THE LOVE FOR TRAVELLING, THE PASSION FOR PHOTOGRAPHY (MADE IN MELBOURNE AND AROUND THE GLOBE)

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY

Where to stay in Crete 2017

Best places to stay in Crete in 2018 [areas, family & couple resorts, top accommodations]

Last updated on July 27th, 2018 at 03:21 pm

I lived in Greece for a while, I have explored most of the mainland and almost all the islands however I was missing one important part, Crete.

I think I was a bit intimidated by the size and I always postponed the trip till I had more time, till I could spend few weeks. The first question I asked myself was where to stay in Crete. And what hotel to choose

I usually like to have a place to stay in a town or city and explore the area from there, however, this island is so big that this would not have been an option. I eventually decided to spend my time in a gipsy style and keep moving with only a few long stops. I booked my rooms in Crete, and the amazing journey started

I have enjoyed Crete so much that since my first long trip I keep going back for shorter stays, however more stable ones 🙂

This island has really all you need for with some great places to get lost, as the amazing Rethymnon Old Town. 

Majestic beaches, unique mountains and gorges for some interesting trekking, isolated villages connected only by ferry, amazing Cretan cuisine, awesome resorts and so much more.

The fact that many politicians, including Prime Ministers, are originally from this island has helped in building a unique public infrastructure of impeccable roads and efficient bus transportation without equals in Greece.

Best place to stay in Crete

Ok, I get this question many times:

What area would you stay in Crete, or what town? What are the great places or beaches to be around?

There is no magical answer.

I have tried to organise the places based on the type of holiday:

  • the two cities: Chania and Heraklio, if you still love to stay in a big centre with all the facilities and a great nightlife
  • couples romantic time: Sissi, Paleochora, Maleme and Sitia for a more intimate time but still with some bars and picturesque local tavernas
  • families and kids: Agios Nikolaos, Almyrida and Gouves for an easy time and walking distance attractions
  • nightlife: Hersonissos and Malia, till the early hours of the day
  • the lot: Rethymnon, Elounda and Georgioupolis for a bit of everything but no extreme

And if you wonder what is the best accommodation in Crete, I am really sorry to say there are a few 🙂 all based on your style of vacation and the points of interest (history, beach, trekking) you have in mind.

Most beautiful accommodation in Crete [for your budget]

If you have just 3 minutes spare and you want only the names of the most beautiful accommodations in Crete, the ones that will stay in your memory for a long while, then check the hotels and resorts below. My suggestion here is to book it, if you find a spot, because these are popular places, especially in high season.

These resorts are all a great value for money and they spread through a different budget 

Best price at Castello       Read more on Crete for couples

  • Best resort for families: Candia 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.

Best price at Candia      Read more on Crete for families

Check availability at Domes      Read more on Elounda

Best price at Caramel      Read more on Rethymnon

Now, if you can spare another 7 minutes you may read more about all the great areas of Crete, places to see around, beaches and much more.

Do not forget to save, or print, the map at the end of the post for future reference. Plenty of information on all you need for a memorable stay.

Best city in Crete: Chania or Heraklion? 

If you fly to Crete you will either land in Heraklion or Chania.

Few questions I have heard and received many times:

  • is it worth to spend few days in one or the other city?
  • is Chania really so much better than Heraklion?
  • should I stay in Heraklion for Knossos?
  • is it easy to travel between these two cities?
  • should I rent a car?
  • any good beach close by?

I personally love both cities, although in a different way.

Heraklion

Heraklion is more of a city, however on a small scale.

It’s actually a university city with a great young generation around which makes it great for bars and nightlife.

There are 2 main streets with lots of shopping possibilities, you can easily spend a few days here without getting bored.

There is also another good reason to spend at least a couple of nights in Heraklion, the most famous of all the points of interest in Crete: Knossos, a must for any trip in the island.

You have public buses leaving Heraklion for Knossos, very easy to organise. It will take around 15 minutes by car, it’s only 6km from the city centre, and around 30 minutes by public transportation.

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

Not to be missed is also the CROP – Roastery • Brewery, best coffee in the city and great beer too in a lovely square, popular with students.

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.

Heraklion by night

Heraklion by night

I suggest a couple of activities from Heraklion:

  • a visit to Knossos is absolutely a must, and easy to organise on your own, with a local bus.
  • Samaria Gorge: another must visit in Crete. If you plan to travel west of the island, Chania or Rethyma, then you better book it from there as it is much closer. If you are staying only in Heraklion then you may book with this local guides group.

Chania

Chania has more character with the awesome old city centre, it has lots of bars and restaurants, amazing old/ancient buildings, just more attractive. It is however more touristy, there are many available hotel rooms, it is not as original as Heraklion, and this is probably the biggest difference.

It has a nice beach too, on a short walk from the city centre. It has really all you need for a much longer stay.

From Chania you can venture to some of the spectacular sites in the island. The Samaria Gorge should be on top of the list. Easy trekking through a fantastic canyon. This tour has a great price.

