Crete Travel Guide: Discovering the Magic of Greece’s Largest Island

by Tsvete Popp
Crete Greece Travel Guide

Welcome to our travel guide to the beautiful island of Crete! As travel bloggers and writers, we have had the privilege of exploring this enchanting destination for one month by car and are excited to share our experiences and expertise with you. Crete is the largest of the Greek islands, known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality. Let’s embark on a journey to uncover the wonders of Crete together.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Historical Background and Cultural Significance

Crete holds a significant place in Greek mythology and history. It is believed to be the birthplace of Zeus, the king of the gods. The island has been influenced by various civilizations, including the Minoans, Mycenaeans, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans, each leaving their mark on its culture and architecture. This diverse heritage makes Crete a captivating blend of ancient ruins, charming villages, and vibrant traditions.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Geographical Location and Climate

Situated in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Crete enjoys a Mediterranean climate, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild winters. The island’s strategic location places it between Europe, Africa, and Asia, making it an ideal crossroads for cultural exchange and trade throughout history. Crete’s varied topography offers a diverse landscape of rugged mountains, fertile plains, and picturesque coastlines.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Planning Your Trip

Best Time to Visit Crete

The best time to visit Crete is during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October) seasons when the weather is pleasantly warm, and tourist crowds are relatively smaller. Summers (July and August) can be scorching, but if you love sun-soaked beach days and lively festivals, it’s the perfect time for you. Winter months are milder but bring more rainfall.

Visa Requirements and Travel Regulations

For most travellers, a Schengen visa is required to enter Greece, which includes Crete. Make sure to check the visa requirements for your country of residence well in advance and plan accordingly. Additionally, keep yourself updated with any travel regulations or entry requirements that may be in place during your visit.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Transportation Options

Crete has several international airports, including the Heraklion International Airport and Chania International Airport, offering convenient connections to major cities in Europe. Once on the island, you can choose between public transportation, such as buses, or opt for the flexibility of renting a car to explore at your own pace. Both options are reliable and cater to different preferences.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Local Currency and Common Payment Methods

The currency in Greece is the Euro (€). Credit cards are widely accepted in larger establishments, hotels, and restaurants, but it’s advisable to carry some cash for smaller establishments, rural areas, or in case of any unforeseen circumstances. ATMs are readily available in major towns and cities.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Getting Around – Local Transportation

One popular and adventurous way to get around Crete is by renting a car. It allows you to explore the island’s scenic routes and hidden gems, providing a sense of freedom and flexibility. Car rental services can be found in tourist areas and major cities, and it’s an excellent option for exploring the island.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Different Areas in Crete

Crete is a diverse island, and each region offers its own unique charm and attractions. Here are some notable areas to consider for your stay:

Heraklion: The capital of Crete and its largest city, Heraklion is home to the ancient Minoan palace of Knossos. It offers a vibrant atmosphere, bustling markets, and a rich cultural heritage.

Chania: This picturesque town on the northwest coast is known for its Venetian harbour, narrow streets, and charming Old Town. It’s a great base for exploring the stunning beaches of the region.

Rethymno: Located between Heraklion and Chania, Rethymno is a delightful blend of history and natural beauty. It’s Venetian fortress and vibrant waterfront are worth a visit.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Agios Nikolaos: Situated on the scenic Mirabello Bay, Agios Nikolaos is a charming coastal town known for its picturesque harbour, lively café culture, and the nearby Voulismeni Lake.

Elounda: This exclusive resort town offers luxurious accommodations and breathtaking sea views. It’s a popular destination for upscale travellers seeking relaxation and indulgence.

Ierapetra: Located on the southern coast, Ierapetra boasts beautiful beaches and a laid-back atmosphere. It’s an excellent choice for those seeking a quieter and less touristy experience.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Recommendation for Where to Stay in Crete

Accommodation in Crete caters to a wide range of budgets and preferences. Here are our recommendations for the best luxury hotels, mid-range hotels, and hostels or guesthouses:

Luxury Hotels in Crete

Domes Noruz Chania: This elegant beachfront hotel offers luxurious rooms, private pools, and stunning sea views. It boasts a tranquil atmosphere and exceptional service.

