As the largest and southernmost island in Greece, Crete offers visitors an abundance of things to see and do, from hiking the mountains to relaxing on the beach.
The warm, sunny climate and fertile agricultural fields mean Crete would prosper even without its thriving tourism industry, but its lush landscapes and Mediterranean hospitality draw millions of international visitors each year.
Crete also boasts some of the richest histories in Greece, with the relics of the ancient Minoan civilization evident throughout the island. This advanced Bronze Age population was largely wiped out by the effects of a volcanic eruption in 1450 B.C. But, the Minoan influence lives on in the tombs, palaces and other sites still visible in Crete today.
Later influences by the Ancient Greeks and Romans also survive in the Byzantine architecture and artwork of the island. Compared to islands such as Santorini and Mykonos, Crete is where to go to truly get the history.
All About Beautiful Crete
Travelers looking for a tranquil getaway will find the peace they seek in the quiet resorts and villages along the east and west coasts. The highly-developed northern coast will appeal to visitors interested in the vibrant nightlife, beach parties, and very active resorts. At the center of the island, the mountainous region is a near-total refuge from tourism.
With its plentiful sunshine and lingering high temperatures, visitors can enjoy the beaches and waters of Crete from May to November. During late summer, the northern Meltemi winds provide a welcome breeze to cool sightseers and provide a perfect environment for water sports.
Best Time To Visit Crete
The island’s mild climate makes Crete a lovely place to visit year-round, with optimal temperatures and manageable crowd sizes coinciding in late spring and early autumn.
Tourism begins picking up steam in late April and slows by mid-October. So, those endpoints are good times to plan your trip if you want to avoid extreme heat and crowds. However, visiting during the high season also means that restaurants, museums, and other attractions will be operating in full swing.
The “off-season” between October and March tends to be an ideal time for outdoor activities like hiking and sightseeing, although swimming and most water sports will be out of the question. The weather will still be quite pleasant, requiring only a thick sweater or jacket to keep you comfortable.
Some restaurants and other destinations do close during this slow season, but you should still be able to find plenty to keep you busy—and you’ll pay reduced prices on hotels and other expenses.
Visiting Crete in the Spring
Spring can be a great time to visit Crete, as the weather is mild and the island is not yet crowded with tourists. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re planning a trip to Crete in the spring:
- Weather: Crete has a Mediterranean climate, which means that the spring months (March, April, and May) are generally mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to the mid-70s Fahrenheit. However, it can still be chilly in the evenings, so it’s a good idea to bring a light jacket or sweater.
- Crowds: Crete is a popular tourist destination, and the peak tourist season runs from June to August. Visiting in the spring means you’ll avoid the crowds and have a more authentic experience of the island.
- Natural Beauty: Spring is a great time to appreciate Crete’s natural beauty, as the island is in full bloom during this time. You can see wildflowers, almond and cherry trees in blossom, and green fields and hills.
- Activities: There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in Crete in the spring, such as hiking in the mountains or along the coast, exploring ancient ruins and archaeological sites, and visiting local farms and wineries.
- Festivals: Spring is a time of celebration in Crete, with many festivals taking place across the island. One of the most famous is the Carnival of Rethymno, which takes place in February or March and involves colorful parades, music, and dancing.
Visiting Crete in the spring can be a wonderful experience, with mild weather, beautiful scenery, and plenty of things to see and do.
Visiting Crete in the Summer
Crete is a popular summer destination, with thousands of visitors flocking to the island to enjoy its warm weather, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant culture. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re planning a trip to Crete in the summer:
- Weather: Crete has a Mediterranean climate, which means that the summer months (June, July, and August) are hot and sunny, with temperatures often reaching the mid-80s or higher. It’s important to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day.
- Crowds: The summer months are the peak tourist season in Crete, so be prepared for large crowds at popular beaches, restaurants, and tourist attractions. It’s a good idea to book accommodation and activities in advance to avoid disappointment.
- Beaches: Crete is famous for its stunning beaches, and summer is the best time to enjoy them. From the famous pink sands of Elafonisi to the secluded coves of Balos, there’s a beach to suit every taste.
