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Crete island news and views

The Greek island of Crete, or Kriti, is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean with most of its people living on the north coast. Magnificent mountain ranges form the backbone of this very popular holiday island. Most of eastern Crete is dominated by cheap holiday package complexes while western Crete has a wilder coastline, fewer crowds, and more sedate beach resorts. The mountains split north and south too, with the south much quieter and with fewer holidays resorts.

Olive tree of Vouves Crete
Cretan olive tree 3,000 year old

Plenty of Greek villages lay claim to ancient olive trees, some claimed to date back thousands of years. But the village of Ano Vouves near Kissamos in West Crete has a substantial claim to having the oldest olive tree in the world. International scientific experts have carried out tests that lend some integrity to the village claim that the tree is more than 3,000 years old. The ancient olive of Vouves has a trunk circumference measures at 12.5 metres and a trunk diameter of 4.6 metres. The exact number of years cannot be determined as the trunk is hollow and there is no heartwood but tree ring measurement suggests an age of more than 2,000 years while scientists from the University of Crete are confident of an age nearer to 4,000 years. Despite its age the tree continues to produce olives, the original wild olive having been grafted with the cultivar 'tsounati'. The grafting has resulted in a remarkably sculpted trunk, and in 1990, the Vouves Olive Tree was declared a national monument. There is now an Olive Tree Museum of Vouves in a nearby 19th-century house with exhibits of traditional tools used in olive cultivation from antiquity to the mid-20th century. Branches from the remarkable tree were even used to create winning wreaths for competitors in both the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Thousands visit the impressive tree each year to marvel at its extraordinary shape and marvel at its longevity. The whole area is noted for its ancient olives with more than ten trees granted 'monument ' status, as many as are found in the whole of the rest of Crete. Olive trees (Olea europaea) have been cultivated by humans for thousands of years. They thrive in poor, sandy soil and need plenty of sunshine, a long, hot growing season and cools winters that last at least three months. Olive trees start fruiting when five to six years old and crop best when 40 to 50 years old. While many olive trees live for centuries, the average lifespan is about 500 years. The secret to the trees' exceptional long life is that while the trunk and branches will hollow out and die, the roots and underground parts sprout new growth over and over. Any disease that affects an olive grove may kill the parts of the tree that lies above ground, but the roots eventually produce a new tree. Olives are also self-pollinating so the gene pool stays more stable, with fewer genetic transcriptions and for mutations. Olives are not the only long-lived trees around but they are in their with the most ancient of them. The Sarv-e Abarqu is a cypress in Iran thought to be at least 4,000 years old and like the Vouves is granted national monument status. On Mount Enta in Italy is a chestnut believed to be around 3,000 years old, rather remarkable when you learn it sits only a few miles from the volcano crater. The Jomon Sugi cryptomeria tree, in Yakushima, Japan is said to be at least 2,000 years old, wlthough some experts date it even older. The United States has its share of ancient trees too with the giant sequoia General Sherman, in California, at least 2,500 years old while the same state's White Mountains is home to the ancient bristlecone pine Methuselah which was a mere sapling just 4,000 years ago. Nearer to home and roughly the same age is the incredible Llangernyw yew which dominates the churchyard of St. Dygain's in Llangernyw, north Wales thought to date back to the prehistoric Bronze Age.

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Crete croc gets Christmas treat

