15 Incredible Things to Do in Crete + Tips to Plan Your Trip

Discover the best things to do in Crete, the fifth largest isle in the Mediterranean located right in the crossroads between Africa, Europe and Asia.

Crete is the largest Greek island and the cradle of the Minoan civilization, the very first civilization in Europe. It boasts an astonishing array of attractions and activities to fulfil every traveller’s wanderlust.

You can explore ancient ruins, relax on mesmerizing white sand beaches, discover hidden villages, wander around historical cities, go wine tasting, hike impressive gorges, fly on a hot air balloon and much more.

I’ve recently spent one week exploring this incredible island learning about its significant past, exploring charming medieval towns, taking a dip in its breathtaking beaches, and savouring its mouth-watering cuisine. Needless to say, I truly loved it!

It’s the reason I’m writing this guide to do the best places to visit and things to do in Crete so that you can have an unforgettable time in Greece.

Pericles Rosa at Elafonisi Beach, Crete, Greece
Are you ready to discover one of the most incredible islands in Greece?

Tips for Planning a Trip to Crete – Greece

Where is Crete?

Crete is the southernmost tip of Europe, between the Aegean and the Libyan Sea, about 160 km (99.5 mi) from the Greek mainland, and 100 km (62 mi) southwest from Turkey.

How to get there?

You can get to Crete by ferry or plane.

  • By plane

Crete has three airports, one in the capital Heraklion (HER), which is the country’s second busiest airport; one in the city of Chania (CHQ), on the west coast; and another in Sitia (JSH) on the east side of the island.

If you’re flying in from Europe, you’ll find much more availability and better flight deals to Heraklion. If you are making a connection in Athens, you’ll have plenty of options and after a 45-minute flight, you land in Crete.

You can book your flights with Skyscanner, the website I trust, use and recommend.

  • By ferry

There are many ports in Crete, but the one in Heraklion is the most popular and best-connected. You will find ferries from Athens, and several Greek islands such as Santorini, Mykonos, and Rhodes.

The express ferries are faster, but much more expensive. If you’re on a low budget, I suggest taking a night ferry.

Check ferry schedules and prices here.

How to get around

You can get around Crete by bus, car, taxi, boat or bike.

All the major cities have local coaches that take you around. They are modern and air-conditioned with frequent service on most routes.

If you’re driving, the roads are in great condition, and you can find public parking on most beaches, tourist attractions and cities (just be patient).

Bear in mind that Crete is the largest and most populous Greek Island. To get from Heraklion to Chania, for example, it takes two hours. So, expect to cover long distances and face heavy traffic during the summer months.

I hired a brand-new economic car with Autocandia, the largest car rental company in Crete, and I loved driving around the island. I passed through stunning gorges, awe-inspiring mountainous landscapes and along beautiful coastlines.

You can get around by bus, but the best thing to do to get around Crete easily is to rent a car. Find the best deals and compare prices on Rental Cars and Discover Cars.

Pericles Rosa inside a Fiat Panda and a beach as a backdrop, Crete, Greece
I went everywhere with this car

What’s the best time to visit Crete?

Crete has predominately a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Although there are significant differences between the coastal zone and mountainous areas, as well as the west and east regions of the island.

You can visit the island from April to October, but the best time is during the shoulder seasons, May/June and September/October. July and August are the busiest and hottest months, with temperatures reaching up to 33C.

Which area to visit and where to stay in Crete

Crete is divided into four regions: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Lassithi. The four largest cities are the respective capitals of these prefectures.

There’s a plethora of attractions, activities and countless fantastic beaches in which of these areas. If your trip is shorter than a week, I recommend visiting only two regions, otherwise, you will drive extensively, and it can be tiring.

When visiting Lassithi, I suggest staying near the lovely town of Agios Nikolaos. I stayed three nights at Elounda Palm Hotels & Suites, just a short drive from Agios Nikolaos.

This 4-stat hotel with a pool area surrounded by palm trees is stunning and I loved having breakfast in the area.

I stayed in a beautifully decorated and spacious Deluxe Infinity Suite, which had a very comfortable bed and a great bathroom with an excellent rain shower. But the cherry on the cake was the private infinity pool.

If you decide to visit the capital, you can touch base in the popular towns of Hersonissos and Agia Pelagia or anywhere in between.

