Want to take the roads? If you are in Crete, you are in luck. The island is a hidden paradise for road trips. No matter your taste, there are road trips in Crete that will leave you in awe. Keep reading to discover some of the best drives in Crete. Then prepare for a journey you will remember for a lifetime.
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Best Road Trips in Crete
If you’ve been following this blog, then you’ve already read how enthusiastic I am about driving on the island. Crete is a perfect destination to pack a backpack and toss it in your back seat, and just drive anywhere the road takes you. Read on and discover some of my favorite drives on Crete!
The Most Famous Road Trip in Crete: from Kaliviani to Balos Beach
The journey from Kaliviani to Balos Beach is hands down the most famous road trip in Chania, if not the whole of Crete. It takes about half an hour to cross this 8-kilometer-long dirt road and reach the photogenic beach of Balos. And I say photogenic because your Instagram will love this entire trip. Not only will you shoot amazing photos on the way to the beach, but the destination is equally, if not more, rewarding.
The views from everywhere in this small peninsula are jaw-dropping. You cannot know until you see it yourself. When you attempt this road trip, take it slow. Driving here is not easy, and you need to be careful. Many decide to skip this trip and take the boat to Balos beach instead.
They miss the most fun. After all, Balos Beach and the surrounding area offer the best views from above. Just remember to get there early in the morning to avoid the crowds and embrace the dramatic landscape.
GET READY FOR CRETE!
– Use Ferryhopper and Skyscanner for the best ticket rates.
– Find great accommodation deals on Booking.com.
– Compare car rental prices with Discover Cars.
– Check the best tours with GetYourGuide.
– Visit Elafonisi, discover Balos Beach, hike Samaria, or explore Knossos.
– Pack the Lonely Planet Guide to Crete or get my digital guide to Chania.
Kallikratis-Kapsodasos: The Most Dangerous Drive in Crete
Famous destinations are not for everyone. If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path road trip, consider driving from Kapsodasos to Kallikratis in southwestern Crete.
This 11-kilometer-long road is one of the most dangerous paved roads you can find in Crete… and in the world! The closer you get to the mountainous village of Kallikratis, the narrower and scarier the road becomes.
The turns become steep, the elevation increases, and bumps are more frequent. Not to mention that there are no crash barriers, you’re just next to the cliffs, at least over 500 meters altitude.
It sounds attractive, doesn’t it?
Of course, the adventurous ones who dare to drive this road will enjoy some of the most spectacular views of the Libyan Sea. You decide if this is a good enough reward. One thing is certain: Get ready for some adrenaline rush!
A quick guide to the best hotels in Crete
Budget: So Young Hostel in Heraklio, Cocoon City Hostel in Chania, Matthias Hotel Apartments in Rethymnon, and Villa Galini in Agios Nikolaos.
Mid-range: Capsis Astoria Heraklion in Heraklion, Porto Antico in Chania, Archipelagos Hotel in Rethymnon, or Hotel Port 7 in Agios Nikolaos.
Luxury: Galaxy Iraklio Hotel in Heraklion, Hotel OFF in Chania, Avli Lounge in Rethymnon, or Minos Beach Art Hotel in Agios Nikolaos.
Check more: Where to stay in Crete.
Want an Impressive Drive? Head to Skinakas Mountain, the Highest Paved Road on Crete
1.752 meters above sea level lies one of the most impressive roads in Crete. Skinakas Mountain, in the center of the island, is home to the highest paved road in Crete.
It takes half an hour and 17 kilometers to reach the top from Anogia, the closest settlement in the area.
Once you reach the summit, you can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of the entire island. If you are lucky and the air is clear enough, you can observe both the Sea of Crete (on the north coast) and the Lybian sea.
It is no coincidence that the summit hosts a modern observatory. Researchers and astronomy students use it to collect data about the stars.
No matter the time of your visit, summer seems to evade this area. The wind is usually strong and the temperature low enough for you to wear a jacket, even during hot summer nights.
In winter, the roads are usually full of snow. It hence makes sense to visit Skinakas mountain in summer.
Traditional Drive: from Vamos around the Villages of Apokoronas
If you prefer a more relaxed and traditional road trip, the region around Vamos can be an ideal destination.
While you drive around the area, you will come across secluded chapels, medieval buildings, wild nature, and spectacular viewpoints.
