Last updated on February 26, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Crete

One week in Crete, itineraries for beaches, couples, families and more

One week in Crete will give you the possibility to experience the best that this island has to offer

You can have a relaxing 7 days and you can plan well in advance your itinerary and experiences and make the most of it.

I have spent my last 20 years travelling to Greece and Crete. I lived there for 1 year. It’s always such great fun to be back

In this guide, I have organised all my tips to build a one week in Crete itinerary for any kind of holiday, for couples and families, for beach lovers and trekking addicted, of course including the unique historical sites as Knossos, the oldest European city.

Ok, you got the point, now let’s get into it.

You can read also

Heraklion main port
Heraklion main port

One week in Crete – in a nutshell

Seven days in Crete will allow you to explore a good part of the island. 

Keep in mind, however, that this is one of the biggest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, with over 8,000sqm of land.

Don’t do the mistake that I did on my first trip: trying to see everything.

I spent more time travelling than actually enjoying the place.

As an example, you can technically visit both Balos and Elafonisi Beach in one day with a rented car, but you will hardly have time to have a swim and snap a few photos.

Main destinations for one week in Crete
Main destinations for one week in Crete

When arriving in Crete, you will either land in Heraklion or Chania (Sitia airport is mostly connected to other Greek cities).

You can also think to fly, for example, into Heraklion and out from Chania (or vice versa) if you are lucky enough to have flights to both cities.

I wrote more about the differences between Heraklion and Chania airports.

Here are my suggested itineraries for one week in Crete. Follow the link for more details, daily activities, a map and the best places to stay in Crete based on the itinerary.

  • One week in Crete for beaches: with seven days you can see all of the most beautiful beaches that Crete has to offer. Start your trip in Chania in the west and then move to Agios Nikolaos in the East. You can also decide to bypass the east coast and focus uniquely on the west side of the island for a more relaxing time.  Read more below on a one-week beach itinerary in Crete
  • Seven days in Crete for couples: in this section, I would suggest two possible itineraries, one in the north-west and one in the south-west of the island. They are both very romantic and not stressful. Read more below on a full romantic itinerary
  • For families: You have also here a couple of options. Almyrida, close to Chania is my favourite family destination if you prefer to create your own holiday in a family-oriented small town with a child-friendly beach. Gouves is the other option if you prefer to stay in an all-inclusive resort where you can plan one or two local experiences for kids. Read more below on a family itinerary
  • For history and trekking: Rethimno and Agios Nikolaos are two great bases to experience the characteristic old centres, the interesting historical sites and the best trekking on the island. Read more below for the history and trekking itinerary
  • For a bit of everything: Chania is a fabulous town to spend your holiday and at the same time experience a bit of everything, including some relaxing time. Read below for more details

You can move through the island using the public bus system (KTEL) or with a rented car.

KTEL is reliable, quick and it works great between the major centres(Chania, Rethimno, Heraklion or Agios Nikolaos), less so for small towns and destinations.

If I plan a day trip on my own or a full holiday with a car then I usually book my vehicle on DiscoverCars.com, a site that compares all the hiring companies providing the lowest price.

Check the car prices

You should also check out the KTEL website for the bus timetable.

I have not included Gavdos Island in any of my itineraries below.

The main reason is that it takes 4 to 6 hours by ferry to go there. 

I definitely recommend Gavdos if you have more time. I have included it for example in my 2 weeks itinerary.

For every itinerary, I also suggest a few organised activities.

Most of them (if not all) have a free cancellation policy up to 24 hours in advance. I personally suggest to book and cancel later in case you have changed your mind. Keep in mind that the most popular experiences tend to be booked out well in advance.

One week in Crete for beaches

Here below a shortlist of the 4 most beautiful beaches in Crete, rated also in the top 10 of Greece:

They are all reachable with a rented car or a relaxing organised day trip. You will need to take a short boat ride for Chrissi Island

One week in Crete for beaches
One week in Crete for beaches

Best beaches in one week

To see all the best beaches mentioned above you would need to split the stay between two cities: Chania and Agios Nikolaos.

If you feel that it’s going to be a stressful holiday then you should read the next itinerary where I focus uniquely to the West of the island.

