Last updated on March 2, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Crete

Where to stay in Crete

Where to stay in Crete? Chania and Rethymnon are my favourite towns, but this is the biggest Greek island and one of the largest in Europe. Other destinations may be better, based on your type of holiday

Crete is a unique, and outstanding island. I explored most of it during my Greek time, I worked in Greece for a while too, but I never found any place in the country offering so much.

You can find great places to stay in Crete with amazing beaches (some of the best in Greece, I may add), for family time, or for couples, nightlife, secluded or busy spots, and so much more.

Following my last trip to Crete, I have organised a comparative table with all the best areas to stay in Crete for a quick understanding of the island. 

Without further ado let’s get into it.

Main destinations for one week in Crete
Main destinations in Crete

Where to stay in Crete for beaches, families and couples – Key points

I have compared the best towns and areas to stay in Crete in the table below based on the average cost, bars/restaurants, nature/beach and other factors (1-5 with 1 being the lowest score). I added also links to suggested hotels in the area.

Swipe left or right to see the full table on a mobile

Best forTown/CityHow expensiveCharacterBeachRestaurants
NightlifeSuggested Hotels
Beaches, Nightlife and FoodChaniaModerateOld Town + HarbourExcellentExcellentGoodCasa Delfino
Kasteli Studios
Beaches and SeclusionSitiaLow-Mod.Old Town + HarbourGoodGoodQuietSitia Beach
LuxuryEloundaExpensiveNot muchExcellentGoodGoodBlue Palace
Families with big kidsAgios NikolaosModerateHistorical TownGoodOKModerateCandia Park Village
Families with small kidsAlmyridaModerateSmall villageGoodGoodQuietAlmyrida Bay
Families (Package Holiday)GouvesMod.-Expen.Not muchOKOKQuietMama’s
Nightlife and Party (Intl)HersonissosLow-Moder.Not muchGoodExcellentExcellentElalia Apartment
Nightlife and Clubs (Brit)MaliaLow-Moder.Not muchOKGoodExcellentMirage Studios
History (practical base)HeraklionLow-Moder.Historical Old TownGoodOKGoodLato Boutique
Young Couples and FoodiesRethymnoModerateOld Town + HarbourGoodExcellentGoodCaramel Grecotel
Couples on a BudgetMalemeInexpensiveNot muchGoodGoodModerateMythos Beach
Romantic CouplesSissiModerateLovely harbourGoodGoodModerateCastello
Angela Suites
Couples on a Relaxing TripPaleochoraLow-Mod.Old TownGoodExcellentPoorAris Hotel
Best towns to stay in Crete
Best spots to stay in Creete
Best spots to stay in Crete – You can also check the interactive Google Map here.

Here are a few points that may become handy for your next trip to Chania

  • Where to stay in Crete without a car: the best town is Chania if you do not have a car. It has a nice old town with a local beach and access to 2 of the most spectacular beaches in Crete. The bar and restaurant scene is also great. Take a tour or a bus to visit the Samaria Gorge or the Minoan Palace of Knossos, both full-day trips. Plenty of opportunities from Chania
  • Where to stay in Crete, just one town: very hard to give a tip here. It all depends on what you are looking for. Rethymno and Chania have a bit of everything and they may be the place you are looking for.
  • Best resort in Crete for couplesCastello Boutique Resort & Spa. Adult-only with a fabulous swimming pool in the beautiful small town of Sissi.
  • Best resort for familiesCandia Park Village. Kids club, kids and adult swimming pool (to have some quiet time when without kids), beachfront. Built with a local Cretan design in the lovely town of Agios Nikolaos. Another amazing resort is the Iberostar Creta Panorama., with a great pool and a kids club too, besides a fabulous boutique beach
  • Top 5-star hotel in CreteDomes of Elounda. Luxury at its best in the most luxurious area of Crete, Elounda.
  • Best beach hotel in CreteCaramel Grecotel Boutique Resort. Private white beach with a turquoise sea, do you need more? It’s just outside Rethymno, the food capital of Crete
  • Best Airbnb in Chania and Rethymno: Kasteli (Chania) and Loggia (Rethymno)
  • My top restaurants: Avli tou Defkaliona in Heraklion, To Rakodikeio in Rethymno and the Minares Achmet Aga area in Chania
  • Local transportation: public buses (good service, though not very quick) or rent a car through, a great website that compares the best local and international rental companies based on price and user feedback.
  • Chania or Heraklion: I love both cities, in their way. You should read my full post about the best, and the worst, of Chania and Heraklion.
  • Best organised experiences: trekking in the Samaria Gorge is a must (cheap too), and a guided tour of the Knossos Palace skipping the queue is another experience that should be on the bucket list. A trip to Elafonissi Beach will introduce you to one the best beaches in Crete

