Insanely Practical Crete Travel Tips: How to Plan a Trip to Crete Without Going Crazy!


Crete is one of the biggest islands in the Mediterranean and the largest island in Greece. 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 and incredible natural wonders. And also the cradle of one of the healthiest diets in the world, the Cretan diet.

All of these put Crete at the center of tourist interest making it a popular Greek island for vacations. Whether it’s your first time or not, check this ultimate guide with practical Crete travel tips to plan your trip!

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Crete Travel Tips

Crete travel tips

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Be sure to book ahead of time to ensure availability!

🛎️ Find the best hotels in Crete here

📍 Top tours I recommend on the island:
Boat cruise to Balos Lagoon & Gramvousa
Ticket to Knossos Archaeological Site

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📲 Book a consultation call if you need help planning your trip to Crete!

General Information about the Island of Crete

Balos - Crete travel tips
Sunrise in Balos (Thanks to Callumn Anderson for the picture!).

Where is Crete: Location and General Traits

Crete is a very large island and it can take years to discover it. It’s, in fact, the largest Greek island and stands in the southernmost area of the country.

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.

Crete travel tips: A brief timeline of Cretan History.
A brief timeline of Cretan History.

Right in the center of the Mediterranean, Crete has a rich history. It has been inhabited since ancient times and it has been occupied by diverse civilizations during the centuries, among the most prominent ones stand the Venetians (1212- 1669) and the Ottoman occupation (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 civilization, but it’s also a land of invaders, foreign occupants, and pirates. Crete has an identity of its own.

The Landscape of Crete

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The easternmost region of Lasithi.

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 regions, from east to west they are Lasithi, Heraklion Rethymno, and Chania.

The capital is Heraklion is the largest city, followed in importance by the cities of Chania, Rethymno, Ierapetra, and Agios Nikolaos.

In general, Crete has a mountainous landscape with deep gorges and high mountains. The highest peak is Mount Ida (or Mount Psiloritis) at 2.456 meters above the sea.

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.

What’s the Weather Like in Crete

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Visiting Chania in winter.

Crete lies between two different climatic zones, the northern coast 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 on the entire island (with snow in the inland alpine area).

Practical Details You Should Know to Plan Your Trip to Crete

What Language Do they Speak in Crete

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The official language of Crete is Greek, of course, yet English is a widely spread second language spoken in all major touristic areas since the island has been a popular destination, at least during the last 40 years.

You will also find many local people 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.

language app
An app can be helpful to translate signs.

I’ve also noticed that Greek TV usually broadcasts 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.

You might also want to read this guide bout prices in Crete.

Valid Documents to Visit Crete

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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 sending 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 at the following link of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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

Crete: Planning Where to Stay

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Accommodation in Greece is wide and for every pocket. Lodging can range from small hotels to luxurious stays at 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 are the most traditional type of accommodation in Greece. They are usually one-bedroom apartments equipped with a small but functional kitchen and a bathroom. Another convenient kind of accommodation that unfortunately is being lost in main cities.


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.


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

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The old town of Chania.

The Greek law forbids outdoor camping in public places, although many tourists disregard this and camp illegally, especially near the beautiful beaches 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.

CRETE TRAVEL TIPS BY AN INSIDER (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!

Crete Travel Tips: Mobile and Internet

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Can I use my mobile phone in Crete?

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 in 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 on the whole island and 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

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Heraklion Airport.

✈️ Search for cheap flights with CheapOAir.

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 in 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 west coast of Crete. It’s in the heart of 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 eastern Crete, 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.

If you’re looking for tickets to get to Crete, check this guide to traveling to Crete by air/by sea, it’s full of super helpful resources.

Ports in Crete

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Old port of Heraklion.

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

Main Ports in Crete: Heraklion & Souda

A ferry boat trip from Athens (Piraeus port) to Crete can last from 5 to 6 hours and trips are usually at night. Updated information about the Greek ferry service 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

Planning How to Move Around in Crete

Public transport in Crete

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On the way to the Lasithi Plateau.