This itinerary starts in Chania, where you will stay for 4 days

  • Day 1: start big with a visit to the first paradise close to Chania, Elafonisi Beach, with its characteristic pink beach and turquoise water (you can check the organised trip here)
  • Day 2: time for the second paradise, Balos Beach and its blue lagoon. You can reach it with a rented car through a bumpy road or better with an organised trip with a boat. Either way, you should not miss the view from the hill, just a 15-20 minutes walk from the beach (you can check the organised trip here)
  • Day 3: rent a car and drive down to Preveli Beach (~1.5 hours), another lovely one nested between the sea, an inlet and a palm valley
  • Day 4: with the rented car explore the peninsula north of Chania. For a swim and some time off stop at the beautiful Kalathas beach
  • Day 4 (alternative): take a day off from the local trips and enjoy one of the local beaches in Chania as the popular Chrissi Akti, the secluded Koum Kapi Beach or the child-friendly Paralia Nea Chora.
  • Day 5: it’s time to transfer to Agios Nikolaos. The trip will take around 3.5-4 hours. You can spend the rest of the day enjoying the old town and the two boutique local beaches of Kitroplatia and Ammoudi
  • Day 6: this is the day of the trip to my favourite beach in Crete and possibly in Greece: Golden Beach in the tiny Chrissi Island, a real heaven (you can check the organised trip here)
  • Day 7: the last day is dedicated to the biggest palm beach in Europe, Vai Beach. You can rent a car and drive there (2 hours) or join an organised trip for peace of mind.

I suggest skipping Day 4 in case you need the last day to travel back to the airport.

Resources:

You can see all these beaches in my video below, as well as other amazing destinations

Chania and the west

If you feel like having a more relaxing week, without changing accommodation halfway through, then you should think to plan the whole stay in Chania.

Why Chania?

Because it has the lot.

It has a characteristic old town made of small lanes with amazing restaurants. It has local beaches as well as access to amazing ones. It’s well connected with local buses to explore the nearby destinations.

For this one week in Crete itinerary, I suggest organising day trips every second day

  • Day 1: start your holiday exploring the old town, the market, the local harbour and spending some time at one the three local beaches: Chrissi Akti, Koum Kapi Beach or the family-friendly Paralia Nea Chora.
  • Day 2: take a day trip to Elafonisi Beach, a lovely turquoise paradise with a pink beach (you can check the organised trip here)
  • Day 3: another more relaxing day at one of the local beaches or alternatively grab a local bus to the less popular Kolatsos Beach or Almyrida Beach, a very short ride east of Chania
  • Day 4: time for another day trip, to Balos Beach and the spectacular blue lagoon (see photo below). For more peace of mind, I suggest joining the organised boat trip. You can also drive there but be aware that it’s a long bumpy road (you can check the organised trip here)
  • Day 5: rent a car and drive to the secluded peninsula north of Chania stopping for some sunbathing at the lovely Kalathas beach or the amazing boutique Stefanou Cove.
  • Day 6: keep the car and drive to Preveli Beach (~1.5 hours), another amazing one at the end of a palm valley. Have a walk inside, you will feel like in a botanical garden
  • Day 7: relax yourself in one of the local beaches or have a walk to the small Agii Apostoli Beach (4km) located in a tiny bay.

Resources:

Balos Beach and Lagoon - All you need to know - The practical guide
Balos Beach and Lagoon – All you need to know – The practical guide

Seven days in Crete for romantic couples

With one week in Crete, you can think to either stay in the two most beautiful old towns, Chania and Rethimno, or go on a romantic roaming itinerary.

Seven days in Crete for romantic couples
Seven days in Crete for romantic couples

Chania – Rethymno (charming stay)

Start your trip in Chania

  • Day 1: start your holiday with a relaxing day walking through the old town and discovering the hidden corners and cafes of Chania. Spend the afternoon in the secluded local Koum Kapi Beach
  • Day 2: time for the boat trip to the turquoise heaven of Balos Beach. The blue lagoon is an unmissable destination, although very popular as you can imagine (you can check the organised trip here)
  • Day 3: two options for this day, either join this Wine and Oil tour for some fun relaxing time or go for an active day of trekking in the 14km long Samaria Gorge (check the organise trip here
  • Day 4: go for a relaxing local day and spend some time in one of the local beaches. Alternatively, for the more motivated couples, enjoy a half-day SUP & Snorkelling trip
  • Day 5: Take a bus to Rethimno (1 hour trip). Spend the day exploring the old town in the amazing medieval walls. The small harbour is also so charming and full of character.
  • Day 6: Rent a car and make a day to Preveli Beach (~1.5 hours), a lovely beach nestled between a palm forest, an inlet and a monastery. On the way back, if you have time, you could also have a small walk inside the Kourtaliotiko Gorge.
  • Day 7: Enjoy your time in Rethimno and its local beach. Explore the Castle and the Old Venetian Harbour