- Nightlife: Crete has a vibrant nightlife scene, with clubs and bars staying open late into the night. The island is particularly popular with young people, but there are also plenty of options for families and older visitors.
- Festivals: Summer is a time of celebration in Crete, with many festivals taking place across the island. The most famous is the Matala Beach Festival, which takes place in June and attracts thousands of music lovers from around the world.
Visiting Crete in the summer can be a fantastic experience, with warm weather, beautiful beaches, and plenty of things to see and do. Just be prepared for the crowds and the heat, and you’re sure to have a memorable trip.
Visiting Crete in the Fall
Visiting Crete in the fall can be a great option for those looking to avoid the crowds and high temperatures of the summer season, while still enjoying the island’s natural beauty and cultural attractions. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re planning a trip to Crete in the fall:
- Weather: Crete’s fall season (September, October, and November) tends to be mild and comfortable, with temperatures averaging in the low 70s Fahrenheit during the day and cooler in the evenings. However, it’s still a good idea to bring a light jacket or sweater as the evenings can be quite chilly.
- Scenery: Fall is a great time to enjoy Crete’s stunning natural beauty, as the countryside is covered in lush greenery after the summer months. This is also a great time to enjoy hiking or biking tours, visit mountain villages, or explore the island’s breathtaking beaches.
- Harvest season: Crete is known for its delicious fresh produce, and fall is the best time to enjoy it. You can taste locally-grown grapes, figs, pomegranates, and olives at local wineries, restaurants, and markets.
- Festivals: Fall is a time of celebration in Crete, and there are many cultural festivals and events taking place throughout the season. For example, the “Chestnut Festival” in Elos is a popular event where visitors can taste locally grown chestnuts and traditional Cretan cuisine.
- Fewer crowds: Fall is a great time to visit Crete if you prefer a more laid-back atmosphere with fewer crowds at popular tourist attractions.
Visiting Crete in the fall can be a great option if you’re looking for a quieter and more relaxed travel experience. With comfortable weather, stunning scenery, and plenty of cultural events and festivals to enjoy, Crete is an ideal destination for an autumn vacation.
Visiting Crete in the Winter
Crete in winter can be a unique and interesting experience for visitors who enjoy cooler temperatures, winter sports, and cultural events. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re planning a trip to Crete in the winter:
- Weather: Crete in the winter months (December, January, and February) is cooler and wetter than other seasons, with temperatures ranging from the mid-40s to the mid-50s Fahrenheit. There’s also a chance of rain and even snowfall in some of the higher-altitude areas of the island.
- Winter sports: Winter is a great time for outdoor activities in Crete, including skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. There are two ski resorts in Crete, which attract skiers from all over Greece.
- Festivals and traditions: Winter is a time of celebration in Crete, and there are many cultural events and traditions to enjoy. Christmas and New Year’s are celebrated throughout the island, and there are also events such as the “Carnival of Rethymno,” which features parades, music, and dancing.
- Indoor attractions: In the winter months, you can explore Crete’s museums, churches, and other indoor attractions without the summer crowds. Some of the popular attractions include the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion and the Palace of Knossos.
- Relaxation: Winter is a great time to enjoy a more relaxed vacation in Crete, with fewer tourists and a quieter atmosphere. Visitors can enjoy long walks on the beach, hot springs, and cozy cafes with traditional Cretan cuisine.
Visiting Crete in the winter can be a unique and rewarding experience for those who don’t mind the cooler temperatures and occasional rain. With winter sports, cultural events, indoor attractions, and a more laid-back atmosphere, Crete in the winter has something to offer for everyone.
Places to Stay in Crete
Historically, Crete has been an affordable travel destination, with hundreds of budget-friendly hotels and beach resorts alongside more expensive luxury developments.
However, Greece’s recent economic upheaval has pushed prices upward on nearly all goods and services. Still, there remain plenty of reasonably-priced accommodations and bargains to be found if you’re willing to compare prices (and potentially visit during the off-season).
Budget Hotels in Crete: Top 5 Picks
This laid-back apartment-style hotel offers guests access to a large pool, nicely-equipped modern fitness room, daily breakfast buffet, mini-market and even cooking lessons. Rooms include balconies and kitchenettes along with the expected amenities like Wi-Fi and air conditioning.
