Profile of Crete Region

Geographic map of Crete Region. Asterisks indicate study areas.

Geography

In Crete, INTERISK project focus on the hydrogeological basin of Lassithi area, which is located at the eastern part of the island between Heraklion and Lassithi Prefectures (Figure 2). The basin covers almost nine municipalities, those of Mallia, Chersonissos, Kastelli, Arkalohori and Viannos in Heraklion Prefecture and Neapolis, Aghios Nikolaos, Lassithi Plateau and Ierapetras in Lassithi Prefecture. The main body of Lassithi or Dikti Mts. occurs in the area.

Interest is mainly focused on the northern coastal zone of Mallia-Sissi area. The study area covers 675 sq Kilometres on central-north Lassithi-Selena mountain chain and is considered as representative for a pilot study on water quality monitoring and the construction of a water quality database.

Social

Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean. It covers an area of 8.335.880m2, which is 6,3% of the total area of Greece. According to the 1991 census, the population reaches 536.980 inhabitants; the population density is thus 64 inhabitants per km2. Unlike other regions in Europe, Crete, for the last thirty years has a constant population increase (approx. 4%). The excellent climate of the island, the sun and the sea, the beautiful landscape tourist resorts, attract more than 2.000.000 visitors every year. The following Tables 1-3 present the area and the population in the INTERISK area.

Lassithi Prefecture. Year 2001
Municipalities

Area (km2)

Population (Persons)

Lassithi Plateau

129.976

4.220

Neapolis

193.860

6.747

Aghios Nikolaos

317.834

20.000

Ierapetra

394.774

21.025

 

Heraklion Prefecture. Year 2001

Municipalities

Area (km2)

Population (Persons)

Arkalohori

237.589

11.173

Viannos

221.539

7.129

Kastelli

123.325

6.726

Hersonnissos

70.984

7.404

Mallia

60.720

4.510

 
Total of INTERISK area.

AREA  (km2)

POPULATION (Persons)

1.400.000 *

88.934

 

* This number is modulated in that way because the INTERISK area comprises in some cases only a part of some municipalities (e.g. Arkalochori) and in others only rural areas without inhabitants. In study area population density is thus 131 inhabitants per Km2

Economy

The economy in these areas is focused mainly on the primary sector (37 %) and during summer on tertiary sector (i.e. tourist company; 37 %).

Employment by economic activity sector in the area.

Municipality

Primary

Sector (%)

Secondary

Sector (%)

Tertiary

Sector (%)

Kastelli

45

12

43

Arkalohori

64

9

27

Aghios Nikolaos

14

17

69

Lassithi Plateau

64

6

30

Neapolis

24

18

58

Ierapetra

49

14

37

Average

37,14

10,86

37,71

The following tables 5 and 6 present the productive, employed and unemployed population in the area.

Lassithi Prefecture

Municipalities

Productive Population

Employed Population

Unemployed Population

Lassithi Plateau

1859

1774

85

Neapolis

2537

2386

151

Aghios Nikolaos

7020

6704

316

Ierapetra

9157

8877

280


Heraklion Prefecture

Municipalities

Productive Population

Employed Population

Unemployed Population

Arkalohori

4606

4366

240

Kastelli

4000

3300

700

Tourism

Crete is known as a “sun and sea” destination. Its main competitive advantages are the island’s climatic conditions, its archaeological sites (Knossos, Festos, Eleftherna, etc), Monasteries, Museums, places of historical interest, diverse natural resources from high mountains to long beaches, crystal blue waters combined with a wide range of activities (cultural events, winter and sea sports, etc) as well as high quality accommodation establishments ranging from all categories of hotels to self-catering units. Of the most tourist places of Crete, Chersonissos and Mallia areas, occur at the northern beaches of the study area.

Crete attracts mainly high quality tourism. As a result, it is considered as the Greek tourist destination with the highest pricing policy (20% higher than the country’s average). More than 93% of total visitors to Crete stay in hotels and self - catering apartments. A significant number of tourists to the island (38%) prefer to stay in self - catering accommodation establishments, whereas only 1% stays in camping sites.

