Insanely Practical Tips for Holidays in Crete

Crete is the biggest island of Greece and one of the biggest in the Mediterranean. It’s a palette of stunning colors, pink sand beaches, turquoise seas, brown mountains, and green olive groves. A land with an ideal climate all year round, abundant water resources and an incredible nature. The rich fauna and flora give life to an interesting landscape but also to one of the healthiest diets in the world, the Cretan diet. All these traits put Crete at the center of touristic interest making it one of the most popular Greek islands for vacations. Whether it’s your first time or not, check these insanely practical tips for holidays in Crete!

General Information about Crete

Tips for Holidays in Crete: Goat at sunrise in Balos, Crete
Sunrise in Balos (Thanks to Callumn Anderson for the picture!)

Where is Crete: Location and General Traits

Crete is the biggest and southernmost of the Greek islands. It’s located closer to North Africa than to the capital of Greece, Athens. Crete is at the crossroads of three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa, so the connections with Middle Eastern traditions are not minor.

Right in the center of the Mediterranean, Crete has been occupied by diverse civilizations during the centuries, among the most prominent ones stand the Venetians (1212- 1669) and the Ottoman Empire (1671-1898).

Every civilization that ruled on the island left a strong heritage that shaped Crete’s present identity. Crete is known as the cradle of the civilization, but it’s also a land of invaders, foreign occupants, and pirates. Crete has an identity of its own.

A brief timeline of Cretan History.
A brief timeline of Cretan History.

The Landscape of Crete

The coasts of Crete are washed by the Sea of Crete on the north coast and the Libyan sea in the south.

Crete is divided into four different Prefectures, from east to west they are Lasithi, Heraklion Rethymno, and Chania. The capital is Heraklion, followed in importance by the cities of Chania, Rethymno, and Agios Nikolaos.

In general, Crete has a mountainous landscape. There are 7 mountain ranges that divide the island into two very different areas, the more developed north coast, and a pretty isolated southern portion. Its widest point is 60 km, while it’s only 12 km wide at its narrowest.

Driving from the westernmost coast to the extreme east can take from 4 to 6 hours.

Church on the road to Vai Beach, Crete
Church on the road to Vai Palm Grove Beach, Crete.

What’s the Weather like in Crete

Crete lies between two different climatic zones, the north has typical Mediterranean weather while the south is subtropical.

In general, summers are very hot and extended with scarce rains, while winters tend to be short and mild (with snow in the inland alpine area).

Tips for holidays in Crete: Practical Details

What Language do they Speak in Crete

Do you speak Greek? (source: shutterstock)

The official language of Crete is Greek, of course, yet English is a widely spread second language spoken in all major touristic areas. You will also find many locals making an effort to communicate in Italian, German or French.

Cretans are extremely proud of their legendary hospitality, and nothing makes them happier than being able to talk with foreigners. Despite Greek being a difficult language, it’s fair to say that there are virtually no language barriers.

I’ve also noticed that Greek TV usually broadcast foreign programs in their original language (just adding captions). If I compare that to my almost 18 years living in Italy, where programs and films are dubbed, the difference is clear. Even those with no formal education in English can give you a hand.

If you are lost in a remote village, chances are that there’s an old grandma who has been watching films in English for many years. She will be able to help (it happened to me personally, many times!)

Currency in Crete

Euro is the official currency of the European Union, so it’s also used in Crete. There are exchange offices in every main city and money can also be exchanged in banks, hotel desks, and the airports of Chania and Heraklion. Almost every shop in big cities accepts credit and debit cards. The same goes for hotels and resorts.

However, if you are staying in more isolated areas, check with the owner beforehand. ATM points are also available all over the north coast, while some southern villages lack the service. Save yourself a drive through the mountains (it also happened to me personally, just once though!) and check in advance.

Valid Documents to Visit Crete

Valid documents for European citizens

Greece is a Member-State of the European Union. Citizens traveling inside the E.U. just need their ID, however, a passport is needed for transactions such as currency exchange or to send money abroad. Citizens of Member-States under the Schengen Agreement can travel without a visa for up to 3 months, still, some airlines might require a valid passport to board.