Amirandes Grecotel Exclusive Resort: Set on a private beach near Heraklion, this resort offers opulent rooms, gourmet dining, and a world-class spa. It’s a haven for relaxation and indulgence.

Blue Palace, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa: Located in Elounda, this upscale resort combines stunning sea views with elegant accommodations and a range of leisure facilities.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Mid-Range Hotels in Crete

Creta Maris Beach Resort: Situated in Hersonissos, this family-friendly resort features spacious rooms, multiple pools, and a variety of dining options. It offers a great balance between comfort and affordability.

Porto Veneziano Hotel: This boutique hotel in Chania offers stylish rooms, a waterfront location, and personalized service. It’s an excellent choice for those seeking a central location with a touch of luxury.

Rimondi Boutique Hotels: Located in Rethymno’s Old Town, this charming hotel complex consists of beautifully restored Venetian mansions. It exudes character and provides a unique cultural experience.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Hostels or Guesthouses in Crete

El Greco Hotel: Situated in Heraklion, this budget-friendly hotel offers clean and comfortable rooms, friendly staff, and a central location, making it an ideal choice for backpackers and budget travellers.

Haris Apartments: Located in Skiathos, this family-run guesthouse provides simple yet cosy accommodations, warm hospitality, and a convenient location close to the town centre and beach.

So Young Hostel: Situated in Chania’s Old Town, this budget-friendly hostel offers dormitory-style rooms, a communal kitchen, and a vibrant social atmosphere, perfect for meeting fellow travellers.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Top Attractions and Landmarks

Crete is brimming with captivating attractions and landmarks that showcase its rich history and natural beauty. Here are some must-visit places to include in your itinerary:

Palace of Knossos: Explore the ancient Minoan ruins of Knossos, an archaeological site near Heraklion that offers a glimpse into the island’s mythical past.

Samaria Gorge: Embark on a breathtaking hike through Europe’s longest gorge, located in the White Mountains. Marvel at the rugged scenery and immerse yourself in nature’s splendour.

Balos Lagoon: Located on the northwest coast of Crete, Balos Lagoon boasts crystal-clear turquoise waters and a mesmerizing landscape of pink sand and rugged cliffs. It’s a true paradise for beach lovers.

Spinalonga Island: Take a boat trip to this historical island near Elounda and explore the remnants of a Venetian fortress and the haunting ruins of a former leper colony.

Arkadi Monastery: Visit this iconic monastery near Rethymno, known for its rich history and significant role in the Cretan resistance against the Ottomans.

Preveli Beach: This idyllic beach on the south coast is famous for its palm tree-lined river, which flows into the sea. Enjoy the tranquil ambience and pristine natural beauty.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Best Beaches in Crete

Crete is renowned for its stunning beaches. Here are six of our favorite beach destinations on the island:

Elafonissi Beach: Located on the southwest coast, Elafonissi Beach charms visitors with its pink sand, clear turquoise waters, and a small islet to explore.

Vai Beach: Situated on the eastern coast, Vai Beach is unique due to its palm tree forest, creating a tropical paradise ambiance.

Balos Beach: As mentioned earlier, Balos Beach offers an awe-inspiring lagoon setting with its turquoise waters and pink sand, creating a picture-perfect backdrop.

Balos Beach and Lagoons, Crete

Falassarna Beach: This wide sandy beach on the northwest coast is popular for its crystal-clear waters and magnificent sunsets.

Matala Beach: Located on the southern coast, Matala Beach features distinctive cliffside caves that were once home to hippies in the 1960s. It’s a fascinating beach with a bohemian atmosphere.

Stavros Beach: Situated on the Akrotiri Peninsula near Chania, Stavros Beach gained fame as a filming location for the movie “Zorba the Greek.” It’s known for its calm waters and unique rock formations.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Cultural Experiences

Immerse yourself in Crete’s rich culture and history through various cultural experiences. Here are some suggestions:

Heraklion Archaeological Museum: Explore one of the most important museums in Greece, showcasing a vast collection of Minoan artifacts and masterpieces.

Historical Sites and Monuments: Visit the Venetian Fortezza in Rethymno, the Arkadi Monastery near Rethymno, and the ancient city of Aptera near Chania to witness the island’s historical and architectural treasures.