Although Crete is accessible both by sea and air approximately 85% of tourism to the island uses charter flights. This is related to the fact that Crete relies on package tourism and tour groups that account for 80% of total tourist arrivals. In terms of country of origin, 99% of tourism on Crete is generated from Europe.

Crete is considered as a family resort, with a 42% of total tourist arrivals representing families with children, 38% couples and 20% singles. It attracts mainly from following age groups:

The average length of stay on Crete has decreased from 2 weeks to 1 week. More specifically, during the period 1990-96, it has been fluctuating between 7.2 and 7.6 days (approximately 1 week). The tourist season lasts from March to November with July and August being the peak months (Table 7).

Distribution of visitors within the year.

Geomorphology

Geomorphologically the area can be separated into two zones: the coastal and the mountainous. The coastal zone ranges between 1 and 5 km in width. It consists of the coastal strip, the plane areas and the low hills that gradually pass to the mountainous area. The mountainous zone is subdivided into the lower mountains occurring just south of the coastal zone, comprising the mountains of Milatos, Selinari and Mochos, and the higher area includes the Dikti mts having a height that reaches 2000 m.

On landscape, sharply classic Karstic features such as gorges, caves, blind valleys, dolines, uvalas, Poljies, springs, lost rivers dominate in contrast to the lower altitudes with the basins and “planes”.

Two plateaus occur in the broader area. The southern is the famous Lassithi plateau, which comprises the southern border of the Mallia-Sissi area, covering about 50 Km3, where intense cultivation has been established since many decades. The second is a quite smaller plateau occurring around Mochos village. The area is drained only by small streams that run from south to north, forming small valleys and gorges as the Selinari and Milatos. Aposselemis River up-streams from the southwestern flanks of the area, finally reaching the sea far to the west.

Geology

The broad area of Dikti Mts. is mainly constituted by carbonate rocks (limestone, dolomite, and marbles). Four hydro-geological units can be distinguished in the area of Mallia - Sissi, which, from bottom to top, are:

Of major hydrological importance are the big normal faults that fragment Dikti Mts. into smaller blocks. Some of these (such as Kastelli fault) respond as a diaphragm for underground water, where others can accelerate the underground water movement.

Geologic map of Lassithi (Dikti) Mts.

 
 
Land use in Lassithi area

Land Use

Land in the Lassithi area (Figure 4) is mainly used for agricultural and livestock activities. Forest areas are concentrated at the high mountains where as the low land is mainly for cultivations, and Tourist Company.

Natural Environment

Fauna of Crete is really varied. The unique Cretan wild goat (Capra aegagrus cretica) has a distinctive and impressive appearance. Protected by the government, the Agrimi or "kri-kri" is found in the Lefka Ori, in the Samaria National Forest, and on the islets of Dia, Thodorou, and Agii Pandes. The Cretan wildcat (Felis silvestris cretensis) was a ghost animal since many decades but very recent it was found again in all high mountains of Crete, and in the Lassithi Mountains too. The Cretan "spiny mouse&quhe lammergeyer (Gypaetus barbatus), a subspecies unique to Crete, are distinctive among the birds. The mountains and ravines are home to griffon vultures. Warblers and swallows are common and goldfinches are occasionally seen. Migratory birds make Crete a stopover each spring on their way from Africa to Europe and on the return trip each autumn.

The flora of Crete is one of the richest in the world. It consists of 2.000 species out of which 160 are endemic to Crete. Along with the subspecies the number rises to 200. Among these are dictamo (Oreganum dictamus), a herb made famous by Aristotle for its medicinal value.

This extensive concentration of endemic plants in Crete is due to the fact that Crete was at various periods geologically isolated, thus many existing species differentiated to produce new species or sub-species. Most of these endemic plants can be found in the inaccessible parts of the island such as the mountain ranges of the west or in the large numbers of gorges that served as shelters for plants that managed to survive there by growing on the steep walls, protected from humans, animals or other more dominant plants.