Valid documents for Non-European citizens

Citizens of countries that do not belong to the E.U. need a visa to enter Greece. The Hellenic Embassy or Consulate in your home country will be able to tell you about the specific requirements. You can also check online in the following link of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

If you hold a valid passport of any of the following countries, you can visit Greece for up to 3 months without the need of a visa:

Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Marino, Singapore, South Korea, US, Uruguay, Venezuela.

Tips for holidays in Crete: Where to Sleep

Tips for holidays in Crete: Hotels
Tips for holidays in Crete: Choosing a place to sleep. (Source: Pixabay)

Accommodation in Greece is wide and for every pocket. Lodging can range from renting a room in a private house to luxurious stays 5-star resorts. These are some of the most common:

Rooms to Let (domatia)

With the rise of Airbnb and Couchsurfing, this option does not sound unusual anymore. However, not long ago, Greece was one of the few places in Europe where you could have a great budget vacation renting a room in a private house.

Studios

Studios are the most traditional type of accommodation in Greece. They are usually a one-bedroom apartment equipped with a small but functional kitchen and a bathroom. Another convenient kind of accommodation that unfortunately is being lost in main cities.

Hotels

Being tourism the main source of income in the country, hotels are everywhere. Categories range from basic to 5 stars. Thematic hotels are also a new trend, there are gastronomic hotels, eco-friendly hotels, wine hotels, as well as hotels specially designed for kids.

Boutique Hotels

Especially in the old town areas of Rethymno and Chania, but also in the capital and in other touristic areas, such as Elounda or Agios Nikolaos, boutique hotels are very common in Crete, categories also vary according to the services offered, and unfortunately not every boutique hotel is indeed one. Check reviews online before booking!

Property Rental

Renting an entire house for an extended holiday has always been very common. The offer ranges from simple 2 or 3-bedroom apartments to luxury villas with pool, concierge and housekeeping service.

All-Inclusive Resorts

There are several all-inclusive resorts mostly located a few kilometers from the main towns. Platanias and Agia Marina for Chania, or Kourna Beach and Panormo, close to Rethymno. In the area of Heraklion, resorts are mostly in Hersonissos, while Elounda is the resort area of Lasithi.

Camping

Tent, camping
Accommodation in Crete (Source Bhossfeld Pixabay)

There are different alternatives in Crete for camping. The island counts with about 15 official camping sites, this website provides detailed information about each facility

The Greek law forbids outdoor camping in public places, although many tourists disregard this and camp illegally, especially in the south of Crete. Spending the night on the beach (using a sleeping bag and not a tent), is not illegal. In any case, whatever camping option you prefer, always respect the environment. 

  • Keep away from Natura protected areas.
  • Don’t leave any garbage behind.
  • Avoid starting fires.
  • Respect endogenous flora, cedar trees are a protected species. Don’t use them to secure your tent, don’t hang your clothes and don’t cut off branches.

PRO TIP FOR HOLIDAYS IN CRETE (and personal opinion) Always prefer Cretan accommodation to experience authentic local hospitality. You will also be doing something more important, you will be helping every seasonal worker make a living for the rest of the year.
The same goes for cart rental as well as for the so-called “local tours” that in fact belong to international tour companies! Be smart, Google it, and if it’s a brand running tours in hundreds of cities all over the world… yeap, not local!

Tips for Holidays in Crete: Mobile and Internet

Can I use my mobile phone in Crete

Mobile phone
TIps for Holidays in Crete: About our mobile phone and internet connection. (Source: Pixabay)

There shouldn’t be any problem if you want to use your (recent) mobile phone in Crete, however, take the following notes into account:

  • Inform your provider that you are traveling abroad.
  • Check what rates your provider applies for international calls.
  • Be aware of roaming expenses: Apps in your phone are usually using data, even when you’re not online.
  • To avoid a surprise, you can turn off data (mobile settings). Messaging and calls won’t be blocked but to use the internet you will have to log to any WiFi hotspot (the airport, your hotel, a restaurant, the city center). To check what is available, open settings and look for connections.
  • In Crete, public buses, city centers, hospitals, airports, most lodgings, and many beach facilities offer free WiFi
  • Check here the hotspots in Chania, Rethymno, and Heraklion.
  • This app is also helpful to check WiFi hotspots anywhere in the world!