Crete's notorious crocodile looks likely to be tucking into a Christmas dinner treat this year thanks to some local fans. Local villagers are determined to serve up a Christmas piglet for the croc they call 'Sifis' who now lives permanently in a lake near Rethymnon. The crocodile that was discovered in an artificial Cretan lake this summer has since become a local sensation and a major tourist attraction. Although the Cretan croc is thought to diet mainly on duck, locals think a piglet would be a welcome seasonal gift to the lake carnivore. All efforts to capture the elusive two-metre long croc failed this summer and Sifis turned into something of a local celebrity. No-one know how the create found its way into the lake that lies in the wetland area around Potami Dam in the Amari valley just south of the city of Rethymnon. Reptile experts were called in to catch the croc but they all failed to lure it into their traps. Even a much publicised attempt by TV's Discovery Channel celebrity Oliver Behra couldn't bring home the bacon so to speak. Other attempts to net the creature failed when local rallied to the defence of the creature by using megaphones to disturb nighttime croc capturing expeditions. According to Rehymnon news reports the croc has been living in lush vegetation that has grown up around a 12 kilometre wide artificial lake created by a dam. The piglet may be a tasty Christmas treat for Sifis but officials are now concerned that the croc doesn't get a taste for humans during the Epiphany celebrations planned after Christmas. It's traditional for young men to dive into the cold post-Christmas water to 'catch a holy cross' thrown in by Greek Orthodox priests. The president of the local Pantanassa Cultural Association, Constantinos Ieronimakis, has revealed that they are thinking of performing the custom of 'diving for the cross' in the Sifis wetland next year. The custom of the Epiphany is performed all over Greece on January 6th and consists of a priest throwing a holy cross in the water to sanctify it and local men and boys diving in to retrieve the cross. "The ceremony will take place here. I don't have a problem diving first to catch the cross," the president has told a local newspaper. He added: "We will all go there for the ceremony. Sifis is not dangerous. I see him every day outside the dam and when he sees people, he runs scared into the water. All the hunting has made him nervous." There is no doubt that Sifis has given a boost to the local economy and crocodile sightseeing trips have become popular with Crete holiday tourists. But local officials are worried that the lake could become a 'crocodile colony' following the reported sightings of another croc in the area. the local mayor has ruled out allowing Sifis to remain as a Crete tourist attraction warning that Rethymnon had absolutely 'no ambition to have crocodile reproduction in its ecosystem.' How Sifis got into the lake remains a mystery but there is no doubting his popularity with the locals with souvenir shops turning out T-shirts, badges and even blow-up crocodiles and even the Greek TV stations showing adverts featuring Sifis the Croc.

crete video promo screenshot
Crete launches holiday video

Crete is not only one of the most popular holiday islands in Greece, it also comes tops for its regular video promotions and tourism campaigns. The latest video campaign is launched under the motto 'Crete – the island inside you' and features six short videos highlighting the attractions of Crete as an international holiday destination. Unlike the recent widely ridiculed and cliche-ridden video from the Greek Tourism Organisation, the Crete campaign is being praised as an example of how the Greek islands should be promoted on the Internet. The short video narratives, a collaboration between advertising agency McCann Athens and production company Indigoview are based on the idea of "daydreaming" after survey data found that 40% of tourists visit the island of Crete more than once. "We are happy with the outcome of the promotional campaign and hope it will attract thousands of new visitors to the island all year round," said McCann Athens CEO Harris Parianos. Crete tourism videos pick up top awards The video campaign also features in the 'Incredible Crete Campaign. launched on the popular image site Pinterest which has images and links to all things Crete This is not the first time that videos promoting Crete have come in for high praise. Crete's successful 2013 tourism campaign 'Incredible Crete: Surprisingly yours!' picked up a trio of awards at international festivals. The video was honoured at the International Zagreb Tour Film Festival, in Croatia, with an award for the video 'Crete: Incredible Hospitality' and it also won a special award in the best screenplay category for the video 'Crete: All the world on one island.' And at the Baku International Tourism Film Festival in Azerbaijan, the video 'Crete: All the world on one island' also notched up a Golden Award in the 'Country, Region, City' category. The Region of Crete videos prompted congratulations for filmmaker Thodoris Papadoulakis for showing how "with methodical work and above all, love for our country, Crete can be a leader and pioneer in Greece and abroad." It's a far cry from the reception received for the video promotion from newly formed National Tourist Organization (EOT) released earlier this month to promote the country as a holiday destination and attract millions more foreign tourists. The original video was hurriedly withdrawn when journalists pointed out scenes had been included from the Nazi's Olympic Games of 1936. A revised version came come under more fire for the 'hackneyed, boring and corny' inclusion of mythical Greek gods over cliche footage of ancient historic sites such as the Parthenon and Delos. Greek video tainted by plagiarism claims The promotion sparked even more criticism over claims of plagiarism when two photographers protested that their images had been used without permission. Further confusion came when it was pointed out that one image was not even of Greece at all but a famous Australian landmark. Greek tourism officials retorted that the star constellations in the sky above the Australian seascape had Greek names and so warranted its inclusion. "Oh, no. Not more Greek gods!" has been a typical response to what has been dubbed a boring holiday promotion video released in a fanfare of publicity at the World Travel Show in London. According to Greek tourism minister, Olga Kefalogianni, the ministry's "new communication strategy is based on the Greek gods and ancient heroes that we have all read about since our childhood and have all known since our school years"

