We present a new lithostratigraphy and chronology for the Miocene on central Crete, in the Aegean forearc. Continuous sedimentation started at ∼10.8 Ma in the E–W trending fluvio-lacustrine Viannos Basin, formed on the hangingwall of the Cretan detachment, which separates high-pressure (HP) metamorphic rocks from very low-grade rocks in its hangingwall. Olistostromes including olistoliths deposited shortly before the Viannos Basin submerged into the marine Skinias Basin between 10.4 and 10.3 Ma testifies to significant nearby uplift. Uplift of the Skinias Basin between 9.7 and 9.6 Ma, followed by fragmentation along N–S and E–W striking normal faults, marks the onset of E–W arc-parallel stretching superimposed on N–S regional Aegean extension. This process continued between 9.6 and 7.36 Ma, as manifested by tilting and subsidence of fault blocks with subsidence events centred at 9.6, 8.8, and 8.2 Ma. Wholesale subsidence of Crete occurred from 7.36 Ma until ∼5 Ma, followed by Pliocene uplift and emergence. Subsidence of the Viannos Basin from 10.8 to 10.4 Ma was governed by motion along the Cretan detachment. Regional uplift at ∼10.4 Ma, followed by the first reworking of HP rocks (10.4–10.3 Ma) is related to the opening and subsequent isostatic uplift of extensional windows exposing HP rocks. Activity of the Cretan detachment ceased sometime between formation of extensional windows around 10.4 Ma, and high-angle normal faulting cross-cutting the detachment at 9.6 Ma. The bulk of exhumation of the Cretan HP-LT metamorphic rocks occurred between 24 and 12 Ma, before basin subsidence, and was associated with extreme thinning of the hangingwall (by factor ∼10), in line with earlier inferences that the Cretan detachment can only explain a minor part of total exhumation. Previously proposed models of buyoant rise of the Cretan HP rocks along the subducting African slab provide an explanation for extension without basin subsidence.