If you don’t come from a country within the European Union

  • It’s possible to use your current device and number. In this case, check fees and special offers from your provider.
  • You can still use your current device and change the SIM card in Greece to use a local number – (popular providers are Wind, Cosmote, and Vodafone, with shops in every major city). A copy of your passport will be necessary to activate the new number. Choose a pre-paid plan for a short stay and top up as needed.
  • Or… you can always buy a new phone and number when you arrive in Crete (you won’t need to change any of your main phone settings and you will still have your contact list).

Roaming within the European Union

According to EU legislation, citizens using their mobiles traveling outside their home country in any EU country don’t pay any additional roaming charges.

Check the whole resolution here because fees do apply if you are not connected to a land-based network (fees to connect to a satellite-based network are very high).

Airports in Crete

Nikos Kazantzakis Airport, Heraklion.
Nikos Kazantzakis Airport, Heraklion.

How many airports are there in Crete?

There are three airports in Crete, two of them serving the whole of the island (Chania and Heraklion), as well as the small airport of Sitia. Here are the most important details:

Heraklion International Airport “Nikos Kazantzakis”

(HER) This is the main airport on Crete (Greece’s second busiest airport after Athens). It’s located about 5 km from the city center.

Public transport: To reach the city center from Heraklion Airport the only option is the public bus (blue coaches – KTEL). The single fare from the airport to the city center is €2.00 and tickets are sold on the bus (cash and Eur only).
The service runs from 6:00 am to 12.00 am, all year long with a 15-minute frequency.

Chania International Airport “Ioannis Daskalogiannis”

(CHQ) This international airport is close to Souda Bay on the Akrotiri peninsula, about 14 km from Chania.

Public transport: To reach Chania Town from the local airport, the only public service is the bus (KTEL, green or yellow buses). The single fare to the city center is €2.50. Tickets can be purchased on the bus or online. The ride takes about 25 minutes. Buses run with a 30-minute frequency until 11 at night.

Sitia Public Airport “Vitsenzos Kornaros”

(JSH) This small community airport is in the eastern part of the island, about 1 km from Sitia. There is no public transport to reach the center.

There are local taxis and car rental companies outside the arrival halls of all airports.

Ports in Crete

There are six different passenger ports on Crete, but chances are that you will be arriving either to Heraklion, Rethymno or Souda (Chania).

Main Ports in Crete: Heraklion & Souda

A trip from Athens (Piraeus port) to Crete can last from 5 to 6 hours and trips are usually at night. Updated information about ferries to the island can be easily found on the website of the major ferry lines reaching Crete, such as Minoan Lines and ANEK Lines. 

Other Ports in Crete

  • Rethymno
  • Kissamos (only excursions to Balos-Gramvousa, and ferries to the islands of  Kythira, and Antikythira)
  • Agios Nikolaos
  • Sitia

Tips for holidays in Crete: Using Public Transport

Public transport
(Source: Pixabay)

There are no trains or subway systems on the island, so the only way to move around with public services is by using the extensive bus network. 

Fares are rather convenient when compared to the rest of Europe. For instance, a three-hour ride from Heraklion to Chania is €15,10.

The service is more frequent along the north coastal road than to the inland villages on the south coast. 

There are stations in the main cities (two in Heraklion) but in small towns, there the bus-stop is often close to a kafenio or tavern which also sells the tickets. 

Buying the ticket on the bus is also possible when you board in a small town (not if you depart from the main station with a  ticket office). 

During the peak season (May-October), it’s a good idea to buy the ticket a day in advance to secure a seat. Schedules can be found in every station and online too. Here for departures from Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, and Ierapetra. Check here for routes from Rethymno and Chania.

Car Rental in Crete

The best way to get a real feel of what the island really is about is to drive around from coast to coast. Road travel in Crete is my absolute favorite way to see the island. It offers a kind of freedom and spontaneity that no other means of transport ever will. All major international rental car companies operate just outside the airports. Local companies usually offer more convenient fees but availability is reduced. In the past, I’ve personally used Rental Center Crete

This has been, by far, my favorite, as far as convenient prices and modern vehicles. Besides, it also allows for a different drop-off city, something very convenient if you fly in and out from different airports. Among the main features to choose this company:

  • 100% Cretan (and you know I totally support local businesses!)
  • Absolutely no hidden extras and full insurance included (unbeatable peace of mind as this includes tyres, glass & mirrors)
  • No excess policy
  • Theft Protection
  • Free Mileage & Free Extra Driver
  • And if you change your mind: Free cancellation

Do check with them before heading to international operators.