crete crocodile sifis
Crete croc evades capture

Crocodile 'Sifis' turns into a top tourist attraction after it sets up home on a lake on Crete. Tourist souvenir shops in Rethymnon, Crete are stocking up on toy crocodiles after a real croc was spotted in a local lake. All efforts to trap the elusive crocodile have failed and the creature has turned into something of a local celebrity who now has his own Facebook page and a bunch of favourite followers who want him left alone. A two-metre long crocodile, nicknamed Sifis, was spotted in an area of wetland near the Potami Dam in the Amari Valley just south of the city of Rethymnon. News of the sighting triggered a flood of tourists and prompted local officials to issue an alert and a ban for swimming after some reckless swimmers were sighted by patrols. Reptile specialists called in to capture the croc, including celebrity Discovery Channel TV expert Olivier Behra, have so far failed to net the creature despite several well publicised attempts. Locals were called on not to disturb a night expedition to catch the croc but, according to an official announcement, local residents sabotaged the mission by shouting through a megaphone. In the meantime the area has been fenced off, vehicles banned and various traps set to capture the croc alive but the shy creature is not taking the bait. Although the crocodile's general location is well known, none of the experts , including a specialist for the Museum of Natural History, appear to be able to catch the creature. According to Rehymnon news reports the croc is living in lush vegetation that has grown up around an artificial lake, around 12 kilometres in circumference, that was created when the dam was built to provide electricity to the region. Meanwhile, a growing number of fans want Sifis to be left alone. Sifis the Crocodile Facebook page has already notched up more than 16,000 likes and is packed with messages of support for the reptile. Messages urge authorities to 'Leave Sifis alone!' and to 'Hang in there, pal!'. Now souvenir shops in Crete are cashing on the croc's continuing notoriety and badges, t-shirts and blow-up crocodiles have become all the rage. Even Greek TV adverts are featuring Sifis the Croc. It's all a bit too much for the Rethymnon city Mayor Giorgis Marinakis who has dismissed fears of a 'crocodile colony' being created on the lake following the reported sighting of another, smaller croc. The mayor said the crocodile had most likely been abandoned there by a 'so-called animal-lover' who had raised it as a pet then released it into the wild when it became too big. He has ruled out the possibility of allowing the crocodile to remain in the lake as a tourist attraction, saying that Rethymnon had absolutely 'no ambition to have crocodile reproduction in its ecosystem.' It remains to be seen is Sifis can continue to evade capture. The Cretan crocodile is not the first to appear in European waters. In 2001, fire officers in Austria captured a crocodile spotted in the river Danube, which was later taken to Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo.

platanias beach crete
Greek wasps warning

Soccer loving holidaymakers in Crete were warned to stay away from a local soccer league game on the island's beach strip of Platanias after the local club admitted the stadium was under siege by wasps. Fans of Platanias Football Club, near Chania in western Crete, were also told to stay clear of the ground despite the team players turning out for a friendly match with league rivals Irodotus. Officials in charge of the stadium issued the warning over fears that spectators could be stung by wasps. They also refused to charge an admission fee for the match after admitting that the soccer stands were riddled with wasp nets. Only a handful of brave spectators turned up to watch the game and none reported any wasp stings but the race is now on to clear the soccer stadium of wasp nests before the next game. A statement from Platanias team officials said: "Platanias FC in Chania, sadly advises the team fans not to attend the match due to issues concerning their safety, given that it was revealed today during a check of the Municipal Stadium that there are several wasp nests, which make it dangerous to attend the match." Holiday visitors to the Greek Islands will know that wasps can be a real nuisance at this time of year. Holiday beaches especially close to woodland can be a problem in August as young wasps emerge from their nests. The number of wasps on holiday beaches depends very much on the spring weather in the Greek Islands. Wet springs can result in wasp nests being damaged or even washed away in heavy rains. But a warm spring like 2014 means many nests survive, with wasps emerging in some numbers in July and August. The wasps in Greece can be very active during the fruit harvesting and winemaking season in August and September when they gorge themselves on the ripe fruit. The insects are often attracted to beach tavernas drawn by the smell of food, particularly the aroma of fresh fruit and sugary drinks. Although not normally aggressive they can sting when provoked. The venom in a wasp sting is alkaline, so a quick treatment to help neutralize the effect is to apply something acidic such as vinegar. Fortunately this is a handy item for holidaymakers in a taverna where oil and vinegar bottle are usually found on the tables. Lemon juice is another quick acidic remedy that can help relieve the pain of a wasp sting. A bee sting however is quite the opposite and you should never use vinegar or lemon juice here. The sting is very acidic so something alkaline is needed to neutralize the effects. Handy items for holiday visitors would include toothpaste or bicarbonate of soda. Wasps and bees are not a particular problem in the popular holiday resort of Platanias on Crete. The beach lies on the north coast of the island just west of the port of Chania and is one of a string of sandy beaches along this part of the Greek Island coast.

