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Crete is the largest Greek island (and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea), with an area of around 3,000 square miles (Mykonos is about 30 square miles), a population of over 500,000, and is strategically placed between Greece and Libya at the gateway to the eastern Mediterranean.

The island is steeped in history going back to Neolithic times, and at various times has been occupied by the Romans, the Venetians, and the Ottomans. It was also home to the Minoan civilisation, the remains of which many visitors come to see.

The island has a variety of scenery with dramatic mountain peaks soaring to over 10,000 feet, wide flat plains used for agriculture (if you travel around the island you will realise that it is almost one vast farm!).

The north coast is more densely populated because it is closer to the main airports at Xania, Iraklio, and Sitia. The area from Iraklio to Agios Nikolaos is very cosmopolitan with not only tourists but also many residents originally from northern Europe. This probably explains why Hersonissos seems to attract more gay visitors than other areas of the island.

In places, deep gorges, ideal for walking, plunge down through the mountains to the sea. Samaria Gorge on the south coast is the longest gorge in Europe. Generally the south coast is quieter than the north with small resorts and villages and is ideal for the gay and lesbian visitor who wants a 'get away from it all' vacation.

                                                    So what about the climate?

One of the important features of any vacation, even for LGBT travelers is the weather, often people look at photos of Crete and think we have been 'enhancing' the blue of the sea and the sky.

Well the sea really is that blue, and so is the sky. From May to August rain is rare (and so are clouds), with temperatures up to 40°C during the day, and warm balmy nights ideal for sitting outside a taverna and sipping a glass of Cretan wine! Outside these months it may rain, and heavy rain at times too, along with spectacular thunderstorms in October. But this cooler weather has its advantages too as it means that if you are taking an 'active' holiday it is more pleasant and also less crowded than high season. Visitors early in the season will also sea Crete when it is a little bit greener, and when the wildflowers are around

And what of LBGT life on Crete?

Gay life on Crete, does, of course, exist, with the high resident population, many of whom are non-Greek. But because this is Greece, it is quite discreet and often unobtrusive (a situation that has changed a little in the last 10 years). During the summer months numbers increase with the number of visitors to the island and with over 2,000,000 of them every summer it is more than likely that Crete has more gay tourism than Mykonos which only has about 1,000,000 tourists annually (and not all of them are gay in spite of what you might read on some websites).

Cretans are renowned for their hospitality, and to be honest they are not really interested in what you do in the bedroom, but they will be interested in where you are from, what work you do, whether you own your own home or rent it, how much rent you pay, and even how much you earn! They (and Greeks generally), are quite astute, and they will make their own assumptions about everything else. If you really want to impress them, learn a few words of Greek, although be warned simply knowing 'hello' and 'good morning' means they will assume you are a fluent Greek speaker.

The Cretans, and Greeks in general, still uphold religion, even though they are not regular 'churchgoers', (which partly explains the attitude towards being gay or lesbian). The two most important festivals in the calendar are Easter (Greek Orthodox Easter seldom coincides with western Easter), and Panagia (the Assumption) in mid-August.

Pano Hersonissos Village Square on Panagia
Visitors arriving in time for Easter will be treated to the sight of lambs being spit roasted on the street (the Cretans are great meat eaters in spite of what you might read about the healthy Cretan diet), and if you are staying in a family run apartment block, then they will probably be cooking the lamb out by the pool, and there may be a chance that you will be asked to join in. Easter celebrations often involve fireworks and a bonfire symbolising the burning of Judas.

Panagia in August involves lots of music and eating (no surprise there!), and where there is a church dedicated to Virgin Mary there will probably be festivities that carry on all night, the village of Old (Pano) Hersonissos is a good example of this.

A good way to get to know Cretans is to ask them questions about the island and history, and they will be pleased that you are interested, small kafenios are a good place for this, and if there are other Greeks around then you will be entertained by a lively discussion about the 'truth' of the answers you may get.

Above all be adventurous. With 3,000 square miles of island to play around in there is room for adventure, and if all you want to do is the 3 B's for two weeks then Mykonos is probably better for you (but remember to take plenty of cash). Apart from a day trip to the nearby island of Delos, there is little to see on Mykonos.

Of course you can do the 3B's on Crete too if you wish to, but you have come all this way, it would be a shame not to see some of the island.