Most importantly, you will have the freedom to choose your own itinerary. This road trip is not a journey from point A to B. Rather, you are free to explore an area at your own pace. Wherever you go around Vamos, you will have a reason to stop and embrace the surroundings.
Whether it is a small but breathtaking gorge, a lonely monastery, or a picturesque village, you will fall in love with it all. Prepare to discover the hidden gems and surprises of Apokoronas in a road trip you will long remember.
Panoramic Road Trip from Chora Sfakion to Anopolis
Although the island is full of spectacular viewpoints, nothing is so unique as the road from Chora Sfakion to Anopolis in southern Crete. Driving up here will reward you with unprecedented views of the coast and the surrounding mountains.
The length of the road may be only 12 kilometers, but it can take more than half an hour to drive it. There are many sharp and tight turns, so you need to be careful.
If you enjoy driving, this is the place to go. And even if you don’t so much, trust me, once up there the views will make up for it.
From Plakias to Frangokastello: No Man’s Land
The island of Crete has many faces and is full of contradictions. The road trip from Plakias to Frangokastelo is one such example.
Although this coastal road connects two of the most famous sites in South Crete, you will find only a few locals living between its 27 kilometers.
As a result, you have the chance to complete one of the most deserted, yet amazing, road trips in Crete (and yes, probably one of my favorite ones!). The area is blessed with breathtaking landscapes, gorges, sandy beaches, and crystal-clear waters.
And between this natural beauty lie two of the most picturesque and traditional villages in Crete: Kato Rodakino and Pano Rodakino.
Standing on the mountain slopes, both villages offer panoramic views of the Lybian sea in the south.
Looking for a Scenic Drive? Check the Road from Vrisses to Chora Sfakia
Who said you can only hike through a gorge? Of course, you can most appreciate nature if you are on foot, but driving through a gorge can be equally rewarding. And less tiring!
Thankfully, Crete can offer you such an experience. To be specific, you can drive through Imbros gorge, in southern Crete. You can start at Vrisses and reach Chora Sfakion in about an hour.
There is no doubt that driving those 37 kilometers will be a highlight of your trip to Crete.
Although you need to be careful as always, you will have your chances to enjoy the epic scenery as you drive through the gorge.
The local authorities take good care of the road but some things cannot be avoided, such as a good dose of goats in the middle of the road.
Remember to keep your attention level high and to make a few stops to embrace the scenery.
The last part of the drive, as you start to descend towards Chora Sfakion, offers countless opportunities for stunning pictures!
From Chania to Elafonisi (along Topolia Gorge): Breathtaking Drive on Crete
Another breathtaking Cretan road trip is the drive from Chania to Elafonisi Beach in western Crete. This road takes you through the Topolia Gorge along a super narrow road right next to the gorge and its lush vegetation.
Simply put, you will fall in love with the majestic landscape and incredible scenery you will notice along the way.
You can make the entire trip in under one and a half hours, or you can stop over for a coffee in the village of Elos, known for its chestnut trees.
Two things are certain. Not only will you enjoy the journey, but the destination is equally rewarding. Elafonisi Beach is one of the most popular and wild beaches in Crete.
Grab this opportunity to relax on your sunbed and swim in crystal-clear waters. This road trip is described here as well.
Charming Drive from Chania up to Omalos Plateau
If you are near Chania, chances are you will anyways travel the road trip from Chania to Omalos Plateau.
Why? Because it is the gateway to the famous Samaria Gorge, the largest canyon in Europe, and the most popular in Crete.
Most visitors forget to pay attention to the charming surroundings as they drive their way to Samaria.
This is a pity because the area is unique. Olive groves, chestnut forests, traditional windmills, and picturesque villages create an ideal destination to explore, either by car or on foot.
You do not want to miss this opportunity to embrace the beauty of the area.
At the very least, keep an eye out of the windows as you make your way to Samaria. You won’t regret it.
The Windy Road: From Rethymnon to Preveli through Kourtaliotiko Gorge
When driving from Rethymno to Preveli Beach and making a few stops along the way, you will find it surprisingly windy up there.
Okay, this is not the real reason to embark on that journey, but it does give a unique flavor to the road trip.
If you need any persuading to choose that road trip over another, it is wise to mention the gorge of Kourtaliotikos: on the final part of your trip, you will get to drive through the dramatic landscapes of the Kourtaliotikos gorge.
Finally, the road will take you to the palm beach of Preveli, where you can relax and enjoy the aura of the Libyan sea.