Toxic chemicals Crete protest
Crete protest at toxic dumping

Fears for clean seas as Nato plans to dump chemicals. Plans to dump chemical weapons stockpiled by Syria in the seas off southern Crete have triggered alarm and protest. Around 20 tons of mustard gas and other neurotoxic agents will be dumped in international waters between Gavdos, a tiny island off the southern shore of Crete and Malta. Scientists say seawater will neutralise the toxic chemicals which will be flushed through a hydrolysis process. But nearly 10,000 Cretans from all over the island turned up to a protest rally against the plans to dump Syria's chemical weapons in the Mediterranean Sea so close to the island. The rally was staged in Arkadi, a small village in the highlands of Crete that is famous for it stand against Ottoman occupiers 150 years ago. The protest marks the island's outrage at the international operation, which demonstrators claim is a deadly threat to the environment of Crete and to their livelihood. Under an agreement brokered by the United States and Russia, all of Syria's chemical arsenal must be decommissioned and destroyed by June 30 -- a goal that is becoming increasingly unlikely to be missed. The plan is to dump toxic chemicals offshore from a 648-foot U.S. Navy ship MV Cape Ray acting as a mobile station for destroying chemical weapons. The Greek government has accepted UN's assurances that everything will go according to plan and there is no threat to fish stocks or to the southern shore of the island, famous for its pristine beaches and clean waters. But Cretans, worried about the future of the environment plan to take action against the scheme. Boats are expected to sail from the Crete ports of Sfakia and Gavdos to attempt to block any ships carrying the chemicals. "We will not let this happen," said protest organizer Yannis Haronitis "They want to destroy these weapons, well let them turn Syria's backyard into a toxic waste dump, not ours." Albania, Thailand, Belgium, Germany, Norway have all refused to destroy chemical weapons on their territory so now the UN plans to dump them in international waters The UN says that NATO starts on-board destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons somewhere between Crete and Malta. but exactly where and when remains unknown. Scientist say the chemicals will be diluted with water in combination with solvents such as chlorine. The resulting liquid remains toxic and corrosive, just not toxic enough to kill directly. The disposal of hazardous waste at sea is prohibited under international agreements but it can be permitted in exceptional circumstances by military ships under UN treaties. But protesters warn that there are no studies on the implications of an accident during this unprecedented military operation and have serious concerns about the impact of the discharge or leakage of this volume of chemicals into the Mediterranean. They claim governments risk poisoning and killing marine stocks by launching an unprecedented dangerous experiment in the closed sea of the Mediterranean.