If you are planning a trip to Crete you should download this Travel Guide to Crete with over 100 pages and 28 possible itineraries to suit any type of holiday. I am just launching it and I made it totally free to download for now, however, you can leave a small donation for my morning coffee πŸ˜‰

Crete Travel Guide - PDF File

I have more videos on Crete in this dedicated YouTube playlist.

Where to stay in Crete for the best beaches

Crete is one of the best, if not the best, of the Greek islands for beaches

Crete has four of the top 10 beaches in Greece: Elafonisi and Balos Beach, on the west coast, Chrissi and Palm Beach on the east coast

Interestingly enough, there is no town next to these 4 spectacular beaches.

You can, however, access them on a local trip from either Chania or Sitia.

It has to be said that Chania is very well organised with day tours and operators. Sitia is less so and I suggest renting a car in this case.

Pin it if you like this guide
Pin it if you like this guide to Crete

Chania – Beach & Food

  • Best for a beach holiday & amazing food
  • 🏩 Casa Delfino is the recommended accommodation in the area.
  • πŸ‘ Pros: Spectacular old town, great bar and restaurant scene, local beach, access to Elafonisi Beach and Balos Beach via day tours.
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons: Can be busy, not as quiet as some other areas.

Chania, in the west of the island, has one of the most spectacular old town centres in Crete, with plenty of bars and restaurants, amazing old/ancient buildings, and so charming.

It has a nice local beach too, on a short walk from the town centre. It is really all you need for a long stay.

With a simple day tour from Chania, you can visit two of the most spectacular beaches in Greece, Elafonisi Beach and Balos Beach

They are both unique and unmissable. You can also think of renting your own vehicle, in fact, the trip is an adventure by itself.

Balos Beach is also reachable by boat trips, however, you will not get the awesome view from the bumpy top road.

From Chania, you can also venture to the Samaria Gorge, an easy trek through a fantastic canyon that will take you to an isolated beach in Agia Roumeli. From there the tour operator will take you back to Chania.

Chania has also some spectacular restaurants. The whole area around the Minares Achmet Aga has some amazing nice eateries, popular with the local young generation, just one restaurant after the other.

From Chania, you can also take the public bus to many other nearby beaches and towns. You can check the KTEL timetable here.

If unsure about where to stay in Chania, you should check out my ultimate guide to the best areas and hotels in Chania. Here below is a small selection of my recommended options

Best hotels to stay in Chania for a beach holiday

Casa Delfino Hotel & Spa is one of the best choices in Chania. You will enjoy not only its rooms but also its spa and relaxation area.

It’s located straight in the heart of Chania but in a quiet area. And the amazing view from the rooftop will leave you open mouth.

Check availability at Casa Delfino

View to the old Chania town from the Casa Delfino

Another great accommodation in Chania is the Kasteli Studios & Apartments. This is an exceptional place with a local character. Alex, the owner, will do everything to please you.

The location is right in the old town, steps from the action but in a quiet spot, great for a relaxed time and nice quiet sleep.

