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The natural beauties of Crete, the "fair wooded island" as it was called by Homer in the Odyssey, Crete the "windyo" isle, have been sung since antiquity. Herodotus speaks of an island covered with shade trees; it is no coincidence that the name of the central mountains of Crete, Ida, derives from the Doric idha = forest. The forests in fact covered almost the entire territory of the island and supplied precious material as early as the Minoan period for construction of palaces, and under Venetian rule, for ships and fortifications. Forest fires, grazing, and indiscriminate use of the land by man have nevertheless greatly reduced the forested acreage over the centuries.

Crete, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean, is located equidistant from Europe, Asia and Africa. Its most outstanding features are its lengthy coastline, high mountains, fertile plains, extensive hilly areas, and stupendous gorges. The about 1000 km of coastline include both sandy beaches and high cliffs, with more and less pronounced peninsulas on the northern shore and many small islands; the northern coastlines are generally more accessible, while those to the south are often characterized by steep cliffs.