Frequently Asked Questions About Crete: All You Need to Know About the Island!

Questions about Crete

If you’re getting ready to visit Crete for the first time, there are probably many things you’re wondering about the island. Some of you sent me many of these questions via mail, so today, I’ve decided to write a different article; it has many of your questions about Crete and the most reasonable answers I can offer. And if you still have doubts… ask!

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Boat cruise to Balos Lagoon & Gramvousa
Ticket to Knossos Archaeological Site

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Frequently Asked Questions About Crete

These are the Questions about Crete* you ask the most in your e-mails…

*All of these questions are authentic. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, that’s because you still haven’t sent me an email!

How do I know if Crete is the right island for me?

Sea landscape and goat, Crete

That’s a very personal question I’d be able to answer if we were close friends… and sometimes not even then!
The truth is that Crete rarely disappoints because it is so diverse and offers so many different things to do and types of holidays that you most probably find something that appeals to you:
– Do you like exotic beaches?
– Do you enjoy good food and wine?
– Are you into outdoor adventures?
– Do you like the mountains?
– Do you enjoy dance, music, festivals, and traditions?
– Do you love ancient towns?
If you answered yes to at least one of these questions, then probably Crete is right for you!

How much time should I stay in Crete?

Where to stay in Crete for Beaches - vai beach

It all depends on how much time you can take to discover Crete and how much of the island you intend to visit.
It is important to keep in mind that Crete is really big. So anything from 10 days to 2 weeks will allow you to see the best of the island. Three weeks in Crete is ideal, and four weeks looks like heaven!
REMEMBER: We often repeat that Crete is the biggest of the Greek islands or the fifth-biggest island in the Mediterranean, but what does that mean?
It means that you would need about 5-6 hours to drive from west to east non-stop, while it would take you about 40 minutes to drive from one end of Santorini to the other.
Well… let’s see if these details help:
– Long Island (New York) is half the size of Crete.
– New York City is ten
times smaller than Crete.
– Rome is also ten times smaller than Crete.
– The Dead Sea is twenty times smaller than Crete!

(Source: Mapfight)

Should I visit/stay in Chania or Rethymnon?

questions about crete

Time permitting, you should visit both! But your stay will depend on your travel plans.
If you intend to visit the famous Elafonisi and Balos, then—of course—Chania is much closer and, therefore, better. Besides, there are many more really beautiful beaches in west Crete, even on the north coast.
Of course, Rethymnon has gorgeous beaches, but the best ones are mostly in the south. It also depends on your age. Rethymnon is a university town, so you will find more clubs and entertainment for young adults in Rethymnon than in Chania.
Finally, Rethymnon is a smaller town with fewer inhabitants, which not only means that it will be (a bit) less chaotic but also easier to visit if you have less time.
Here you can get further details about comparing both towns.

Should I book a hotel or an apartment for my stay in Crete?

questions about crete

Again, very personal, and it might also relate to your budget… but not only!
I always recommend staying away from international chain hotels simply because that is my travel philosophy when it comes to such an authentic and traditional destination. However, if you prefer international resorts, you will find them; some are stunning!
However, there are extremely beautiful hotels in Crete owned and managed by local companies, and many are family-run properties.
And you feel the difference because of the personalized services and extra care and attention.
Rental homes can also be great, especially for families with small kids who have dietary needs that might be simple for moms but that not all hotels can accommodate.

Is it better to stay in the old town or the city center? (Applies both to Rethymnon and Chania)

questions about crete

If you plan to stay in the old town, pack accordingly. Not every hotel provides luggage services, and you might find yourself lugging heavy suitcases or losing your trolley wheels on the way to your accommodation.
Old towns have cobblestones, narrow paths, steep areas, steps, and stairs. A backpack is the best solution.
Also, remember that old towns are pedestrian areas. Parking might be a huge issue if you’re renting a car, especially in August!
Keep also prices in mind. Although beautiful, old towns are tourist areas, so food, souvenirs, and shopping prices are higher.

Should I book a tour to visit Knossos or should I explore it on my own?

questions about crete

You might get bored if you’re a history buff and know everything about Knossos.
Keep in mind that some of the tours do not focus on the site’s history but on myth. So you might hear “serious” official travel guides discussing King Minos and Queen Pasiphae as if there was even proof that they ever existed!
I can’t help myself, this shit pisses me off – and for a ton of reasons which we can discuss if we ever meet!
On the other hand, if you have no idea who the Minoans were or what you’ll see inside the archaeological site (Knossos or any other, for that matter), you will need a guide.
Otherwise, everything will look like a bunch of old stones with no sense.
So my advice would be to book a tour but read a ton of reviews before doing so, and to be on the safe side, get yourself a good guidebook of Knossos before entering the palace!

