Since I started writing about Crete (… and that’s 2014!), I’m often asked things like “What’s the most beautiful beach?”, “What’s your favorite town?” or “Which is the most traditional village?” Hard to answer, or simple: All of them! Through the years I’ve met first-time visitors, returning visitors, and only-going-to-Crete visitors… and we all have different opinions. Which is the prettiest village of all? I can’t really make up my mind, but these are — for sure — among the most beautiful villages in Crete.
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Life in Cretan Villages
What’s life like in a Cretan Village
The Xorio, the village, is the place dear to the heart of every Greek, and of course, of every Cretan. And for those who had to exchange life at the village for a life in a bigger city, either to work or to study, there’s always a good excuse to return during the holidays. As a matter of fact, any excuse is a good occasion.
Life runs at a different pace, or better, it meanders. There’s time to contemplate, to think, and to do all those essential things that we usually postpone when we are in the city because you know… in the city, there’s never enough time.
A day in a Cretan village
Someone once asked me, “But what do these people do all day in such a quiet place? Isn’t it boring to live here?” Well, it depends. If you define boring not being able to go shopping in fancy shops or going out every single night, life can be boring… But life at the xorio is never meaningless (and, by the way, in case you were wondering social media is also a thing in remote villages!).
The village owns a balance we seem to have lost in bigger towns.
A day can be as simple as caring for sheep, gathering honey, making cheese, picking olives, or harvesting grapes. For men, having a few glasses of raki at the kafenio, and a game of tavli with old-time friends. And a chat.
Life in a Cretan village is made of fragrances. It’s picking thyme, baking bread or pies in a wooden oven. In the afternoons, once the household chores have been done, women take out a chair and sit by the door in the company of other neighbors. And there are always several kids playing around.
More than just going to the beach
In a nutshell, spending some days at a xorio when visiting Crete will teach you how and why Crete is more than a beautiful collection of beaches.
But also why many (and I mean really many) people choose to return every year, while others never forget a stay on the island.
If you’re about to visit Crete and still haven’t made up your mind whether it’s worthy or not to sacrifice one day at the beach to visit a traditional village, this list with the prettiest villages in Crete might help you make up your mind.
How to go about this list
It’s been really hard to come up with a way to classify Cretan villages, many of them, in fact, share more than one characteristic. They have different traits in common. For instance, Therisso is both a mountain and a historic village, while not every seaside village is a fishing village as well.
Others, instead, can be neither one nor the other, but they are certainly traditional. So to put some order, I’ve decided to place them in each category according to their most distinctive trait, but more often than not, you’ll find that villages share a little bit of everything.
On a final note, this list is not thorough, but I will add more places to see as time goes by. As many villages as I’m able to explore. I’ve also added my two favorite bigger cities to the list. They are not villages but they certainly share the same. The most picturesque old towns in Crete couldn’t be left out of a list that includes the prettiest villages in Crete.
Most Beautiful Mountain Villages in Crete
Latitude: N 35.264170 | Longitude: E 25.422685
The small village of Mochos is located opposite the northern coast of Stalida (Heraklion regional unit). This tiny settlement stands around a central square lined up with restaurants and traditional tavernas. The cobblestone square also hosts the church dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin and to Agia Paraskevi.
In the village, you can see some traditional houses dating back to the 16th century, most of them with courtyards and lots of plants and colorful flowers.
Along the alleys leading to the central square, there are also several traditional shops selling herbs gathered in the area.
To reach the village you need to climb up the mountain through a winding road for less than 10 km.
Latitude: N 35.257949 | Longitude: E 24.642806
Facing the beautiful Amari valley, and the high peak of Mount Psiloritis, the tiny village of Thronos is about 32 km from the city of Rethymnon.
The most remarkable building in Thronos is the small Byzantine Church of Panagia, dating back to the 11th century, inside there are some magnificent frescoes from the same period.
The village was built on top of the former ancient settlement of Sivritos, reaching the peak of its importance during Roman times.
The settlement was walled and minted its own coins. Surprisingly enough, its port was ancient Soulia, currently the popular resort of Agia Galini.
Latitude: N 35.235613 | Longitude: E 25.159623
Another of my favorite villages in Crete is Archanes, a magnificent well-preserved small town in the heart of the wine region of Heraklion.
European funds helped to the reconstruction of the village, awarding the locals several prizes for a well-done job.
Archanes is a wonderful area to stay in order to experience life in a small Cretan village. Yet, there’s quite a lot to do in Archanes.
It’s possible to visit the archaeological site inside the village as well as the sites of Fourni, Anemospilia, and Vathypetro. There’s also an interesting Archaeological Museum with findings from the nearby region. Besides, the European hiking path E4 goes through the village as well.
Latitude: N 35.233851 | Longitude: E 25.469131
Another important village in Crete quite close to the route that from Heraklion leads to the Lasithi Plateau is Krasi.