Check the latest deal at Kasteli

Sitia – A secluded beach holiday

  • Best for a secluded beach holiday
  • 🏩 Sitia Beach Resort is the recommended accommodation in the area.
  • πŸ‘ Pros: Sleepy town with a lovely promenade, local beach, and access to Vai Beach and Chrissi Beach.
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons: Can be hot in summer, less organized for tours than other areas.

Sitia is a 3 hours bus drive east of Heraklion. It is indeed a long trip however you will be rewarded by a lovely sleepy town with an awesome promenade, where you can have an amazing dinner at one of the many local restaurants.

There is a local beach, on the right side, quite a long one actually, with few organised spots connected to the cafes and/or restaurants.

This side of Crete can be quite hot in summer which explains the landscape around the town, very desertic.

Rent a car and drive to Vai Beach, the only palm beach in Europe, so spectacular. You may think that you are suddenly in the Caribbean.

Chrissi Beach is another unique beach accessible from Sitia, just off the town of Ierapetra. The name of the beach is actually Golden Beach, however, it is known by most as just Chrissi Beach.

Just a small update on Chrissi Island. Access was closed in the last 2 summers and it is now under a yearly review. Trips to the island are still possible, but you will have to swim the last 20 metres because the boats cannot dock on the island

Best hotel for a beach stay in Sitia

Sitia Beach Resort is one of the top accommodations in town. The rooms are spacious and recently renovated and you will also have a pool immersed in a beautiful garden

I personally suggest going for just Bed & Breakfast instead of the full board. In this way, you can explore other restaurants in this tiny town. The location is just in front of the beach

Latest price at Sitia Beach City Resort

Chrissi Beach, south of Crete
Chrissi Beach, south of Crete – The beach is not anymore organised

Where to stay in Crete for couples

Chania is certainly one of the best towns to stay in for couples, although if you are planning more of a quiet and romantic time, then Sissi, Paleochora and Maleme may work better

Sissi – A romantic getaway

  • Best for couples looking for a romantic getaway
  • 🏩 Castello Boutique Resort & Spa is the recommended accommodation in the area.
  • πŸ‘ Pros: Unpretentious, romantic, small port, peaceful village, local restaurants and bars.
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons: Not as lively as other areas, might be too quiet for some.

How lovely is the unpretentious Sissi? You can always miss it out when you drive from Heraklion, direction east…..but you shouldn’t.

This is one of the most romantic towns to stay in Crete with a natural inlet covered by palm trees. The small port is so charming, picture perfect, and a great spot to have lunch or dinner with your partner.

This was the port used during the Cretan revolution to unload the weapons but long gone is the fight time.

Now Sissi is really a small peaceful village that comes alive at night with just a few local restaurants and bars.

For a swim, you can visit Boufos Beach, probably not the most popular beach in Crete, however, it is great for some relaxing time.

The most amazing restaurant is not actually at the small harbour. It’s an easy 15-minute walk to the hidden Neromilos Taverna. Not to be missed!

The many taverns at the pier are all very popular with the locals from Heraklion who drive here for the best fish on the island.

Sissi is certainly one of the most picturesque towns to stay in Crete and if you are after a bit of nightlife you can always take a taxi to Malia, so close, just 10 minutes by car, however so distant with the many night bars open till late.

Best romantic hotel in Sissi

For a great experience when you travel as a couple, I suggest the Castello Boutique Resort & Spa. It is an adult-only accommodation which means you can be sure you will have a tranquil time, especially in the pool area.

The great service and the spectacular breakfast buffet make this place a must-stay in Sissi.

Best deal at the Castello Boutique Resort

The unique Castello Boutique resort

Paleochora – A relaxing beach vacation

  • Best for couples looking for a relaxing beach vacation
  • 🏩 Aris Hotel is the recommended accommodation in the area.
  • πŸ‘ Pros: Quiet town, slow pace, great long beach in the small bay, town comes alive at night with characteristic restaurants and bars.
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons: The town is quite small and may not offer as many activities or attractions, no nightlife

Paleochora, on the southern coast, used to be the hippy town of Crete many years ago, in the 70s. It’s not anymore, however, it still keeps that slow pace.