Health & Insurance in Crete

Check your vaccines and medicine list with your doctor a few weeks before your trip, everyone should be up to date on routine vaccinations. 

If you are a European Citizen, the European Health Card will give you access to free medical care with doctors belonging to the Greek public health system. 

If you travel with private health insurance or travel insurance, check your policy for a better understanding of what is covered and where to go in case of an emergency.

There are general public hospitals in Chania, Rethymno, Agios Nikolaos, and Sitia. There are two general hospitals in Heraklion, one of them, the University General Hospital, is the largest hospital in Crete and it’s in the area of Stavrakia, 8 km from the city. 

The second one is on the road to Knossos, about 4 km from Heraklion.

Click on the picture to read a comprehensive guide to Family Travel in Crete.
Click on the picture to read a comprehensive guide to Family Travel in Crete.

When is the best time to visit Crete

There’s no better time to visit, Crete is a beautiful island any month of the year, and there are always plenty of things to do no matter when you come. It’s not just a Summer destination. 

There are interesting cultural activities all year round, as well as festivals, religious celebrations, and other opportunities to get to knows the local traditions of the island. 

Let’s see what are the most important moments of the year in Crete. 

High Season

The high season is mostly half of June, July, August and the first two weeks of September. The two central weeks of August are the busiest ones.

Get ready to queue and stand the crowds and the traffic. And, of course, most beaches tend to be full too. Prices tend to be higher than usual as well.

The weather can be very hot during the days, while the evenings are more bearable. Usually, it doesn’t rain and the sea temperature is warm.

Shoulder Season

From April to mid-June and from mid-September until October. Cities are less crowded but tourism is still pretty much active.

During the season you’ll find the best weather conditions for outdoor activities, such as trekking hiking or cycling though there might be occasional showers (pack accordingly).

Hotels and rental homes are not fully booked and fees are more convenient in this period. 

Low Season

From November until March. The weather is colder and snow is not uncommon in the mountains. Very rarely it can also snow by the sea.

Resorts and hotels located by the sea are closed while it’s easier to find accommodation in the cities. Fees are affordable but many touristic shops and restaurants are closed. Some shops operate with reduced working hours.

What to do in Crete in Winter
(December, January, and February)

Snow on the White Mountains, Prefecture of Chania.
Snow on the White Mountains, Prefecture of Chania (Source: Pixabay).

During Winter, the days tend to get shorter and colder, sometimes it’s also windy and rains are not uncommon, mostly on the west of the island. There is snow on the mountains, and many gorges are closed. 

With this kind of weather, focus on indoor activities, explore museums, and monasteries. Locals are busy collecting olives since the olive oil production is in full swing. Others, slowly start restoration works in hotels and restaurants for the upcoming season. 

Winter days are also great for those looking for a city break. Check my Chania’s Old Town to-do list to visit this unique area. 

Head to my 10 best things to do in Rethymnon if you want to see both the old town and the wider Rethymno area. Those looking for information about the capital should head to my best itineraries of Heraklion blogpost.

Check in the city you’re visiting as there are always cultural activities, exhibitions and other events going on in every prefecture. 

If it’s not too cold and it doesn’t rain, winter is also a good month to visit archaeological sites. They aren’t crowded and you can explore in complete loneliness or enjoy a guide all for yourself. 

Swimmers trying to get the cross from the water, Chania. (Source: The Tiny Book)

Christmas is less important than Easter in Greece, but it’s still celebrated at home and in church.

New Year is dedicated to Saint Basil (Agios Vasilios), and it’s the day locals exchange presents too. Families gather around the table to share the traditional sweet, the Vasilopita

A cake that normally hides a coin inside, supposed to bring luck to the one that finds it. I’ve written an extensive article about Vasilopita for Greek Reporter.

On January 6th Greeks celebrate Epiphany (also called Fota or Theofania). On this joyful day, takes place the blessing of the waters by a Greek Orthodox priest, it’s also customary that the priest throws a cross into the water and swimmers jump in to get it back, receiving a blessing for the whole year to come.

