Dia is an island off the north coast of Crete at about 10 kilometers from the capital Heraklion. The island is visible very well from Kokkini Hani. This uninhabited island is surrounded by small rocky inlets and its maximum length is 5kms while its maximum width 3kms.
Dia is one of NATURA's protected areas due to its status as a biotope for endemic plants and for plants with low dispersal within the Southern Aegean. Now a number of protected animals live on the island, such as the rare Kri-Kri goat, a particular kind of snail, a wild rabbit, an eagle and a special lizard. There are also a number of protected plant species on Dia.
The island looks a bit like a lizard. The story goes that the island of Crete was once attacked by a very big lizard, and the god Zeus turned it to stone with a thunderbolt.
Dia played an important role in navigation during antiquity, particularly in Minoan and Medieval times. For the precocious seamen that sailed in the open CretanSeas, it constituted the best possible natural "signal", indicating the approach of the Cretan coast with its natural harbours, while at the same time it helped in the anchoring of the ships, effectively blocking the strong northern winds. During Minoan times the island was populated and a harbour settlement was established.
In 1976 Jacques Cousteau explored the island and found an ancient Minoan port under the water in the south in between Dia and Heraklion (in the bay of Agios Georgios). He found large rectangular and square rocks that functioned as an artificial breakwater. It is assumed that this was an old harbor of the kingdom of Minoan Knossos. At that time the island was inhabited. Likely it was destroyed and it sunk during the big volcano eruption of Santorini in 1450 B.C.
The island had a small area were vine was grown up by fishermen, till 1937.
From Heraklion there are excursions to the island of Dia were you can swim in the bay and you can visit the small church of the island.
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