Also, spare some time for the beautiful and unique Elafonissi beach and Balos Beach, described in this guide to the South of Crete.

I recommend the Fiali wine & more for an Italian dinner, in case you need a day off from the fantastic Cretan food. The all area around the Minares Achmet Aga has some amazing nice eateries, popular with the local young generation, just one after the other one, difficult to select one or the other, just taste them all.

If you have one week and you want to stay in only these two cities I would probably book 2/3 nights in Heraklion (to explore Knossos and the city) and 5 nights in Chania.

It’s very easy to go from one city to the other using the public bus transportation. You can check the KTEL timetable here.

You can also rent a car, however, keep in mind that you may experience problems with the parking, very limited in both cities. If you can drive a scooter it’s a much easier option, but only locally.

Great accommodation in Chania and Heraklion

  • In Chania you will probably find the highest concentration of accommodation in Crete of which the Casa Delfino Hotel & Spa is so well known for not only its rooms but also for the own spa and relaxation area.  It’s located straight in the heart of Chania, but in the quiet area. And what an amazing view.

Check the best price at the Casa Delfino

View to the old Chania town from the 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, in the middle of the action, in a quiet spot just around the corner bars and restaurants, great for a relaxed time and a long sleep.

    Check the latest deal at Kasteli

  • So far the best hotel in Heraklion where I stayed is the Lato Boutique Hotel. Location is just perfect, close to the action of the old town, next to the water and the pier, meters 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 room to have a shower when I came back in the late afternoon to pick up my luggage (yes all for free). Just fantastic. Very accommodating.

    Check the latest deal at the Lato Boutique 

  •  Another great accommodation in Heraklion is the Atrion Hotel. Besides the amazing price, a great value for money, this hotel has again a fantastic location, meters from the old city and facing the sea. It’s also a stone away from my favourite restaurant in Heraklion, the Avli tou Defkaliona. The breakfast is also to die for. Fantastic experience

    Check the great price at Atrion 

 

Crete for couples – towns and resorts

Chania is a beautiful and busy place to stay for couples. However, it may be not Crete’s best if you after a quiet time

If you prefer to be more isolated, have more of a romantic escape, then these 4 lovely towns/villages should not be missed

Sissi

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

Indeed, because this is one of the most romantic spots in the island with a natural inlet covered by palm trees.

The small port is what you probably expect, or look for, in Greece on a trip 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 in the night with just a few local restaurants and bars.

For some swimming, you can visit Boufos Beach, probably not the most popular beach in Crete, however great for some relaxing time

The most amazing restaurant is not actually at the pier. It’s 15 minutes walk from the town to Neromilos taverna. Not to be missed!

If you are after fresh fish just visit one of the many taverns at the pier. They can actually be quite busy with Greeks from Heraklion that drive here for the best fish in the island, so it is said at least but I can’t imagine not being great in other villages too LOL

The hotels are all around in Sissi, there are a few options, from budget to boutique.

Sissi is certainly one of the most picturesque sites 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.

For a great experience when travelling 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. Great service and a wide choice at the buffet breakfast make this place a must stay in Sissi.

Best deal at the Castello Boutique Resort

Paleochora

Paleochora 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 with the bus (easy trip from Chania). The station and the main street were like a desert late in the morning.

I had a walk around, I found my accommodation (there are a few hotel rooms options around), I had a little nap and I was ready for the “party”, a Nescafe at the main beach. Not much happening really but still quite a 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 restaurant 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. Loved 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. Really a romantic trip. Have a look to the guide to the south coast of Crete for more information.

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.

Best deal at the Aris

Maleme

Maleme is the perfect spot if you want to have a relaxed time, close to the beach, 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 visit followed by a dinner there

A tour to Elafonisi beach and Balos beach, probably two of the best beaches of Crete, is around 50km one way, or about one and half hour.

And if you are after an active day you can always take a detour at the Samaras Gorge, around 1 hour away. This is the experience I would suggest to everyone, however, take some good shoes with you, not the flip flops like I did!! I know I am a bit of an idiot LOL

And, once back in Maleme. it’s relaxing time in one of the many resorts

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

The entrance to Samaria Gorge

The entrance to Samaria Gorge

Sitia

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 that wakes up when the ferry arrives in town.

Sitia has, in fact, a port where ferries connect to Athens or other islands, so if you are into an island hopping experience you will probably end up here, which is great.

The promenade is a fantastic spot for a night walk after the usual amazing dinner at one of the many local restaurants.

There is also a town 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. Isolated as in a desert. I suggest grabbing a scooter to explore the surrounding, really interesting.

Consider a day trip to Vai Beach with the amazing blue water, green palms and brownish sand. Great contrast of colours.

I would suggest Sitia also to families with kids, so easy to enjoy the beach and have a relaxed time.

A great spot to stay in town is the Sitia Beach City Resort & Spa Hotel. This is a nice simple hotel at a great price. It’s perfect for both couples and families as some units offer split-level bedrooms. The provided breakfast will make a great start of the day. 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. Location is just in front of the beach 😉

Latest price at Sitia Beach City Resort

Crete for families and kids

Heraklion is probably not one of the great places to stay in Crete for families. There are no beaches and a consistent city traffic.