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Whales die on Crete beaches

Experts fear link to sonar use in naval exercises. Holiday visitors on Crete report concern at the large number of dead and stranded whales found on beaches along the popular south east coast of the island. Environmental groups are also troubled at the strandings which they fear may have been caused by NATO naval exercises in the Mediterranean. The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki has published photos that claim to show stranded dead whales along the south-east beaches of Crete at the same time that naval exercise called Operation Noble Dina is held in the local waters involving US, Greek and Israeli warships. Environmental experts fear explosions, sonar signals and other noise caused by warships could be affecting marine mammals, especially beaked whales, which are known to be sensitive to noise. It appears that the stranded whales have been found in areas already dubbed 'areas of special concern' for beaked whales by members of ACCOBAMS (Agreement for the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black and Mediterranean Seas). A call to avoid these areas has been ignored by governments who insist that the need for military preparedness overrides any consideration for wildlife. Whales deaths in the Aegean is not a new problem for Greece. Dozens of beaked whales were washed ashore on the Peloponnese coast in 1996 and again in 1997. More recently stranded whales turned up on Corfu in 2012 as navies from several countries carried out exercises in the Ionian Sea using high powered sonar to communicate. According to the US Smithsonian Institute and the International Whaling Commission, mass stranding of beaked whales have always happened when naval activities, usually involving sonar, have taken place in the vicinity. Greek-based environmental group Pelagos has highlighted a two-week military exercise in the waters off Crete that included anti-submarine warfare (ASW), indicating the use of high-powered military sonar. The effect of sonar and other underwater noise on mammals is still an area of contention between scientists. Post-mortem analysis may help to provide direct evidence that whales have been driven ashore by military sonar activity, especially given evidence of the link between naval operations and beaked whale strandings. There is not yet enough scientific evidence to link military sonar use with the beached beaked whales but environmentalists are asking that military use of sonar be curbed until more is understood about the problem . Crete authorities and local volunteers have been alerted to the situation and are on the lookout for beaches whales in the area.

Elafonisi beach Crete
Elafonisi lifts beach award

West crete beach ranks among best in world. One of the most attractive beaches to be found in Western Crete has now been ranked among the world's top twenty most beautiful beaches by a leading international travel website. The astonishing white sands at Elafonisi are also ranked fifth best in Europe in a similar survey of holidaymakers' choice of 'best beaches'. The tiny uninhabited islet of Elafonisi sits 200 metres off the west coast of Crete and visiting holidaymakers can wade across sandbanks that link it to the main island. The warm, shallow waters rarely reach more than a metre in depth during the summer and the wild coast is not just outstandingly beautiful it also begs to be explored with its deep dunes, hidden coves and large rock pools. This part of Crete is not only a wealth of rare flora and fauna, with some species native only to this area, but it is also a breeding ground for rare turtles and one of the last resting places for migrating birds heading for Africa. Elafonisi is also home to several coral reefs and the water alongside the huge beach of white sand at Elafonisi will often take on a pink hue from the shoals of coral. the sand too is tinted pink from the thousands of scattered sea shell fragments. At more than 70 kilometres from the west Crete capital of Chania the beach was once much too remote for regular visitors but new the paving of a new road and some heavy promotion by travel firms has turned it into one of the top attractions of western Crete. Nowadays the chances of finding a remote spot on the sands are pretty slim as hundreds of visitors arrive daily by bus, boat and car. It days as a near deserted paradise beach are long over. The latest ranking on the best beaches in the world by Tripadvisor will almost certainly result in even more visitors this year. Those that do visit will certainly find a magical place but they are unlikely to get the sights to themselves.

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Carnival time on Crete

Rethymnon kicks off the 2014 holiday season. The Crete resort city of Rethymnon kicks off the holiday season this year with its 100th street carnival over the three weeks leading up to Lent. The colourful parades and street party atmosphere help pull in early holiday arrivals to the Crete resort with the help of travel agencies currently offering cheap holiday package deals to Crete. The city carnival brings in around 3,000 foreign visitors to enjoy the carnival atmosphere and city authorities hope the centenary celebrations will attract record numbers this year. Rethymno claims to celebrate their carnival like no other city in Greece with parades and parties all over the city for a full three weeks. Attractions include a Grand Parade of floats, traditional and modern music events and theatrical performances, street parties and children's events. TheRethymno 'Treasure Hunt' is famous throughout the Greek islands and the Grand Parade is expected to attract thousands of happy paraders. Events kick off on February 15th with the hunt for hidden treasure in the Old Town and they don't stop until March 3rd with Ash Monday celebrations both in Rethymon and in the surrounding villages. The highlight though is the Grand Parade of carnival floats on March 2nd which starts at Kountourioti Avenue at Theodokopoulou crossing and ends with a bonfire on the Old Town beach. In between are dancing and masquerades all over the city with open air parties thrown by the carnival teams with many activities and surprises including performances of traditional Cretan serenades (Kantades) and a traditional 'Night Parade' through the city of Rethymnon. It all adds up to one of the most noisy and colourful pageants in the Greek islands and a great way for holidaymakers to kick off the 2014 holiday season. The history of the carnival dates back to 1915 with the first street performances of traditional dancing. The custom of hunting for hidden treasure started in the 1990s and prompted the rise of 'teams' to compete in various events. In 1993 the carnival teams were invited to take over the running of the carnival and since then it has gone from strength to strength and is now the most popular carnival in Crete. Today more than 20 teams take part in organising street parties, music and dancing before linking up to join the Grand Parade through the centre of the city, an even that attracts party-goers in their thousands.

