Ultimate Guide to Crete – Travel Blog
My Crete Travel Blog has increased so much with new and updated content this year.
This ultimate guide includes all the essential resources and secrets places I suggest for your stay. You will discover:
- How to get into the island and around it
- How many days you need to visit Crete
- The best areas to stay based on your type of trip
- A small selection of beautiful Hotels & AirBnb
- The best beaches
- What to do, see and experience in Crete
- The best itineraries for up to 2 weeks in Crete
- Where to eat the best food
But, without further ado, let’s get into it.
Crete Travel Blog – In a nutshell
Arriving In Crete
There are two main airports in Crete: Heraklion and Chania.
Based on your departure city, you may be able to fly into one or the other, or maybe even both.
Both airports are very well connected to the cities by bus or private pickup service.
From Heraklion Airport, you can get the public bus to popular destinations in the east of the island (Hersonissos, Malia, Agios Nikolaos, etc).
If you are travelling by ferry, you have the choice to arrive at the Heraklion or the Chania port. They are both within walking distance from the city centre
Is Heraklion or Chania better?
My personal choice for a quick trip goes to Chania, however, I would probably choose Heraklion for living.
I highly suggest reading my post on Heraklion vs Chania where I go through all the differences and the pros/cons of both.
You can also watch this quick video I made for the essential things to know about the two cities
And finally, the small town of Sitia in the east of the island has also a tiny airport which works mostly with national flights.
Flights to Sitia are rare, however, they tend to be cheaper. I had in the past great deals with the small airline Sky Express
Getting around Crete
Crete is a big island, over 350km long (east to west).
You have essentialy 3 possibilities to move around.
The easiest way is to rent a car. Roads between the major destinations are wide and easy to drive through.
A highway covers almost all of the North Coast. However, it can get challenging if you want to drive into the historic centre because the street and lanes can get quite narrow.
I usually rent my car from DiscoverCars.com, a website that compares over 30 suppliers providing the best price.
The second possibility is to catch the public bus that connects most of destinations in the island.
It’s the best option if you do not feel confident with driving in Greece.
KTEL runs the public bus system, usually on time.
The last possibility is to catch the ferry.
The South-West Coast of Crete is so well connected by boat that does not make sense to visit it with any other mean of transportation.
In fact, there are also a couple of romantic villages like Loutro reachable only by ferry.
There are also 2 small islands off the south coast that are a must visit, if you are into amazing beaches.
For more information, you should read my post about how big is Crete and how can you go around. You will find links to the bus timetables, a map with all you need to experience and those two small islands I suggest to visit by ferry (you cannot miss one of the best beaches in Europe)
How Many days in crete
The easiest answer: the longer the better.
With 3 days I would suggest staying close to your arrival city.
Heraklion, Chania or Sitia are the best options.
If you have the choice, Chania is in my opinion the best choice.
In my post on 3 days in Crete, you can read all you need to maximize your time with such a short stay.
In 5 days you can think to explore more of Crete.
I personally suggest staying either in the east or the west of the island and from there enjoy your destination and organise a couple of day trips around.
In my post on 5 days in Crete, I have suggested a few possibilities based on the type of trip you have in mind, relaxing or action, with kids or only the partner.
In 1 week in Crete you will be able to enjoy a good part of the island.
However, do not be tempted to plan a full island sightseeing.
It will be too much and such in a rush that you will not enjoy it at the end.
In my post on 7 days in Crete, I have organised a plan for 5 types of holidays (beaches, family, romantic couple, trekking and a secret option). Really all you need to know.
If you are lucky enough to have two weeks in Crete then you can even plan to visit most of the island.
In fact, with 14 days you can even think to experience all of the best beaches of Crete, of which 4 of them are in the top list of Europe.
You can organise some amazing trekking in the many gorges or you can decide to enjoy some romantic time on the isolated South-West Coast.
The options are limitless. I explored a few of them in my post on 2 weeks in Crete, a great resource if you are planning to spend more than 10 days on the island.
Where to stay in Crete – Best Areas
The great thing about Crete is that you can find areas, towns and beaches for any kind of holiday.
Are you after the best beaches? Chania area on the west side and Sitia/Agios Nikolaos on the east side are probably your best bets.
Are you travelling with your partner and you are looking for a romantic stay? Sissi or Paleochora work great.
If you are travelling with kids then Agios Nikolaos is again a great destination, however, if you are after the best nightlife then Hersonissos is the place to be.
I could keep listing any kind of holiday, this may be a lux/budget one or a trekking trip or one with plenty of relaxing time.
I wrote a full guide on where to stay in Crete, with a much deeper description of the best areas based on your type of holiday and I included also a few suggested hotels/AirBnb, local restaurants and activities you could think to do once there.
Best Hotels & Airbnb in Crete
Here below I short listed a few suggested accommodations in Crete:
The Mythos Beach Hotel is one of the best value accommodation in Crete and you have a swimming pool too (see photos here).
It’s located in Maleme, a great place for unique beaches and fantastic trekking
The Elalia Apartments are also very cheap and they are located in the quiet part of Hersonissos, famous for its beach and nightlife.
The rooms have also a lovely view of the beach (see photos here).
For the best beaches
Casa Delfino Hotel & Spa and Kasteli Studios & Apartments in Chania are both great options.
From there you can explore some of the best beaches in Europe
For a romantic stay
The Castello Boutique Resort & Spa in Sissi and the Aris Hotel in Paleochora are both great options for a romantic stay.
The village of Sissi tends to be more secluded and tiny, perfect for a relaxed stay
Travelling with kids
The Candia Park Village in Agios Nikolaos and the Almyrida Bay Hotel in Almyrida are both great options specifically designed for a stay with children.