Chania is instead much better, with a nice beach too.

In saying that there are other towns and villages that are probably more suitable for a family-oriented holiday

Agios Nikolaos

I just love Agios Nikolaus. Nice town on the water with a natural inlet, that creates a small lake, and a small square where Greek performances are usually organised in the nights, mostly during the high season.

The bus station is a long walk from the town centre. I would suggest a taxi driver for the last leg to the hotel, especially if you are 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 enough for a short stay.

If staying longer I would probably suggest to rent a car and explore the surrounding, including 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 the Crete.

If driving the own car, head to Plaka and catch a local boat. They run quite frequently. Very easy and inexpensive. If you prefer an all organised local excursion ask your hotel/resort, there are a few around.

The Candia Park Village is a superb Hotel to stay with families. Why? Because it has even a kids pool, a kids club and a playground beside the adults swimming pool so that you can switch between some busy time 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. Great swimming pool and right in front of the beach. Sometimes you can find amazing deals in this place, just try to book well in advance if you can 😉

Today’s deal at Candia Park Village

From Agios Nikolaos I suggest a visit to the uninhabited island of Chrissi, with crystal clear water. It is said that on clear days you can see the African continent (I didn’t and it was a spectacular day).

In saying that, it’s really an amazing trip, Chrissi island is so beautiful. This tour has a bargain price. Book well in advance to avoid disappointments, especially in high season. The tour actually starts in Heraklion and picks up customer along the route. Being in Agios Nikolaos, last station, you will spend the least time on the bus and the most on the island, which is great.

Gouves

This is the place to come if you are after a beach holiday. There are so many 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 however 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 Map 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. Two towns slowly created with the tourism, made mostly of hotels and restaurants.

It’s an easy spot for the family with kids as you will have all you need on a walking distance.

You can, however, drive from there to Knossos for a cultural day.

For more fun, you can take your kids to the Anopolis Water Park or the Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Centre in Hersonissos. Plenty of option for a crazy day.

Another activity is a visit to the local Crete Aquarium, a great display of the Mediterranean sea life.

In Gouves you find also one of the most beautiful and best-rated accommodations in Crete, the Amirandes Grecotel Exclusive Resort. This is a resort dedicated really to all ages. They have a beautiful infinity pool with view to the sea, 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

Infinity Pool at the Amirandes, Grecotel Exclusive Resort

Almyrida

Almyrida is another town that expanded in the late few years, thanks to the tourism influx.

In saying that, it is still really a quiet area with 2 nice front beaches. They both face north and they can get some waves and wind in the afternoon. If this is the case you should move on the east side where it gets covered by the little pier.

It’s so close to Chania, less than 20Km, that it makes it a convenient day trip.

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

The beaches are all organised, with sunbeds and umbrellas for a relaxing time.

Driving in Crete

Driving in Crete

Nightlife in Crete – towns to stay

Malia

Malia is all you about late night, 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 leave the hotel rooms to start the night.

It’s more of a British enclave with the many Irish and English pub along Beach Road (which is not the real name, however, everyone knows it that way).

It’s party till the early part of the morning in the many nightclubs

The beach is fine and 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.

If you are after a nightlife holiday, then don’t look any further….well maybe check out Hersonissos 😉

Hersonissos

Hersonissos is the biggest resort area in Crete. The old part of town is really small and till the 60s it was just few houses around the harbour.

It all expanded with the arrival of the mass tourism that now monopolises this area of Crete.

The town is more dedicated to a young crowd with lots of bars and a long nightlife till the early hours of the morning and this respect it is probably Crete’s best

If in Malia the tourism is mostly British, in Hersonissos you will find more of an international crowd.

From here you can organise tours in one of the many agencies. Knossos is probably the most famous spot to visit

Remember also a visit to the famous Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Centre, especially if you have kids with you.

In Anissaras, a beach area close to Hersonissos, you will find one of the best resorts in Crete, the EAldemar Royal Mare Thalasso Resort. The hotel is based on multiple small villas and apartments around a lagoon of swimming pools. The hardest decision is if you want to either spend the day at one of the several pools or at the private beach just in front of the resort, with a stop-by at the gym of course 🙂

Check the best price at the Aldemar Royal Mare

The Aldemar resort is a small characteristic village in a swimming pools laguna

The Aldemar resort is a small characteristic village in a swimming pools laguna

Crete seaside holiday places with a bit of everything

If you are after a bit of everything I would consider Chania as one of the alternatives. Heraklio is also a good starting point, except there is no beach.

These are other towns that I would suggest, with Rethymnon probably my favourite, especially for the amazing food, unique in Crete

Rethymnon

Rethymnon is more of a city town than a village. It actually offers everything you want, for either a family vacation, a couple stay or more of a nightlife experience.

The Rethymnon Old Town is just magnificent and mostly off-limits to the traffic which makes it a really nice place to have a walk around both during the day and in the evening.