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 about €15.

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

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Buses in Crete – Chania Bus Station.

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

Buying a ticket on the bus is also possible when you board the bus 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.

Head here for departures from Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, and Ierapetra. Check here for routes from Rethymno and Chania.

Car Rental in Crete

Car, mountain road, kids
Driving in Crete.

Road travel in Crete is my absolute favorite way to see the island, the island is so big and the roads so challenging that everything makes Crete a special place for unique driving experiences.

Car travel in Crete 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.

The best way to get a real feel of what the island really is about is to drive from coast to coast. If you’re eager to get behind the wheel or have no clue how to get around when it comes to driving or renting a car on the island, check this guide with useful tips for driving.

Driving in Crete? This is the perfect on-the-road itinerary to see the highlights of the island!

Local companies usually offer more convenient fees but availability is reduced, so check your rental options way ahead of time.

The best way to find the cheapest rental car is by using a good car rental search engine. This alternative website lets you compare prices for rental cars in Crete here.

Plan for Safety: Health & Insurance in Crete

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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. 

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 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.

When to Visit Crete

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There’s no best 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 know 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 even to find tourists on remote beaches sometimes.

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

White mountains in Winter in Crete

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, small museums, and restaurants are closed. Some historical sites, local restaurants, and a few shops operate with reduced working hours, yet, Crete is a fabulous winter destination with plenty of things to do.

Planning What to Do in Crete According to the Weather

Crete in Winter
(December, January, and February)

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Chania’s old harbor during Christmas.

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. However, there are plenty of reasons why you should visit Crete in winter.

There is snow in the mountains but many gorges, including Samaria Gorge, are closed. 
With this kind of weather, focus on indoor activities, and explore museums, and monasteries.

Locals are busy working in the vast olive groves. Olive trees are full of olives and local people are very busy since 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 short visit or a city break in the capital of Crete.
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 or to my article about Agios Nikolaos if you plan to visit the east.

Those looking for information about the capital should head to my best itineraries of Heraklion blog post.

You might also want to read about things to do in Crete when it rains.

There are always cultural activities, exhibitions, and other events going on in every region, including festivals and other events. 

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The boats with lights in Christmas, Port of Chania.

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 tour guide on a private excursion and ask all the questions you want! 

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, is supposed to bring luck to the one that finds it. I’ve written an extensive article about Vasilopita for Greek Reporter, or you can also try my vasilopita recipe.

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Carnival, streets of Rethymnon.

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.

Crete in Spring
(March, April, and May)

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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 tourist 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 while the most intrepid ones start visiting the local sandy beaches for an early tan. 

Crete in Spring Loutro
Crete in Spring: Loutro village.

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 in 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.

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.

Crete in Summer
(June, July, and August)

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Frangokastello Beach.

It’s time to go to the beach! In Summer, Crete starts receiving visitors from all over Europe. Cities, as well as the south beach areas, get busier while traffic intensifies on the coastal road. On Crete, there are beaches for every taste.

The spectacular Balos and Elafonisi attract visitors during the whole season, while Preveli Beach, Vai, Falassarna, and Malata beaches are also extremely popular.

There are more hidden beaches seaside gems in the Akrotiri Peninsula in western Crete, on the East Coast of Crete as well as countless Cretan beaches for naturists.

My absolute favorite beaches on the island are located on the West Coast.

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Farmers’ markets in Crete are a delicious place to visit.

If you are into 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.

Crete in Fall
(September, October, and November)

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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 from October.

In the fields, locals get ready to harvest the grapes and start the winemaking season

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.

Check what things you can do in Crete in September and the best things to do in Crete in October.

On October 28th, assist the many parades in the different cities that commemorate 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.

The end of October and a good part of November are dedicated to the production of the delicious Cretan spirit, tsikoudia (or raki).

Check out these interesting festivals in Heraklion, Crete.

What to Do in Crete According to Your Interests

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This is by no means a “Best things to do in Crete” list, for more specific activities, click the different links in the following paragraphs.