Chania video
Crete video nets award

Inspired by the classic Zorba the Greek. Holiday travel videos promoting the delights of a holiday in Chania in Crete are picking up a clutch of prestigious awards. The latest is a 'Chania: A journey to your senses' by Crete filmmaker Thodoris Papadoulakis, known for his work on the small and big screen. The tourist video is inspired by the classic film Zorba the Greek and tempts audiences to savour the spirit of the island of Crete with a series of clips of Crete towns and countryside. A similar video entitled "Chania: A Journey through the Countryside" won a trio of awards at the Portugal Art & Tur Festival including best screenplay. This promotional video on Chania also lifted an award at the Film, Art & Tourism Festival FilmAT in Poland earlier this year as well as the Silafest Festival in Serbia. The Chania video certainly display a unique touch that places it well above the usual holiday promotion movies. The video tempts the audience to take a walk in the old town of Chania, to explore the landscape of Crete, get on a bike and discover Cretan villages and even to dance on the beach like Zorba himself. As well as an imaginative depiction of Crete it also expresses the Greek feeling for their own country and it is a wise move by the Municipal Authority of Chania to promote tourism with such memorable videos. The movies are mainly to be shown at international tourism events that will help encourage more holiday firms to include Crete in their brochure and increase the number of tourist visitors to the island. You can see the video on Youtube here. Visitor numbers in Crete are well up on last year with a 10% rise over the season to October and a huge 21% for the month of June as tourists took advantage of lower priced hotels. The Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises said many Crete hotels at the most popular resorts stopped taking bookings for the peak season of July and August as demand was so high. The island also picked up 88 Blue Flags awards for its clean beaches in 2013, eight down on the 2012 figure but beaches were subject to much tougher standards. The beaches of Crete were amongst the European beaches that had to meet a new 'excellent' standard required under the new EU Bathing Waters Directive. Beaches that want to be awarded a prestigious Blue Flag must meet 32 criteria which include cleanliness, organisation, environmental education and information, safety and security of visitors as well as protection of natural resources. Tour operator Cosmos Holidays, the UK's largest independent tour operator, also revealed Crete to be top of their poll of Greek islands that most travel bloggers wanted to visit and experience.

Samaria Gorge Crete
Samaria Gorge

More walk Samaria Gorge. Summer walkers just can't seem to get enough of the spectacular Samaria Gorge in south-west Crete. The number of holiday visitors walking the 16 kilometre Samaria Gorge jumped 25% in August compared to last year. In total, 29,238 people visited the Gorge of Samaria, with the vast majority selecting the entrance from Omalos. The number of visitors from the entrance in Xyloskalo in August was 26,309 while the entrance in Agia Roumeli was visited by 2,929 people. According to the Forest Directorate of Chania a total of 29,238 tourist visitors took the trail though the Samaria Gorge in August. The vast majority took the downward route from Xyloskalo on Mount Omalos with 26,309 following the trail to Agia Roumeli on the south coast. Only 2,929 people elected to enter at Agia Roumelli and head upwards, although even fewer would have made the upwards trek all the way with most staying in the southern part of the gorge. The Samaria Gorge is one of the most popular excursion destinations in Crete and the gorge is one of the longest in Europe. Now a national park the gorge can get very crowded in summer and this July visitor numbers were about 27,100 making a total well over 56,000 for the two most popular months of the year. There are two advertised ways to walk Samaria – down the full 16km full length from Mount Omalos or a boat to Agia Roumelli and a trek to the edge of the gorge and back. The main downhill walk is not easy and it can take from four to eight hours. Up to 3,000 walkers can arrive daily by coach and car in the high season. They buy a one-day ticket at the large tourist pavilion at Omalos and step onto a railed zig-zag wooden walkway that drops into the gorge proper. A popular stopping place on the way is the former 4th century village of Samaria which has been abandoned since 1952. The most impressive stretch is through the 'Sidero Portes' or Iron Gates where the near vertical cliff walls are just four metres apart. The Samaria Gorge is closed from October to May when rains can bring flash floods down the canyon. The park may also close on rainy days because of the danger from rock falls