I arrived there late in the morning on the bus (an easy trip from Chania) and the main streets were deserted.

I had a little nap and I was ready for the “party”, a Nescafe at the main beach, a very quiet and relaxing one.

Not much happening really but still a very romantic town, especially after sunset with all the characteristic restaurants and bars around the end of the main street (closed to traffic at night).

There is a great long beach in the small bay with the wind coming up after lunch. Relaxation is really the word that comes to my mind when describing Paleochora.

One of my favourite restaurants here is the Oyzepi Restaurant. The Oyzeri is usually a place where you drink Oyzo (a Greek aperitif) and eat some sort of Greek tapas, however here they have added also some typical mains. I love it.

Remember to have a walk to the castle for the beautiful view.

From Paleochora you can take the ferry to the villages on the south coast, mostly isolated and with no land access. It has been the highlight of my romantic trip through Crete.

Best hotel to stay in Paleochora for a relaxing beach time

The Aris Hotel in Paleochora is one of the best options in town. The first thing to impress you will be the luscious garden, then the interior design and finally the great service.

The location is a stone away from the restaurant area but still secluded enough to have a quiet time.

Check price at the Aris

The Aris Hotel

Maleme – On a budget

  • Best for couples on a budget
  • 🏩 Mythos Beach is the recommended accommodation in the area.
  • πŸ‘ Pros: Relaxed time, close to the beach, very quiet, a great base to visit nearby tourist destinations.
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons: Not as lively as other areas.

Maleme is the perfect spot if you want to have a relaxed time, close to the beach, and very quiet but still a great base to visit the nearby tourist destinations.

The town is only 16km from Chania, which makes it great for a late afternoon followed by dinner there

You are also close to Elafonisi beach and Balos beach, two of the best beaches in Greece (they can be visited with a tour or own vehicle)

And if you are after an active day you can always take a detour at the Samaras Gorge, around 1 hour away.

The local beach is long and nice, with a few organised spots usually connected to either a cafe or a restaurant

Accommodations in this part of Crete tend also to be cheaper than the average, which is great if you are travelling on a budget.

A great hotel on a budget in Maleme

The Mythos Beach Hotel is an amazing value place with a balcony and access to a pool. The studios are self-contained and spacious.

Check price at Mythos

The entrance to Samaria Gorge
The entrance to Samaria Gorge

Best places to stay in Crete for families and kids

Agios Nikolaos – With bigger kids

  • Best when travelling with bigger kids
  • 🏩 Candia Park Village is the recommended accommodation in the area.
  • πŸ‘ Pros: Lovely town on the water, natural inlet, a small square with Greek performances, and two small beaches.
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons: The bus station is a long walk from the town centre.

This is a lovely town on the water with a natural inlet, that creates a small lake and a small square where Greek performances are usually organised at night, mostly during the high season.

There is a nice family vibe with plenty of grown-up kids around.

The bus station is a long walk from the town centre. I would suggest a taxi for the last leg to the hotel, especially if you are travelling with kids.

It’s a great town to have your dinner and go for a walk along the 2 pedestrian streets interconnected by another square.

There are two small beaches, the first one called Kitroplateia Beach, right in the heart of Agios Nikolaos, and Ammos Beach on the southern side of town. They are both nice enough to spend the whole day swimming and playing in the sand.

If staying for a week or more, I would probably suggest renting a car and exploring the surroundings.

This should include a visit to the Fortress Spinalonga, a small island with a long history, as a Venetian fortress, a refuge for the rebels and, more recently, a place of exile for lepers.

It is now one of the major attractions of Crete.

If driving your own car, head to the town of Plaka and catch a local boat there. They run quite frequently, very easily and inexpensively.

Alternatively, if you prefer an all-organised local excursion ask your hotel/resort, there are a few around.

Best hotel in Agios Nikolaos for a family trip with older kids

The Candia Park Village is one of the best hotels to stay when travelling with children. It has a kid’s pool, a kids club and a playground beside the adult’s swimming pool so that you can switch between some busy times and relaxed moments.