For dinner in Chania, the Chatzimichali Ntaliani lane is the place to go for lots of boutique restaurants on a pedestrian street, as busy at night as empty during the day

For dinner in Rethymno, the Emmanoil Vernardoy street is the other must restaurant destination to try the best Greek food with a twist

Resources:

My favourite street for restaurants in Chania - Chatzimichali Ntaliani
My favourite street for restaurants in Chania – Chatzimichali Ntaliani – quiet in the day, so busy in the evening

The romantic itinerary

The southwest is the most romantic and secluded part of the island.

In this itinerary, I suggest a trip with 3 stops (you could possibly limit it to just two)

The start of the trip is from Chania, however, it can be done also if your flight arrives at Heraklion Airport.

  • Day 1: Take the bus to Palaiochora for the first two nights. This is a lovely small town with a very long local beach where you can spend the day. In the evening the town becomes a huge pedestrian area with a local market and restaurants in the street, so beautiful and romantic.
  • Day 2: Rent a bike or have a walk to the secluded Gialiskari Beach (4km), a great secluded one with mostly local people
  • Day 3-4: Take the ferry to Agia Roumeli where you will stay for two nights. This town has no roads in/out, it’s connected only by ferry. It’s quite busy during the afternoon with tour groups ending the Samaria Gorge trek but once they leave you will share the village with mostly locals. There is a pebble beach with sunbeds and you can also have a walk to the most spectacular part of the Samaria Gorge: the Iron Gates
  • Day 5-6: Time to pack and take the ferry to Loutro, the most romantic and secluded village in Crete. It’s a small fishing village (although tourism is the major business in summer) reachable only by boat. Absolutely gorgeous. Once there have also the coastal walk to the Glyka Nera Beach (3km), where the freshwater coming from underground mixes with the seawater, pretty unique. The east side of this beach is dedicated to nudists. There is a cafe/restaurant on the west side
  • Day 7: Take the morning ferry to Hora Sfakion and from there a bus to Chania (they are usually synchronised)

For the active couples, you can also think to trek along the coast instead of taking the ferry. There is only one path, partially on the beach, so you can’t get it wrong.

Glyka Nera Beach is halfway between Loutro and Hora Sfakion.

Resources:

One week in Crete for families

One week in Crete for families
One week in Crete for families

Almyrida (DIY holiday)

Almyrida is one of the best towns in Crete for family trips.

It’s just the right size, very close to Chania and its airport, and it has a child-friendly beach and plenty of family-run restaurants where kids can run around and play.

You can enjoy the local life, have fun with sandcastles and book 1 or 2 experiences around that kids, and adults, surely will love

Some of them include:

  • a day at the blue lagoon at Balos Beach by boat, a real fun day
  • a bus trip to the kids-friendly Elafonisi Beach with its pink sand
  • if travelling with bigger active kids then a trekking day in the famous Samaria Gorge is also an option
  • an evening in Chania for some shopping and a nice dinner. Make it in the afternoon to have a swim in the child-friendly Paralia Nea Chora 
  • an evening in Rethimno to get lost in the awesome old centre and the Venetian harbour

Resources:

Gouves (all-inclusive package)

Gouves is probably the most famous destination for all-inclusive packages for families.

I personally prefer the Almyrida beach as the Gouves beach tends to have waves in the afternoon, however, you can always find repaired areas as in Marina Beach.

Usually, the resorts have a swimming pool, most of them with a kids area and a playground.

Also, the restaurants tend to have a small playground where little kids can play meanwhile the food gets ready.

By the way, Gouves is actually a district name. The area on the coast is Kato Gouves (Lower Gouves).

