her three sons.

These myths are likely to be inspired by actual campaigns that took place from Crete in the eastern Mediterranean.

Minos, King of Crete
The word "Crete" probably comes from a form of the Greek word Krataia meaning "strong" or "powerful deity". After the death of Asterias, the throne of Crete was taken over by Minos who ruled Crete for many years from his palaces in Knossos. Crete was powerful and wealthy during his rule and its fleet dominated the Mediterranean bringing wealth and prosperity through trade to the island. Minos had a reputation as a just man. His brother Rhadamanthis, who remained in Crete and lived peacefully with him, also had the reputation of a just lawgiver, who ruled Crete as well as the islands of Asia Minor, which voluntarily adopted his code of justice. Every ninth year Rhadamanthus and Minos visited the cave of Zeus and received a new set of laws.

The Cretan civilization was called Minoan by Arthur Evans who excavated Knossos. It is possible that the word "Minos" was a royal title of a dynasty that ruled Crete and not the name of an individual. The peaceful acceptance of Cretan law by the inhabitants of Asia Minor is proof of the expansion of Cretan civilization throughout the Aegean and Asia Minor, where the Cretans built the city of Milatos. Legend has it that another city named Milatos was built by the Cretans in Ireland.

The Minotaur and the Labyrinth
To consolidate his position on the throne of Crete, Minos had claimed that the gods would grant any favor he asked in his prayer. When he prayed for a bull to rise from the sea which he would then sacrifice, Poseidon sent a dazzling white bull to the shore. Minos, dazzled by his beauty, decided to sacrifice another bull in his place. Poseidon was offended and to get his revenge he made Minos' wife, Pasiphae, fall in love with the white bull. Pasiphae asked Daedalus, a famous Athenian craftsman living in exile in Crete, to help her. Daedalus made a hollow wooden cow in which Pasiphae could hide and approach the white bull. The white bull mated with the cow and Pasiphae gave birth to the Minotaur, a monster with a bull's head and a human body. Minos asked Daedalus to build a building called the Labyrinth, where he would confine the Minotaur.

Some believe that the labyrinth was the palace of Knossos. Its amazing size and complexity created the illusion of a labyrinth. The bull and the double pelecys called the lavrys were the symbols of the Minoan culture and appeared everywhere in the palace.

The Minoan War with Athens
Minos was the first king to dominate the Mediterranean sea and eradicate pirates by ruling over 90 states in Crete. When the Athenians murdered his son, Androgeas began a war against them, which lasted a long time. Minos begged Zeus to avenge the death of Androgeus. After Zeus caused a series of earthquakes, the Athenians consulted the oracle at Delphi, which answered them to grant any request of Minos. Minos asked that seven young men and seven young women be sent to Crete every nine years as a sacrifice to the Minotaur.

Theseus, Ariadne and the Minotaur
Theseus, the son of Aegeus, the king of Athens, decided to go with the young men and women who would be sacrificed in Crete. If he exterminated the Minotaur using only his hands, the obligation to sacrifice would cease.

Minos' daughter Ariadne immediately fell in love with Theseus. He gave him a string to tie to the door of the labyrinth and untangle him until he reached the place where the Minotaur slept. Theseus killed the Minotaur, although it is disputed whether he killed it with his bare hands or with a sword given to him by Ariadne. He then used the string to find his way back to the entrance of the maze.

Theseus and Ariadne escaped from Crete, but on the way to Athens, Theseus abandoned Ariadne on an island. The god Dionysus married her immediately after she was abandoned by Theseus.

The Death of Aegeus
Theseus, leaving for Crete to face the Minotaur, had agreed with his father, King of Athens Aegeus, to raise a white flag as he approached Athens, if all had gone well. But as he was returning victorious from Crete, he forgot it, and Aegeus, who was watching the return of the ships, became so sad that he fell into the sea and drowned. The sea has since been named after him and is called the "Aegean Sea".

Daedalus and Icarus
When Minos learned that Daedalus helped his wife Pasiphae mate with the white bull of Poseidon, he locked him and his son Icarus in the Labyrinth. But Pasiphae freed them. Minos ordered his fleet to be put on alert and thus Daedalus could not leave Crete. But Daedalus made wings for him and his son and they flew away. Icarus disobeyed his father and flew high towards the sun whereupon he melted the wax that bound his wings and consequently fell into the sea and drowned. Today the island located where he supposedly drowned is called Ikaria.