World Tourism Day
Crete tourism

Crete celebrates Tourism Day. Those making a late season holiday booking to Crete can cash in on a series of free events to celebrate World Tourism Day. A host of free events, from museum visits to concert performances, are planned for the end of September. It includes free entrance to archaeological sites such as the world famous Knossos site, though to be Europe's oldest city state dating back to 7,000BC. Other events in three days of celebrations starting September 27 include free exhibitions and concerts right across the island of Crete. Most big events will take place in the capital Heraklion with a host of events including exhibitions, concerts and food tasting of to showcase the healthy advantages of the Cretan diet. The focal point for many events will be Heraklion city squares at Museum Square, Agios Titos, Kallergon, Eleftherias and Agia Ekaterini. Highlight of the celebrations will be the free open days on September 29 at ancient sites such as Knossos, Phaestos, Malia, Tylissos and the Heraklion Greek Archaeological museum. World Tourism Day is organised by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation and has been an annual event since 1980. The theme this year is on Tourism and Water The principle of World Tourism Day is to demonstrate that tourism is essential to the worldwide population and to display how it concerns the cultural, social, economic and political values worldwide.

Chania airport Crete
Chania airport

Crete Chania airport upgrade. Holiday visitors flying into west Crete's airport at Chania face late season disruption as work starts on a multi million euro upgrade. Work started in July on a major upgrade to facilities at Chania and is expected to last until December 2015. Airport authorities plan to keep holiday traveller disruption to a minimum while work progresses. The €110 million upgrade is to the give west Crete a modern international airport able to cope with increasing numbers of passengers and hopefully expand to offer a longer international operating period. Chania International Airport, officially known as Ioannis Daskalogiannis, was built in 1967 and takes its name from a Cretan rebel fighter against Ottoman rule in the 18th century.. It started taking international flights in 1974 and, following an upgrade in 1996, is now the second busiest airport in Crete with 2,5 million passengers each year The upgrade project includes the expansion of the terminal by 15,586 square metres, upgrading of the existing terminal space and the construction of a new control tower. There are also plans to increase the parking space for aircraft from 8 to 12 or even 14 spaces and the new terminal should be able to accommodate 2,100 passengers per hour, more than double the current passenger capacity. Airport Manager of Chania, Stavros Kastrinakis, said the project was crucial for tourism in Western Crete. He added: "It's an important day for the airport of Chania and Western Crete as the project expansion begins."

Crete's top hideaway

Crete beach voted best hideaway. BBC travel writers have voted the remote west Crete beach of Elafonisi as one of the top five 'undiscovered' beaches of Europe. Travel editors have included the Crete beach in its list of the most beautiful 'secret hideaways' – great beaches that have not been spoiled by tourism. Elafonisi beach is located on the south-west coast of Crete and the pristine beach sand bars and rock formations were once hardly ever visited. Although the BBC travel writers enthuse about it's remoteness you will be lucky to find it empty of tourists these days. Things have changed since Elafonisi was 'discovered' in the late 90's and, although it now gets visited by throngs of day trippers by bus and boat from resorts all over west Crete. It is hardly an away-from-it-all experience. Nevertheless Elafonisi beach is a very beautiful spot. The sands at Elafonisi beach take on a pinkish hue from the coral growing there while there is huge variety, from wide open sands to clusters of rock pools and hidden coves. Many visitors wade out across the lagoon to the offshore islet linked to the coast by a huge sand bar. On the islet is a small plaque in memory of the 600 Greek women and children slaughtered by the Turks there in 1824. Along the shore are secluded coves ideal for sunbathing naturists. The Elafonisi area is rich in rare plants and animals and it's also a breeding grounds for sea turtles and the last European stop for migrating flocks of birds on their way to and from Africa. The other four "well kept secrets" of Europe were beaches on Scotland's Isle of Harris, the Côte Sauvage on the west coast of France, the Bidderosa beach in Sardinia and Cala Varques beach on Mallorca. Unfortunately the website report on Elafonisi Crete is not accessible to UK as it is part of the BBC's international service and so it's not funded by the licence fee.