The architecture of the units is very Cretan style and the location is both quiet and close to the main happening areas. Sometimes you can find amazing deals in this place, just try to book well in advance if you can πŸ˜‰

Latest deal at Candia Park Village

From Agios Nikolaos, I suggest a visit to the uninhabited small island of Chrissi, with the best crystal clear water I have ever seen. This is one of the top 10 sandy beaches in Greece, absolutely spectacular

Just a small update on Chrissi Island. Access was closed in the last two summers and it is now under a yearly review. Check out the status before planning your trip there. At the moment the boats cannot dock there and you can visit it only with a short swim from the boat itself.

Almyrida – With smaller kids

  • Best when travelling with smaller kids
  • 🏩 Almyrida Bay is the recommended accommodation in the area.
  • πŸ‘ Pros: Quiet area, ideal for family holidays, two nice beaches.
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons: Might be too quiet for some.

Almyrida is another small village that has expanded in the last few years, thanks to the tourism influx. In saying that, it is still a quiet area, ideal for family holidays, travelling with small kids and looking for a relaxed stay.

There are 2 nice beaches, both facing north. It may get wavy in the afternoon, however, you can still find calm waterΒ on the east side of the beach, both covered by a small pier.

The beaches are all organised, with sunbeds and umbrellas for a relaxing time. On the back, you will find plenty of restaurants that usually offer kid’s menus.

It’s a nice family town with all you need at walking distance and a few local trips that you can organise with one of the agencies around.

Best hotels to stay in Almyrida with smaller kids

The Almyrida Bay Hotel offers simple great value accommodation, including a great pool, with a dedicated section for small kids.

The rooms are spacious and nicely furnished.

Check price at Almyrida

Driving in Crete
Driving through the mountains of Crete

Gouves – The all-inclusive family destination

  • Best for an all-inclusive stay
  • 🏩 Amirandes Grecotel Exclusive Resort is the recommended accommodation in the area.
  • πŸ‘ Pros: all-inclusive package, ideal for families, relaxing holiday, close to the beach, proximity to the Crete Aquarium and Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Centre
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons: The beaches can get a bit wavy in the afternoon. Lack of Greek charm.

Gouves has some of the best all-inclusive beach holidays for families in Crete. Seat, relax, it’s all organised.

There are so many resorts around to choose from. Just keep in mind that they mostly face the north and they can get a bit wavy in the afternoon. There are a few beaches covered by the breakwater that keep the area as a natural pool, Marina Beach and the ones around the port are the most popular ones.

Gouves is not actually the name of a town, in fact, if you search it on Google Maps you will be redirected to an inland area. It’s the name of a district made of Kato and Pano Gouves, Lower and Upper Gouves.Β 

It’s one of the easiest places to stay in Crete with families and kids. You will have all you need within walking distance.

For a cultural day, you can drive from there to Knossos to visit both the archaeological sites and the archaeological museum too.

For more fun, you can take your kids to the nearby water parks, the Anopolis or the Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Centre in Hersonissos.

You can also plan to visit the local Crete Aquarium, for a great display of the Mediterranean sea life. Plenty of options for a unique day.

Best all-inclusive resorts in Crete

Mama’s Beachfront Home offers great value accommodations metres from the sea. The 2-BR accommodations are really spacious, hosting up to 6 people, again with a lovely view.

Check price at Mama’s

A great alternative rated as one of the most beautiful accommodations in Crete is the Amirandes Grecotel Exclusive Resort.

They have a beautiful infinity pool with a view to the sea, a private beach with lots of gazebos for the guests, food to die for and lots of attention for anything you need.

Check the best price at Amirandes

Infinity Pool at the Amirandes, Grecotel Exclusive Resort

Best places to stay in Crete for Nightlife

Malia – British nightlife and clubbing

  • Best for nightlife and clubbing between mostly Brits
  • 🏩 Mirage Studios is the recommended accommodation in the area.
  • πŸ‘ Pros: Late nights, extreme nightlife, popular with young British crowd, Irish and English pubs.
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons: Can be too loud and busy for some, the beach tends to be empty until mid-afternoon.