Hersonissos and Malia are the nightlife spots of Crete.
They are closed to each other however they are different in the type of crowd and services they provide (read more here)
The Elalia Apartments are a great budget option in Hersonissos, located in a quiet part of town but still close enough to walk to the bars and clubs area.
The Blue Palace Hotel in Elounda is unbeatable because of the amazing view of the bay and the unique private infinity pools one step from your bedroom (see photos here)
Best Beaches in Crete
Crete is one of the best islands in Europe for beaches.
It’s not just the quantity but also the variety.
This is my top 5 list:
- Elafonisi Beach: located on the west coast. Famous for its pink sand and turquoise water. I wrote a dedicated post on Elafonisi, with info on how to go there, the pros and cons and a few organised day-trip in case you don’t fancy driving there.
- Balos Lagoon: it’s a blue paradise, absolutely unique in its own way, also on the west side of Crete. You can read all about the Balos Lagoon on my dedicated post where I highlight also the best and worst of this amazing place. You can get a boat there or drive your 4WD car
- Chrissi Island and Golden Beach: located off the south coast and reachable with a local boat. Just one word: amazing. See the photos and read more on Chrissi island on my exclusive post, including also an important tip on when you should avoid the trip there
- Vai/Palm Beach: on the easternmost point of Crete, this beach requires some driving, however, you will not be disappointed. The deep blue water and the palm forest in the background will make you feel you are in a desert oasis
- Preveli Beach: next to a monastery and nestled between an inlet and the sea. Once you get bored with sunbathing, have a walk in the forest behind the beach, a natural botanical garden with palms and tropical trees.
What to do, see & experience in Crete
There are so many things to experience in Crete, mainly because of its big size.
We talked above about the beaches, try to visit at least two of the above.
Crete is also famous for its gorges and the amazing trekking into it. So many spots, of which the Samaria Gorge is definitely the most famous one.
Another thing I definitely suggest is a Jeep Safari, either with a jeep or a quad.
I wrote a full review of over 5 Jeep Safaris that you can do. They are all different in the area they explore.
They have however one thing in common, they visit unique locations reachable only by 4WD and you will experience local products (wine, oil, food) on the way.
Another must is to visit one or more historical destinations as Knossos and the (in)famous Spinalonga.
I wrote a dedicated post to all the things to do and experience in Crete.
It’s a great resource that you can use to build your own must-visit list.
Best Itineraries in Crete
The length of your stay will drive the type of itineraries you will be able to do.
With 3/4 days base yourself in one accommodation (Chania, Heraklion, Rethimno) and explore from there.
With 5/6 days you can already think to change two accommodations, however, I personally suggest to stay on the North Coast where it’s easier and quicker to move around by either car or public bus.
With 1 week you can think to even build an itinerary on the South-West Coast, reachable only by boat.
With 2 weeks or more you can expand your horizons and explore most of the island from east to west.
I wrote a dedicated post to possible itineraries in Crete that is the best starting point to build your own plan
Best restaurants and bars in Crete
There is such an amazing choice in Crete that it’s hard to give any particular suggestion.
In saying that, I have built my own list which I would like to share with you.
It’s not an exhaustive one, of course. It’s actually a list I tend to update on a regular basis, so come back to this post for the latest findings
- Chania: I recommend the whole area around the Minares Achmet Aga. Pick any restaurant and you will be fine. In the evening, the street gets full of tables and it’s hard to say when one restaurant finishes and the next one starts. Just two names? Steki and Μεσογειακό. Looking for a coffee? Head to Monogram or the Blockchain Cafe Bar. And nightlife? Ammos and Ilios Beach Bar, Café Café Cocktail and Gin Bar and Mylos Club
- Heraklion: restaurants tend to be cheaper, probably because there is less tourism and more locals. Avli tou Defkaliona is one of my must-go in Crete as well as Arismari Versamo. For coffees? Crop Cafe and Estrella Heraklion. And nightlife? Jailhouse Rock Bar and Stone Project Cocktail Bar
- Rethymno: this is the town I go to for modern Greek cuisine (traditional Greek with a twist). Absolutely spectacular! To Rakodikeio is still one of my favourites. If booked out, try the next restaurant down the street. For an evening drink go to any of the bars in Arkadiu. Another great location is around the corner of Venizelou road (Eleytheriou Venizelou).
- Sitia: Yantes, opposite the main beach, has some of the best food in Sitia. Book an outdoor table for the nice evening sea breeze. Taverna “To Steki” is more of a local go-to place, mostly unknown to any tourists. Mitsakakis is another great restaurant, right in front of the harbour area. For coffee head down to Cafe Corner
- Agios Nikolaos: Gioma Meze has one of the best views in town beside the lovely food. Skala Fusion Taverna is my favourite around the lake. Alexandros Rooftop is a great spot for a cocktail.
- Malia: Geitonia is the new kid in the block, with great food at a reasonable price. Pepper’s is a good option for some cheap food.
- Palaiochora: in summer the main central street closes in the evening and you will have most of Palaiochora transformed into a pedestrian area. A night street market is there as well as local events. Stay in this area for the food & drinks. The Pasifaei restaurant is on top of my personal list as well as ThirdEye for some vegetarian food.
5 thoughts on “Crete Travel Blog – Ultimate Guide to the Island”
I’m so happy to have found your Crete Travel Blog!
My husband and I have been deliberating over visiting Crete for a week and staying in Chania from 13 March. Can you please tell me if visiting at this time of year (last week of winter) will be a problem with restaurants and day tours etc. not operating?
Wow !!! Really the best travel guide!!
Bye from okaycrete
Great Blog , a full guide for Holidays in Crete .