The death of Minos
When Daedalus escaped from Crete using the wings he had made, he flew to Sicily where he lived among the Sicilians. Minos took his fleet and began to search for him. When he arrived in Sicily he visited King Kokalos who was hiding Daedalus and asked him to hand it over to him. Kokalos and Daedalus tricked Minos and burned him in boiling water. Kokalos returned the body to Crete saying that his death was an accident. The Cretans built a tomb for Minos in Sicily. Today there is a city called Minoa, while other cities have been built there by the Cretans. Zeus made Minoa judge of the dead after his death along with his brother Rhadamanthes and his enemy Aiacus.

Talos is another mythical figure associated with Crete. He was a bronze bull-headed giant given by Zeus to Minos as the guardian of Crete. Talos lived in the cave of Melidonio. It had a single vein that started from the neck and ended at the heel, where it was closed with a bronze nail. Talos circled all of Crete three times a day with orders to protect it from enemy ships. He also went around the villages of Crete displaying the laws of Minos on copper plates. When the Sardinians invaded the island, Talos transformed into fire and with his flaming body exterminated the enemies. When the Argonauts tried to approach Crete, Talos threw rocks at them to stop them. Finally, he was killed by Medea the patroness of the Argonauts who pulled out his bronze nail causing all his blood to spill out and die.

The family of Minos
Several of Minos' brothers, sons and grandsons left Crete for various parts of the Mediterranean and traveled as far as Ireland. New cities were founded, several of which were called Minoan. Various myths related to them have their roots in the dominance of the Minoan fleet in the Mediterranean. These myths come from the golden age of Cretan civilization which took the name of Minos and lasted about a thousand years.

Hercules and the Cretan Bull
Erystheus ordered Heracles to capture the Cretan bull in his seventh labor. It is debatable whether this was the bull that Poseidon sent to Minoa for sacrifice and Pasiphae fell in love, or the bull that Zeus used to bring Europa to Crete. Minos offered Hercules all help but he refused it. Hercules after a long struggle captured the bull and took it to Mycenae.

Crete and Delphi
The Cretans founded the oracle of Delphi, dedicated to Mother Earth and left their sacred music, dances, rituals and a calendar as a legacy to the Greeks. The community of priests at Delphi was called Lavrytoi from the Cretan word lavrys (double-bladed), the symbol of the Minoan civilization.

Crete and Homer
Homer, long after the Minoan civilization, speaks in his epics about Crete on various occasions and calls it "hospitable", "beautiful" and "fertile", referring to it as a country with many cities ruled by Minoan. The Cretans are said to come from various tribes, the Eteocretans, the Pelasgians, the Achaeans, the Dorians and the Cydones. When the Eteocretans (the true Cretans) were experiencing the decline of the Minoan civilization, the remaining inhabitants of Crete were Greek tribes that existed in various parts of the island at the time of Homer. The Kydones lived on the western side of the island and to this day the province around Chania is called Kydonia. Cydonas was the son of Minos' wife, Pasiphae, and Hermes. The name Kydonas means "glorified, proud".

The Cretan fleet took part in the campaign against Troy. When the Greek fleet was at Avlis, messages were sent by the Cretan king Idomeneus informing Agamemnon, the commander of the Greek fleet, that if he agreed to share command with Idomeneus, 100 Cretan ships would join the Greek expedition to Troy. Agamemnon agreed to this proposal and so the expedition against Troy became a Cretan-Greek operation.

Some parts of the Odyssey include elements that probably refer to Crete. The Cyclops Cave where Odysseus and his companions were trapped by Polyphemus is likely to be located in present-day Sougia, in southern Crete. There are many caves in the high mountains of southwestern Crete where strong wild goats, the Cretan Kri-Kri, live. One such cave in the mountains before Sugia still bears the name "Cyclops Cave".