If you are up for an adventure, feel free to hike your way up to Kourtaliotikos waterfall, a magnificent water curtain on the narrowest part of the gorge.
Drives Along the Traditions of Crete: From Rethymnon to Anogia
To discover some of the unique traditions of Crete, consider a road trip from Rethymnon to the picturesque mountainous village of Anogia.
The whole journey takes a bit more than an hour and passes through roads adorned with lush vegetation and some very traditional villages.
A popular stop on this road trip is no other than the Sfendoni cave in Zoniana. This cave is the largest in Crete and is well-maintained by the local authorities.
Once you reach Anogia, you will stand in awe at the beauty and authenticity of the village.
The locals follow all Cretan customs, continue wearing traditional costumes, cook delicious grilled meat, and still speak the old Cretan dialect. You will feel the time has frozen here.
Want Your Road Trip to Last For Ever? Drive from Ierapetra to Matala
If you feel like being on the road for more than a couple of hours, the journey from Ierapetra to Matala can be an ideal choice.
You will be driving more than 120 kilometers along the southern coast of Crete… but mind you, speeding is not an option, so it might even take up to 3 hours!
Of course, your trip will come with its rewards too. This part of the island is full of secluded beaches, quiet villages, and small gorges.
However, what you will appreciate the most are the driving conditions. The traffic is non-existent, and the roads are well maintained (except for some short parts of the road).
If you are a fan of driving, or you want to explore the less touristy parts of the island, then this road trip is just for you.
Short but Intense: From Elounda to Kolokitha
Not every road in Crete is asphalt. At the same time, there are spectacular places you cannot easily reach by car. One such destination is the beach of Kolokitha.
Although just 3 kilometers long, the road from Elounda to Kolokitha beach is intense. You may need up to half an hour to cross it if there’s traffic coming the opposite way.
However, once you pass by all the bumps and constant turns of the dirt road, you will come across one of the most scenic beaches in Lasithi.
Kolokitha beach is the ideal place to relax after this short but intense journey. Take it easy, enjoy the waters, and soak in the beautiful surroundings.
Relaxing Circuit: Lasithi Plateau
For those of you looking for a relaxing road trip in Crete, consider driving around the Lasithi plateau. The road is truly in good condition and quiet enough to offer you a peaceful time on the wheels.
Although in high altitude, there is a vast area of flat land surrounded by mountains. While you drive around the plateau, remember to appreciate the natural landscape and the views from above.
Do stop in some of the villages for a close-up look at this hideaway of Cretan traditions.
A Road at the End of The World, the Spectacular Drive f rom Sitia to Toplou and Vai
Last on our list is – at least for me – the most spectacular road trip in Crete. There are no breathtaking hairpin turns, deep cliffs, or dreamy seas underneath…
And yet, this 24-kilometer drive from Sitia to Toplou and then Vai can be the highlight of your Cretan holidays. Do it at sunset, and it will ad special magic to the atmosphere!
Next to the wild landscape and natural beauty of the area, you will also have the chance to visit one of the oldest monasteries in Crete.
The imposing monastery of Toplou is famous for its religious sights and ancient icons. Grab this chance to explore its interior for some time.
Even if you do not want to enter the monastery, the view from the outside is remarkable. The final destination of your journey will be no other than the idyllic oasis of Vai Beach. According to experts, this is the only natural palm tree beach in Europe.
Whether this is true or not, one thing is sure about Vai Beach: you will fall in love with it all, just like you fall in love with Crete.
I’m certain these are just some of the few amazing road trips you can take on Crete.
The more I think of it, the more they come to my mind… such as the road to Seitan Limani, the coastal trip from Elafonisi to Falasarna, and even the drive from Agios Nikolaos to Ierapetra. And I’m sure there are many, many more that I still have to discover…!
Are you planning to drive in Crete?
Let me know in the comments below!
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Written by Dimitrios Tsevremes
Passionate about travel, spirituality, and sports, I have lived in 5 countries and traveled to more places than I have counted. Writing for me is a way to express myself and my creativity. Whether I write for my blog or a freelancing gig, I always fall in love with the process and often lose my sense of time. If you want, you can check out more about me and my work here.
About the author of this blog:
Gabi has been living in Crete for the last five years. On the island, she juggles being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours in summer, translating, and freelance writing.
She’s written for Greek Reporter, published several travel guides about Greece, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person would be able to handle.