Visit Crete: How to go? Where to stay? What to see?

Blue sea in Crete
© Virginie W.

Are you planning to soon visit Crete in Greece? But you are wondering where to stay, what to see and how to get there? In this article, we will try to answer all your questions.

First of all, Crete is the largest island of Greece, located in the Mediterranean Sea, so it is part of Europe. It extends 255 km from East to West and 55 km from North to South in its greatest width.

To take full advantage of its diversity, we recommend that you focus on one part of the island during your 1 or 2 week stay and come back next year to continue the discovery of this wonderful island!

How to get to Crete?

By plane

From abroad :

Flights from international airports are available all year round.
Like France, for example, with flights from Paris and Nice in low season, and from Marseille, Bordeaux, Lyon, Nantes or Toulouse in summer.

Crete has three main airports:

  1. Heraklion Níkos-Kazantzákis Airport (HER): Located in central Heraklion, Crete’s largest city, this is the island’s busiest airport.
  2. Chania Ioánnis-Daskaloyánnis Airport (CHQ): This airport is located in Chania, on the west of the island.
  3. Sitía Airport (JSH): This airport is located to the east of the island.

From Athens:

In both low and high season, there are direct flights of 50 minutes to Heraklion or Chania from Athens.

For your flights, we advise you to look at and book flights directly by the Greek national airline Aegean, which offers a good quality/price ratio.

Book your Crete Airport Transfer

By ferry from Greece

Ferry to Crete: Piraeus-Chania
Ferry to Crete: Piraeus-Chania © Virginie W.

There are regular connections between Attica and Crete:

  • Departures from Piraeus or Rafina depending on the season
  • Arrivals at the ports of Chania, Heraklion or Sitia in Crete

You can find them and buy your tickets directly on Ferry Hopper. We explain it all in our article Take a ferry to Crete.

How to get around the island?

Bus

There is a Ktel bus network on the island, but some villages are not or only slightly served and travel times are often long.

Car

We strongly advise you to travel by car, especially if you wish to visit the more remote areas of the island. Moreover, to rent a car, we recommend the Rentalcars website to compare the rates of the different car rental companies on the island. However, be careful about driving in Crete: the hard shoulder is often used as a traffic lane!

If you’d like to book a cab, transfer or private excursion with a driver, we recommend Welcome Pickups. You can also choose private excursions with driver in Sightseeing tours from Heraklion or Chania.

Bike

In Rethymnon, we also recommend the Baja Bikes rental agency. It offers rental of city bikes, trekking bikes and electric bikes for the mountains. As well as a 6-hour guided tour by electric bicycle in English to discover Rethymnon and its surroundings.

Organized trip

Another way to get around the island is to book a day trip through Get Your Guide for example. In fact, many tours offer a bus pick-up directly from your hotel. A good way to visit the must-sees of Crete without the stress of transportation! We have made a small selection of the best excursions around Heraklion. However, there are also excursions with departures from the hotels in Chania, Rethymnon or Agios Nikolaos.

Where to stay in Crete?

First of all, for your accommodation, don’t hesitate to look on Booking, many rentals for all budgets are proposed.

But also, in our articles, you will find a selection of accommodations that we have tested ourselves or that have been recommended to us:

Also, if you want to treat yourself to a vacation, check out these dream villas offered by Villanovo.

What is the weather like in Crete in summer?

Hot of course! Generally, the south of the island is still a little warmer, count 3 degrees more than the north of Crete.

But the sea is so beautiful that you will have the opportunity to refresh yourself very regularly.

Take a look at our article on the most beautiful beaches of the island to start dreaming…

beautiful beach in Crete

Where is the best place to stay in Crete, Greece?

A difficult question to answer! Crete is a huge island in Greece that you will not be able to discover entirely in one stay. As the crow flies, the distances seem short but in some parts like the mountainous south of the island, it is not uncommon to take more than an hour to travel 30 kms. We advise you to stay at least one week in each region of the island.

And to help you make your choice and know where to sleep in Crete, we have made a summary (not exhaustive) of the different things to do and see in each part of the island.

What to see? What to do in Crete, in Greece?

