Crete Travel Guide: 16 Best Things to Do

The beautiful island of Crete in Greece enchants with idyllic bays, charming villages and dreamy beaches. Immerse yourself in the Mediterranean flair and the unique natural beauty that Crete has to offer. Find out about the best things to do in this travel guide.

What are the Best Things to Do in Crete, Greece?

Crete is the largest island in Greece and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean. The almost 1000-kilometer-long island is located in the southern part of the Aegenan Sea. Whether on hiking trails through the mountains of Crete or relaxing on the beautiful bays and beaches, the island definitely has a lot to offer. Dive into the Mediterranean charm and find out about the best things to do in Crete.

1. Explore Chania

Chania, located on the northwest coast of Crete, is a picturesque town with a lot of history and charm. The Venetian harbour with its iconic lighthouse and colorful waterfront buildings forms the heart of the old town. Explore the narrow cobbled streets with their boutiques, traditional tavernas and historic landmarks, such as the 16th century Venetian fortress. With its mix of cultural heritage, stunning scenery and warm hospitality, Chania invites you to immerse yourself in the timeless beauty of Crete.

2. Admire the pink sand on Elafonissi Beach

Elafonissi is a stunning destination on the southwest coast of Crete. The landmark of Elafonissi are the pink sandy beaches created by crushed shells and coral. The pink hue of the sand combined with the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean creates a picturesque scenery.

This idyllic destination offers a picturesque setting for swimming, sunbathing and snorkeling. In addition to the beaches, Elafonissi offers sand dunes and hiking trails that are perfect for exploring the natural beauty of the island. History enthusiasts can discover ancient ruins nearby, adding a cultural element to their visit. With its unparalleled charm and tranquillity, Elafonissi promises an unforgettable retreat for nature lovers and beach enthusiasts alike.

3. Preveli Palm Beach

Preveli Palm Beach is a true gem on the south coast of Crete. The beach is located at the entrance to the Kourtaliotiko Gorge, where the Megalopotamos River flows into the Lybian Sea. Preveli Beach is known for its hundreds of palm trees and the huge cliffs that create a breathtaking backdrop. The beach can be reached via a scenic hike or a boat trip along the coast.

4. Balos Beach

Balos Beach is a popular destination on the northwest coast of Crete, known for its stunning natural beauty and turquoise waters. It boasts a unique landscape of white sand dunes, shallow lagoons and rocky islets. The beach is also located in a nature reserve and offers a unspoiled environment and a rich underwater world that invites you to snorkel and swim. From the nearby viewpoints, you can enjoy panoramic views of the beach and its surroundings, including the Gramvousa Peninsula and the more distant island of Imeri Gramvousa.

Balos Beach can be reached by boat or via a short hike down the steps. The calm lagoon has shallow, clear and warm waters. From April to October there is also a small kiosk and sun beds and umbrellas for rent.

5. Hike Samaria Gorge

The Samaria Gorge in the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) of Crete is one of the longest and most famous gorges in Europe. It stretches for around 16 kilometers from the Omalos-Plateau to the shores of the Libyan Sea at Agia Roumeli and offers a breathtaking hiking experience through breathtaking landscapes.

The gorge is normally open to hikers from May 1 to October 31, weather permitting. The best time for a hike is in the cooler months of May, June, September and October to avoid the summer heat and crowds.

6. Visit the old fisher’s village Loutro

Luotro is a quiet, picturesque fishing village on the south coast of Crete, accessible only by boat or on foot. Known for its crystal clear waters, whitewashed buildings and serene atmosphere, Loutro offers a perfect retreat. It is a hidden gem, ideal for travelers seeking a peaceful escape, natural beauty and authentic Cretan hospitality.

Ferries and water taxis operate from nearby towns such as Chora Sfakion, Sougia and Agia Roumeli. The most frequent connection is from Chora Sfakion, which is easily accessible by bus or car from Chania. The more adventurous can take a hike from Chora Sfakion or Agia Roumeli, which offers breathtaking views of the coast and a rewarding arrival in Loutro. Whether realxing on the beaches, hiking the scenic trails, or enjoy local cuisine, you’ll find a unique and unforgettable experience on the southern coast of Crete.

7. Explore the caves of Marmara Beach

Just a stone’s throw away from Luotro you will find Marmara Beach. Also known as Dialiskari, it’s a stunning, secluded beach on the south coast of Crete, near the exit of the Aradena Gorge. Known for its striking marble-like rock formations and crystal clear waters, Marmara Beach offers a tranquil natural paradise.

