|Overview||Things to do||Suitability||Country Info (Greece)|
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands - 160 miles long and between nine and 38 miles wide - and the most visited by far, attracting two million holiday-makers a year. It's also the most southerly, on the same latitude as Tunisia and Syria, so the sunny weather starts earlier and lasts longer here than elsewhere in the Aegean.
Lying as it does between three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa, it's distanced from the rest of Greece and so has developed a distinct identity of its own. The people are renowned for their passionate love of freedom and independence, and it's a very macho culture.
The north-east coast has highly developed tourist resorts that cater to the package crowds - almost half the island's holidaymakers stay on the stretch between Iraklion and Aghios Nikalaos, and this is the place to go for big-screen football and fry-up breakfasts.
The south coast resorts, meanwhile, are relatively undeveloped, though growing fast.
Everywhere there are beautiful beaches to lounge on but if too much sunbathing bores you stupid, you can explore Venetian towns, admire Minoan ruins or visit Byzantine churches.
For the sporty, there's good windsurfing, mountain trekking and cycling.
Inland, the scenery is ruggedly beautiful, with spectacular mountains, gorges and ravines. Three-quarters of the land is hilly or mountainous. The remaining quarter is flat land taken up by agriculture, the island's second biggest earner after tourism. The island is harsh and barren in places, lush and green in others.
You'll find palm trees at Vai and Preveli, and cedar forests at Gavdos and Hrissi and there are enough species of wildflowers to keep the keenest botanist busy, countless caves to explore, and hundreds of different wild herbs scenting the air.
In the north west, Chania and Rethymnon both have historic old towns, with narrow streets of old Venetian and Turkish buildings, and pretty harbours where you can sit out in one of the many tavernas lining the quayside and concentrate on sipping a glass of raki and watching the caiques bobbing up and down.