In Hersonissos, I stayed one night at Thalia Deco Hotel, a 3-star hotel very well located, just a few steps from the beach and several souvenir shops and restaurants.

The staff was extremely friendly and helpful and did everything they could to make my stay more enjoyable. My room was tidy and very clean.

Thalia Deco Hotel, Hersonissos, Crete, Greece

In the Heraklion area, I also stayed 2 nights at the extraordinary Knossos Beach Bungalows, one of the most beautiful hotels in Crete.

This luxury five-star hotel, just a 15-minute drive from Crete’s capital, has a sophisticated decoration and features whitewashed rooms and common areas beautifully adorned with trees and bougainvillaea flowers.

I stayed in a spacious and elegantly decorated bungalow with a comfortable double bed, a sitting area, a TV and a large bathtub.  It also had an amazing private pool with lounge chairs, a cabana and an outside table with chairs.

The staff is very friendly and helpful. Both restaurants serve great food and have a nice ambience.

It was the perfect home away from home.

When visiting Chania, I recommend staying in a quiet village nearby.

I stayed three nights at Elia Agia Marina Hotel, a lovely four-star beach-front hotel a short drive from Chania and within walking distance from many bars, restaurants and shops.

It has everything you need to rest and relax, including a jacuzzi, gym, sauna, and indoor and outdoor pools. The service is excellent!

My bedroom was very cosy and had a comfy bed, a balcony and a great bathroom with a fantastic rain shower.

15 Best Things to Do in Crete, Greece

1 – Explore the City of Heraklion

Heraklion, the capital of Crete, is a vibrant and fascinating city brimming with history and culture.

The city flourished under a multicultural influence over the centuries and still bears the marks of its glorious past. You will find monuments dating back to the Middle Ages, Venetian and Ottoman fountains, stunning landmark buildings, historic churches and treasures of the Minoan civilization.

Start exploring the historic centre, which features iconic buildings, such as the Loggia, the Basilica of Saint Mark, the Morosini Fountain, St Minas Cathedral, one of the largest churches of Greece, and the lovely Agios Titus Church. Then visit the Archaeological Museum and The Palace of Knossos, stroll through the Venetian harbour and visit the Koules Fortress.

Despite the hustle and bustle, it’s totally worth visiting Heraklion. It’s one of the best cities to visit in Crete and I loved it.

2 – Be in Awe with Balos Beach, the Most Beautiful Beach in Europe

Located on the northwestern tip of Crete, Balos Beach features a stunning green-water lagoon on one side, a blend of turquoise and azure waters beach on the other, and in the middle a “little island” with white sand, shallow waters and striking rock formations.

Balos is one the most famous beaches in Crete and has been featured in many Greek guidebooks and advertising campaigns. It can be accessible by boat or a hike, both offering spectacular views.

If you decide to drive, bear in mind that the last 5 km of the road is unpaved and you must walk down the ravine, around a 15-minute walk, to get to the beach. If you prefer to go by boat, check prices and availability here.

I was completely in awe of Balos Beach’s extraordinary beauty and unspoiled nature as soon as I arrived! For me, it’s the most beautiful beach in Europe and a breathtaking destination that should not be missed while in Crete.

Balos Beach, Crete, Greece
Balos Beach leaves everyone in awe of its splendour

3 – Fall in Love with Chania

Chania, a picturesque city on the northwestern coast of Crete, is a place that captivates visitors with its charm and beauty.

The city’s vibrant atmosphere, stunning architecture, and rich history make it one of the best places to visit in Crete.

There are plenty of things to do in Chania, such as wandering around the city’s Old Town – a maze of narrow streets, lined with colourful Venetian buildings, bustling markets, and cosy cafes – and strolling along the Venetian Harbor, with its iconic Egyptian lighthouse and waterfront restaurants. Not to mention visiting the Archaeological Museum and the Maritime Museum.

Aerial view of the city of Chania, Crete, Greece
Chania is one of the best cities to visit in Crete

I fell in love with Chania when exploring its historic quarter and discovering this fascinating mix of Venetian, Turkish, and Greek influences.

4 – Go to Elafonisi Beach

Located on the southwestern coast of Crete, Elafonisi Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete, is renowned for its mesmerizing crystal-clear turquoise waters and pinkish-white sand caused by crushed shells.

This idyllic paradise is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and exploring the shallow lagoons between the beach and the nearby islet.