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, not ideal for kids however good for a relaxing day after a long night out

The modern part of town is not really inspiring and mostly based on buildings.

Approaching Rethymnon

Approaching Rethymnon

From Rethymnon you can easily visit the Samaria Gorge, the most spectacular and easy to access trekking in Crete.Book this tour for a great price.

The Greek cuisine here is just fabulous. Many restaurants have added that little twist that takes the usual expected dishes to the next level with the addition of honey and spices. Rethymnon is my favourite place in Crete for food.

Restaurants are mostly located in the old town. I love To Rakodikeio. It’s all so amazing that is hard to suggest any dish. It’s also in a nice spot, facing the Neratze Mosque and next to the Mikrasiaton Square.

Nightlife is big in town. You can start for few drinks and mezedes (small tapas version food) in one of the few bars at the Arkadiu and from there move to the Old Harbour for dinner. Walk around the corner to Venizelou road (Eleytheriou Venizelou) for one of the many bars to start your night.

The Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort is one of the better rated, year over year, accommodation in the island. It’s just a 5 minutes taxi ride to Rethymnon, its shopping, its old town and the nightlife of course.

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, great interior design with lovely Greek tiles. A gym, a pool and a breakfast to die for.

Check the best price at the Caramel Grecotel

View from a drone of the Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort

View from a drone of the Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort

Elounda

Elounda is the luxury destination of Crete with the highest concentration of 5-stars hotel in the island. This is where you will find Crete’s best resorts

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.

It is situated in a natural bay with amazing water and limited wind, being the town covered by the hills all around.

But it’s not only luxury, in fact, you can find accommodation at a similar price as in other parts of the island.

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

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 possibly of the resort you will stay.

Georgioupolis

Georgioupolis is a bit of a sleepy town, however with few options also for the nightlife that would make happy the young crowd a well.

The village is organised around the antique square that gives a lot of Greek character to the town, with some nice tavernas and bars/cafes

The beach is a long one that starts on the narrow side, in the town, but it gets much wider once you walk few hundred meters away from the centre.

If you are there with kids, and you are after a swimming pool, have a look to the Corissia Park, great spot also for a cocktail…or two…or more 🙂

If staying in Georgioupolis, you should not miss Arkadi” Fish Taverna for either lunch or, even better, dinner. It’s probably the best spot in town with a unique view and awesome local food, based mostly on fish.

Public transportation or rent a car in Crete

Let me say straight away that Crete is 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 the all country.

The mean of transportation 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 be in a position of driving around Crete at your own pace. And I think on a 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.

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.

If you are looking for an agency you may check one of these two options:

  • Check on CarRentals.com, they give the best deal analysing all the current prices from more than 30 rentals companies. I found on this site some unbeatable prices
  • Rental Center Crete, it’s a local company with awesome guys available at both main airports, which is great as, for example, you can pick up a car in Chania and leave it in Heraklion.

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 (a beautiful trek by the way)

When visiting Crete I would personally recommend a mix of transportation means. 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 a night there).

Once 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 a car to explore the west side of the island. This is another option.

In saying that, I feel pretty confident about driving everywhere. For example, in my last in trip in Thailand I rented a car to explore some of the most beautiful temples close to Cambodia, otherwise impossible by public transportation and honestly driving there was ok for me. Though, driving around Crete is so much easier LOL

If you do not feel confident, I suggest taking a KTEL bus to move around, super easy. Then pop up in one of the many agencies to plan a local trip (like to the Samaria Gorges or Elafonissi Beach). No worries. There is nothing worse than driving with fear as you will not be able to enjoy your holiday.

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.

How big is Crete

Put it simply, Crete is the biggest island in Greece with lots of points of interest.

As I said, the large size can actually be intimidating, compared to other Greek islands that you can visit in 2 or 3 days. And this is why it is so important to understand where to stay in Crete.

A car trip between two of the most beautiful beaches on the island, from Elafonissi to Vai Beach, can take 6 or more hours.

If interested to visit most of the island you may look into multiple bases, book your rooms though Crete and from there you can explore the local areas.

Keep also in mind that a good part of the South coast is not accessible by car, however, the north coast is easily accessible by either car or the very efficient public transportation.

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

Heraklion main port

Heraklion main port, not too far away from the airport

Crete Airports and how to arrive here

Crete has two main airports, Chania and Heraklion.

Which on 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 area 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, 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.

Crete map with destination points

Best spots to stay in Creete

Best spots to stay in Creete

You can also check the interactive Google Map here.

Travel Photography Stefano FerroStef Ferro is the founder and editor of MEL365, a travel & photography website made to enhance the travelling experience and improve the photography work.

Stef is a professional travel photographer with past experience in the cycling and film industry. 

Stef runs travel photography workshops in Melbourne and around the world. 

 

Related Post

Stefano Ferro
Photographer
Stef Ferro is the founder and editor of MEL365, a travel & photography website made to enhance the travelling experience and improve the photography work.
Stef is a professional travel photographer with past experience in the cycling and film industry. 