During his adventures, Odysseus approached the island of Aeolus, the God who controlled the winds. Homer says that an impenetrable wall of copper encircles the island, while all around vertical cliffs rise out of the sea. Aeolus trapped the wild forces of the winds in a leather bag which he gave to Odysseus. The small island of Gramvousa, with its rocks, which take on a bronze color in the setting sun and rise vertically from the almost always stormy sea, fits the description of the island of Aeolos. Besides, the ancient name of Gramvousa was Korykos, which means leather bag.
Excavations in 2008-2009 at Plakias in southern Crete unearthed hand tools 130,000 to 190,000 years old, forcing experts to reconsider the origins, movements, and abilities of prehistoric humans. Traces of habitation from the Early and Middle Paleolithic periods have also been found on the island of Gavdos.
In the 2nd millennium BC, the Minoan civilization develops in Crete, the first civilization in Europe, palaces and a great naval force are created, and it acquires a hegemonic position in the entire Mediterranean.
The decline of the Minoan civilization in the 17th century BC is followed by the Mycenaean domination of the island in the following centuries, until the descent of the Dorians in 1100 BC where things follow a downward path towards the dark ages. Crete during the classical era will not participate in the Persian and Peloponnesian wars, while during the Hellenistic era we have all kinds of internal conflicts between the big cities of the island as well as external interventions by the Macedonians and Rhodians. Mark Antony Cretan attacked Crete in 71 BC. and repelled. In 69 BC, Rome sent Quintus Caecilius Metellus, who after a hard three-year campaign succeeded in capturing Crete on behalf of Rome in 66 BC, while Metellus himself received the nickname "Cretan " as an honor for his capture and subjugation of Crete. With the publication of the iconoclastic decree of Leo III of Isaurus in 726 AD. the Eastern Roman Empire will be divided.
And while the iconoclasm was raging between 820 AD and 829 AD, the Andalusian Arabs would land on the island and take over the island. In the spring of 961, the Byzantine general (domestic of the schools) Nikiforos II Phokas launched a large-scale operation with the aim of recapturing Crete, which had been under Arab rule since 824. Thanks to the good organization of the army, and primarily to the talent of the distinguished general and future emperor, on March 8 the well-fortified city of Khandaka (present-day Heraklion) fell to the Byzantines. The reintegration of Crete into Byzantine territory was one of the most important events of the time and contributed to the defeat of the Arabs and the rise of Byzantine power in the 10th century.

During the Fourth Crusade in 1201 AD and by the agreements which followed at Constantinople, Crete was ceded to the Republic of Venice. In the two following centuries, Venice faced dozens of rebellions by Cretan landowning descendants of Byzantine families (Skordilis, Gavalas, Kalafatis, Arxoleon, Hortatzis, Mousouros, Varouchas, Lytini, Vlastoi, Argyroi-Diogenes, Kallergis, Fokades, Mellisinos). According to the Venetian censuses with the last census of Trivan who resisted paying a heavy blood price, and was forced to make many retreats towards them until peace was achieved, with the convention of 1299, but essentially after the apostasy of Saint Titus in 1363. According the siege and fall of Constantinople, the Cretans were present fighting according to Franzis in the Towers of Basil of Leo and Alexius led by Manusos Kalikratis, where the era changes, as the Middle Ages give way to the renaissance, and the Crete enters a period of flourishing of the arts and letters where the cultural foundations of modern Greece were essentially laid. This period would end with the conquest of Crete by the Ottomans in 1669, and Crete would return to the Middle Ages for the next two centuries. From 1770 until the final autonomy of the island in 1898, Crete will go through a period of non-stop wars and rebellions, which will bring out great chieftains some descendants of the old families and politicians such as Eleftherios Venizelos, who after his term in the Cretan state he will take charge of the fortunes of Greece several times in succession and with great success for the country.

After the Asia Minor Disaster in 1922, many Greek Asia Minor refugees settled in Crete. During the subsequent Exchange of Populations, based on the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, the Turks residing in Crete, about 33,000, were forced to leave the island and Greek Asia Minor refugees settled on the island, with the result that the population of Crete became ethnically and religiously homogeneous .. The Asia Minor refugees enriched the local culture and economy and created settlements that bear the names of the cities of Asia Minor where they came from, such as Neas Klazomenes, Nea Alikarnassos, Nea Vryoula, Nea Alatsata.

