The Cretan Territory

Geography

Crete's Geography
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Crete, with a population of 650.000 in the prefectures of Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Lassithi, is one of the 13 regions into which Greece is divided. It is the largest island in Greece and the second largest (after Cyprus) in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The island covers an area of 8.336 km2 and is extremely mountainous, which gives to it its special features. It has an elongated shape, stretching for 260 km from east to west and 60 km at its widest, although Crete is narrower at certain points, such as in the region close to Ierapetra, where it reaches a width of only 12 km.

Europe, Africa and Asia are very close and the islands of Kythera, Antikythera, Kasos, Karpathos and Rhodes give the impression that were once all connected to Crete, forming a bridge starting from Peloponnese and reaching Asia Minor. The Cretan Sea separates Crete from the Greek peninsula and the Cyclades, while the Libyan Sea separates it from Africa. There are several islets around the main body of Crete, some of them were once connected to Crete, while others emerged from the sea. Gavdos is the most distant island from Crete, just opposite the African peninsula of Cyrenaica in Libya.

In the centre of the chain formed the by mountain ranges, we see Psiloritis (Ida Range) with a maximum height of 2456m, the highest in Crete. However, the most imposing massif is that of Lefka Ori (White Mountains) to the west part of the island. The towering cliffs raise abruptly from the south shores to the barren alpine desert covering an area of 100 square kilometres and with more than 50 peaks overcoming 2000m altitude, with Pachnes being the highest at 2453m. Just 10km to the north, the scenery changes dramatically and fertile olive groves and vineyards extend to the sea.

There is no much room between the sea and the mountains, so you will not meet extensive planes. 39% of the island exceeds 400m altitude and there is a narrow strip of fertile land with low hills running along the north coast. East of Psiloritis there is the fertile valley of Heraklion prefecture which is also bounded to the east by the massif of Dikti, with the highest peak at 2146m. The south and central part of the island hosts the largest plane of Crete, Messara, hugged by the low range of Asterousia to the south. The east end of Crete is dominated by Sitia mountains, which is a massif with low vegetation and small altitudes. Their wild part, Thripti, faces to the west, at the isthmus of Ierapetra.

All three major ranges host fertile planes, with the most famous being Omalos at Lefka Ori, Nida at Psiloritis and Lassithi at Dikti.

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