Stef runs travel photography workshops in Melbourne and around the world.
    • Jj
    • October 12, 2018
    Reply

    Thanks! =)

    • Jj
    • October 11, 2018
    Reply

    Thanks for replying so quickly. Would you say Crete is your favorite Greek island? I’m also interested in Hydra and other small islands. Them seem so beautiful and unspoiled.

    • Reply

      No worries. I have a few favourites.
      Mykonos for best beaches and nightlife, great for drinks (not sure about late night, too old LOL)
      Santorini for best landscape, absolutely unbeatable, to avoid in July and August because it becomes really busy. You can see more photos and read more here about it. Unique in the world
      Astypalai for off the beaten path, quite untouristy, with lots of character, a few beautiful beaches, great food, not many people around. You can read more here.
      Naxos because of its bay, great for windsurfing on one side and shallow water for kids on the other side
      Paros, for windsurfing, a windy heaven
      Crete because it has everything of the above. In fact, the island is so much bigger than the others. I love the so-called “fusion” Greek food and Crete has the best.
      But I can’t say that one island is better than the other, they are all so different. If I have to choose then Crete, but really it’s a personal preference, very subjective, not objective.
      I have never been to Hydra, so I can’t say too much, unfortunately, sorry about that.
      Enjoy your island 🙂

    • Jj - Where to stay in Crete for good restaurants and beaches
    • October 9, 2018
    Reply

    Hi! Thank you for writing this helpful article.
    I was wondering if I could ask you for some more advice. Is Crete your favorite island in Greece? I’m traveling next year in June with at least ten people, all adults. I thought I should rent a villa but the resorts look like a great option as well. I was debating between staying in Naxos, Paros and Anitparos for a week or just picking Crete. If you suggest Crete could you be so kind to tell me if you would stay all 7 nights in the same area or how would you break it up? We enjoy everything Greece has to offer but prefer good food, awesome beaches and majestic landscape.

    • Reply

      Hi Ji,
      no worries, it was a pleasure to be helpful.
      Naxos, Paros and Antiparos are all great island. I love them all.
      Naxos has a fabulous beach, right in town. It’s big enough to rent a car and go around if you want.
      Paros is windier, it’s probably the one you want to stay if you are into windsurfng or kitesurfing. Otherwise, I would probably pass it. Still, lovely main town
      Antiparos is really a tiny island, very characteristic, but also very small (read, not much to do). I have some great memories from it, I had one of my first holidays with my now wife there 🙂
      Crete is completely different. It is so much bigger. It offers so much more. It has a different identity. The food is unique, with many restaurants providing a fusion of traditional and modern Greek cuisine (something you can rarely find in other parts of Greece). In fact, it’s now my favourite place for food in Greece because, besides the traditional cuisine, you can find new smells, new tastes, new ingredients, new mix. For example, they use honey mixed with spicy or salty food. So awesome. Don’t let me start here, I could go on forever LOL
      The beaches are wonderful. The interesting thing is that my favourites are on the opposite sides of the island (Vai, also called Palm Beach and Elafonissi) which are too far away to be visited in a week (too much travelling around).
      Crete is famous for its landscape, with amazing gorges and a fantastic coast.
      Personally, I would not hesitate to choose Crete for a week holiday. It’s an island that has everything for everyone. Especially in a big group when someone may want to experience something different.
      If it’s your first time in Crete then I would probably suggest staying in Chania (Heraklion has no real beaches but it’s close to Knossos)
      From there you can enjoy local beaches and have day trips to Elafonissi Beach, Balos Lagoon/Beach, Samaria Gorge etc. Chania has so many amazing restaurants that you won’t believe it, besides being a lovely old town with most of the centre closed to traffic.
      I suggest the Mesogiako Restaurant and any eatery and restaurant in the same lane. In a week you will be spoilt. There is a parallel lane which has as many options. By day the area is almost empty but then the restaurants open in the late afternoon and it becomes so lively. Plenty of locals there, a good sign. Few hundreds meters away is the Melodica cafe-bar for a boutique restaurant experience with live music (more traditional food).
      A villa is a great option. A resort would make the life easier for everyone, especially being all adults.
      The Casa Delfino Hotel & Spa is still my favourite in Chania, great view and close to everything, besides in the quiet part of the town
      The Kasteli Studios & Apartments is another option to stay all together in a place.
      If you prefer a villa have a look at the Dorothy’s Dream, spectacular location and balcony (and a great deal too).
      You can stay there for a week or break it as 4/5 night in Chania and 2 nights in Loutro. This is a tiny characteristic village on the south coast reachable only by boat, a real gem. The beach is however tiny but you can walk or take a boat to the Sweet Water Beach, a unique site with fresh water wells.
      Unfortunately, Loutro is tiny so you would have to split between different hotels.
      I hope I was able to help. Have a great trip!!

