The Geography of Crete

"Crete is a wonderful and dramatic island, a miniature continent with precipitous mountains, a hundred gorges, unique plants, extinct animals and lost civilizations, as well as the characteristic agricultural landscape of olive groves, vines and goats."
Moody & Rackham: The making of the Cretan landscape.

Ten million years ago an ocean opened up between Eurasia and Africa as the two tectonic plates drifted apart. Together with most of what constitutes Greece today, Crete was submerged under the sea.

Later, 1 to 3 million years ago, the two continents moved toward each other again. This produced a long range of partly submerged limestone mountains called the Hellenic Island Arc, of which Crete is the southernmost part.

This elevation and collapse of the land has created gorges and faults and earthquakes and erosion have continued to shape the island into its present appearance.

Use the links to the right to learn more about Cretes geography.

By means of satellites, it has been discovered that these movements still go on. Crete, together with the south Aegean, moves approximately 3 centimeters to the south every year. At the same time the African continent moves about 1 centimeter to the north so that Crete and Africa are 4 centimeters closer to each other every year. These movements are what sometimes causes earthquakes on the island.