Crete (Greek: Κρήτη, Kríti [‘kriti]; Ancient Greek: Κρήτη, Krḗtē) is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the 88th largest island in the world and the fifth-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, and Corsica. It bounds the southern border of the Aegean sea. Crete lies approximately 160 km (99 mi) south of the Greek mainland. It has an area of 8,336 km2 (3,219 sq mi) and a coastline of 1,046 km (650 mi).
Crete and a number of surrounding islands and islets constitute the region of Crete (Greek: Περιφέρεια Κρήτης), the southernmost of the 13 top-level administrative units of Greece; the region is the fifth most populous region of Greece. Its capital and largest city is Heraklion, located on the northern shore of the island. As of 2011, the region had a population of 623,065. The Dodecanese are located to the northeast of Crete, while the Cyclades are situated to the north, separated by the Sea of Crete. The Peloponnese is to the region’s northwest.
Humans have inhabited the island since at least 130,000 years ago, during the Paleolithic age. Crete was the center of Europe’s first advanced civilization, the Minoans, from 2700 to 1420 BC; the Minoan civilization was overrun by the Mycenaean civilization from mainland Greece. Later, Crete fell under Roman rule, and afterward, the Byzantine Empire, Andalusian Arabs, the Venetian Republic, and the Ottoman Empire successively ruled Crete. The Cretan people, who maintained a desire to join the Greek state, achieved independence from the Ottomans in 1898 as the Cretan State and became part of Greece in December 1913.
The island is mountainous, and its character is defined by a high mountain range crossing from west to east; the range of the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) contains Crete’s highest point, Mount Ida. Crete forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits (such as its own poetry and music). The Nikos Kazantzakis at Heraklion and the Daskalogiannis airport at Chania serve international travelers. The palace of Knossos, a Bronze Age settlement and ancient Minoan city, lies in Heraklion in Crete.