    • Austin O'Shea
    • October 9, 2018
    Reply

    Great information

    • Reply

      Thanks Austin, so glad you found the post useful.
      Have a great trip
      Cheers
      Stef

    • Hersonissos - best place in Crete ?
    • September 21, 2018
    Reply

    I was just at the point of booking 2weeks for my first visit to Greece, l found your information really interesting but now have my doubts about my choice…l am a 70 year old single lady and am wondering if my choice of the lovely hotel at Hersonissos is the wrong one for me.Would l be bored with 2 weeks? I like to visit the sights so need an easy bus route, l know its not easy but would be grateful for your opinion please.

    • Reply

      Good day Linda,
      Hersonissos is one of the major touristy areas of Crete. It’s mostly dedicated to travellers that want to relax at the beach or the pool reading a book. It’s really a nice area however it does not have any major historical attraction. Knossos is just 45minutes away (which can be visited on a day trip).
      I also suggest a visit to Sisi, a nice small village with plenty of fish restaurant. I suggest the Taverna Apostolos for lunch, beautiful spot facing the small inlet.
      You may want to spend a few days in Agios Nikolaos. It’s only 40 minutes east but a very different place, more characteristic.Beautiful town. Probably not the best beach area but you will experience more the Greek life of small cafes, restaurants, etc
      I hope I was able to help out.
      Enjoy your trip!!

    • JulianaLonrein
    • August 14, 2018
    Reply

    What a wonderful country! I have always been dreaming to go there and finally this August (my youngest son grew up a bit) we are heading off there. I would like to ask for advice if anyone has ever contacted Tranio. My husband and I are hesitating about renting at this agency though we read many positive comments. Do you know anything?

      • Stef
      • August 16, 2018
      Reply

      Hi Juliana,
      so sorry, however, I do not know Tranio and I am not able to advise on it. In my last trip I rented my car from Rental Center Crete and I had a fantastic experience, from start to finish.
      Either way, enjoy your trip!!

    • Karl
    • August 3, 2018
    Reply

    Thank you for this amazing blog ! This was very informative with sufficient details to make context-specific decisions. I am however planning a different journey in Crete, that is a 4 to 6 weeks vacation with my wife and our baby. We would like to keep it simple in terms of places to live (considering our young one) by renting maybe one “anchor” house per two weeks during our stay to just relax and visit from there. Do you have recommendations on what cities or destinations we should target as “anchor” places to stay ?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Reply

      Hey Karl,
      thanks for contacting me. From time to time I have been travelling with my baby too (now it’s 4, he wants to be called “boy” LOL). I would suggest 3 places:
      – Sitia: to explore the east of the island. Not as touristy and beautiful beaches (palm beach on top)
      – Rethimno: lovely old town, with a vast pedestrian area ideal if you have small kids. Best restaurants of the island. The town beach is not amazing but ok
      – Chania: beautiful old town too and again lots of pedestrian areas. Perfect to explore the west side of the island with all the amazing beaches
      If you want to have only 2 places I would go for Sitia and Chania
      Another town I can suggest is Palaiochora. From there you can take a ferry to explore the small villages accessible only by water.
      Enjoy

    • Sophie
    • July 20, 2018
    Reply

    Hi Stefano,
    Great article. I am also interested in renting a motorcycle rather than a car. What is your opinion on this? Cost and safety?

    Thanks

    • Reply

      Hi Sophie,
      I answered a similar comment below (scroll down a couple of replies and that’s it).
      My opinion?
      Cost? If you are alone it’s very cost effective. In two people on a motorbike can work even better but you would be limited in what you can carry around as they are not usually organised to transport bags etc. The other thing is that you can’t stop wherever you want and leave the bags with the motorbike and walk or trek around (something you can do with the car, you just close your bags in the car and forget about). It’s not safe to leave bags behind, without anyone taking care of them.
      Safety? It’s really down to your skills. Roads can be really winding, and that is why I love them btw. I find the Greek people in Crete to be good drivers. There is the occasional crazy guy but on average as good as in Melbourne, for example. As I previously said, driving between the major centers is absolutely boring as they are connected with a big highway. The alternative is to go through the coastal villages but too many tourists and you really have to go slow.
      The best is when you ride south or east.
      I would personally suggest to:
      > rent a car if you are more concerned about safety, if you like roaming with your bags and stop wherever you want (parking in Heraklion and Chania is absolutely a nightmare, budget another 10-15euro/day for that unless you stay outside the city centre)
      > rent a motorbike but only once you reach your accommodation. For example, stay 2 days in Heraklion and rent a bike there, then bus to Rethimno and rent a scooter there, then bus to Chania and scooter there….etc
      I hope I was able to help out
      Have a great trip!!