Local Festivals and Events: If you have the chance, participate in the lively local festivals, such as the Carnival in Rethymno, the Wine Festival in Chania, or the Renaissance Festival in Heraklion, to celebrate Crete’s cultural heritage.

Traditional Arts, Crafts, and Performances: Explore the traditional villages of Crete, where you can observe artisans creating pottery, weaving textiles, and crafting intricate woodwork. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy traditional Cretan music and dance performances.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Outdoor Activities and Adventure

Crete’s diverse landscape offers a myriad of outdoor activities and adventure opportunities. Here are some thrilling experiences to consider:

Samaria Gorge Hike: Embark on a challenging yet rewarding hike through the Samaria Gorge, witnessing its dramatic rock formations, rare flora, and fauna along the way.

Water Sports and Beach Activities: Enjoy a variety of water sports, including snorkeling, scuba diving, windsurfing, and jet skiing, at the island’s numerous beaches and coastal resorts.

Wildlife Spotting and National Parks: Explore Crete’s natural wonders, such as the White Mountains, Psiloritis Natural Park, and the Kourtaliotiko Gorge, where you can spot unique flora and fauna.

Adventure Tours and Excursions: Join guided adventure tours, such as off-road safaris, canyoning expeditions, and boat trips to secluded coves and hidden caves, to uncover the island’s hidden gems.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Local Cuisine and Dining

Crete’s culinary scene is a gastronomic delight, offering a mix of traditional Greek and Cretan flavors. Here are some must-try dishes and dining experiences:

Dakos: A traditional Cretan meze, dakos consists of crispy barley rusks topped with chopped tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, and drizzled with olive oil. It’s a refreshing and flavorsome starter.

Moussaka: A classic Greek dish, moussaka features layers of eggplant, minced meat, and béchamel sauce, baked to perfection. It’s a hearty and comforting meal.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Fresh Seafood: Being an island, Crete offers an abundance of fresh seafood. Indulge in grilled octopus, prawns saganaki (cooked in tomato sauce and feta cheese), or the catch of the day for a truly satisfying meal.

Raki and Meze: Sample the local drink, raki, a grape-based spirit often served as an aperitif, accompanied by a variety of meze (small dishes) such as tzatziki, dolmades, and fried cheese.

Visit Local Markets: Explore the vibrant local markets, such as the Central Market in Heraklion or the Municipal Market in Chania, to savor local produce, honey, olive oil, herbs, and spices.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Shopping and Souvenirs

Make the most of your visit to Crete by picking up unique souvenirs and experiencing the local shopping scene. Here are some recommendations:

Popular Shopping Areas and Markets: Explore the streets of Chania’s Old Town or stroll along the shopping boulevards of Heraklion and Rethymno, where you’ll find a mix of boutiques, souvenir shops, and artisanal stores.

Local Handicrafts, Textiles, and Specialties: Look for handmade ceramics, embroidered linens, traditional knives (called “mantinades”), Cretan cheeses, olive oil, local wines, and honey as special mementos of your trip.

Bargaining Tips and Etiquette: While bargaining is not common in regular shops, it can be practiced in local markets or when purchasing directly from artisans. Approach it with respect and a friendly attitude.

Duty-Free Shopping and Tax Refunds: If you’re a non-EU resident, you can enjoy duty-free shopping at the airports and claim tax refunds on eligible purchases. Remember to keep your receipts and inquire about the process.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Practical Information

Language and Communication Tips

The official language in Crete is Greek. While English is widely spoken in tourist areas, it’s always appreciated to learn a few basic Greek phrases, such as “kalimera” (good morning), “efharisto” (thank you), and “parakalo” (please).

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Local Customs and Etiquette

  • Greeks are known for their warm hospitality. It’s customary to greet others with a friendly smile and engage in small talk.
  • Dress modestly when visiting churches or religious sites. Cover your shoulders and avoid wearing revealing clothing.
  • It’s polite to ask for permission before taking someone’s photograph, especially in more traditional or rural areas.
  • Respect local traditions and customs, such as the siesta (afternoon rest period), and be mindful of noise levels during designated quiet hours.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Safety and Health

General Safety Tips and Precautions

Crete is generally a safe destination, but it’s always wise to take precautions. Here are some general safety tips:

  • Take care of your belongings and be aware of pickpockets, especially in crowded tourist areas.
  • Stay hydrated, use sunscreen, and seek shade during the hottest hours of the day to prevent sunburn and heat-related issues.
  • Follow safety instructions and guidelines when engaging in outdoor activities or water sports.
  • Be cautious when driving, as Greek roads can be narrow and winding.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Common Scams and Tourist Traps to Avoid

While Crete is a safe destination, it’s essential to be aware of common scams and tourist traps. Here are a few to watch out for:

  • Be cautious of unofficial guides or vendors offering overly cheap tours or goods.
  • Avoid street sellers or unsolicited offers for services or products.
  • Verify prices and agree on them in advance to avoid potential disputes.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Health Advisories and Vaccination Requirements

Before travelling to Crete, it’s advisable to check the latest health advisories and recommended vaccinations. Ensure that you have adequate travel insurance that covers medical emergencies.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Dos and Don’ts

Cultural Sensitivities and Taboos

  • Do respect religious customs and traditions, such as covering up when visiting churches or monasteries.
  • Do greet locals with a friendly “kalimera” (good morning) or “yasou” (hello).
  • Don’t discuss politics or controversial topics unless you have a good understanding of the context and are engaged in a respectful conversation.
  • Don’t litter or disrespect the natural environment. Help preserve the beauty of Crete for future generations.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Respectful Behavior Towards Locals

  • Do embrace the Cretan hospitality and engage in friendly conversations with locals. They are known for their warmth and generosity.
  • Do try to learn a few basic Greek phrases as a sign of respect.
  • Don’t make assumptions or stereotypes about the local culture or customs. Embrace the diversity and open-mindedness of the island.

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Additional Tips and Recommendations

Off-the-Beaten-Path Attractions: Explore the lesser-known villages and hidden gems of Crete, such as the traditional mountain village of Anogia or the charming village of Zaros, surrounded by stunning natural landscapes.

Day Trips and Nearby Destinations: Consider taking day trips to the nearby islands of Santorini or Rhodes for a change of scenery and to explore their unique attractions.

Seasonal Events and Activities: Check the local events calendar for seasonal festivals, concerts, and cultural events happening during your visit.

Unique Experiences or Hidden Gems: Seek out authentic experiences, such as participating in a traditional Cretan cooking class, visiting local wineries for wine tasting, or embarking on a jeep safari to explore the island’s rugged interior.

Crete Greece Travel Guide


We hope this comprehensive travel guide has provided you with valuable insights and inspiration for your trip to Crete. From its rich history and cultural significance to its stunning beaches, outdoor adventures, and mouthwatering cuisine, Crete offers something for every traveller. Embrace the island’s charm, immerse yourself in its vibrant culture, and create unforgettable memories as you explore this captivating Greek gem. Bon voyage!

Crete Greece Travel Guide

Planning a trip to Greece?

Greece Accommodation

Begin your search for the perfect accommodation now while the excitement is still fresh in your mind. Discover stylish and affordable options, and find the best accommodations at the lowest prices:

Greece Flights

Make the most of your trip by finding the most affordable flights. We highly recommend using, a reliable flight comparison site. Click here to compare and book cheap flights to Greece.

Private Airport Transfers

Kiwitaxi is a popular online platform that specializes in providing private airport transfers and transportation services worldwide. It offers convenient and reliable door-to-door transfers between airports, hotels, and other destinations. With Kiwitaxi, you can pre-book private taxis or minivans with professional drivers, ensuring a comfortable and hassle-free journey.

Rental Car in Greece

Looking to rent a car in Greece? has you covered! We search through all the major car rental companies in Greece to find you the best price possible.

Greece Tours

If you enjoy guided tours, here you can find a wide variety of options to suit every preference. Discover and join fascinating guided tours across Greece.

Travel Insurance

When it comes to travel insurance, we understand the importance of finding reliable coverage that suits your needs. That’s why we highly recommend Safety Wing – a trusted provider offering comprehensive travel insurance plans even for digital nomads. Safeguard your travels and gain peace of mind by exploring the excellent coverage options provided by Safety Wing.

Enjoy the day!

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Rest assured, we only recommend products and services that meet our high standards and that we genuinely believe in. The opinions expressed are solely our own and are based on our personal experience.

Find Cheap Flights