The family-owned hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of Paralia Maleme beach and relatively close to the exotic beaches of Falasarna Elafonissi and Balos.
In the rolling hills adjacent to Mount Psiloritis in Heraklion, the Idi Hotel is a welcoming space for families and children, with a playground, tennis court, and restaurant with a daily breakfast buffet. The mountainous countryside is verdant and peaceful, with the clear springs of Zaros at its heart.
Three nearby monasteries featuring Byzantine mosaics and frescoes, and the coast is just a half-hour drive away.’In the rolling hills adjacent to Mount Psiloritis in Heraklion, the Idi Hotel is a welcoming space for families and children, with a playground, tennis court, and restaurant with a daily breakfast buffet.
The mountainous countryside is verdant and peaceful, with the clear springs of Zaros at its heart. Three nearby monasteries featuring Byzantine mosaics and frescoes, and the coast is just a half-hour drive away.
Faros Beach Hotel
The Faros Beach Hotel in Rethymnon offers guests a prime location for access to beaches as well as historic sites and museums.
The rooftop terrace delivers jaw-dropping views of the harbor and the nearby Venetian fortress, and the Folk Art Museum, Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon, and Center of Byzantine Art are minutes away. Rooms include Wi-Fi, air conditioning, a refrigerator, and a high-pressure shower as well as the promise of soundproof walls.
Hotel Anna Apartments
These casual rooms and apartments are just steps away from Kokkini Hani beach. The furnishings are simple but clean, and the apartments are equipped with a kitchenette and a modest dining area.
All rooms are air-conditioned, but not all accommodations include TVs and Wi-Fi is only available in common areas, making your stay here an excellent opportunity for unplugging.
This hotel near Panormos Beach offers 18 studios and 13 apartments, all of which include private terraces perfect for enjoying the brilliant Mediterranean sunsets.
The units are arranged around a large courtyard with a pool, brightly-colored flowers, and dozens of lounge chairs and umbrellas for sunbathers. Each room comes with air conditioning, a TV, Wi-Fi, a fridge, and a fully-equipped kitchen.
Mid-Range Hotels in Crete: Top 5 Picks
Aphrodite Beach Hotel
This family-operated beachfront hotel offers 74 air-conditioned rooms, most of them designed to accommodate two guests alongside a few larger suites for families. The property doesn’t have a pool, but guests can simply sprint across the pebbly sand of Aphrodite Beach for a plunge into the sparkling sea.
The onsite restaurant cooks delicious Mediterranean fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Rooms include flat-screen TVs and private balconies with garden or sea views.
Located in the heart of Heraklion, this sleek hotel delivers suites with colorful modern designs, plush furnishings, and private balconies with excellent views. Free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, spacious beds and air conditioning are among the amenities included with each room.
The ancient palace of Knossos—a must-see attraction for any visit to Crete—is nearby, along with the restaurants, shopping, and other sights of the old town Heraklion.
Cressa Corona Boutique Hotel
This 16th-century Venetian townhouse in Rethymnon has been transformed into a sleek, adults-only hotel with a relaxing rooftop terrace for enjoying the Mediterranean sunset.
Décor is understated and modern, and all rooms and suites include complimentary breakfast, Wi-Fi, air conditioning, satellite TV, a high-pressure shower, and more.
Casa Maistra Residence
Also located in Rethymnon, these seaside apartment-style units are set in a renovated 19th-century building with exposed stone accents and stunning views.
The spacious suites are ideal for families with children and include a dining room and fully-equipped kitchen as well as air conditioning, Wi-Fi, kitchen utensils, and cookware.
Consisting of five roomy garden side villas, this peaceful retreat on the island’s east coast is perfect for longer stays in Crete. Villas are decorated with stone walls and rich hardwood trim, lending them a luxuriously rustic aesthetic.
A modest kitchenette and outdoor dining area give guests an opportunity to save on dining expenses, and the quiet, pristine beaches of Sitia are just a short walk away.