In Krasi’s central square stands a monumental plane three, over 2500 years old.
Also known as the Village of Literature, it was here that the famous Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis would spend his summers (his first wife, Galateia Alexious, was from Krasi as well).
Today, Krasi’s importance is also given to the fact that the village is home to one of the several European Houses of Literature, a place specially thought for writers and literary translators where they can spend time creating at very convenient fees.
In the main square check the old springs (vrisi) lright opposite the ancient plane tree, or spend some time admiring the magnificent mountain landscape that surrounds the village. You can read more about this gorgeous village in my article about Zeus’ Cave and the Lasithi Plateau.
Latitude: N 35.381108 | Longitude: E 24.143690
Fres is a small village in the regional unit of Chania, in the region of Apokoronas, not far from the better-known villages of Vryses.
It’s located at the foothills of the White Mountains and still quite untouched by mass tourism. In Fres, everything happens around a beautiful central square, surrounded by tavernas and kafenia where local men gather every afternoon.
The square is also home to a small church. Not far, it’s possible to visit the an imposing Byzantine Church of the Virgin of Two Rocks so named since the building actually stands between two impressive rocks.
Gorgeous Cretan Fishing Villages
Latitude: N 35.199613 | Longitude: E 24.078808
Loutro can be described as the most famous seaside village in Crete. Loutro is on the southern coast of the island, and you can get there either by boat from Chora Sfakion, or hiking a portion of the E4 path right next to the Libyan sea.
Loutro is village well-known for its whitewashed buildings, most of them small family-run hotels, and the impressive emerald color of the sea. It’s a popular village where several tourists like to spend some days during their holidays.
You can read more and discover the ancient sites you can see in Loutro in this article about the southern villages and beaches of Crete.
Latitude: N 35.003510 | Longitude: E 25.585111
Myrtos is a picturesque seaside village on the south of Crete, just a few kilometers away from Ierapetra, the most important city in the south.
The village is a favorite among tourists who appreciate the traditional and relaxing atmosphere as well as the hippie-like vibe that you can experience in Myrtos.
Despite being quite popular, the settlement has managed to retain a unique style that many other tourist spots on the island have sadly lost.
Myrtos is home to a wide beach, surrounded by two promontories that shape it as a protected bay. Near the village you can visit the archaeological excavations of the Mycenaean settlement of Pyrgos.
Latitude: N 35.183710 | Longitude: E 25.905651
The delicious fishing village of Mochlos is located on the Mirabello Gulf coast, not far form the more developed cities of Agios Nikolaos, Ierapetra (in the south) and Sitia.
Right opposite Mochlo’s small beach there’s a small island, also known as Mochlos. Here, archaeologists have unearthed important ancient findings, including a Minoan cemetery, but also several structures belonging to subsequent eras.
As a matter of fact, the importance of Mochlos in Crete’s ancient past is stated by several archaeologists who consider that the settlement could have been certainly smaller than Knossos but as important as Phaistos (or Festos).
Latitude: N 35.200599 | Longitude: E 24.137276
Not far from Loutro, Chora Sfakion is another village on the south coast of Crete.
The very small hamlet is not only the capital of the region of Sfakia, but also one of the ports from where boats depart to discover the isolated beaches and villages on the southern coast of Crete, as well as the remote Gadvos island.
Close to the port of Chora Sfakion, you can check the WWII memorial commemorating the evacuation of the allied forces that took place in the small town.
There are several hiking opportunities around Chora Sfakion, including the gorges of Imbros and Aradena (or Aradaina). Up in the mountains, stands another historic village of Crete, Anopolis, which was home to one of Crete’s heroes, Yiannis Daskalogiannis, who fought against the Ottomans and died a martyr.
Historic Villages in Crete
Latitude: N 35.406922 | Longitude: E 23.982516
One of the most fantastic drives you can enjoy when visiting the Chania region is the one that takes you through the beautiful gorge of Therisso and ends on the main road of the village.
Therisso is one of Crete’s most important historic villages since it was the place where, in 1905, Eleftherios Venizelos (born in the nearby Mournies), started the Revolution that finally led, in 1913, to the unification of the island with Greece. Also seeing him became First Minister of the country.
In Therisso, you can visit both the Venizelos Centre for Independence and the National Resistance Museum.
A visit to the village is one of Chania’s best day trips ideas. Other than visiting the 6 km-long gorge, you can also discover the Sarakina cave, towards the north of the settlement, as well as enjoy lunch in one of the tavernas serving meat cooked in the traditional Cretan way (lamb or goat).
Therisso is a popular meeting place for locals especially during the weekends.
Latitude: N 35.291159 | Longitude: E 24.881412
Among the most important villages of Crete, Anogeia is a mountain settlement in the area of the Psiloritis range, in Rethymnon regional unit.