February is also the month devoted to Carnival, rather important in Greece. The best celebrations are in Rethymno, a city that has been organizing the best carnivals in Crete for more than a hundred years. Check their official page.

What to do in Crete in Spring
(March, April, and May)

Sheep and flowers, Crete island --Greece
Flowers blossom early in March. (Source: Pixabay)

The atmosphere that invades Crete during Spring is, at the very least, festive. Fields blossom with wildflowers and everyone is getting ready for the major religious celebration in the Greek Orthodox calendar, Easter. Most hotels and touristic activities open right during the week of Easter. 

Days start to get longer and it’s not rare to find people swimming (usually not Cretans!). By May the weather is definitely better, with warmer temperatures that allow for outdoor trips. 

If you are on the island during Easter, it’s a good idea to participate in the celebrations. Either attend the candlelit processions on Friday night or assist to the spectacular fireworks of Saturday at midnight. If you can, try to join an Easter lunch on Sunday, there is an abundance of delicious dishes following the austerity of Lent.

How Greeks Celebrate Easter
Greek Easter Liturgy.

Finally, another important date is May 1st, on Labor day locals normally head to the countryside villages for a family reunion or to have a picnic. One of the most beautiful traditions is the Stefania, flower wreaths that women hang on the doors of their homes to welcome Spring.

What to do in Crete in Summer
(June, July, and August)

Triopetra beach, Crete
The beach of Triopetra seen from the rocky formation.

It’s time to go to the beach!In Summer, Crete starts receiving visitors from all over Europe. Cities, as well as beach areas, get busier and busier while traffic intensifies on the coastal road.

If you are into the local gastronomy, Summer is also the perfect moment to visit the farmer’s market, with tons of delicious fresh fruit and vegetables at very accessible prices.

On August 15th, locals celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin, an important day on the island. It’s customary for locals to visit their home villages and attend church. Many commercial activities (supermarkets, shops, etc.) are closed, but not the facilities intended for tourists (such as tourist shops or restaurants in central areas, etc.).

The weather is very hot and it’s a good idea to seek relief in the mountains. On some days, there might be strong winds.

What to do in Crete in Fall
(September, October, and November)

Autumn landscape, rainy and with dry leaves. Crete
Fall in Crete. (Source: Pixabay).

While the weather is still warm during the beginning of Fall, activities begin to go back to normal with schools opening in September, and many resorts closing their doors as from October. In the fields, locals get ready to harvest the grapes and to start the winemakingseason

September is the best month for holidays on the island with small kids and for the elderly as well, the sun rays are still strong but the temperatures are not so high, therefore there’s less risk of heatstroke.

On October 28th, assist to the many parades in the different cities that commemorate the Oxi Day, the famous “no” that the Greeks answered to Mussolini upon his request to allow the Italian troops to enter Greek territory. The date marks the entrance of Greece in the II World War. Of course, Wikipedia explains Oxi Day better than I do.

November is the month dedicated to the production of the delicious Cretan spirit, tsikoudia (or raki).

What to do in Crete according to your interests

Minoan container, Crete-
Minoan container (pithoi), Knossos Palace, Crete.

This is by no means a “What to do in Crete” list, for more specific activities, click the different links in these following paragraphs. Or you can also click on the icons on the home page, or search “what to do + city” clicking on the magnifying glass in the menu. The following is just a list of ideas of the many things you can do on the island.

Beaches of Crete

Bushes, Balos beach and lagoon.
The nature in Balos beach, Crete.

I get it! And I won’t judge you. In fact, I used to be just like you: Beach Life Rules! There’s nothing like forgetting a long year at the office by lazily sipping a cold beer by the sea. Crete has plenty of choice for that. 

On the western coast, there are three famous gems every tourist wants to visit: Balos, Elafonisi, and Falasarna. They are not the only ones, but they stunningly beautiful.

Balos Lagoon is a paradisiac beach located in the Gramvousa Peninsula, you have probably seen some stunning pictures online. 

Falasarna is a long sandy beach located on the extreme west, sunsets in Falasarna are famous all over the world. Elafonisi is an islet located in the southwest of Crete, and it’s famous for the pinkish color of the sand. 

There are also beautiful beaches in the Akrotiri peninsula, such as Stavros, Marathi, and Kalathas.