Luxury Hotels in Crete: Top 5 Picks
Creta Maris Beach Resort
This posh seaside resort offers a dazzling array of amenities, including a brand-new water park with slides, spray games, and a pool; a massive open-air cinema; organized sports such as tennis, mini golf, beach volleyball, and basketball; a water sports center with jet-skis, stand-up paddle boarding, flyboarding and more; and a spa and fitness center.
Rooms include high-speed Wi-Fi, air conditioning, a mini bar, and satellite TV, and guests can dine and relax in the six restaurants and eight bars on the property. All-inclusive packages are available.
Royal Marmin Bay Boutique & Art Hotel
This adults-only property overlooking Mirabello Bay in Elounda delivers five-star luxury in an eco-friendly setting. Crafted from natural Cretan stone, the complex blends seamlessly into its spectacular natural environment.
Guests can relax in the full-service spa, maintain their workout regimen in the professional-caliber fitness center, and sample the gourmet fare at seven on-site restaurants and bars. All rooms include Wi-Fi, fine Egyptian linens, a mini bar, and a private balcony or terrace.
With its five-star amenities and impeccable service, every guest is treated like a VIP at the Nana Princess Resort. Nearly all of the 112 suites and villas feature access to a private pool and spacious sun deck overlooking the sea, and some also include saunas, steam rooms, or restorative spas.
Three concept restaurants provide locally-influenced fine dining, and the Spa and Wellness Center provides an opportunity for relaxation and invigoration. Guests can indulge in a little retail therapy in the resort’s mini-mall or view the original artwork on display in the gallery.
Fine linens, a “pillow menu” and plush high-end mattresses ensure a good night’s sleep after a day of play.
Casa Delfino Hotel & Spa
Set in a 17th-century Venetian mansion, Casa Delfino Hotel and Spa has remained under the same family ownership for six generations, leading to its reputation for warm hospitality, attentive service, and luxurious accommodations. The 24 rooms and suites have been painstakingly restored to maintain the character of the original structure, blending the hotel’s architectural heritage with modern comfort.
Located in the heart of Old Town Chania, the hotel is within walking distance of many of the most popular dining, shopping, and sightseeing destinations in the city. In-room amenities include individually-controlled A/C, a mini bar, flat-screen satellite TV, a DVD player, and free Wi-Fi.
Domus Renier Boutique Hotel
This small but elegant boutique hotel sits directly on the Chania harbor facing the Egyptian Lighthouse, ensuring spectacular views from any vantage point on the property. Each of the uniquely-decorated rooms and suites offers a different aesthetic and amenities, but all pay homage to the building’s Cretan Renaissance heritage.
For example, the Markos double room includes a leather armchair and a library filled with translated works of Greek authors and poets; the Lorenzo suite boasts a queen-size bed in the loft and 2 studio couches on the lower floor, TV on both floors and views of the Venetian port and Yali Camisi mosque.
How Long to Stay in Crete
Crete is an expansive island with a wide variety of cultures, landscapes, and attractions. To truly do it justice, visitors should plan to spend at least a week here to partake in the rich Mediterranean cuisine, sun-swept beaches, verdant forests, and secluded mountains—not to mention the dozens of architectural and historical sites to be explored.
The length of time to stay in Crete really depends on your preferences and the purpose of your trip. If you’re looking for a relaxing beach holiday or a quick getaway, a week in Crete might be enough time to see the main sights and soak up some sun. However, if you’re interested in exploring the island’s rich culture, history, and natural beauty, you may want to stay for two weeks or more.
Our Recommended Length of Stay
Here are some things to consider when deciding how long to stay in Crete:
- Your itinerary: The length of your trip will depend on the places you want to visit and the activities you want to do. If you’re interested in exploring the island’s natural beauty, you may need more time to hike through the Samaria Gorge or visit some of the more remote beaches. If you’re interested in history and culture, you may need more time to explore ancient ruins and museums.
- Travel time: Keep in mind that it can take several hours to travel between different parts of the island, so you may need to budget extra time for transportation.
- Rest and relaxation: If you’re looking to unwind and relax, you may want to spend more time in one location and take it easy. This can help you to really soak up the atmosphere of the island and enjoy the slower pace of life.