Those looking for a postcard-perfect memory of the most authentic side of Crete should make a stop in Anogeia. Local men wearing the traditional black shirts and tall boots and women weaving and embroidering at the door of their homes can be seen all over Anogeia.
The village underwent a terrible massacre when an important German general was kidnapped and then sent to Anogeia. As a countermeasure, the Germans surrounded the village and killed every man who had not escaped to the mountains. The houses were also destroyed and burned during the massacre.
Anogia is also known for being the place of origin of several important Cretan Lyra players of Crete.
Latitude: N 35.052393 | Longitude: E 25.407894
Ano Viannos is a mountain village built on the southern slopes of the Dikti Mountains, over 500 meters above the sea level.
This historic village in the south of the Heraklion regional unit was an important settlement during ancient times.
It has also been proved that Viannos minted its own coins and maintained alliances with neighborhood villages.
The village gained fame and recognition all over Crete both during the resistance against the Turks in the Ottoman period as well as in the times of the Nazi occupation of Crete. In September 1943, over 350 locals, including women and children, were executed by the Germans after the they received the strict order to Destroy Viannos County.
Traditional Villages in Crete
Latitude: N 35.408071 | Longitude: E 24.197915
The traditional village of Vamos is only 25 km from the center of Chania town, at the foothills of the White Mountains, in the heart of the Apokoronas region.
A village with a very ancient history, which according to several sources, was first established during the 8th century, when Saracen pirates conquered the island.
Later on, when Crete was occupied by the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish army settled in the area against the will of the locals, who fought against the Turks, managing to free the village and to get rid of them in 1896.
Since Vamos was for a long period the capital of the Sfakia region (currently the capital is Chora Sfakion), it was home to beautiful neoclassic buildings (konakia). In recent times, the village was restored, recovering its ancient splendor.
Once in Vamos, make some time to visit Karidi Monastery as well as the impressive olive mill with a dozen of well-preserved stone arches.
Latitude: N 35.157175 | Longitude: E 25.644188
Kritsa remains one of the best-known traditional villages of east Crete. It’s located on the Dikti Mountains, close to the Katharo Plateau, about 11 km from the main coastal city of Agios Nikolaos.
Once you have parked (or got off the bus), you’ll be able to walk the winding alleys and check the beautiful artisan shops in the main square. The women of Kritsa are known for their weaving and embroidery skills.
In Kritsa,, you can see the museum dedicated to the local heroine Kritsotopoula, a martyr in the hands of the Turkish during the Ottoman period. During Easter, you can witness the important celebrations taking place in Kritsa, when processions depart from the three main churches to concentrate in the main square.
Near Kritsa, don’t miss a stop at the church of Panagia Kera, one of the finest Byzantine churches in Crete, with stunning frescos and icons from the same period (between the 13th and 14th centuries).
Latitude: N 35.266428 | Longitude: E 25.710599
One of my favorite villages in the regional unit of Lasithi is located right opposite the island of Spinalonga, above the more modern town of Elounda.
Epano Elounda (meaning Upper Elounda) has beautiful views of the nearby island and beaches, and faces the calm waters of Mirabello Gulf.
The old cobblestone streets and ancient houses give Epano Elounda the aspect of an abandoned village. But don’t be tricked!
Most of these old-looking houses have been recently renovated and host some of the nicest rental homes in the area. In this gorgeous little town were also filmed some of the scenes of the famous Greek series To Nisi (The Island), which tells the story of the Leper Colony of Spinalonga.
Latitude: N 35.339192 | Longitude: E 24.686966
Another famous village in the regional unit of Rethymnon is the pottery village of Margarites, located on the green hills that border the gorge of Margarites.
The village is home to dozens of ceramic artisans who open their workshops and studios not only for curious visitors but also for those who want to put their pottery skills to the test.
Pottery is a very ancient craft on the island, which has been practiced with very beautiful results by every ancient civilization that lived on Crete. However, Margarites is worth a visit not only for the pottery shops and the ceramic vases that decorate the alleys. But it’s also a nice experience to walk along the streets, check thepicturesque stone houses or to stop and enjoy a traditional meal in the main square.
Latitude: N 35.375632 | Longitude: E 24.201418
Vryses is another popular villages in the regional unit of Chania, in the Apokoronas municipality. Furthermore, it’s a must-stop place for those traveling towards the southern region of Sfakia, crossing the Kotsifou Plateau and the Gorge of Imbros.
Vryses has earned a reputation for the locally produce Greek yogurt, usually served in the cafés with an abundant portion of Sfakian honey and nuts.
The green and lush landscape of Vryses is enhanced by springs and water fountains and many tall plane trees that give shade and a fresh atmosphere to the central square.
Near Vryses, visit Dourakis Winery, in the village of Alikampos.
