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Cheap Crete Holidays: Contrasts: The old and the new, the sophisticated and the simple, rub shoulders in Crete. The long established harbour towns of Iraklefo, Rethymno and Chania have Venetian houses and waterfronts of golden stone, but there are also areas of rowdy nightclubs where modern tourism comes abruptly into focus. There are popular, crowded beaches in the north, and secluded sandy coves on the more inaccessible coasts. You can stay in a bland and expensive luxury hotel, or take your chances in a rough-and-ready village taverna. Archaeological sites range from the world-famous and much thronged Minoan palaces of Knosos, Faistos, Malia and Zakros to unfrequented classical Greek country houses and Roman temples that are quietly crumbling away on obscure hillsides.

 

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Holidays to Crete: Island of Contrasts

 People:Cretan people, too, exhibit a mercurial mix o f temperaments - both fiery and nonchalant, eager and laissez-faire, formal and impulsive. But one thing that you can always rely upon is their unfailing courtesy and their instant, unrestrained hospitality, a hospitality that the stranger can never repay, bu t only enjoy and appreciate. Landscape:Crete's landscape is marvellously varied, with four great mountain ranges. From west to east these are: Lefka Quri or the White Mountains in the far west, Psiloreitis or the Ida range south of Rethymno, the Dikti Mountains between Iraklefo and Agios Nikolaos, and the Thryptis or Siteia range out to the east. These are limestone mountains, the end of a great chain that runs down from the Balkans. The bare peaks, pale grey in summer or white with snow in winter, dominate the island. Below the peaks, the rocks are sunbaked to brown, purple and orange. Remnants of once-extensive pine and cypress forests clothe the upper ranges.
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lowlands: Below the mountains spread the richer and more lush lowlands, strongholds of the olive grove and vineyard, cornfield and vegetable plot, orchard and nut grove. Country roads undulate from one village and small town to the next, through a green landscape that is scarcely visited by holidaymakers but has its own easy-going, soft atmosphere. Typical of these pleasant lowlands are the lovely Amari valley, which lies south of Rethymno, the fertile length o f the Mesara plain in the south of the island, and the wide country behind Chania and Irakleio.

Coasts: The lowlands dip to flat plains along the north coast, lush and damp in the far west, sandy of beach and rocky o f headland further east. Between Iraklefo and Agios Nikolaos the shoreline is largely built up, but out to the east there are many lonely stretches o f rocky coastline. The south coast is far less frequented than the north, and long stretches of it - such as rugged and empty Asteroisia and the splendidly dramatic White Mountains, which rear abruptly out of the Libyan Sea - are roadless.

 Climate: No matter what type of climate you prefer, Crete can provide it. Because of the barrier created by the mountain ranges in the middle of the island, there may beautiful sunshine on the south coast while rain is sweeping the north. From January to March there is snow in the mountains and generally wild weather. April and May are warm and fresh, with flowers everywhere. June is hot, July and August hotter still, with dust and uncomfortable winds always possible. From September to October the island slowly cools down and lovely clear days bring a second flowering of the Cretan flora, before the gales and snow begin once again in November.  - Susan Jones