If you’re getting ready to visit Crete for the first time, there are probably many things that you’re wondering about the island. Some of you send me these questions via mail, others contact me via this page, and many others… simply don’t ask! So, today, I’ve decided to write a different kind of article, it has many of your questions about Crete and the most reasonable answers I can offer. And you still have doubts… just ask!
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Frequently Asked Questions About Crete
These are the Questions about Crete* that you ask the most in your e-mails…
*All of these questions are authentic. So, if you don’t find what you’re looking for, that’s because you still haven’t sent me an e-mail!
How do I know if Crete is the right island for me?
That’s a very personal question that 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, landscapes, 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?
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 that it is the 5th biggest island in the Mediterranean… but what does that really 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 10 times smaller than Crete.
– Rome is also 10 times smaller than Crete.
– The Dead Sea is 20 times smaller than Crete!
Should I visit/stay in Chania or Rethymnon?
Time allowing, you should visit both! But when it comes to a stay, well it depends what are 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 beaches in west Crete that are also really beautiful, even on the north coast.
Of course, also Rethymnon has gorgeous beaches, but the best ones are mostly in the south, though. 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 have further details when it comes to comparing both towns.
Should I book a hotel or an apartment for my stay in Crete?
Again, very personal, and it might also relate to your budget… but not only!
I always recommend staying away from international chain hotels, but 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, and some are stunning!
However, there also 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 for moms might be simple but that not all hotels can accommodate. In that case, rental homes are much better.
Is it better to stay in the old town or the city center? (Applies both to Rethymnon and Chania)
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 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. If you’re renting a car, parking might be a huge issue, especially in August!
Keep also prices in mind. Although beautiful and attractive, old towns are tourist areas, so prices tend to be on the higher side when it comes to food, souvenirs, and shopping in general.
Should I book a tour to visit Knossos or should I explore it on my own?
If you’re a history buff and already know everything about Knossos then you might get bored.
Keep in mind that some of the tours do not focus on the history of the site, 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 about who the Minoans were or what you’re going to see inside the archaeological site (Knossos or any other, for that matter), then you will need a guide because, otherwise, everything will look like a bunch of old stones with no sense.
So my piece of advice would be, do 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?
There are a lot of reasons to visit Samaria the regular way because it is truly one of the most spectacular gorges in Europe. 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 4 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 that you should not attempt 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, make frequent stops.
Can I walk Samaria with the kids?
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 their interest (nothing worse than a bored kid on a hike that is 13 km long).
There are other gorges you can visit with the children that are shorter, easier, and would fascinate them likewise.
In the region of Chania, there are endless gorges, for instance, you can walk along Imbros or Agia Irini.
In Rethymnon, Patsos Gorge is a popular walk for families, 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?
I’ll be brief. Yes, you need both.
Although some people claim that walking poles are not really necessary, if you do not walk 13 km every day, then 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?
As tempting magnets for your fridge may look, remember that at least half of them are made in China!
Help the local economy and buy authentic souvenirs, including local leather products, olive oil, tsikoudia, embroidery, Cretan pottery, thyme honey, cheese, herbs, spices, etc.
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 all the island?
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:
– 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
– breathtaking roads
– small islands off the coast (Gavdos, Chrissi, Spinalonga, Dia…)
– sandy beaches
– pebbled beaches
– palm tree beaches
– pink sand beaches
You cannot see all of that in just a weekend.
Should I rent a car?
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.
Keep in mind 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.
Keep in mind that car rental engines compare also local companies, so save yourself the hassle and do 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?
I mean… it’s not necessary, at all.
But yes, a 4WD would be fun.
Remember, however, most rental companies will discourage you from driving to Balos. I won’t make any comment… but ALL tourists that drive to Balos normally drive a rental car.
Do the math!
Can I go from Heraklion (or Agios Nikolaos) to Elafonisi by taxi?
This one often makes me smile… not because it is impossible, but because it can be really expensive. If you want to visit Elafonisi (or even Balos) and you did not rent a car to do so on your own, then 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?
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 either need to wake up really early to avoid heavy traffic and crowds, and you will end up your day dead tired.
Both roads (Balos and Elafonisi) can be long, stressing, and tiring.
Besides, you won’t enjoy it much, unless – of course – you really enjoy driving.
Is it better to arrive at Chania or Heraklion airport?
It depends on what area of the island you prefer to visit.
If you’re focusing 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 Airport of Heraklion receives more flights during the whole year, also during summer, so you will find better and cheaper plane tickets if you start searching for flights to Heraklion.
Learn more about how to get to Crete.
Can I pay even small fees with a credit card in Crete?
Yes, you can.