Latitude: N 35.215658 | Longitude: E 24.535143
One of Rethymnon’s most visited villages is amidst the mountains, on one of the roads that connects the city of Rethymnon with the southern beaches of Ligres, Preveli, and Triopetra.
The best-known face of Spili is its central square and the impressive Venetian fountain made of 25 lion heads (a symbol of the Venetian Republic) from which mouths constantly flows water from Mount Psiloritis.
In the village, you can visit the Folk Museum of Spili, housing objects such as work tools, and examples of local crafts, typically embroidery and lace.
As a matter of fact, embroidery pieces are the most popular souvenir you can take home from Spili.
Those wondering if Spili can be a good place to stay in Crete can read more about this on other villages of Crete in this article.
Hidden Cretan Villages Off the Beaten Path
Latitude: N 35.155270 | Longitude: E 25.923672
Halfway between the eastern cities of Agios Nikolaos and Sitia, Sfaka is a tiny village (about 200 residents) up in the mountain, opposite the seaside village of Mochlos, the port of this village.
Sfaka is a very tranquil hamlet, with not much to do, and ideal for rest and relaxation. However, there are a few interesting things to see, such as the Church of the Panagia (dedicated to the Holy Virgin) and several icons from the Byzantine period.
Those staying in Sfaka can also visit the beaches of Mochlos, Tholos and even Voulisma. From the village, there are beautiful views of the Gulf of Mirabello.
Latitude: N 35.139841 | Longitude: E 25.660096
If you’re visiting the mountain village of Kritsa, you can drive for about 10 minutes more (about 5 km) to reach the smaller and quieter Kroustas.
Kroustas is another traditional settlement in the regional unit of Lasithi where you can enjoy a fantastic Cretan lunch with abundant local tsikoudia. Or, if you prefer, you can also taste the almonds that have made this village known.
For an authentic Cretan lunch, check Stavrakakis Taverna, on the main road of the village. Among the local delicacies, check Krousta’s special myzithra cheese pies and the boiled goat (aiga brasti).
In summer, it’s a good idea to participate in the local Panigiri (festival) of Ftazymo. Ftazymo is a special type of Cretan rusk produced in Kroustas.
Latitude: N 35.309068 | Longitude: E 24.841524
Not far from the historic village of Anogeia, and close to the impressive slopes of Mount Psiloritis, Axos is another mountain village not many visitors know about.
One of the several things you can do when you visit, is explore the Museum of Wooden Sculptures. In the area, you can also take some time to visit the ancient and stunning Monastery of Halepa, which seems abandoned but is still home to to Orthodox monks.
Another unique thing to do in the village is to walk around the archaeological settlement of Ancient Axos, which dates back to the Minoan era.
Latitude: N 35.199517 | Longitude: E 25.487092
Tuck away in the Lasithi Plateau, and far from the most crowded areas of the island, Tzermiado is a fantasti traditional village where time seems to have stopped long ago.
During a visit to Tzermiado, park your car end experience its atmosphere wandering the deserted roads, and discovering Cretan traditions still alive in the many (really many!) kafenia.
Engage in conversation with the locals, and spend the night to live life at a completely different pace. Ypu will be surrounded by the spectacular views of the fertile Lasithi Plateau, including its windmills, fruit trees and crops, and an incredly relaxing atmosphere. Read more about the villages of the Lasithi Plateau in this visit guide to the Cave of Zeus.
Bonus: Beautiful Old Towns in Crete
Chania Old Town
Latitude: N 35.517469 | Longitude: E 24.017813
The unique city of Chania, on the northern coast of Crete, is home to one of the most romantic old towns of the island.
Beautiful cobblestone alleys, Venetian and Turkish buildings, a magnificent old port and an ancient Egyptian lighthouse are some of the ingredients that make a stay in Chania’s old town an unforgettable memory.
In the area, discover the different neighborhoods and stop for a round of Cretan raki in a traditional kafenio.
|You can read more about Chania in this 3-day itinerary as well as in this article that includes the best things to see in the old town.|
Rethymnon Old Town
Latitude: N 35.368167 | Longitude: E 24.476266
Also on the northern coast of Crete, this time in the regional unit of Rethymnon, the Venetian old town of Rethymnon is another jewel you cannot miss when you travel to the island.
The city host one of the best-preserved Venetian fortresses of Crete as well as several mosques and minarets dating back to the Ottoman rule of the island.
|To read more, check the 10 best things to do in Rethymnon or this itinerary for a short stay in Rethymnon.|
Have you ever been to any of the villages in Crete?
Let me know in the comments below!
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About the Author
Hola! I’m Gabi. I moved to Crete to explore the island all year round.
I love taking pictures and driving on the mountain roads of Crete.
I’m a beach freak and on this island, I’ve found heaven on earth!
The Tiny Book – Crete Travel Blog