Crete is the largest island of Greece and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean. The capital and largest city is Heraklion. Crete is about 160 km south of the Greek mainland which extends in a direction east - west, and forms the natural southernboundary of the Aegean Sea, & the nothern Libyan Sea.
The island has an elongated shape: it spans 260 km (160 mi) from east to west, is 60 km (37 mi) at its widest point, and narrows to as little as 12 km (7.5 mi) (close to Ierapetra). Crete covers an area of 8,336 km2 (3,219 sq mi), with a coastline of 1,046 km (650 mi); to the north, it broaches the Sea of Crete (Greek: Κρητικό Πέλαγος); to the south, the Libyan Sea (Greek: Λιβυκό Πέλαγος); in the west, the Myrtoan Sea, and toward the east the Karpathion Sea. It lies approximately 160 km (99 mi) south of the Greek mainland.
Crete with its nearby islands form the Crete Region (Greek: Περιφέρεια Κρήτης), one of the 13 regions of Greece which were established in the 1987 administrative reform. With the 2010 Kallikratis plan, the powers and authority of the regions were redefined and extended. The region is based at Heraklion and is divided into four regional units (pre-Kallikratis prefectures). From west to east these are: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Lasithi. These are further subdivided into 24 municipalities.
The economy of Crete is predominantly based on agriculture and is one of the few Greek islands that can support itself independently without a tourism industry. The economy began to change visibly during the 1970s as tourism gained in importance. While an emphasis remains on agriculture and stock breeding, due to the climate and terrain of the island, there has been a drop in manufacturing, and an observable expansion in its service industries (mainly tourism-related). All three sectors of the Cretan economy (agriculture/farming, processing-packaging, services), are directly connected and interdependent. The island has a per capita income much higher than the Greek average, while unemployment is at approximately 4%, 1⁄2 of that of the country overall.As in many regions of Greece, viticulture and olive groves are significant; oranges and citrons are also cultivated. Until recently there were restrictions on the import of bananas to Greece, therefore bananas were grown on the island, predominantly in greenhouses. Dairy products are important to the local economy and there are a number of speciality cheeses such as mizithra, anthotyros, and kefalotyri.
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