In general, I would recommend staying at least a week in Crete to really experience the island and see the main sights. However, if you have the time and budget, staying for two weeks or more can allow you to see more of the island, enjoy more activities, and truly immerse yourself in the local culture.
Getting Around Crete
Crete is the largest island in Greece, and there are several ways to get around the island, including:
- Renting a car: Renting a car is a popular and convenient way to explore Crete. There are several car rental companies on the island, and renting a car can give you the freedom to explore Crete on your own schedule. However, be aware that driving in Crete can be challenging due to narrow and winding roads, so be sure to take extra care while driving.
- Taking a bus: Crete has an extensive bus network, with routes that connect many of the island’s major cities and attractions. The bus service is generally reliable, affordable, and easy to use, making it a good option for budget-conscious travelers.
- Hiring a taxi: Taxis are widely available in Crete and can be a good option for short journeys or for those who prefer not to drive. However, taxis can be expensive, so it’s best to agree on a price before getting in the taxi to avoid any surprises.
- Cycling: Crete is a beautiful island, and cycling is a great way to explore it. There are several places where you can rent bicycles, and many of the island’s towns and cities have bike lanes or quiet roads that are perfect for cycling.
- Walking: Crete has many beautiful walking trails, particularly in its mountainous regions. Walking can be a great way to explore the island’s natural beauty, and there are many guided tours available for those who want to learn more about Crete’s history and culture.
Ultimately, the best way to get around Crete will depend on your personal preferences and travel style. Renting a car is often the most convenient option, but taking a bus, hiring a taxi, cycling, or walking can be more affordable and rewarding for those who are up for the adventure.
Things to Do in Crete
Visit the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion
At this second-largest archaeological museum in Greece, artifacts and exhibits span more than 5,500 years of Greek history, with a special focus on the Cretan civilization.
Located in the Heraklion town center, the museum is open daily with reduced hours during the winter months. Admission is only six euros and worth every bit of it.
Check out Kato Zakro
Kato Zakro is a small village located on the eastern coast of Crete, known for its beautiful beaches and archaeological site. The village is situated at the end of a scenic road that winds through rugged hills and rocky gorges, offering breathtaking views of the Cretan landscape.
Kato Zakro is home to one of the most important Minoan archaeological sites on the island, the Palace of Zakros, which dates back to the Late Minoan period. The site is notable for its well-preserved frescoes and elaborate drainage system, and it offers a fascinating glimpse into the ancient civilization that once thrived on the island.
The village is also a popular destination for beach lovers, with several pristine beaches located just a short distance from the village center. Visitors to Kato Zakro can enjoy swimming in crystal clear waters, sunbathing on golden sands, and exploring the nearby hiking trails that lead through picturesque gorges and along the coast.
Knossos is an ancient archaeological site located just south of the modern city of Heraklion on the island of Crete. It is widely considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the world and is believed to have been the center of Minoan civilization during the Bronze Age.
The ruins of Knossos are extensive and include a large palace complex, temples, houses, and other buildings that date back to the 17th century BC. The site is famous for its impressive frescoes, which depict scenes of everyday life and religious ceremonies, as well as mythological creatures and symbols.
Visitors to Knossos can explore the ruins and learn about the history and culture of the Minoan civilization, including its advanced architectural techniques and artistic achievements. The site is a must-visit for anyone interested in ancient history and archaeology and offers a fascinating glimpse into the rich and complex history of Crete.
Hike the Samaria Gorge
The Samaria Gorge is a natural wonder located in the White Mountains of Crete and is one of the island’s most popular attractions. It is a National Park and a World Biosphere Reserve and is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species.
The gorge is 18 kilometers long and up to 300 meters deep and features stunning natural scenery, including steep cliffs, crystal-clear streams, and lush vegetation. Visitors can hike through the gorge, which takes about 4-6 hours, depending on the pace.
The trail is challenging in parts, with uneven terrain and steep descents, but the stunning views and unique flora and fauna make it well worth the effort. Along the way, hikers will pass through small settlements and traditional Cretan villages, where they can rest and refuel with local food and drinks.