Elafonisi is an organised beach and a protected nature reserve, home to rare flora and fauna. Here you can find beach chairs and umbrellas (€20 for the set), a kiosk selling food and a car park (€5 for the day).

Spending the day at Elafonisi is one of the best things to do in Crete; in the summer, it can get very crowded.

Elafonisi Beach, Crete, Greece
  • If you aren’t driving, you can book this tour to Elafonisi which offers pick-ups from different locations, including Heraklion.

5 – Indulge on a Wine Tasting Experience

Crete’s rich winemaking tradition dates back thousands of years, making it a prime destination for wine enthusiasts.

Whether you’re a connoisseur or want to try the local varieties, like Vidiano, Liatiko, and Kotsifali, you should indulge in a wine-tasting experience.

The island is home to several renowned wineries, but I recommend booking a wine-tasting experience with Minos Wines, the first winery in Crete.

They offer unique immersive tasting experiences, where you can learn about the winemaking techniques and sample exquisite wines made from indigenous grape varieties paired with local cheeses and Greek delicacies to appreciate the island’s culinary heritage fully.

Pericles Rosa doing a wine tasting at Minos Wine, Crete, Greece
A wine-tasting experience in Crete like no other

6 – Visit the Cave of Zeus

There are several caves to visit in Crete, but you should not miss Diktaean Cave, also known as the Cave of Zeus.

According to Greek mythology, this mystical and historical site located on the Lassithi Plateau, is the birthplace of Zeus, the king of the gods.

You can hike up to the cave’s entrance and descend into its depths to explore the fascinating 2-million-year stalactites and stalagmites.

Visiting the Cave of Zeus is one of the most unique things to do in Crete. The cave’s mythology and stunning natural formations make it a captivating destination for both history enthusiasts and nature lovers. Book your tour online in advance here.

Cave of Zeus, Crete, Greece

7 – Fly on a Hot Air Balloon

While in Lassithi, why not experience Crete from a unique perspective by embarking on a hot air balloon ride?

Viva Let’s Fly offers the chance to soar above the island and take in the panoramic views of the breathtaking landscape of the Lassithi Plateau.

The flight is very gentle and smooth. If you’ve never ridden a hot air balloon before it’s a great opportunity. Even if you’re scared of heights it can be a chance to overcome it.

Flying on a hot air balloon is one the most unique things to do in Crete and a magical way to see the island from a different angle. Book your flight here.

The view of the beautiful Lassithi Plateau from the hot air balloon, Crete, Greece
The view of the beautiful Lassithi Plateau from the hot air balloon

8 – Explore the Countryside by Bike

Exploring Crete’s countryside by bike is an exhilarating way to experience the island’s diverse landscapes.

Whether you’re an experienced cyclist or a casual rider, biking in Crete provides an adventurous and eco-friendly way to discover the island’s hidden gems and stunning scenery.

During my trip, I took a Soulouksina e-bike tour. Our guide Manolis, an experienced cyclist from the village of Episkopi, took us on a captivating storyteller journey following the footsteps of Soulouksina, a young woman whose poignant love story and connection to the land echo through the ages.

We rode through lush vineyards, olive groves, and picturesque villages, soaking in the natural beauty along the way. Some of the highlights were the 15th-century Church of St Paraskevi with rare frescoes, the beautiful Angarathos Monastery and the gathering at a local café to have a traditional Cretan aperitivo.

Three people biking along vineyards in the countryside of Crete, Greece
One of the best off-the-beaten-path things to do in Crete

9 – Go on a Hike

Crete offers nature enthusiasts several hiking opportunities. While The Samaria Gorge gets all the attention, the island has many hikes.

During my trip, I decided to hike Ricthi Gorge, one of the most stunning gorges of eastern Crete which is located within the limits of the UNESCO Global Geopark of Sitia.

The hike spans 5 km and takes you through a lush forest with towering cliffs and many endemic species of fauna and flora. The moderate trail is diverse; you walk on a terrain, climb steps, and cross bridges and water streams.

Hiking Ricthi Gorge and hearing the birds singing was a peaceful and relaxing experience. I loved it!

A man floating in fornt a waterfall at Ricthi Gorge, Crete, Greece
The highlight of this hike is the 20-m-high waterfall

PS.: There’s an entrance fee of €3 and the hike takes approximately 2h. After heavy rains, do not attempt to walk through the gorge. Always check the weather forecast before you go.

