Cities of Crete

The cities of Crete

The cities of Crete, the capitals of each department (4 total) are Chania, Rethymno, Heraklio and Agios Nikolaos.

[sta_anchor id=”chania” /]Starting from the west, Chania city and capital of Khaniá nomós (department), western Crete, Greece. It was the capital of Crete from 1841 to 1971. The city lies along the eastern corner of the Gulf of Khaniá and occupies the neck of the low, bulbous Akrotíri Peninsula between the gulf and Soúdhas Bay (east) on the site of ancient Kydonia. There are some great hikes in this region.

The area has been occupied since Neolithic times and was a centre of Minoan civilization. The Romans took the city in 69 BC, and it subsequently passed to the Byzantines. Arabs established control of the region by about AD 824, but the Byzantines ousted them in 961. The name Khaniá appears to have come into use in the early 13th century. Venetians occupied it in 1252 and held it, except for a brief period under the Genoese (1267–90), until 1645, when it fell to the Ottomans. In 1878, after numerous revolts against Turkish rule, various privileges were granted to the Cretans. Khaniá joined the kingdom of Greece in 1912. It was severely damaged in 1941 during the German airborne invasion of Crete. After World War II, improvements to neighbouring Soúdhas Bay strengthened the city’s position as a major port of Crete.

Khaniá exports citrus fruit as well as olive oil and wine. Tourism has become important to the economy, and there is an international airport just east on the Akrotíri Peninsula. Among the local monuments are massive walls of the Venetian period and an arsenal. The city has an archaeological museum housed in a Venetian-era church. Pop. (2001) city, 53,373; nomós, 142,292.

[sta_anchor id=”rethymno” /]Rethymno town and capital of the nomós (department) of Rethímni, north-central Crete, Greece. A town and port on Almiroú Bay, Réthimnon trades in wheat, almonds, olive oil, and wine. It lies north of the ancient Mycenaean town of Rithymna. Réthimnon was a stronghold during the Venetian period in the late Middle Ages, when it was called Retimo; its port shipped malmsey (malvasia) wine. The city was captured in 1645 by the Turks. In May 1941, German paratroops landed in and secured Réthimnon during the battle with Commonwealth forces for control of Crete. West of Réthimnon is the small port of Yeoryioúpolis, which has sandy beaches on the east. Pop. (2001) city, 28,987; nomós, 81,936.

[sta_anchor id=”heraklion” /]Heraklion also spelled Herakleion historically Candia, is the largest city, principal port of the Greek island of Crete, and capital of the nomós (department) of Iráklion. The city lies on the north coast just northwest of the ancient Minoan capital of Knossos. Its name derives from the ancient Roman port of Heracleum, which likely occupied the same site. As the capital of Saracen Crete in the 9th century CE, it took the Arabic name Khandaq (“Moat”), which was corrupted to Candia by the Venetians, to whom the island was sold in 1204. Most of the extensive system of walls built around the city by the Venetians survives.

Heraklion
Koules fortress in Heraklion build during the 16th century

In 1669 the city was ceded to the Turks after a siege of more than 20 years. During the long Turkish occupation, which ended in 1897, Candia was known as Megalokastro. The Turks permitted its harbour to silt up, and the port of Canea (Khaniá), the future capital of Crete, took over Megalokastro’s former commercial preeminence. The Turkish rule ended after an insurrection (1897) by the Greek population, demanding union with Greece. Iráklion was part of the international protectorate of Crete (1897–1913) and then became part of Greece. During the German invasion in 1941 the city suffered heavy damage from bombing.

After World War II the city gained considerable commercial prominence, with a new harbour with moles, an airport, and several hotels to serve the tourist trade. Among the port’s principal exports are grapes (especially sultanas), olives and olive oil, wine, carobs, citrus, almonds, soap, vegetables, and leather. Numerous earthquakes, notably in 1664, 1856, and 1926, have taken their toll of the city’s buildings and monuments, including many fine churches and mosques. A modern museum contains one of the finest collections of Minoan antiquities in Greece. Pop. (2001) city, 133,012; nómos, 292,489. All our courses take place in this region.

[sta_anchor id=”agios-nikolaos” unsan=”agios nikolaos” /]Agios Nikolaos town is the capital of Lasithi department (nomos). It is a coastal town on the Greek island of Crete, lying east of the island’s capital Heraklion, north of the town of Ierapetra and west of the town of Sitia. In the year 2011, the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos, which takes in part of the surrounding villages, claimed 27,074 inhabitants. The town is a municipality of the Crete region and sits partially upon the ruins of the ancient city of Lato pros Kamara.