On the opposite coast, Vai is a famous destination because it’s home to the most extensive palm grove in Europe. However, there’s another palm beach on Crete, Preveli, which is on the southern coast of Rethymno. 

In the same area, there are beaches such as Agios Pavlos and Plakias, all worth a visit for their pristine waters and calm atmosphere. You can read about those, as well as about Loutro, Glyka NeraFrangokastello, and Paleochora in this article about the beaches of the south

Other places to visit for seaside relax are Matala and Ierapetra.

For those uncertain about driving in Crete, it’s also possible to check the beast beaches joining one of the many organized excursions. 

Day trips to distant beaches are an easier way to enjoy a day by the sea, minus the driving hassle.

Adventure in Crete

Potamida, Crete
Potamida, Crete: Kids enjoy the landscape and the possibility to explore without any danger.

Crete is the perfect island to explore and for adventure sports such as canyoning, hiking, trekking, and alpinism. There are also plenty of possibilities for those interested in water sports and subaquatic activities

In the beach of Paleokastro, in Heraklion, it’s also possible to practice windsurfing, while the waves in Falasarna make it an ideal spot for surfing.

There are countless gorges on the island, from the most famous of all, Samaria, to Imbros, Patsos or Agios Giorgos in Rethymno and Richtis and Zakros (the Valley of the Dead) in the east.

Those interested in bungee jumping will find a spectacular opportunity in the gorge of Aradaina, close to Chora Sfakia.

Archaeological Sites & Museums in Crete

Archeological site of Malia, Heraklion
Archeological site of Malia, Heraklion (Source: The Tiny Book)

If your thing is the past of the island, and of the western civilization, you’ve come to the right place, it’s here that everything began!

Located at the crossroads of three different continents, Africa, Asia, and Europe, and in the center of the Mediterranean, Crete is considered to be the cradle of civilization. The island is, according to Greek mythology, the birthplace of Zeus. But more important, it was in Ancient Crete that the Minoan civilization flourished, as early as the 4th millennium BC.

Witnesses of that past are the many archaeological sites that you can visit on the island. Starting from the best-known of all, Knossos, located just a few minutes from Heraklion.

Also in the area, the sites of Malia (north coast) and Festos (Phaistos, in the south), are both of decisive importance regarding the history of the island. You can read about Malia in this article I wrote for Greek Reporter

The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion has one of the most impressive collections of Minoan history in the world.

In the east, you can visit Gortyn Archaeological Site, in the Messara Plain, and it’s the largest site in Crete. Also in the east, it’s possible to explore the open-air site of Gournia and the Minoan Site of Zakros

Gournia, eastern Crete.
Gournia, eastern Crete.

The Ancient Site of Eleftherna and its close-by museum deserve a visit as well. On the western coast, do not miss a visit to Aptera, overlooking the magnificent bay of Souda, as well as Ancient Phalassarna, a few kilometers from Falasarna, while the Archaeological Museum of Kissamos offers an interesting insight on the history of the area. 

The Archaeological Museum of Chania exhibits remains of the ancient Kydonia. 

Mountains & Villages of Crete

Therisso, Chania, Crete
Therisso, Chania, Crete (Source: The Tiny Book).

Villages in the mountains have a very laid-back atmosphere and maintain traditions and costumes. Each one of them is worth visiting. It’s embarrassing and even impossible to choose just a few of them to include in this list. I encourage you to explore and visit as many as you can. 

For the sake of this article, I want to include Kritsa, in Lasithi, famous for its tragic history as well as for its beauty. Another favorite village for me is Mochos, located close to Heraklion, it has impressive views of the sea and the way up to the village is really beautiful.

Krasi, Heraklion.
Krasi, Heraklion

Towards the southern coast, the mountain village of Ano Vianos is small and pretty, and you can enjoy the quiet pace of life far from the hustle of urban areas. Also nearby Heraklion, the small village of Rogdia can be an excellent lodging solution if you want to avoid the chaos of the coastal resorts. 

And Anogeia, nested in the heart of the Psiloritis, Crete’s highest mountain, is located between Rethymno and Heraklion, with its unique Cretan pride, its tragic history, and its traditions.