Heraklion and its surroundings

The port city of Heraklion, capital of Crete, is a must-see on the island. Fortress, museums, walk, beach, aquarium, aquapark… There is something for everyone!

It is also the starting point for many excursions:

  • The city of Heraklion, its fortress and its archaeological museum
  • The famous palace of Knossos linked to the legend of the labyrinth of the Minotaur. To get a better idea of the site, we recommend this 3D visit visible on a rented iPad mini tablet with headphones. Entrance ticket not included.

Moreover, to know everything about Heraklion, find our advice in the article Heraklion: how to go, where to stay and eat.

West Crete

To visit the west of the island, the tourist and must-see region of Chania is a good place to stay. Discover our tips and good addresses for accommodation and restaurants in Chania as well as a one-week itinerary to help you prepare your trip.

As a summary of the article One week to visit Western Crete, here are the places to visit in this region of the island:

  • Chania, a Venetian city with Mediterranean charm
  • The monasteries of the Akrotiri peninsula: Monastery of Agia Triada, Monastery Agios Governetou from which we reach the ruins of the monastery Katholico located in a gorge. A nice walk of 45 mins to go down there, access by a path passing by the cave of Saint Jean l’Ermite and which ends in front of the sea.
  • The lagoon of Balos and the island of Gramvoussa where a fortress is located. A heavenly place with turquoise sea and white sand beach.
  • The Agia Sofia cave and its small chapel in the Topolia gorge
  • The beautiful beach of Elafonisi and its pinkish white sand
  • The beach of Kedrodassos
  • The Samaria Gorge for nature lovers and hikers
  • The Aradena Gorge
  • Loutro
  • The Imbros Gorge
  • Rethymnon, its old town with Venetian and Turkish inspirations, and its impressive fortress

Southeast and East Crete

More wild and less touristy, discover in our article an authentic Crete described by Anastasia, a Cretan.

In short, some points of interest detailed in the article Itinerary: discovering south-east Crete:

  • The village of Koutsounari
  • The village of Ierapetra
  • The island of Chrissi and its beaches for a lazy day in a heavenly setting
  • The Mylonas gorge and its waterfall
  • The beaches of Agia Fotia, Galini and Kakia Skala (starting point to see the waterfall)
  • The small village of Kato Zakros, its port, its beaches and the ruins of its Minoan palace
  • Hiking from Zakros: European path E4 and the valley of Morts
  • The beach of Vai and its palm grove
  • Further east, the island of Spinalonga, steeped in history, is one of the most visited sites in Crete.
  • The plateau of Lassithi and the cave of Psychro or cave of Zeus because according to the legend, Zeus was born there.

The South of the island

What if you went to discover the south of Crete, authentic and wild?

By the way, here are some places recommended by our Cretan friend Anastasia:

  • The village of Kousés, an authentic village with a kafeneio of course and the famous Votano herbal and tea store
  • The archaeological site of Phaistos
  • The beautiful beaches of Agios Pavlos
  • Agiofarago Beach
  • The beach of Matala and its famous neolithic caves popular with hippies in the 1960s
  • The region of Kapetaniana, a wild area of Crete and far from the floods of tourists to do horseback riding, hiking, diving …
  • The small seaside village of Frangokastelo, its Venetian castle and its beach
  • The waterfalls of Argyroupoli
  • The small port of Loutro, ideally located to discover the plateau of Anopolis. Accessible by boat or by paths, it is a paradise for hikers.

And to learn more, everything is explained in detail in our article Discovering the wild and authentic South of Crete.

Where and what to eat in Crete?

The Cretan cuisine will probably not leave you indifferent: tasty, very generous dishes prepared with fresh and local products. Indeed, every region in Greece has its specialties and Crete is no exception.

To learn more, Evi wrote this very interesting article on Cretan cuisine.

In fact, we recommend a few tried-and-tested tavern addresses, broken down by region:

So, did we convince you?

In short, with this article you are ready to prepare your trip.

Finally, we wish you a pleasant vacation in Crete, hoping that you will enjoy this island as much as we do and already plan to return!

And to make sure you don’t miss a thing in Crete, don’t hesitate to read Our 10 must-do’s in Crete and why not all our articles dedicated to Crete for the bravest!

Virginie W.

Updated January 29, 2024

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