The Samaria Gorge is a must-visit for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts and offers a unique and unforgettable experience in the heart of Crete’s natural beauty.
Explore the Dikteon Cave
The Dikteon Cave, also known as the Psychro Cave, is an ancient and sacred cave located on the island of Crete, in the Dikti Mountains. It is believed to have been one of the most important cult sites in ancient Crete and was dedicated to the worship of the god Zeus.
The cave is famous for its stunning stalactites and stalagmites, which have formed over millions of years, and for its natural pools and underground streams. Visitors can explore the cave and see the ancient altars and offerings that were made to Zeus, as well as the impressive rock formations that line the walls and ceiling.
Legend has it that the cave was the birthplace of Zeus, and it is said that he was raised in secret here to protect him from his father, Kronos. The Dikteon Cave is a must-visit for those interested in ancient mythology and history and offers a unique and awe-inspiring glimpse into the ancient world of Crete.
Head over to Rethymnon
Rethymnon is a charming and historic town located on the north coast of the island of Crete. It is a popular tourist destination, known for its beautiful beaches, lively atmosphere, and well-preserved Venetian-era old town. The town is a mix of old and new, with narrow alleys, ancient monuments, and a picturesque harbor alongside modern restaurants, cafes, and shops.
The old town is the heart of Rethymnon and features an impressive Venetian fortress, a picturesque harbor, and a maze of narrow alleys lined with cafes, shops, and restaurants. Visitors can explore the town’s many museums, including the Historical and Folklore Museum and the Archaeological Museum, or relax on the nearby beaches, which are among the best on the island.
Rethymnon is also known for its vibrant nightlife, with a wide range of bars, clubs, and taverns that cater to all tastes. The town is a must-visit for those interested in history, culture, and architecture, and offers a unique and unforgettable experience in the heart of Crete.
Check out Loutro
Loutro is a small and picturesque village located on the southern coast of Crete, in the Sfakia region. The village is known for its stunning natural beauty, crystal-clear waters, and peaceful atmosphere. Loutro can only be reached by boat or on foot, as there are no roads connecting it to the rest of the island, which adds to its charm and seclusion.
The village features a small port, a few traditional taverns, and a handful of accommodations, making it the perfect place for those seeking a peaceful and tranquil retreat. Visitors can swim in the crystal-clear waters of the bay, explore the nearby hiking trails that lead through picturesque gorges and along the coast, or simply relax and soak up the sun on the pebble beaches.
The village is a must-visit for those seeking a quiet and idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life and offers a unique and unforgettable experience in the heart of Crete’s natural beauty.
Chania is a beautiful and historic city located on the north coast of Crete. It is the second-largest city on the island and is known for its stunning Venetian-era old town, beautiful harbor, and lively atmosphere. The city is a mix of old and new, with narrow alleys, ancient monuments, and a picturesque harbor alongside modern restaurants, cafes, and shops.
The old town is the heart of Chania, and features an impressive Venetian fortress, a picturesque harbor, and a maze of narrow alleys lined with cafes, shops, and restaurants. Visitors can explore the town’s many museums, including the Archaeological Museum and the Naval Museum, or relax on the nearby beaches, which are among the best on the island.
Chania is also known for its vibrant nightlife, with a wide range of bars, clubs, and taverns that cater to all tastes. The city is a must-visit for those interested in history, culture, and architecture, and offers a unique and unforgettable experience in the heart of Crete.
Take a Sail to Spinalonga Island
The island of Spinalonga boasts an unusual history. Originally connected to Crete via an isthmus, the Venetians cut through it in the 16th century to provide greater protection to the fortress, which was ultimately the final fortress to be captured by the Turks.
It was later turned into a leper colony—one of Europe’s last—in the first half of the 20th Today, the island is a popular day destination for tourists, who take ferries from Plaka, Agios Nikolaos, and Elounda to swim, sun and play on its beaches.
Get Inspired at the Toplou Monastery
The Toplou Monastery, also known as the Monastery of Panagia Akrotiriani, is a historic and important religious site located on the eastern coast of Crete, near the town of Sitia. The monastery was founded in the 15th century and has played an important role in the religious and cultural history of the island.