10 – Wander Around Rethymno Old Town

Another city that I liked a lot during my visit and that you should not miss is Rethymno. The Old Town is a charming and picturesque area that transports visitors back in time offering a glimpse into Crete’s rich past.

You can wander through the quaint alleys lined with shops, cafes, and taverns, and soak in the blend of Venetian, Turkish, and Greek influences.

Don’t miss the Rimondi Fountain and the Neratze Mosque, both iconic landmarks of Rethymno. And if you want to get a bird’s eye view of the town and the sea, head over to The Fortezza, a well-restored Venetian fortress on the top of a hill.

11 – Visit Preveli Beach

Preveli Beach, the most famous beach in South Crete, is a hidden gem surrounded by lush greenery and dramatic cliffs.

The beach is where the Kourtaliotiko Gorge meets the Libyan Sea, creating a stunning natural landscape. A highlight of Preveli is its unique palm forest, which lines the banks of the river that flows into the sea, offering a tropical feel.

You can swim in the clear waters, explore the river, hike through the gorge and even visit the nearby Preveli Monastery, perched on a hillside. It adds a historical touch to the visit, making Preveli Beach a perfect blend of nature and culture.

Aerial view over Preveli Beach, Crete, Greece

12 – Savour the Delicious Greek Cuisine

Crete is a paradise for food lovers, offering a delectable array of traditional Greek cuisine. Fresh, locally sourced ingredients form the backbone of Cretan dishes, with olive oil, herbs, and vegetables playing a central role.

Must-try dishes include Dakos (a barley rusk topped with tomatoes and feta), Kalitsounia (sweet or savoury cheese pastries), and the famous Cretan lamb with Stamnagathi (a local variety of wild greens).

Seafood lovers will delight in the island’s fresh catches, prepared simply to highlight their natural flavours. Pair your meal with local wines or raki and indulge in the island’s rich culinary heritage.

Kalitsounia, Crete cheese pies
I loved these cheese pies!

13 – Explore Ancient Ruins

Crete is a treasure trove of ancient ruins, offering a fascinating journey through history.

The Palace of Knossos, near Heraklion, is the most famous one, showcasing the grandeur of the Minoan civilization.

But there are many other ruins that you can visit, including the ancient city of Phaistos, an impressive palace complex that offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape, and the archaeological site of Gortyna, which reveals layers of history from the Roman era.

Each site provides a glimpse into Crete’s rich past, making it a must-visit for history enthusiasts and curious travellers alike.

14 – Visit the City of Agios Nikolaos

Another place to put on your list is Agios Nikolaos, a charming city on the northeastern coast known for its picturesque setting and vibrant atmosphere.

The heart of the city is Lake Voulismeni, a beautiful freshwater lake surrounded by cafes, excellent restaurants and shops. Stroll along the waterfront and enjoy the stunning views of Mirabello Bay.

You can also visit the Archaeological Museum to learn about the region’s ancient history, check out the ‘Abduction of Europe’ and Amalthea’s Horn statues, or explore the nearby Spinalonga Island, a former leper colony.

Agios Nikolaos, Crete, Greece

15 – Discover Charming Villages

Crete’s charming villages offer a glimpse into the island’s traditional lifestyle and warm hospitality.

You can explore the mountain village of Anogeia near Rhetmyno, known for its rich cultural heritage and vibrant music scene. Wander through the narrow streets of Archanes near Heraklion, a picturesque village surrounded by vineyards and olive groves.

You can also visit the historic village of Vamos near Chania, where you can admire well-preserved stone houses and enjoy local delicacies in traditional tavernas.

Each village has its own unique character and offers a tranquil escape from the bustling cities, allowing you to experience the authentic charm of Crete.

A local tavern in Koutouloufari Village, Crete, Greece
A local tavern in Koutouloufari, a village near Hersonissos

This is my list of the 15 best places to visit and things to do in Crete and, if you find something else, let me know in the comments below.

I hope this guide will help you plan your trip, and that you will have an unforgettable time in Greece.

Safe travels and have fun in Crete.

I always recommend that you buy travel insurance! It can literally be your lifeline if something happens to you, or your luggage is lost or stolen.

15 Incredible Things to Do in Crete + Tips to Plan Your Trip 1

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