World War II was the last time the Cretans were called upon to defend their island, and, mostly unarmed, they managed to write themselves down in the pages of World War II history by delaying the Germans from their impending attack on Russia (operation Barbarossa).

In Crete, the Cretan dialect is spoken by the majority of the inhabitants. There is a great tradition in mantinada. Crete is also known for its traditional music, characteristic instruments of which are primarily the Cretan lyre and the lute and secondarily the violin, the mandolin and the ascomandura. Some of the best known Cretan musicians are Nikos Xylouris, Thanasis Skordalos, Kostas Mountakis and Psarantonis.

There is also a great tradition in dance with several different genres. Among the most famous dances are siganos, pentozalis, syrtos or chaniotis, susta and kastrinos or maleviziotikos.

Many ancient historians refer to the mythical Kouretes, and their war dance, in the myth of the birth of Zeus in Crete (See the Mythology paragraph of this entry). Plato in the classical era mentions in the Laws that the Athenians should imitate the Cretans and their athleticism when they dance the dance of war, whom he refers to as Kouretes. During antiquity it seems that there was a dance tradition in Crete, and the relationship between those and today's traditional dances is great. Of interest are the references to Cretan dances by European travelers of the 16th and 17th centuries. The English traveler George Sandys visited Crete in 1610 and published his work in 1621.

"The inland people dance with their bows bent in their hands, their quivers at their backs, and their swords at their waists, like their ancestors, who called this dance pyrrhic, and as then, so they sing as they dance, and they answer each other."

The French traveler Pierre Bellon visited Crete in 1550 and published his work in 1588.

“After they had drunk they began to dance in the heavy midday capsule, not in the shade, out in the sun. It was July, the hottest month of the summer. And though they were loaded with their chariots, they did not stop dancing until night fell. They were loaded on the back with a quiver of 150 arrows arranged in order. The bow hung from the shoulder with a telamon, and they tried to make the biggest jumps. They would be graceful if they put down their heavy harness, but this dance brings to mind the dance of the ancient Shearers."

Also characteristic is the Cretan costume, which is usually worn by traditional dance groups.

Cretan writers have contributed a lot to literature, the best known being Vicenzos Cornaros who wrote Erotokritos in the 17th century, Nikos Kazantzakis in the 20th century, who was nominated 3 times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

During the Renaissance in Crete, the Cretan school of painting developed which influenced Domenikos Theotokopoulos.

The island is still known for several traditional customs such as the Cretan wedding.

Folk Art
Folk art has been preserved throughout the centuries and today finds its expression in textiles, embroidery, ceramics, woodcarving, metalwork and painting. In all parts of Crete women work at the looms and men at the wheel and bench, offering a wide variety of beautiful works of art. Initially these works were intended for personal use, but over the years they became sought after like the famous wood-carved Cretan cash registers, chests, lyres and textiles. The upright loom of Homer's time still exists in many places as well as the newer horizontal loom. Entire families are now employed in the textile industry, from raising the sheep to the final weaving of the wool. Many weavers still dye the wool they use with vegetable dyes and then dip the yarn in the sea to prevent it from fading. Cretan textiles are distinguished by their rich and vivid colors and designs that are either geometric or representations of animals and plants.

The economy of Crete, which was mainly based on agriculture, began to change visibly during the 1970s. While the traditional emphasis on agriculture and animal husbandry is maintained, due to the climate and the size of the island, there is a decline in construction, as well as a large increase in the provision of services (mainly related to tourism). All three of these sectors of the Cretan economy, (agriculture, processing-packaging, and services), are directly connected and interdependent. Crete shows an average per capita income that reaches 100% of that of the rest of the country and unemployment is around 4%.

The island has three important airports: Nikos Kazantzakis Airport in Heraklion which is the second largest in Greece in terms of passenger and cargo traffic, I. Daskalogiannis Airport in Chania and the new, smaller airport in Sitia.