Near Rethymno, definitely check Thronos, Amari, and Asteri, while in the prefecture of Chania, my favorite places to visit include  Therisso, with a beautiful gorge and great views, and Vouves, with its millennial olive tree.

Another way to discover the island is going on a safari adventure. There are great opportunities on the island to jump on a Jeep and discover off-the-beaten paths and hidden mountain villages. A safari is a great way to get a closer look at our natural landscape.

Crete’s Food & Wine

Cretan Salad
Dish of Cretan salad, with mizythra cheese on top.

The best places where to start discovering Crete’s traditions regarding its culinary habits are the markets. A visit to the Agora, the central market of Chania, or to Heraklion’s 1866 street Market. It’s in the markets where you can see, smell, touch, and taste the authentic tastes of the island, the spices, the herbs, the bread.

When it comes to dining, the offer ranges from comfort Cretan food to the most refined cuisine. In Heraklion, good options are 626 All Day as well as Herb’s Garden. In Chania, try the local mezes in a traditional kafenio.

Wine is another chapter, you can read all about the island’s network of wineries, as well as enjoy some wine tasting experiences. I’ve loved Gavalas winery as well as Lyrarakis, both in Heraklion, and also enjoyed a lot the boutique winery concept of Klados, in Rethymno.

Small Nearby Islands

Spinalonga, Lasithi.
Spinalonga, Lasithi.

Several islands surround Crete, Spinalonga is famous for its intense and tragic history. Chrissi (Gaidouronisi), in the south, is an uninhabited island that you can reach from Ierapetra with a daily ferry. We have already mentioned Elafonisi, while Imeri Gramvousa can be reached if you visit Balos with a boat, as it is usually included in the tour. 

The southernmost point in Greece is Gavdos. Gavdos is a place for those in search of unique solitary places, with a hippie vibe and unique panoramas of the Libyan sea… just one suggestion, avoid it in August!

More Useful Resources to Plan your Trip to Crete

Disclaimer: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Keep in mind that I link to products & companies that I personally use and recommend for their quality.

CAR RENTAL
When in Greece, I always recommend choosing a local rental company over an international one. With Rental Center Crete fees are more convenient, there’s a zero-excess insurance policy (as well as no hidden costs, free mileage, and extra driver). Check this car rental website and use my promo code to get a 5% discount.

ACCOMMODATION
Whenever I need to book accommodation in Crete I personally use Booking.com. Their Genius Loyalty Programme allows me to find better fees. As they say, the more you stay with them, the more rewards you get.

TOURS & DAY TRIPS
For organized activities, I usually book my tours through Viator and GetYourGuide. From transfer to cooking lessons, including archaeological site visits, skip the line attractions, and boat trips, both platforms help you save time and money.

FERRY TICKETS
Getting to Crete can be really comfortable with an airplane, but nothing beats the romantic experience of traveling by sea. Choose Let’s Ferry to visit several Greek islands or to travel directly to Crete.

TRAVEL INSURANCE
Greece, and especially Crete, is a fairly safe destination, however, you should never travel abroad without an insurance policy for complete peace of mind. My favorite? World Nomads, click here for a quote.

TRAVEL GEAR
Whenever I travel around the island, I never leave, my camera gear, my backpack, and my maps at home. I also use packing cubes, hiking gear, and beach wear. Getting everything from amazon.com is easier thanks to hundreds of reviews that help choose what I need.

This list of tips to make your trip easier is currently up to date, but to make it complete, it needs your contribution! You can help me build a better post with interesting facts and practical tips for Crete. I look forward to reading your comments or questions in the comments section below.

If you still have not made up your mind about visiting Crete, then you should do it right now!
You won’t regret it! I would be happy to help you organize the perfect trip to Crete, get in touch via my Experiences page:

PIN FOR LATER: INSANELY PRACTICAL TIPS FOR HOLIDAYS IN CRETE

INSANELY PRACTICAL TIPS FOR HOLIDAYS IN CRETE
Pin for later: Tips for Holidays in Crete!

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About the author

I’m Gabi. I moved to Crete a few years ago to have more and better opportunities to explore the island all year round. I love to backpack with my kids, taking pictures and driving around the spectacular mountain roads of Crete. I’m a freelance content creator and language consultant working for the travel and gastronomy industries in Greece.

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