Should I do Samaria Gorge the lazy way or the regular way?

Samaria Gorge in Crete

There are many reasons to visit Samaria following the regular path because it is one of Europe’s most spectacular gorges. The whole 5 to 7-hour hike is worth every step of it. However, I do recommend the lazy way (starting from the bottom near the village of Agia Roumeli) in these cases:
– You’re not super-fit (or not fit at all), you don’t enjoy walking, you don’t have the right shoes, or you get tired easily.
– You want to do Samaria with small kids, carrying a toddler on your shoulders for the last four hours of the wall is NOT fun! (Strollers are a no-no)
– Your knees are in a pitiful state. The first hour or so will be a steep descent, and you should not attempt it if you have bad joints. Knees do suffer the strain you will be putting on them, and the rest of that hike will be painful. If your knees are so-so (like mine), use a walking cane and make frequent stops.

Can I walk Samaria with the kids?

Samaria Gorge - Gorges in Crete

Yes, as long as they are used to walking or hiking and are at least 7 or 8 years old.
It will all depend on their age and interest (nothing worse than a bored kid on a 13 km-long hike).
There are other gorges you can visit with the children that are shorter, easier, and would fascinate them.
In the region of Chania, there are endless gorges, for instance, you can walk along Imbros or Agia Irini.
Patsos Gorge is a popular walk for families in Rethymnon, and kids love it!
Teens are usually fine with Samaria and endure the walk well.

Do I need walking poles and hiking shoes for Samaria Gorge?

questions about crete

I’ll be brief. Yes, you need both.
Although some people claim that walking poles are unnecessary, if you do not walk 13 km daily, get yourself a pair of poles. You can buy them anywhere on the island for a small price.
And no… don’t even attempt it with flip-flops.

What souvenirs should I buy?

questions about crete

Local, please!
As tempting as magnets for your fridge may look, remember that at least half are made in China!
Help the local economy by buying authentic souvenirs, including local leather products, olive oil, tsikoudia, embroidery, Cretan pottery, thyme honey, cheese, herbs, and spices.
And even better, buy directly from the producers or artisans. This guide will help you choose the right stuff.

Why do I need so many days to see the whole island?

Beach and coastal road, Crete

Because the island is big, we said it before, but – most importantly – because there are tons of things to do in Crete, really a lot:
cities
old towns
small villages
small villages without cars
churches and monasteries
archaeological sites and ruins
mountains and valleys
lakes and cities with lakes
gorges and cliffs
plateaus
breathtaking roads
waterfalls
– small islands off the coast (Gavdos, Chrissi, Spinalonga, Dia…)
sandy beaches
pebbled beaches
palm tree beaches
pink sand beaches
– etc…
You cannot see all of that in just a weekend.

Should I rent a car?

questions about crete

Yes, it is the most practical way to see Crete.
Alternatively, you can rely on buses to check most of the northern coast and part of the south.
Remember that many southern areas and small villages are impossible to visit with public transport, so private transfers and taxis can be a good solution (but more expensive) than car rental.
Renting with a local company is the best solution, but always do so after you’ve compared many companies online before the trip.
Car rental engines also compare local companies, so save yourself the hassle and check before arriving.
And please
, avoid renting at the airport or upon arrival at all costs. You won’t only risk not finding a car in the middle of the season, but you will pay much more than when you rent before the trip.

Should I rent a 4WD to go to Balos?

questions about crete

No.
I mean… it’s not necessary at all.
But yes, a 4WD would be fun.
Remember, however, that most rental companies will discourage you from driving to Balos. I won’t make any comment, but ALL tourists who drive to Balos normally rent a car.
Do the math!

Can I go from Heraklion (or Agios Nikolaos) to Elafonisi by taxi?

questions about crete

This one makes me smile, not because it is impossible, but because it can be expensive. If you want to visit Elafonisi (or even Balos) and have not rented a car, check a transfer company or, even better, book an organized tour.
The trip alone is from 3 to 4 hours each way, so do the math… again!
This guide will get you started on the ways to get to Elafonisi.

Is it possible to go to Balos and Elafonisi on the same day?

questions about crete

If you’re driving, yes, you might. I’ve known at least two couples that have seen Balos, Falasarna, and Elafonisi in one day! Yes… all of them!
Is it advisable?
I wouldn’t recommend it.
You would need to wake up early to avoid heavy traffic and crowds. Of course, you will end up your day dead tired.
Both roads (Balos and Elafonisi) can be long, stressful, and tiring.
Besides, you won’t enjoy it much unless – of course – you enjoy driving.