    • Joanne
    • July 18, 2018
    Reply

    Hello,
    Thank you for all the great information. We are looking for an active vacation while in Crete, hiking and cycling and a little beach time. You have offered a few suggestions on some hikes but wondering if you have any recommendations for cycling and the best place for us to consider if we are looking for some mountain biking. Thank you in advance for your thoughts

    • Reply

      Hey Joanne,
      the best part of the island for mountain bike and trekking is the east. I would personally stay in Sitia. I was actually there just 10 days ago 🙂
      Beautiful mountains and amazing winding roads everywhere. Not to mention the off-road. I am screaming in front of the computer, I want to go back. Have a look on Google Map. Really a great area.
      Everywhere else is quite flat unless you decide to ride with your bags and in that case, I would plan a trip from the North coast direction the south coast, through the winding roads, direction Hora Sfakion, Frangokastello and “follow” the coast. I trust you have good legs as carrying the bags with the bikes on that mountains can be quite demanding 😉

      I hope I could help
      Enjoy your trip, sure it will beautiful
      Cheers

    • Haneen
    • July 17, 2018
    Reply

    Thank you Stefano for the information above. I am planning to go to Crete for 12 nights in August with my two teenage daughters 15 and 17. We are looking for a luxury modern hotel with a private beach. My friend recommended Avra Emperial Hotel West of Crete. Would love to hear your thoughts on it and any recommendations for where to stay with teens please. Thank you in advance!

    • Reply

      The Avra Emperial Hotel is really nice, it was indeed a good suggestion. Great facilities, amazing pool and fantastic service.
      The location is not great if you are thinking to explore Chania or any other major towns. The private beach is not one of my favourites. Too many waves, especially in the afternoon when it becomes windier. In saying that, again, great modern hotel.
      I may suggest another four, have a look:
      > The Aldemar Royal Mare: so beautiful, so big however so intimate. Many activities for all ages. Amazing SPA and a great beach. On the north east coast
      > The Minos Beach Art Hotel: amazing location, next to Agios Nikolaus, one of the most picturesque towns in Crete. The resort is superb and the boutique beach to die for. The pool is not as big as other luxury resorts.
      > The Domes Noruz Chania, Autograph Collection: this is another lovely resort. I am not sure why but on some booking systems it is advertised as adults only, however, they do take kids, certainly at 15 and 17. Very close to Chania, a short taxi drive, and located in a small private bay, usually protected by the waves. Great choice if you want to stay close to Chania
      > The Elounda Beach Hotel & Villas: Elounda is the area with the highest concentration of luxury hotels and resorts in Grece. Obviously for a good reason. Absolutely gorgeous area. You should check the photos in the link above, they say really everything. One of my favourites in Crete. What a view! It’s the place for the elite
      If you are undecided and the Elounda Beach Hotel is on the list, I would go for that one. You will have a memorable time.
      Have a great holiday in Crete and enjoy your time

    • James
    • July 17, 2018
    Reply

    I am thinking it could be fun to rent a scooter or motorcycle, is that an option there? And if it is, would you compare that level of convenience & freedom to that of having a car?

    Thank you Stefano!

    • Reply

      Hi James,
      I guess you and your partner as asking the same thing here :). I just copy& paste my comment I left for Lindsay.
      Enjoy Crete 🙂

      it is absolutely an option. I did it a few times.
      Crete is quite a big island, and some parts are either boring to drive or impossible to drive to.
      For example, the drive from Heraklion to Chania is not spectacular, it’s a highway. Do you want to ride a scooter there? You can but it wouldn’t be a drive to remember in the next years.
      Another example, the Samaria Gorge is so beautiful and it should not be missed. Usually, you go in from up in the mountain and you finish the trekking at the beach. Driving there is not an option (starting point is not the same as the ending point)
      The south west coast, which is absolutely amazing, can be visited only by ferry/boat.
      And I could go on.
      What I did was to get the bus between the major towns (Heraklion, Rethimno, Chania and Agios Nikolaos) and rent the motorbike from there and explore the area.
      If you rent a car you can drive around more freely as you put the bags in and just go wherever you want (except the few cases I mentioned above). Once you park to explore a gorge or a secret beach where you have to walk a bit, then you just leave your backpack in the car, something you can’t do with a scooter.
      I hope I was able to help, however, please do not hesitate to leave another comment if you need more info
      Cheers

    • Lindsay
    • July 17, 2018
    Reply

    I am thinking it could be fun to rent a scooter or motorcycle, is that an option there? And if it is, would you compare that level of convenience & freedom to that of having a car?

    Thank you Stefano!

    • Reply

      Hi Lindsay,
      it is absolutely an option. I did it a few times.
      Crete is quite a big island, and some parts are either boring to drive or impossible to drive to.
      For example, the drive from Heraklion to Chania is not spectacular, it’s a highway. Do you want to ride a scooter there? You can but it wouldn’t be a drive to remember in the next years.
      Another example, the Samaria Gorge is so beautiful and it should not be missed. Usually, you go in from up in the mountain and you finish the trekking at the beach. Driving there is not an option (starting point is not the same as the ending point)
      The south west coast, which is absolutely amazing, can be visited only by ferry/boat.
      And I could go on.
      What I did was to get the bus between the major towns (Heraklion, Rethimno, Chania and Agios Nikolaos) and rent the motorbike from there and explore the area.
      If you rent a car you can drive around more freely as you put the bags in and just go wherever you want (except the few cases I mentioned above). Once you park to explore a gorge or a secret beach where you have to walk a bit, then you just leave your backpack in the car, something you can’t do with a scooter.
      I hope I was able to help, however, please do not hesitate to leave another comment if you need more info
      Cheers

    • Silve Pohla
    • May 8, 2018
    Reply

    This guide is exactly what i was looking for, thank you so much! We will visit Crete in two weeks, thanks to you now i know where i wanna go! 🙂
    Greetings from Estonia!