Malia is all you about late nights, it is synonymous with extreme nightlife in Crete.

Explore this area in the morning and you think that there is no tourism at all and all the hotels around are struggling to find customers.

Stay till the evening and suddenly it gets populated with a young crowd that leaves the hotel rooms to start the night.

It’s one of the most popular places to stay in Crete for the British young crowd, with many Irish and English pubs along Beach Road (which is not the real name, however, everyone knows it that way).

The beach is fine, but not spectacular, and it tends to be empty until mid-afternoon.

For more peace, head to the old town, inland, still with lots of character packed in the small lanes and typical restaurants.

Best hotel to stay close to Malia nightlife

The Mirage Studios are just perfect for your stay in Malia, close to the action and the beach, but still far away enough to have a quiet time.

They are such a great value for money, especially considering the lovely swimming pool.

Check price at Mirage

Hersonissos – International nightlife & party

  • Best for nightlife & parties with a young international crowd
  • 🏩 Elalia Apartments is the recommended accommodation in the area.
  • πŸ‘ Pros: vibrant nightlife, good selection of restaurants and bars, international crowd, nice beach
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons: not be the best choice for those seeking a quiet, relaxing holiday. Not really suitable for families with young children.

Hersonissos is now the biggest resort area in Crete, very popular with youngsters looking for nightlife.

Like Malia, also Hersonissos has plenty of bars and a long nightlife till the early hours of the morning. However, if in Malia tourism is mostly British, in Hersonissos you will find more of an international crowd.

Elalia Apartments offer cheap and quiet accommodation, just 5 mins walk from the centre of the action. The view of the beach is just awesome. The rooms are spacious and spotlessly clean.

Check price at Elalia

Best areas to stay in Crete for history

The best town to stay in Crete for history is undoubtedly Heraklion. It offers the easiest access to Knossos, the main attraction for history lovers in Crete.

I personally love Rethymno, with its amazing old town and the fabulous food, unique in Crete

Both destinations are on the North Coast of the island.

Heraklion – Access to Knossos

  • Best city for a visit to Knossos
  • 🏩 Lato Boutique Hotel is the recommended accommodation in the area.
  • πŸ‘ Pros: University city, great for bars and nightlife, easy access to Knossos, the most famous of all the attractions in Crete.
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons: No good beaches in or around the city.

Heraklion is where you should stay in Crete to easily access Knossos, the Bronze Age archaeological site, and Europe’s oldest city, a must for any trip to Crete.

You can access Knossos using public transportation. The bus is inexpensive and takes only 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can drive there with your car or scooter in around 15 minutes.

There are 2 main streets with lots of shopping possibilities. Restaurants and bars are literally everywhere. This is the only destination on the island to be well alive also in winter, mostly with the local young University crowd.

I wrote extensively about where to stay in Heraklion, with a city map and the 4 areas I suggest booking your hotel.

So far, the best hotel I have experienced in Heraklion is the Lato Boutique Hotel. The location is just perfect, close to the action of the old town, next to the water and the pier, and metres away from the bus station.

The view is just amazing. I was really impressed by the service too. They kept my bags and they gave me a complimentary room to have a shower when I went back in the late afternoon to pick up my luggage.

Check availability at Lato Boutique 

Heraklion by night

There are plenty of nice restaurants in Heraklion.

My favourite is still Avli tou Defkaliona, within walking distance from the city centre. My only problem here is that I eat too much!

Not to be missed is also theΒ CROP – Roastery β€’ Brewery, located in a lovely square, popular with students, offering the best coffee in the city and a great beer selection.

It has to be said that there are basically no beaches in or around the city and this is the limit of Heraklion I believe. You would need to take the bus to Paleokastrou Beach, a great spot well worth the 15km trip.