The monastery is known for its impressive architecture, including a fortified tower and walls, and its beautiful frescoes and religious icons. Visitors can explore the monastery’s museum, which features a collection of religious artifacts, manuscripts, and artworks, or attend a religious service in the monastery’s church.
The monastery is also known for its wine and olive oil production, and visitors can sample and purchase these products at the onsite shop. The Toplou Monastery is a must-visit for those interested in religious history, culture, and architecture, and offers a unique and enlightening glimpse into the ancient world of Crete.
Best Locations for Sunset in Crete
Crete is known for its stunning sunsets, and there are several places on the island where you can catch the sun sinking below the horizon in a blaze of colors. Here are a few of the best places to catch the sunset in Crete:
- Elafonisi Beach – This stunning beach on the southwestern coast of the island is known for its pink sand and crystal-clear waters, and it also offers a beautiful setting for watching the sunset.
- Balos Lagoon – Another beautiful beach on the northwestern coast of Crete, Balos Lagoon is surrounded by rugged cliffs and turquoise waters, making it a breathtaking spot to watch the sunset.
- Chania Old Harbor – The historic harbor of Chania is a picturesque setting for watching the sunset, with the Venetian lighthouse and the old buildings of the harbor providing a beautiful backdrop.
- Falassarna Beach – This wide and sandy beach on the western coast of Crete is known for its stunning sunsets, with the sun sinking below the sea in a dramatic display of colors.
- Phaistos Palace – This ancient Minoan palace is located on a hilltop in southern Crete, and offers a stunning view of the surrounding landscape, making it a great place to watch the sunset and soak up the history of the island.
These are just a few of the many beautiful places in Crete where you can catch the sunset, so be sure to explore the island and discover your own favorite spot to watch the sun go down.
Places to Eat in Crete
If you come to Crete seeking multi-course fine dining, you may leave disappointed—but if you take the time to explore the distinctive regional flavors and proud heritage of the island’s cuisine, you may just enjoy some of the best meals of your life.
Hole-in-the-wall tavernas often serve simple but excellent dishes, and many Cretan restaurants feature locally-sourced items like flavored rusks, cured meats, edible flowers, and raki, a clear spirit distilled from pressed grapes.
Breakfast in Crete
With locations in Rethymnon and Heraklion, Hari’s Creperie serves up a wide variety of pancakes, sweet and savory crepes and waffles, and more, seven days a week. For an indulgent breakfast, try the “Hari’s Special” waffle piled high with milk and white chocolate, vanilla cream, strawberry, banana, crushed Oreos, caramelized almonds, meringue cookies, marshmallows, and more.
For a taste of local flavor, consider one of the Cretan crepe options, which include apaki (Cretan smoked pork), feta or kefalotyri cheese, tomatoes, and spices. Vegan diners have plenty of options here, with items like the savory pancake with vegan cheese, pesto sauce, dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and almonds. Lighter choices like fruit salad and yogurt with honey and nuts are also available.
Lunch in Crete
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better tableside view than Med Café in Hersonissos Beach. If you make your reservations early, you just might snag one of the coveted rock-side tables just a few feet above the shore, where the gentle lapping of the waves on the rocks below will be your soundtrack for dinner. If not, the main outdoor dining area still offers lovely scenery and fresh sea air.
Rice, chickpeas, figs and mushrooms are all imported from the Greek mainland, while the cheese is made by a family dairy in southern Crete. To start your meal, consider one of Med’s tempting appetizers, such as grilled octopus or green melon soup with prosciutto, manouri cheese and sunflower seeds.
For your main course, the pasta dishes—such as the Cretan pasta with anthotiro cheese, cured smoked pork and portobello mushroom—make an excellent choice; the mixed souvlaki with grilled beef, pork and chicken breast, multicolored bell peppers, pita, grilled tomatoes and tzatziki foam also comes highly recommended. Seafood lovers may wish to try the wild-caught tuna steak accented with edamame, baby potatoes, mizithra cheese and a red grapefruit glaze.
