Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, and Corsica. Crete rests approximately 160 km south of the Greek mainland. It has an area of 8,336 km2 and a coastline of 1,046 km .
It bounds the southern border of the Aegean Sea, with the Sea of Crete (or North Cretan Sea) to the north and the Libyan Sea (or South Cretan Sea) to the south. Its capital and largest city is Heraklion, on the north shore of the island. As of 2020, the region had a population of 636,504.
Humans have inhabited the island since at least 130,000 years ago, during the Paleolithic age. Crete was the centre of Europe’s first advanced civilization, the Minoans, from 2700 to 1420 BC. The Minoan civilization was overrun by the Mycenaean civilization from mainland Greece.
Crete was later ruled by Rome, then successively by the Byzantine Empire, Andalusian Arabs, the Venetian Republic, and the Ottoman Empire. In 1898 Crete, whose people had for some time wanted to join the Greek state, achieved independence from the Ottomans, formally becoming the Cretan State. Crete became part of Greece in December 1913. The island is mostly mountainous, and its character is defined by a high mountain range crossing from west to east.
It includes Crete’s highest point, Mount Ida, and the range of the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) with 30 summits above 2000 metres in altitude and the Samaria Gorge, a World Biosphere Reserve. Crete forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece, while retaining its own local cultural traits (such as its own poetry and music). The Nikos Kazantzakis airport at Heraklion and the Daskalogiannis airport at Chania serve international travelers. The palace of Knossos, a Bronze Age settlement and ancient Minoan city, is also located in Heraklion.