You can easily get to Marmara Beach from Luotro by water bus. Once there, you will find some sun beds and umbrellas. Here you can spend the day relaxing, exploring the caves and swimming in the turquoise water. There is also a taverna on the hill where you can enjoy delicious Greek food.

8. Rent a boat

Renting a boat on Crete is a fantastic way to explore the island’s beautiful coastline, hidden coves and nearby islands. No boating license is required for boats with a power of up to 30 hp. So you can sail out on a motorboat without a skipper and explore the beautiful island at your own pace.

Before you set off on your boating adventure, the rental companies usually offer a safety briefing and an orientation on how to operate the boat, local navigation rules and emergency procedures. You will also usually be given a map with destinations you can head for. Don’t worry, the boats are really easy to drive and a lot of fun.

9. Have dinner at Mikro Kelari (our favourite restaurant in Chania!)

For traditional Cretan dishes, you should definitely not miss dinner at Mikro Kelari. We went here several times during our stay and were never disappointed. Sooo delicious!

Tip: Book in advance as it can get fully booked very quickly.

10. Seitan Limania

Seitan Limani, also known as Stefanou Beach, is a small, picturesque bay on the Akrotiri peninsula in the Chania region of Crete. Interestingly, the name is made up of the Turkish word “Seitan”, which means “devil”, and the Greek word “Limani”, which means “harbor”. Despite its ominous name, Seitan Limani is a stunning destination known for its natural beauty and crystal clear turquoise waters.

The bay is located about 22 kilometers northeast of Chania town. You can get there by car, but the last stretch to the beach requires a steep and rocky hike on a small path. As you descend the path, you’ll be greeted with breathtaking views of the narrow cove flanked by towering cliffs. The beach itself is relatively small and composed of coarse sand and pebbles.

Tip: The beach itself is relatively small and can get crowded during peak times, so plan to arrive early.

11. Knossos Palace

The Palace of Knossos, located just 5 kilometers south of Heraklion, is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece and one of Crete’s main attractions. As the ceremonial and political center of the Minoan civilization, which flourished from around 2000 to 1400 BC, Knossos offers a fascinating insight into ancient history, mythology and architecture.

The palace is normally open daily from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM in the summer and 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM in the winter. The entrence fee is around €15 (16 USD) for adults, with reduced prices for students, seniors, and children. Combined tickets with the Heraklion Archaeological Museum are available. In addition, there are also guided tours available. Whether you explore it independently or with a guide, the Knossos Palace offers a unique journey into Crete’s ancient past and the dawn of European civilization.

12. Paraglide through the stunning landscape

Paragliding in Crete offers a thrilling perspective of the island’s breathtaking landscapes and combines adrenaline-filled adventures with stunning views. As you soar through the sky, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the rugged coastline, azure waters and majestic mountains. Experienced flight instructors ensure a safe and exciting experience for beginners and experienced paragliders alike. Whether you are taking off from a picturesque cliff or hovering over a scenic beach, paragliding in Crete promises an unforgettable adventure in the air.

13. Day trip to Santorini from Crete

If you can’t get enough of Greek islands, a day trip to the surrounding islands of Crete is a great option. One of the most popular options is a day trip to Santorini, known for its iconic whitewashed buildings, breathtaking sunsets and volcanic landscapes. From Heraklion or Chania, travelers can enjoy a scenic ferry ride across the Aegean Sea and reach Santorini in just a few hours. There you can explore the charming villages of Oia and Fira, stroll through the narrow cobblestone streets and soak up the island’s unique atmosphere. In addition, boat tours to the volcanic caldera, wine tastings at local wineries and relaxing on the island’s black sand beaches are highlights of a day trip from Crete to Santorini.

14. Watch sunsets in Chania Old Town

Watching the sunset in the old town of Chania is a magical experience that is best enjoyed from the iconic Venetian Harbour, where the historic lighthouse and harbor walls form a picturesque backdrop. For a unique perspective, take a stroll along the breakwaters to the lighthouse or stop at one of the charming waterfront cafés. Firka Fortress offers an elevated viewpoint, while the rooftop bars offer a perfect mix of breathtaking views, delicious food and drinks. As the sun sinks below the horizon, the vibrant colors and romantic atmosphere create an unforgettable moment.