Or you can also check these Crete guides. The following is just a list of ideas for the many things you can do on the island.

Best Beaches in Crete

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Balos Beach

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.

If you love going to the beach, Crete is just the perfect place, it has plenty of choices. 

On the western coast, there are three famous gems every tourist wants to visit: Balos, Elafonisi, and Falasarna.

They are not the only beaches in West Crete, but they are stunningly beautiful. Balos Lagoon is a paradisiac beach located in the Gramvousa Peninsula, you have probably seen some stunning pictures online. 

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Elafonisi beach

Falasarna is a long sandy beach located in the extreme west, sunsets in Falasarna are famous all over the world. Elafonisi is an islet situated 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.
All of them are great beaches for kids too!

On the opposite coast, the beaches in East Crete also deserve a place in any Crete itinerary. Vai is a famous destination because of its palm trees. In fact, 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. 

Vai Palm Beach, Crete
Vai Beach

In the same area, there are top sites such as the beaches of 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

Some of them are perfect places for naturism, check which ones in this guide to Crete’s nudist beaches.

Other places to visit for seaside relaxation are the fantastic, long coast of Paleochora, the village, the beach of Matala, and the neighboring Red Beach, as well as the southern city of Ierapetra.

Check this useful guide to packing your beach bag for Crete.

Adventures in Crete

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

Crete is the perfect island to explore and a great place 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

On 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. Scuba diving in Crete is also very popular.

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, a short drive from Chora Sfakia.

Road trip in Crete: Learn what to pack for a road trip on the island.

Archaeological Sites & Museums in Crete

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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.

Gournias archaeological site.

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 and Minoan palaces that you can visit on the island.

Starting from the best-known of all, Knossos, discovered in the early 1900s by the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans.

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Phaistos archaeological site.

The Minoan Palace of Knossos is located just a few minutes from the center Heraklion. Also in the area, the ancient ruins of Malia (north coast) and Festos (Phaistos, in the south), are both of decisive importance regarding the history of the island.

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 another major site, the Minoan Palace of Zakros

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The Ancient Site of Eleftherna and its close-by museum, in Rethymnon, 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 into the history of the area. 

This article lists some of the archaeological sites you can visit in Crete.

Minoan ruins, archaeological site, Malia, Crete
Malia Minoan Palace.

The Archaeological Museum of Chania exhibits remains of ancient Kydonia, and is one of the most important museums in west Crete. 

If you’re interested in the religious past of the island, don’t miss a visit to the several monasteries of Crete, all of them played a key role during the difficult years of occupation and foreign rule.

Mountains & Villages in Crete

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Anogeia, Rethymnon.

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.

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 near Heraklion, the small village of Rogdia can be an excellent lodging solution if you want to avoid the chaos of the coastal resorts. 

crete travel tips
Theriso Gorge.

You can also discover 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.

If you want to read about the most gorgeous villages you can visit on the island, including seaside villages like the one in the picture below, check this article.

Loutro village, Loutro beach, Crete, South Crete, Sea, Mountains
Loutro Village, Chania Region.

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 is you are afraid to drive on the narrow roads of the Cretan mountains.

Crete’s Food & Wine

crete travel tips
Cretan food on display in the Municipal Market, Chania.

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.

Locals know: The Municipal Market of Chania will be closed for renovations until December 2023 (or a bit more…).

When it comes to dining, the offer ranges from comfort Cretan food to the most refined cuisine in some of Greece’s best restaurants.

In Chania, try the local mezes in a traditional kafenio or discover the authentic dishes that make the local diet a hit among visitors!

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 Fragospito Winery as well as Lyrarakis, both in Heraklion, and also enjoyed a lot the boutique winery concept of Klados, in Rethymno, and the delicious wines made by Dourakis Winery in the region of Chania.

Check out what to eat in Crete or discover the best food tours on the island.

Small Islands Near Crete

crete travel tips
Spinalonga island, 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. 

crete travel tips
Chrissi island (© THE TINY BOOK).

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!