Cretan Diet Festival 2013
Crete festival

Crete diet a big draw at Rethymno. Regular holiday visitors to Crete will know of the Rethymnon Wine Festival which has been a big tourist draw for years. This July however it goes under a new name of the Rethymnon Cretan Diet Festival. A strange name but the programme still includes plenty of wine in the typical Greek tradition. This year's festival is held in the city's Municipal Garden and as well as wine and dance it will also celebrate the Cretan diet. The Cretan Diet Festival combines two successful events under one umbrella. One is known to generations as the 'Wine & Traditional Products Festival' and the second and most recent exhibition on 'Agro -Tourism'. By marrying these two successful local events, organisers hope to highlight the Cretan diet but offering Cretan wine, taste traditional food from fresh ingredients of the Cretan land and listen to traditional Cretan music from local artists. There are concerts from Schima Logou playing the Cretan lyre and bouzouki as well as alternative music band Nychtovates. On the food front chefs of Rethymno Fanourakis Stelios and Panagiotakis Michalis prepare dishes made with traditional sausages from Vavourakis Farm while parents and children make pies, bread and recipes with herbs and spices from Crete with the help of well-known chef Yannis Baxevanis. There are lots of other concerts and exhibitions including a photograph exhibition by Andreas Smaragdis, Cretan traditional music dances from folk dance group Erofili while Nikos Pilavios, a well-known Greek storyteller, presents his stories through drama games for kids with the help of his Magic Pen and the painter Stefania Tapta. The full programme and festival details can be found here, in .pdf format For many years, the Touring Club of Rethymnon, organised the Rethymnon Wine Festival where an entrance fee was charged, you bought a carafe and some glasses, and you washed down as much wine as you wanted. In 2008 the municipality of Rethymnon decide to end the festival but revived it the following year and have given it a new lease of life again this year. The Cretan diet has been the object of intensive scientific research during the past years. Results from the studies suggest it guards against several chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease.

Minnewaska III
Crete scuba divers

Crete divers discover wreck. Scuba diving in Crete is a popular holiday adventure and there are a growing number of diving centres on this large Greek island. Now the Divers' Club of Crete claims to have discovered the underwater wreck of the former cruise ship Minnewaska III in the waters of Souda Bay. Souda Bay, Crete, is well known for shipwrecks as the deep water port figured prominently in the Second World War and underwater finds are always being made. Minnewaska III was a British cruise ship made by Harland & Wolff and owned by Atlantic Transport Line in 1909. Until 1915, Minnewaska III made luxury cruises from London to New York. She made 66 voyages to New York between May 1909 and January 1915. In 1915 the liner was requisitioned by the British Army for use as a troop ship with disastrous consequences. She made five voyages ferrying troops and artillery to the Dardanelles and had several narrow escapes. But on November 29, 1916, she struck a German mine in Souda Bay, Crete, while sailing from Crete to Saloniki with 1,600 troops and a crew of 200. The captain steamed at full speed to the nearby shore and successfully ran the ship aground west of Cape Deutero at the entrance to Souda Bay. It took about two hours to evacuate the ship and the men were rescued without loss but her bottom had been ripped away by the mine and the Minnewaska III was abandoned on the beach and written off as a total loss.. Now Crete island divers claim to have found the remaining parts of the 97-year-old wreck in waters about 23 metres down. Divers have carried out a thorough research of their findings and are confident this is the wreck of the former troop ship Divers Club Crete has extensive experience in scuba diving and has three diving centres along the north coast of Crete. They offer a full range of PADI diving courses and visit more than 20 different diving sites in North Crete.

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