Rethymno – Superb Historical Centre

  • Best if looking for a charming and characteristic old centre
  • 🏩 Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort is the recommended accommodation in the area.
  • πŸ‘ Pros: Magnificent old town, long stretch of sand on the east side of town, fabulous food, romantic and perfect for couples
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons: Modern part of town is not inspiring, beach is very narrow.

Rethymno has one of the most beautiful old towns to stay in Crete, mostly pedestrian, which makes it a really nice place to have a walk around both during the day and at night.

It actually offers everything you want, for either a family vacation, a romantic holiday with your partner or some nightlife.

The beach is a long stretch of sand on the east side of town. It is not my favourite spot for swimming as it tends to be quite busy and the beach itself is very narrow, just the space for a few sunbeds from the promenade, but it’s good for a relaxing day after a long night out

The modern part of town is not really inspiring and is mostly based on 70s and 80s buildings, but accommodations are usually less expensive.

The Loggia is my favourite place to stay in the Old Town of Rethymnon. Absolutely spectacular historic building and it is such a great value for money. The location is just perfect, right in the heart of town, but still in a nice quiet street.

Check price at Loggia

For unique and exclusive accommodation, you should also check out the Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort.Β It’s just a 5-minute taxi ride to Rethymno.

It has been built with the Greek feeling in mind. Small white villas with a beautiful green garden around, some with a view to the Mediterranean sea, gazebos placed randomly on the private beach for a freedom feeling, and great interior design with lovely Greek tiles. Gym, pool and breakfast are to die for.

Check availability at Caramel

View from a drone of the Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort

The Greek cuisine in Rethymno is just spectacular. Many restaurants have added that little twist that takes the usually expected dishes to the next level with the addition of honey and spices.

Rethymno is today my favourite place in Crete for food, although Chania is fantastic too (hard choice).

I love To Rakodikeio, facing theΒ Neratze Mosque and next to Mikrasiaton Square. It’s all so amazing that is hard to suggest any dish.

Nightlife is big in town. You can start for a few drinks and mezedes (small tapas version food) inΒ one of the few bars at the ArkadiuΒ and from there move to the Old Harbour for dinner.

Walk around the corner toΒ Venizelou Road (Eleytheriou Venizelou) for one of the many bars to start your night.

Approaching Rethymnon
Approaching Rethymno

Elounda – Best town to stay in Crete for a luxury holiday

  • Best for a luxury and boutique stay
  • 🏩 Blue Palace is the recommended accommodation in the area.
  • πŸ‘ Pros: Luxury area, offers everything for a family vacation, a holiday with your partner or some nightlife.
  • πŸ‘Ž Cons: More expensive than other areas.

Elounda is the luxury destination of Crete with the highest concentration of 5-stars hotels on the island.

It has been a long favourite of many Greek politicians, music stars and Russian tycoons. And this is no wonder, being the area so beautiful. Elounda is situated in a natural bay with amazing water and limited wind.

A must attraction close to Elounda is Spinalonga, the island where the Venetians built a fortress that lately was used as an exile for people affected with leprosy.

There are two small beaches, on the north and south end of town. But not really the reason to come here. It’s more about the beauty of the area and the resort where you will stay.

The Blue Palace Elounda is one of the best-rated hotels in Crete with a private infinity pool next to your bedroom. The interior design is inspired by the history of the island with an amazing view of the bay.

Check availability at Blue Palace

Public transportation or rent a car in Crete

I wrote a more comprehensive post about the size of Crete and bus vs car vs ferry transportation.

You can read there all the pros and cons of public transportation vs private cars.

I personally prefer the car to experience Crete and its secret spots.

On a few occasions, I used the bus to move between cities/towns and then a car to visit beaches and hidden corners of the island.

To hire my cars, I personally use, an aggregator that compares local and international providers giving the best deals based on price and the user’s reviews, basically an Airbnb of car rentals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best part of Crete to stay?

The best part of Crete to stay depends on your preferences. For a balance of a beautiful small town, excellent food, affordable and a central location, Rethymno is a great choice. If you want a traditional town with the convenience of a small city, Chania could be a great place to stay. For nightlife, Heraklion is a good option.