Is it better to arrive at Chania or Heraklion airport?

questions about crete

It depends on what area of the island you prefer to visit.
If you focus on the west (Chania) and Rethymnon, then Chania is the best bet.
If you are keen on visiting Agios Nikolaos, and Heraklion, obviously, then Heraklion airport is better.
Keep in mind that the Heraklion airport receives more flights during the whole year and during summer, so if you start searching for flights to Heraklion, you will find better and cheaper plane tickets.
Learn more about how to get to Crete.

Can I pay even small fees with a credit card in Crete?

questions about crete

Yes, you can.
Cash is preferred, but you can pay even small fees with a credit card. Remember that some periptero (small kiosks selling cigarettes, gum, and water) and other small shops may not accept credit cards, and the same goes for some small museums and attractions.
However, credit cards are accepted in most places.

Why does everybody say that it is much better to visit Crete in September?

questions about crete

Because it is!
These are some of the advantages:
– The weather is hot but not scorching, making it easier to visit open places such as archaeological sites, natural parks, mountains, and even the beach.
– The huge crowd of tourists is gone.
– The sea is at its hottest temperature after months of basking under the sun.
And this leads us to the next question…

When is the best time/month to go to Crete?

questions about crete

We all know that you come to Crete for the beaches. Well, most of the time, that’s the first reason, and that is why Crete is primarily known as a beach destination.
– If you belong to that group, then July and August are hot, really hot, and perfect for those who (like me) cannot stand having their beach days ruined by rain. It does not rain in Crete in July and August—almost never.
– If you like the beach but enjoy other activities, including exploring nature, visiting gorges, archaeological sites, and museums, then the best months are May and June (spring) but also September and October, all less crowded and definitely less hot.
– If you like colder weather (still mild), don’t mind the rain, and want to explore the local traditions and visit museums and other enclosed areas, then any time of the year is fine. Winter tourism is becoming a trend that we all hope grows. The island can be really gorgeous in winter.
Fewer flights, hotels, and some tourist structures will open, but you will certainly manage to visit.

What should I wear on Crete? / What kind of clothes should I pack for Crete?

questions about crete

We do not have a strict dress code on the island, the atmosphere is informal. So, please keep it simple unless you’re attending some fancy weather or staying at a hotel with a strict dress code for dinner (there are fewer of those as time goes by).
This can be answered in a quite simple way:
– Comfortable, light, breathable, fairly informal clothes in summer.
– Layers (plenty of them) in winter (you will get rid of them as soon as the sun is high).
In detail instead, there are a few things that should never miss from your packing list for Crete:
– flip-flops and swimming gear (add goggles to go snorkeling)
– tank tops
– hiking shoes for the mountains
– running shoes for cobblestone alleys
– a foldable backpack
– and the usual trio: sun hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen
For more details and for winter clothes, do check the packing list. And remember to keep it sensible… don’t wear shorts in a church or a monastery! Cover your shoulders and wear clothes that cover at least your knees.

Is Crete a good destination to go clubbing and partying?

questions about crete

There are special resorts on the island that are famous for clubbing, such as Malia and Hersonissos in Heraklion.
In Chania, you will find some clubs in Platanias and Agia Marina and a few more downtown.
In Rethymnon, a few more (it’s a university city), but don’t expect a wild nightlife scene…
The best places for clubbing in Greece are not in Crete.
You’ll be much better off heading to Mykonos or Ios Island.

Which are the absolute best beaches in Crete?

Vai Palm Beach

The common answer would be to tell you that the best ones are Balos and Elafonisi. And you would be happy because you’ve read that everywhere.
However, the truth is that the island boasts a coastline that’s over 1000 kilometers long, so you are bound to find some truly unique beaches, among the most amazing you’ll ever see!
I’ve listed over 45 great Cretan beaches here, but there are many more…
The famous ones:
– Balos
– Elafonisi
– Falasarna
– Matala
– Preveli
– Vai
– Voulisma
– Glyka Nera
– Lentas
– Agiofarago
– Seitan Limania…
And the lesser-known ones.

Should I visit Loutro or Elafonisi?

Crete in Spring Loutro

You should visit both of them!
They are completely different destinations that appeal to different tastes.
– If you prefer wide sandy beaches with an exotic feel, a place where you can spend your time sunbathing, swimming in crystal waters, or enjoying water sports, then Elafonisi might be your beach of choice.
Loutro, on the other hand, is a small and picturesque fishing village that can be reached only by boat or hiking.
Loutro has a beautiful sea with legendary emerald waters. The village reminds me a bit of some Cycladic islands, with whitewashed houses and blue windows. Life goes by at a relaxed pace, and the crowds are usually not a huge problem.