    • Reply

      So glad we could help.
      Enjoy the beautiful Crete. I will be there in June again…more to write in this guide 🙂

    • Susan
    • May 2, 2018
    Reply

    Can you recommend your favorite spots on the southwest and hotels you might recommend. Thanks.

    • Reply

      Hi Susan,
      the south west coast is one of my favorite part of Crete. The main reason is that part of it can be reached only by ferry making the villages really a dream destination, you would feel almost isolated, in another world.
      These are my top destinations (with accommodations I would suggest):

      Palaiochora
      Small village located in a peninsula. It can be reached by car or bus. The small central streets close up in the night making the village a big pedestrian area. Just gorgeous. There is a great sandy beach on the protected side of the peninsula which gets a nice afternoon breeze. The beach on the open sea side is not as good and that is where the port and the ferry to the other villages leaves.
      I would suggest here a couple of nights, or more if you like to spend sometime at the beach.
      About the accommodations, the Villa-Palaiochora is of the best choices in town, although very popular and hard to find it available. Another great choice is the Petrakis Sea View. This is a cheaper option too although it’s more of a unit accommodation

      Agia Roumeli
      A small village you can access only by ferry and trekking through the mountain. It has a nice stony beach (small black stones) and a beautiful village that gets alive in the afternoon when the ferry arrives.
      A great plus of staying here is the easy access to the Samaria Gorge, probably the most spectacular trekking in the island. If you are planning some trekking then Agia Roumeli should be in your bucket list.
      About the accommodations, most of the rooms have a very good price tag which makes this small village even more attractive. I would personally go for Tarra, simple and right in the centre of the village

      Loutro
      I am in love for this small village. It’s literally a small port with a tiny beach, so beautiful and romantic, probably the best getaway in the all of Creete. Access is only through ferry. You can also access a warm water beach (30minutes walk) where the hot spring water creates small puddles in the sand. Even the sea has a mix of cold and warm waters streams. Really an unusual thing to experience.
      If you plan to stay just in one village then Loutro has to be. Really beautiful setup
      About the accommodations, Daskalogiannis Hotel is the best and even if you decide to book something else go to Daskalogiannis for a cocktail at sunset time, beautiful view over the small bay and amazing water all around.

      I hope I was able to help.
      Have a great trip in Crete 🙂

    • Cvetanka
    • April 28, 2018
    Reply

    Very helpfull, but what about Falasarna, you havent mention it. I am researching now and I saw a beautiful pictures of it…

    • Reply

      Many thanks Cvetanka,
      Falasarna is another beautiful place that I definitely suggest to at least visit, if not staying 🙂 I have another trip in the pipeline in June and I am planning to update and expand this post, including as well Falasarna. Stay in touch 😉
      Have a great stay in Crete

    • susan
    • March 6, 2018
    Reply

    Really informative. Planning to spend July in Crete with my husband and I will return to your site again
    as we plan. Many thanks.

    • Reply

      No worries Susas, absolutely a pleasure. Enjoy the island, really magical!!

    • Lindsay
    • February 22, 2018
    Reply

    I’m planning a trip to Crete and was overwhelmed with the size. Your post was exactly what I was looking for, so thank you so much for sharing!!! 🙂

    • Reply

      No worries Lindsay. So glad I was able to help 🙂 And see you around Crete 😉

    • Margaret
    • January 23, 2018
    Reply

    This was very helpful! We are going to Crete in August and dedicating 16 days there.

    • Reply

      Cheers Margaret, that will be awesome. I really love Crete. Looking forward to my time there in June, again and again LOL. Can’t stop visiting this amazing island
      Enjoy your trip
      Cheers

    • lucy
    • April 28, 2017
    Reply

    The information you shared in this blog is the most efficiently reliable one. We hope to read more number of reliable blogs…….

  1. Reply

    My partner and I are both dying to visit Greece, and want to devote a good portion of the trip to Crete! Thanks for this guide, lots of helpful info here!

    • Reply

      No worries Britanny,
      I love Greece. It has all the components for a great vacation: sun, beaches, amazing sea and awesome food, beside some lovely people always ready to help out.
      And Crete has all of that in one big island, including some challenging trekking. So easy to take a local bus, be left somewhere and walked back through some incredible gorges (maps are available in the local shops)
      There is only one problem, everytime I go I finish my holiday a bit heavier LOL, the food is just too good and, in my opinion, the Cretan restaurants takes the Greed typical dishes to just another level
      Enjoy your trip!!

By clicking on the "Submit your comment" button you are giving permission to store your data (name, email and website, if added). You can always send a request to delete or collect your stored data anytime in future. Read more information on the Privacy Policy. This message has been added to conform with the European Union GPDR Policies 

Leave a Comment