Cities and Towns
The biggest cities of Crete are:

Heraklion 177,064
Chania 53,910
Rethymnon 32,468
Ierapetra 17,710
Agios Nikolaos 12,638
Population 9,912
Gazi Heraklion 8,018
Degrees 6,305
Timbaki 5,285
Arkalochori 4,313
Kissamos 4,236
Archanas 3,969
Malia 3,722
Neapolis 2,838
Peninsula 2,468
Political organisation
The island of Crete is one of the 13 regions of Greece and consists of four regional units:

Heraklion 305,490 permanent population and 338,052 actual population in 2011
Lasithi 75,381 permanent population and 75,995 actual population in 2011
Rethymno 85,609 permanent population and 97,059 actual population in 2011
Chania 156,585 permanent population and 171,822 actual population in 2011
Regional Council of the Region of Crete
Deputy regional governors of Crete

For civil and criminal cases in Crete, there are four Courts of First Instance (Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Lasithi with headquarters in Neapolis), 10 Magistrates' Courts and 3 Criminal Courts (Chania, Rethymno and Heraklion). For administrative cases, there are two Administrative Courts of First Instance (Chania and Heraklion). Secondary courts operate in Heraklion and Chania. Specifically, two Courts of Appeal operate for civil and criminal cases (Crete with headquarters in Chania and Eastern Crete with headquarters in Heraklion), while for administrative disputes there is an Administrative Court of Appeal (Chania).

Crete is one of the most popular Greek holiday destinations. 15% of the total arrivals, port and airport, in the country are made through the city of Heraklion. In 2006 charter flights to Heraklion accounted for 20% of all charter flights in the country and in total, more than two million tourists visited Crete that year. This increase in tourism is reflected in the number of hotel beds, which increased in Crete by 53% from 1986 to 1991, while the rest of Greece showed an increase of 25%. The current tourist infrastructure in Crete serves a wide range of preferences, from large, luxurious hotels, with all the prescribed facilities (swimming pools, sports and leisure facilities, etc.), to smaller privately owned family apartments or organized camps. Visitors can access the island by air through the international airport in Heraklion and the state airports in Chania and Sitia, or by ferry to the ports of Heraklion, Chania, Rethymnon, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia and Kastelio Kissamos.

Road network
Although Crete has a well-developed road network, especially in the northern part of the island, it lacks modern highways. Specifically, Highway 90, also known as the "Northern Road Axis of Crete", is a planned highway that will connect Kissamos with Sitia, via Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Ag. Nikolaou, the construction of which is expected to begin in 2023. There is also a planned highway that will connect it to the New Kastelli Airport. The National Road Network of the island consists of National Road 90, which is to be replaced by BOAK, National Road 92, which connects Hersonissos with Kastelli, National Road 94, which connects Chania with Souda Airport, National Highway 97, which connects the city of Heraklion with Messara and National Highway 99, which connects Heraklion with Knossos. Finally, each Regional unit has the corresponding provincial road network. The road network covers most of the island, with the exception of the settlements of Loutro and Agia Roumeli in the PE of Chania, which do not have any road connecting them to the rest of the island.

There are two KTEL services, KTEL Chania-Rethymno (West Crete) and KTEL Heraklion-Lassithi (East Crete).

Coastal transport
In Crete, ANEK Lines (which connects Chania, Heraklion and Sitia with Piraeus, the Cyclades and the Dodecanese), Minoan Lines (which connects Chania and Heraklion with Piraeus and the Cyclades), Blue Star Ferries operate (which connects Chania, Heraklion & Sitia with Piraeus), SeaJets (which connects Kissamos with the Peloponnese islands and Gytheio, as well as Rethymnon and Heraklion with the Cyclades.) and ANENDYK (which connects Paleochora, Sougia and Chora Sfakion with Agia Roumeli, Loutro and Gavdo). Crete has ports in Kissamos, Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Ierapetra, Chora Sfakion, Agia Roumeli, Loutro, Sougia and Paleochora. (Total 12). The ferry is the only means that connects Agia Roumeli and Loutro to each other, and to the mainland island.

Air Transport
There are three airports in Crete, in Heraklion, Chania and Sitia.

Railway transport
In Crete there was an industrial railway network, from 1922 to 1935, which connected Koule of Heraklion with Xiropotamos of Heraklion, during the construction of the port of Heraklion. Since then, there have been quite a few studies for the development of a railway in Crete, but they have always remained fruitless. There are, however, active considerations regarding the construction of a tram line (Tram), which will connect Heraklion with the New Airport of Kastelli Pediada, by the Municipality of Heraklion and the Attiko Metro.