Should I tip in Crete? How much?

questions about crete

You will get good service even if you don’t but locals appreciate it.
Remember that salaries in Greece are very low and that most people work seasonally, so they will often not work (or do underpaid jobs) in winter. The money they make in summer should last all year.
Although some restaurants already include a service charge, a tip, even small, will go a long way. A small tip is often very appreciated!
Trying to budget your trip? Read this.

How is the winter in Crete? / Is there winter in Crete?

White mountains in Winter in Crete

Of course there is! Mildly cold, but short.
Winter in Crete tends to start being felt in late November, and it stops, often all of a sudden, sometime during April.
Some winters are very cold, some have rain, and some even snow.
Winters are shorter and sunnier in the East and Southeast parts of the island.
Winters are rainier and more humid in the Chania region.

How much time do I need to visit Gavdos? / Can I visit Gavdos island in a day?

questions about crete

No, it is not possible. You’ll need at least 3-5 days.
First of all, only a ferry arrives at Gavdos daily and not every day of the week.
The boat will leave you there and then take you back to Crete within the hour, so you won’t see a thing.
Secondly, you need at least three days to see a good part of Gavdos. Many of the places on Gavdos Island can be accessed only on foot.
In short, you’ll need to spend the night in Gavdos.
That means that you will need more time than you imagine.
And remember: Always be flexible. Strong winds can often affect this part of the Lybian Sea, stopping the ferry routes.
Don’t book a trip back to Crete on the day your flight departs. If ferries are stopped, there’s no way to leave Gavdos.

Can I visit Santorini on a day trip from Crete?

questions about crete

You can, there are many daily tours from Rethymnon and Heraklion to Santorini.
The trip takes about 2-3 hours (each way), allowing you to see the highlights of Santorini and make it back to Crete within the day.
Several companies sell one-day trips to Santorini from Crete; some of these packages are real value for money.
However, suppose an organized tour is too expensive for you. In that case, booking a ferry ticket from Heraklion (in Summer, also from Rethymnon and Agios Nikolaos) and enjoying your self-made romantic Santorini escape is possible.

Can I drink tap water in Crete, or do I need to buy bottled water?

questions about crete

We drink tap water all the time.
But this also depends on you and your taste.
Water is drinkable (and tastes well) almost everywhere in Crete.
So, unless you find a sign that says otherwise, please respect the sign; water can be drunk, and bottles can be refilled.
In places like Samaria, for instance, you can refill your bottle from natural springs in the mountains—and it’s refreshing and delicious!

Is it a good idea to arrive at Chania airport and leave from Heraklion airport?

questions about crete

It is a great idea for those touring the island we used to do this when we were still not living in Crete.
However, if you plan to visit only one region during your travels, this can be inconvenient. Even if you save on the ticket fare, you will spend a lot on taxis or transfers.

How long does it take to drive from one end of Crete to the other?

questions about crete

It can take from 4 to 6 hours, depending on factors such as traffic, weather, and your own driving pace.
However, if you really want to be precise, you need to estimate the distance between the easternmost (Kouremenos) and westernmost (Elafonisi) points in Crete.
In that case, and if you drive non-stop, according to Google, you would need 5 hours and 22 minutes to drive the 353 km.

Why do they serve olives with a pit in a Greek salad?

questions about crete

This is a question that I’ve received twice, and it has always surprised me!
Honestly, I don’t know, but you will find they have a pit.
Please be careful and go slow on that salad.
Because you want to avoid visiting the dentist, in Crete… and anywhere else in the world!

elafonisi-kouremenos
Elafonisi – Kouremenos – Map data © 2022 Google.

Do you have more questions? Some have been answered in this guide to planning a trip to the island, and many more have been answered in this list of stunning facts about Crete!

You will find a few more interesting things in these 20 secret travel tips about Crete and these 20 common mistakes you should avoid. Do you have any other questions about Crete?

>> Join our Facebook Group!

More resources to enhance your Crete adventure

Start by checking out my ultimate 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 for an unforgettable experience.

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:

More useful travel resources

  • Check out all the digital travel guides I’ve specifically written about Crete. They are affordable and practical to check from your mobile.
  • Find convenient ferry tickets with Ferryhopper.
  • Welcome Pickups offers a convenient pre-paid airport transfer service, while Discover Cars is my favorite engine for finding a rental car on the island.
  • To book adventures, tours, and cultural experiences, I recommend Get Your Guide for its flexible cancellation policy.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Crete

questions about crete - greece

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.

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