15. Enjoy the Greek cuisine on Crete

Cretan cuisine is known for its emphasis on fresh, local ingredients and traditional flavors. Typical dishes include dakos (barley rusk salad), kalitsounia (cheese pastries) and lamb with stamnagathi (wild vegetables). The use of high-quality olive oil, herbs and seasonal vegetables underlines the island’s agricultural diversity. Meals are often accompanied by raki, a local spirit that enhances the culinary experience.

16. Night life in Chania

Chania has a vibrant nightlife that appeals to a variety of tastes and preferences. The old town comes to life after dark, with lively bars, cozy tavernas and live music venues tucked away in the charming alleyways. The waterfront venues along the Venetian harbor offer breathtaking views, paired with cocktails and a lively atmosphere. From relaxed evenings with local wines to dancing until the early hours in energetic clubs, Chania has something for everyone looking for night-time entertainment.

Best Bars & Restaurants near Chania

Greece has incredibly delicious food, and Crete is of course no exception. However, some of our favourite restaurants near Chania are:

How to get to Crete in Greece?

You can reach Crete in Greece by various means of transportation. Here are some of them:

By air: Crete has three major airports, namely Heraklion International Airport (HER), Chania International Airport (CHQ) and Sitia Airport (JSH). These airports offer both domestic and international flights. Many European cities offer direct flights to Crete, especially during the summer months when tourism is at its peak. These flights are offered by major airlines and low-cost airlines.

By sea: Another option is to travel to Crete by ferry, especially for those who prefer a scenic journey or are island hopping in Greece. There are regular ferry services from the port of Piraeus in Athens to the ports of Heraklion and Chania in Crete. The duration of the ferry crossing from Piraeus to Crete can be between 6 and 9 hours, depending on the type of ferry. If you are already exploring other Greek islands, you can also reach Crete by ferry from islands such as Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes or Kos. There are seasonal ferry connections between these islands and Crete.

Where to stay on Crete in Greece?

The capital of Crete, Heraklion, offers a mix of modern conveniences, historical sites, and bustling city life. You can find hotels ranging from boutique to international chains, making it suitable for all budgets. Just outside Heraklion, you’ll find seaside resorts like Amoudara and Gouves, offering easy access to beaches along with a quieter atmosphere.

Chania’s charming old town is known for its narrow cobblestone streets, Venetian architecture, and picturesque harbor. There are plenty of boutique hotels, guesthouses, and traditional villas available for accommodation.

Similar to Chania, Rethymno boasts a well-preserved old town with Venetian and Ottoman influences. Accommodation options include boutique hotels and cozy guesthouses tucked away in narrow alleyways.

Agios Nikolaos is known for its picturesque lake, surrounded by cafes and restaurants. Accommodation options range from luxury waterfront hotels to budget-friendly apartments.

How many days should you spend on Crete in Greece?

In our opinion, a week is the ideal length of time to visit Crete. This length of time allows you to fully enjoy the various best things to do on the island. Whether you are looking for relaxation or adventure, a week on Crete guarantees a well-rounded and unforgettable experience.

How to get around on Crete in Greece?

Getting around Crete, Greece, is relatively easy as there are a variety of transportation options on the island. Here are some of them:

Rental car: Renting a car is probably the most convenient way to explore Crete. Especially if you want the flexibility to visit remote beaches, mountain villages and archaeological sites at your own pace. Car rentals are available at the major airports and in the tourist areas of the island. Crete has a well-developed road network with highways connecting the larger towns and smaller roads leading to villages and places of interest. It is advisable to book in advance, especially during the peak travel season.

Public transportation: Crete has an extensive public bus network, which is operated by KTEL and connects the most important cities and tourist destinations on the island. Buses run frequently, especially between Heraklion, Chania and Rethymno. Public buses are an affordable way to get around Crete, but not always the most convenient if you want to reach remote areas or travel late at night.

How much does Crete costs?

The cost of a trip to Crete can vary depending on factors such as accommodation, food preferences, activities and transportation. Budget travelers can expect to spend an average of 50 to 80 EUR per day, including hostel accommodation, local meals and public transport. Mid-range travelers can budget around 80 to 150 EUR per day if they stay in comfortable hotels, enjoy a selection of restaurants and participate in guided tours or activities. Luxury travelers should expect to spend 150 EUR or more per day if they want to stay at upscale resorts, dine at fine restaurants and participate in private tours or exclusive activities. Note that prices can fluctuate depending on the season, with prices being higher during peak tourist months in summer.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Crete is typically from late spring to early autumn, specifically from May to September, when the weather is warm, and the island experiences long hours of sunshine. During this period, temperatures are pleasant for outdoor activities, swimming, and exploring the island’s attractions.

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