Dinner in Crete
While you’re sightseeing in Chania, plan to stop for dinner at Chrisostomos, which serves flawlessly-executed traditional Cretan fare near the Old Port. The menu is heavily influenced by the cuisine of Sfakia, an isolated culture found in the rugged landscape of the White Mountains southeast of Chania.
For centuries, the residents of Skafia have adhered to a unique diet based largely on seasonally available ingredients and traditional preparation methods, which include using honey to boil meat and preparing Skafian pies with mizithra or pichtogalo cheese, flour and water.
Be sure to sample one of these unique pies as an appetizer, along with a portion of dakos (rusk, fresh tomato sauce, mizithra soft white cheese, oregano, olive oil and olives). Main courses include oven-baked lamb and suckling pig, boureki (sliced potatoes and pumpkin with soft mizithra cheese), mutton with white cheese and garlic and the classic moussaka (fried potatoes, eggplant and ground beef covered in creamy bechamel sauce).
Dessert in Crete
Since 1997, Koukouvagia has cemented its place in the Greek culinary scene, offering rich desserts and other treats with a beautiful view of Chania Harbor. In fact, Greece’s leading chefs and foodies voted Koukouvagia the top spot for dessert throughout all of Greece in 2018—quite an honor for this humble establishment on the island of Crete.
Deciding what to order can be nearly impossible, with the irresistible array of choices served fresh daily. Popular confections include the restaurant’s famous zoumero, a light chocolate cake dipped in a rich chocolate sauce and topped with whipped cream; traditional lemon and walnut cakes; mille feuille; and ekmek kataifi as well as other traditional Greek recipes.
The café is open all day, so feel free to start your day with an indulgent treat, stop by for an afternoon pick-me-up with a cup of coffee or end your day on a sweet note as you watch the sunset over the water.
Top Photo Spots in Crete
Considered by some to be the most photogenic of the Greek isles, Crete offers an endless array of shockingly beautiful subjects. Here are a few you won’t want to miss:
Top 5 Photo Spots in Crete
Chania Harbor: The harbor offers spectacular views of the famous Egyptian lighthouse, the pastel hues of the Venetian mansions along the water, and a charming Ottoman mosque.
The walls of Chania: Erected by the Venetians more than six centuries past to repel the invading Ottomans, the walls of Chania provide a captivating backdrop for sunset photos.
Elafonissi Lagoon: The sands of Elafonissi beach owe their striking pink hue to microscopic marine organisms, and the contrast with the azure-blue water of the Mediterranean Sea creates an unforgettable photo.
Preveli Beach: Just outside Plakias in southern Crete, this rocky beach features dramatic cliffs, rock-carved stairs, and a lush palm forest.
Knossos: The bold red, black, and yellow tones of the palatial ruins—and the ancient Minoan history they represent—are an essential photo opportunity for any visit to Crete.
Additional Spots Not to Miss
Old Town Chania: This neighborhood lives up to its name, with 2000-year-old foundations that have been transformed in turn by the Venetians, Ottomans, Arabs, and Greeks. This provides a colorful mix of cultures and architecture for the camera.
Skinaria Beach: Also near Plakias, this stunning landscape features radiant white stone formations against the deep blue sea.
Balos Lagoon: This site is likely the most-photographed beach in Crete. It has brilliant turquoise waters set against white sands and rocky cliffs.
Arkadi Monastery: Built around the 12th century, this weathered structure was restored in 1870 after being virtually destroyed during the Cretan rebellion against Turkish rule in 1866. Its imposing stone exterior and twin bells make for a classic photo.
Agios Nikolaos: This mid-size port town on picturesque Mirabello Bay blends the modern and traditional. It has charming, brightly-hued homes that circle the boat-filled water.
Our Final Thoughts on Crete
Home to an incredible diversity of ecosystems and cultures, Crete has something to offer every visitor. From historic ruins filled with rare artifacts to peaceful mountain villages. From beautiful beaches to incredible food. This is all made even more memorable by the warm Mediterranean hospitality that permeates the island.
Its reasonable prices and endless opportunities for relaxing, exploring, and entertainment make it one of the best values for travelers considering a European vacation.