From your resort, you can also have short day trips to the nearby parks as:

Resources:

7 days in Crete for history and trekking

Crete has some amazing gorges for trekking and a few important historical sites of which Knossos is surely the most famous of all, being the oldest European city.

7 days in Crete for history and trekking
7 days in Crete for history and trekking

For an active week, I would split the stay between Rethimno (the starting point) and Agios Nikolaos.

  • Day 1: from Rethimno rent a car and drive to Knossos and the Paliani monastery, founded in 668AD. To save time, buy the skip-the-line ticket with a guide in advance. If you do not feel like driving then join an organised trip that will take you to Knossos and Heraklion but not Paliani. 
  • Day 2: this is going to be the most physically demanding day with the 14km walk in the Samaria Gorge (check out the organised trip). You will end the trip in Agia Roumeni where you can have a refreshing swim in the local pebble beach
  • Day 3: after two busy days you can relax a bit in Rethimno, explore the old town, enjoy the Venetian Harbour and the Castle. You could also think to join a local tour with a guide that will take you also for some food and wine tasting (check out the organised tour). Enjoy the local beach in the afternoon
  • Day 4: time to wear the trekking boots again and go for a day trip in the Imbros Gorge (check out the organise trip)
  • Day 5: grab a public bus to Agios Nikolaos (~2.5hours), explore the town and take some time off at the local beach.
  • Day 6-7: rent a car for both days. The first day-trip is to the Spinalonga island (Venetian fortress) and the Elounda area. The other day-trip is to Richti Gorge where you will have also access to a waterfall.

Rethymno is my favourite town for food, traditional Greek with a twist. Emmanoil Vernardoy street has some amazing restaurants.

In Agios Nikolaos spend the evening and dinner in the big square around the inlet/lake Voulismeni, absolutely gorgeous

Resources:

Knossos, Europe's oldest city
Knossos, Europe’s oldest city

Seven days to explore everything

Chania is, in my opinion, the best base of the island to explore a bit of everything

Chania has also some lovely local beaches, something missing in Heraklion, Rethimno or Agios Nikolaos

Seven days to explore everything in Crete
Seven days to explore everything in Crete

Once you have booked your accommodation in Chania you can pick a few of the below activities to mix with some relaxing time in town and/or the nearby beaches

Resources:

Samaria Gorge Hike - difficulty, length, map, time and all you need to know
Samaria Gorge Hike – difficulty, length, map, time and all you need to know
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.

10 thoughts on “One week in Crete [best itineraries with map and places to see]”

  1. Hi,
    I have booked to go to Elounda, before seeing your recommendations. What would be the best experience there in a week using public transport. Thank you

    Reply
    • Good day Angela,
      Elounda is a lovely spot, you will enjoy it. From there I would plan a day trip south to Agios Nikolaos (there are also 2 small beaches in town) and north to Spinalonga (https://mel365.com/spinalonga-tour/). I am not sure about the public transportation, however, worst case scenarios you can always take a taxi as distances are short.
      Enjoy!!

      Reply
  2. Hi, I have planned an itinerary from Palaechora to Loutro in Sept/Oct this year as per your guide. Looks like the first ferry from Loutro to Hora Sfakion to catch 11.00am bus to Chania goes at 10.30 which is cutting it fine. Would it be better to travel eastwards from Loutro to Palaechora?

    Reply
    • Hi Lorna,
      that will be a great trip, Loutro is on top of my list, awesome for a relaxing stay.
      Honestly I do not see any difference on the direction you take. The only thing to check is the ferry/bus timetable, which you already checked.
      Enjoy your trip, it will be awesome!!
      Cheers

      Reply
  3. Hi,
    Do you know if there are tours or if it’s even possible to do Chania to Chrissi Island in a day? Also, do we have to carry cash when doing the tours (for additional payments like boat tickets, food) or cards are normally accepted? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Nico,
      as far as I know there are no organised trips to Chrissi Island from Chania. I believe the main reason is the long trip. You would need to budget around 7 hours (return) just for the drive to Ierapetra where you take the boat. Than you need to add another 2-3 hours for the sea trip. That would be pretty much the whole day just for the commute.
      About the money. I highly suggest to take with you cash. You can usually use the card for boat tickets (except the short ones) and sometimes restaurants, however, there is no rule of thumb. Assume they do not take it.
      I hope I was able to help
      Cheers

      Reply

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