Last updated on February 8, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Crete

How big is Crete?

Simply, this is the largest of the Greek Islands, over 350Km from the east to the west coast, a full day trip by public bus or 6 hours by car.

But there is more.

The large size can actually be intimidating, compared to other Greek islands that you can visit in 2 or 3 days.

On the positive side, there are so many things to do, see and experience in Crete that you will be spoiled by the choice

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How big is Crete – map and main destinations

Best places to visit in Crete on a map
Best places to visit in Crete on a map

The two main cities are Heraklion and Chania, very different in their own way, you can check here the pros and cons of both.

Rethymno, Agios Nikolaos and Sitia are also popular destinations for a trip.

As you see on the above map, there are actually plenty of destinations. Different areas of Crete that cater to a different kind of market, family or couples, budget or lux, nightlife or quiet, action or rest. 

Keep also in mind that a good part of the South Coast is only accessible by ferry, or trekking through the gorges, like the beautiful Samaria Gorge.

The South Coast is one of the best parts of the islands if you are looking for a secluded and romantic stay.

The North Coast is easily accessible by either car or public bus.

The very efficient public bus system connects all of the most popular cities and destinations (more on this later in the post)

From Crete, you can also take a ferry to Gavdos island, the southernmost European island, still politically part of Crete. 

The ferry trip takes a few hours and I would not suggest it for just a day visit.

It’s a great hippy island though, worth a week or two if you are after some easy time.

Another island south of Crete is Chrissi Island, a real paradise that you can reach by boat from Ierapetra. Imagine white sand and turquoise water.

The main question is not just how big is Crete but more how long do you need to visit it all.

It takes time. I have tried to organise a few itineraries of Crete here based on the length of the stay.

Chrissi Beach, south of Crete
Chrissi Beach, south of Crete

Public bus or rent a car in Crete

Now that you are aware of how big is Crete let’s see how can you move around

First thing, Crete is surprisingly an easy island to move around.

The bus and ferry transportation is great as well as the roads around the island, probably some of the best in Greece.

The mean of transportation, though, will give you a different experience and let me explain why

Rent a car in Crete

This will give you the highest level of freedom.

You will have the freedom of driving around Crete at your own pace.

In the long-term, you can actually save some money too, besides a better experience when visiting popular sites.

Why?

Because you can drive to sites like Knossos, for example, in the early morning without having to wait for buses and loads of people.

You can visit the Spinalonga Fortress just driving to the small pier in front of the island and be charged just a few Euro from the small boat operator, instead of the full trip fare from an agency.

You can reach Elafonisi Beach or Balos Beach (4WD only) in the early morning to enjoy it almost on your own

And, most important, you can stop by in any village to have lunch or dinner and experience the local life and the amazing fresh food at a great price too.

I drove around and I was really surprised by the beautiful roads and the unique views.

Obviously, I could stop and take my time and photos, something that is impossible to do with public transportation.

I usually rent my car from DiscoverCars.com, they give the best deals analysing all the current prices from more than 30 rentals companies.

I found on this site some unbeatable prices, even better than contacting directly the renting agencies.

Is it safe to drive in Crete?

The main roads connecting the most important centres are big and well maintained, on a German standard.

It all becomes small, or even tiny when you venture inside the old centres.

I personally felt very comfortable with the Greek people driving most of the time safely (there is always the odd driver around)

Check a few excellent car prices

Some of the roads drive along the coast with a spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea, so magical
Some of the roads drive along the coast with a spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea, so magical

Crete public transportation

There are lots of pros about driving a car, however, there are few sites where a bus or a ferry make life easier.

I am thinking here of the South-West Coast for example, where beautiful towns as Loutro are accessible only via sea.

Even the Samaria Gorge can be easily done by bus as you enter from the mountain ranges and you walk down to the beach area (see more photos here on the trek)

A mix of transportation means may actually be the best solution for Crete

A car can be used to explore the North Coast meanwhile public transportation can be the answer for the South Coast or even a trip to Gavdos (plan at least 2 nights there).

On a trip, for example, I rented a car in Heraklion and I explored the eastern part of the island.

Then I took a public bus from Heraklion to Chania where I rented another car to explore the west side of the island.

The public bus transportation runs pretty much always on time too, which makes it easy to organise your plans.

You can check the KTEL timetable here.

If you do not feel confident about renting a car, you can always grab a bus to go to your accommodation and book online one of the many local experiences (like the Samaria Gorges or Elafonisi Beach).

There is nothing worse than driving with fear as you will not be able to enjoy your holiday.

Heraklion main port
Heraklion main port, not too far away from the airport

Crete Airports

Crete has two main airports, Chania and Heraklion.

Sitia has also a tiny airport with just a small number of flights a day

Which one is best?

It really depends on what you want to do.

If you are after the nightlife of the island, then the closest airport to Hersonissos and Malia is Heraklion.

If you are after some trekking in the Samaria Gorge or want to visit and stay close to Elafonissi beach then Chania works better.

If you want to tour the island you could fly to Heraklion or Sitia, explore the eastern part of the island and then move to the west and finally fly out from Chania, assuming your departing airport is connected with both cities.

There is no better airport, it all depends on what area you decide to stay in Crete.

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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