Other interesting uninhabited islands you can visit are Dia Island, right in front of Heraklion, and Koufonisi, a cluster of islets on the southeastern coast of Crete, opposite the village of Makrigialos.

Do you have any more tips to add to this list?

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More resources to enhance your Crete adventure

Start by checking out my guide to planning your trip to Crete, packed with helpful essential information. Explore the articles on prices in Crete, common mistakes to avoid, and insider secrets. You can also get one of the digital travel guides I’ve written about Crete. They are affordable and practical to check from your mobile.

When it’s time to plan, explore the best places to visit on Crete Island, discover my tours and activities, and be amazed at Crete’s incredible beaches. If you are exploring specific areas like Heraklion, Rethymnon, Lasithi, and Chania, I’ve got detailed guides to help you make the most of your time.

Suggested accommodation in Crete

No time to read all my accommodation guides? Check out these places to stay:

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Crete Travel Blog | Insanely practical tips for holidays in Crete | landscape, weather, activities, beaches, villages, food&wine, sites, traditions and more.
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About me:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I have lived in Chania, Crete, since 2016. As a local, I have an intimate knowledge of the Crete. I host culinary and concierge tours and experiences in Crete and write about the island for several travel media. During the last five years, I have helped many travelers plan the perfect holiday in Crete. I co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.

20 thoughts on “Insanely Practical Crete Travel Tips: How to Plan a Trip to Crete Without Going Crazy!

  1. Manos says:

    Excellent tips, a full Guide for Crete. Crete is an all-year destination, once you step on you want to go again and again …

  2. Olivia says:

    Crete is one of the most popular & amazing destinations for travel. I am planning to visit next trip with my family here. Thanks for sharing amazing post with us.

  3. Medha Verma says:

    That’s one comprehensive guide on Crete, well done! I’m actually glad to have come across it because Crete is on my list for whenever I make it to Greece again, I couldn’t go there on my first trip. I’d definitely choose to stay in either a private room in someone’s home or even camp for a night, which is a great idea. Fall would be the perfect time for me to visit and I would take at least one day out to visit one of the nearby islands, maybe take a ferry out to Chrissi (Gaidouronisi), although Crete itself sounds like it has a lot to offer!

    • Gabi says:

      Thank you! Boat trips to Chrissi are a great idea, the best way to plan it is for late Summer, early Fall or late Spring because the more you go into the colder season, the more you risk a boat to be canceled. Late September or late May are good options if you want to avoid the peak of the Summer. About accommodation, private rooms and studios are great when you’re on a budget since locals are very hospitable and go the extra mile to make you feel at home. I hope you can make it to Crete, it is such a beautiful island with so many things to see and do! Thanks a lot for leaving your comment!

    • Gabi says:

      That’s so nice to hear!! Thank you!!! It’s my pleasure to write about this island and to give all those details and lesser-known information that those who love Crete need for their trip. I’m so happy that you found what you needed to know! Thanks again!

  4. Lydia says:

    Such a useful and detailed guide!! Greece is such a diverse place, there’s so much you can do there. I didn’t know you could do bungee jumping though! That’s so cool

  5. Carrie Ann | Should Be Cruising says:

    This is such a comprehensive guide! Love it. I’d really enjoy spending some time on Crete to visit the archaeological sites, and of course to eat all of the delicious food 🙂

  6. Derek Hartman says:

    Wow, Crete has always been on my bucket list (since I did a report on it in 7th grade) and I think you just bumped it up to the top. Cheers on the awesome historical infographic and thanks for some awesome wanderlust information!

  7. Nina | Lemons and Luggage says:

    After 5.5 years in Greece, I still haven’t made it to Crete. But I feel like I would need two months to explore this huge island. Totally agree with you on the level English spoken throughout Greece though. It may not be perfect, but it sure is a lot better than in countries where everything is dubbed in the local language.

    • Gabi says:

      You’ve been 5.5 years in Greece and still missing Chania! Well, we need to solve that asap!! And since I see that you’re also a blogger, I would loooove to show you some hidden gems, do let me know if you come, because I’d be glad to show you around!

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