Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It 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). Crete was once the center of the Minoan civilization (c. 2700–1420 BC), which is currently regarded as the earliest recorded civilization in Europe.
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; to the south, the Libyan Sea; in the west, the Myrtoan Sea, and toward the east the Karpathian Sea. It lies approximately 160 km (99 mi) south of the Greek mainland.