Cash is obviously preferred, but you can pay even small fees with a credit card. Keep in mind that some periptero (small kiosk selling cigarettes, gum, water…) and other small shops may not accept credit cards, 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?
Because it is!
These are some of the advantages:
– The weather is hot, but not scorching hot, 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?
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 the rain. It does not rain in Crete in July and August. Almost never.
– If you like the beach but also enjoy other activities, including exploring nature, visiting gorges, archaeological sites, museums, then the best months are May and June (spring) but also September and October, all of them 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, 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.
There will be fewer flights, fewer hotels, and fewer tourist structures open, but you will certainly manage to visit.
What should I wear on Crete? / What kind of clothes should I pack for Crete?
We do not have a strict dressing code on the island, the atmosphere is quite informal. So, unless you’re attending some fancy weather, staying at a hotel with a strict dress code for dinner (there less and less of those as time goes by), keep it simple.
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 be getting 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?
Although there are special resorts on the island that are famous for clubbing, such as Malia, Hersonissos in Heraklion.
When in Chania, you will find some clubs in Platanias and Agia Marina… and a very 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?
The common answer would be to tell you that the best ones are Balos and Elafonisi. And you would be happy because that’s what you’ve read 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, really many more…
The famous ones:
– Glyka Nera
– Seitan Limania…
And the lesser-known ones.
Should I visit Loutro or Elafonisi?
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 to them, a place where to spend ours sunbathing or swimming in crystal waters, or enjoy watersports, then Elafonisi might be your beach of choice.
– Loutro, on the other hand, is a small and picturesque fishing village that you access only by boat or hiking.
Loutro has a beautiful sea with legendary emerald waters and the village reminds 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?
You will get good service even if you don’t but locals appreciate it.
Keep in mind that salaries in Greece tend to be very low and that most people work seasonally, which means that 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 will go a long way, even small. 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?
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 winters have rain, and some even have 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?
No, it’s is not possible. You’ll need at least 3-5 days.
First of all, there is only a ferry daily that would arrive at Gavdos and not every day of the week
The boat will leave you there and then it would take you back to Crete within the hour, so you wouldn’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, this part of the Lybian Sea can be often affected by strong winds which stop the ferry routes.
Don’t book a trip back to Crete on the day your flight departs, because if ferries are stopped, there’s no way to leave Gavdos.
Can I visit Santorini on a day trip from Crete?
You can, there are many daily tours from Rethymnon and Heraklion to Santorini.
The trip takes about 2-3 hours (each way) and it allows 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, and some of these packages are real value for money.
However, if an organized tour is too expensive for you, it’s possible to book a ferry ticket from Heraklion (in Summer, also from Rethymnon and Agios Nikolaos), and enjoy your self-made romantic Santorini escape.
Can I drink tap water in Crete or do I need to buy bottled water?
We do, 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, in which case, please respect the sign, water can be drank and bottles refilled.
In places like Samaria, for instance, it is possible to refill your bottle from the natural springs in the mountain… And it’s refreshing and delicious!
Is it a good idea to arrive at Chania airport and leave from Heraklion airport?
It is a great idea for those touring the island, in fact, 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 be spending a lot on taxi or transfer.
How long does it take to drive from one end of Crete to the other?
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?
This is a question that I’ve received twice and that has always surprised me!
I don’t know, honestly, but you will find that they do have a pit.
Please be careful and go slow on that salad.
Because you do want to avoid a visit to the dentist, in Crete… and anywhere else in the world!
Do you have any other questions about Crete?
Let me know in the comments below!
You may also be interested in reading these articles:
– The Most Extraordinary Things to Do in Crete in Winter! – A guide to visiting Crete in December, January, and February.
– Heraklion or Chania: Which Cretan City You Should Visit – A guide to help you decide if you’d rather visit Chania or Heraklion.
– 20 Secret Travel Tips for Crete that Many Others Won’t Share! – More things to know about Crete!
– Prices in Crete: Budget Guide for a Convenient Vacation in Crete! – A guide to help you budget your trip to Crete.
– The Most Instagrammable Places in Crete That You Need to See! – A guided to the best photo spots on Crete.
GET READY FOR CRETE!
– Use Ferryhopper and Skyscanner for the best ticket rates.
– Find great accommodation deals on Booking.com.
– Compare car rental prices with Discover Cars.
– Check the best tours with GetYourGuide.
– Visit Elafonisi, discover Balos Beach, hike Samaria, or explore Knossos.
– Pack the Lonely Planet Guide to Crete or get my digital guide to Chania.
About the author of this blog:
Gabi has been living in Crete for the last five years. On the island, she juggles being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours in summer, translating, and freelance writing.
She’s written for Greek Reporter, published several travel guides about Greece, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person would be able to handle.