The secluded island of Crete hosts several species of reptiles, such as turtles, snakes and lizards, with none of them being hazardous for human. The largest reptile is the endangered loggerhead turtle, which nests on the sandy beaches of the island. Apart from the turtles, Crete also hosts several lizards, with one species (namely the Cretan wall lizard) being indigenous only to Crete.
Crete is one of the most important places for the reproduction of the threatened loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), which is very famous throughout Greece. However, there are more sea turtle species found (rarely) in the seas of Crete, which do not nest on the island. These are the green turtle, the leatherback turtle and the hawksbill sea turtle. All sea turtles have lungs, but can hold their breath for a long period under water.
Crete has a few species of terrestrial turtles, mainly because the climate is warm and dry. However, in the limited wetlands of the island, it is sure that someone is going to meet many of them. The only endemic species is the Balcan terrapin, while there are also the introduced Greek tortoise and the marginated tortoise.
Lizards and snakes are the commonly misunderstood animals by man, who has always been afraid of. This attitude derives probably from some hazardous species, but this not appropriate. On the other hand, snakes and lizards are very important for maintaining the balance of the natural environment, feeding on harmful insects and rodents. Especially for the herpetofauna of Crete, the fear of reptiles has no basis since there are no native snakes or lizards that are dangerous to humans. Even the "fatal" bite of the ocellated skink is a myth, that is unfortunately still alive.
In Crete, snakes appear to have played an important ritual role in the Minoan period. Indeed, one of the most famous archaeological findings listed in Heraklion Museum is the statuette of the goddess of fertility, known as the Goddess of Snakes, who holds two snakes with both of her hands. Snakes were also used for treating diseases, from where the symbol of Asclepius comes, preserved in medicine even today.