Where should I base myself in Crete?

If you’re planning to explore various attractions in Crete, basing yourself in Rethymno could be a good idea due to its central location. It’s just a one-hour drive from the airport in Heraklion and is close to many of the best spots in Western Crete.

Is it better to stay in Chania or Heraklion?

Both Chania and Heraklion have their own charms. Chania has a stunning Venetian harbour and a small-town vibe, while Heraklion offers urban vibes, nightlife, and is close to the famous Knossos Palace. Your choice would depend on your preferences and the kind of experience you’re looking for.

Which is the prettiest town in Crete?

Many consider Rethymno as one of the prettiest towns in Crete. It has a gorgeous, maze-like Venetian-Ottoman quarter and is on the sea, so it has a harbour and beaches.

Where to stay in Crete for hiking?

For hiking, Amari Valley or Chania are good options. Amari Valley is in the shadow of Mount Ida, the highest mountain in Crete, making it a popular region for hiking.

Which is more beautiful Crete or Santorini?

Both are beautiful. Santorini has unique landscapes, and Crete offers varied experiences. Crete is also much bigger in size than Santorini

Which part of Crete has the best beaches?

Chania region in Crete is known for having the best beaches

Stefano Ferro - Founder and Editor

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82 thoughts on “Where to stay in Crete [best and worst areas]”

  1. Hi, I am really enjoying reading about visiting Greece and some of its beautiful islands. My husband is 82 years old and I am 70 years old with some mobility issues. We would like to visit Crete, Rhodes, Santorini. Naxos and Athens. We would like to stay in each place between 4 and 7 days. We live in Canada and this is our first real trip to Greece. Years ago we visited a couple of port as part of a Mediterranean cruise. It is my dream to spend some time in Greece and enjoy the people, food and beaches. In what order would you suggest we travel. I thought we would flight from Canada to Crete, then fly from Crete to Rhodes and I am not sure if to do the rest by ferries that we would really enjoy. In each island what city of part of the city would you recommend we stay for easy access to the local beaches and tavernas. We would like to go in September for all of it.

    • Hi Blanca, what a great trip you have planned!! Well done.
      There are a few “best” ways.
      -1- Crete > (ferry) > Santorini > (ferry) > Naxos > (ferry) > Athens > (flight) > Rhodes……from Rhodes you could fly home (its’ an intl airport) or back to Athens or most of the European capitals and big cities (plenty of Low Cost flights)
      -2- Crete > (direct SkyExpress flight) > Rhodes > (flight direct) > Atherns > (ferry) > Naxos > (ferry) > Santorini > ………..from Santorini you could fly home (its’ an intl airport) or back to Athens or most of the European capitals and big cities (plenty of Intl flights) is a small company that connects some islands with direct flights. With the other Greek airline you will have always to stop by in Athens.
      A ferry from Crete to Santorini/Naxos takes a long time, although a nice trip.
      About suggested towns, I would say:
      + CHANIA
      + RETHYMNO
      + NEW/OLD TOWN (flat)
      + FIRA (sort of flat once you are there)
      + KAMARI (if you prefer to stay at the beach)
      + OLD TOWN (Flat and easy to walk around)

      I hope I was able to help out. Have a great trip. Cheers

  2. Hi there

    We are looking to travel to Crete in the first week of October and hopefully catch the last of the Euro summer. Apparently Lerapetra has the best chance of beach weather at that time as it is in the South. Is it worth staying there – any tips or advice for that area and accommodation etc?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Sam, I highly suggest the south west coast, partially reachable only by boat.
      Gavdos island is another great destination but finding an accommodation is not easy

      Enjoy your trip

  3. Hi, we are looking at visiting end of May with our 2 daughters, 3 & 6. we previously stayed at Domes of Elounda prior to kids which we loved, so wasn’t sure whether just to go with the same place or venture elsewhere. ANy recommendations welcome?! Thanks


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