Crete Island Guide

Crete Island Overview

Crete has been one of my favourite Greek destinations for many years and the one I most recommend to friends and family, especially those who have never visited the country before.

I first came to Crete with my parents and grandparents over 25 years ago. As a teenager, I was too young to really appreciate what made one Greek island any different from another, but I thoroughly enjoyed the two weeks we spent in Makry Gialos on the southeast coast. As a family, we enjoyed it so much that we went back again the following year. That time my best friend came along and we had a blast: running up and down the beach and playing in the sea during the day, then playing pool in one of the bars in the evening.

In the two decades since my first visit, I’ve been to Elounda, Malia (twice), Kokkini Hani, Kato Gouves, Analipsi and Hersonissos. In 2021, I finally explored the western side of the island, spending nine nights in Palaiochora on the southwest coast before making my way across the island all the way to Sitia in the very northeast. Along the way, I visited Chania, the inland village of Spili and the southern settlements of Plakias, Agia Galini and Matala. I finished up in Sitia for a brief overnight stop, departing the next day by ferry for Karpathos.

The best thing about Crete is that its size means there’s something for everyone: lively party resorts like Stalis, Hersonissos and Malia for the young revellers; quiet seaside villages like Georgioupolis and Elounda for those seeking a peaceful and relaxing getaway; vibrant cities like Chania, Rethymno and Heraklion; and plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking in the Samaria Gorge; and, of course, some fabulous beaches for topping up that tan!

The interactive map below shows some of our favourite hotels, restaurants, beaches and places of interest on Crete. Click the markers to see more details.

Videos of Crete

Here are some of the videos we’ve filmed in Crete over the years:

Getting To Crete

One thing that makes Crete unique as a Greek island is that it has two international airports: one just east of Heraklion, the other just northeast of Chania. These effectively split the island into two halves: east and west. If you are planning to stay anywhere east of Rethymno, Heraklion is the more convenient airport. Rethymno itself is slightly closer to Chania airport, but either one will do (roughly a 1-hour transfer by car). If you plan to visit one of the resorts further west, such as Georgioupoli, Palaiochora, Kissamos, or Chania itself, then Chania airport is the one to choose.

You can also reach Crete by ferry, with regular services from Piraeus to both Chania and Heraklion. There is also a daily service between Heraklion and Santorini (Thera), should you plan on visiting multiple islands during your stay.

Where to Stay in Crete

There are many tourist destinations on Crete, these are some of the more popular ones that we’ve visited:

Agios Nikolaos

Located on an east-facing coastline roughly an hour’s drive from Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos is one of the largest towns on the island. It’s a popular tourist destination with a large selection of bars and restaurants, and plenty of hotels both large and small. It lacks a decent beach, but there are plenty nearby to choose from providing you have transportation.

Elounda

Just north of Agios Nikolaos lies Elounda. It is a much smaller resort, but still popular with tourists in the summer season. There are several luxury hotels dotted around the nearby hillsides, while the town itself has a decent beach and a good selection of bars and restaurants.

Its proximity to Spinalonga makes it a good destination if you plan to visit the island or any of the villages along the northern coastline.

Malia

Don’t be too put off by its reputation as a party resort for the younger generation. While the main strip is laden with bars and clubs, there are quieter spots and plenty of beach space for everyone. The old town, further back from the coastline, is very pretty and worth a visit.

Palaiochora

Tucked out of the way on the southwest coast, Palaiochora is a popular seaside resort located on a small headland with a large main beach to the west and a smaller one on the eastern side. About a 90-minute drive from Chania, it does take some effort to reach but is worth it for the relaxed atmosphere, great selection of shops and tavernas and wide, sandy beach.

Crete Highlights

With unique locations such as Spinalonga, plus water parks, caves, and numerous great beaches, Crete has something for everyone. The large main road that runs across the north of the island makes it easy to get around and there is an excellent local bus service covering most of the island, though smaller villages and resorts may only have one or two connections a day.

Crete Hotel Reviews

Hotel Elysee, Sitia, Crete

Posted in Hotel Reviews

Review Rating: 4/5 Date of Visit: July 2021 I needed a hotel room to overnight before my early ferry to Karpathos the next day. After some time exploring options on…

Matala Bay Hotel, Matala, Crete

Posted in Hotel Reviews

Review Rating: 3/5 Date of Visit: July 2021 My penultimate hotel as I journeyed across Crete from west to east was an overnight stay at Matala Bay Hotel in, you…

Akteon Rooms, Agia Galini, Crete

Posted in Hotel Reviews

Review Rating: 4/5 Date of Visit: July 2021 I stayed at Akteon Rooms for a single night in July 2021 as part of a road trip across southern Crete. The…

Galini Beach Hotel, Plakias, Crete

Posted in Hotel Reviews

Review Rating: 4/5 Date of Visit: July 2021 I spent one night at Galini Beach during a mini road trip across southern Crete in July 2021. I chose the hotel…

On The Rocks Hotel, Palaiochora, Crete

Posted in Hotel Reviews

Review Rating: 4/5 Date of Visit: July 2021 We visited Crete in early July 2021, spending 9 nights in Palaiochora at On the Rocks Hotel. I was travelling with my…

Cretan Malia Park, Malia, Crete

Posted in Hotel Reviews

Review Rating: 4/5 Date of Visit: July 2016 I booked a week here through Thomson Holidays who advertise Cretan Malia Park as being a 4-star plus hotel. Coupled with some…

Manos Apartments, Elounda, Crete

Posted in Hotel Reviews

Review Rating: 3/5 Date of Visit: September 2016 I spent a week at Manos Apartments back in September 2016, having visited Crete a few times before but never to this…

Sentido Vasia Resort & Spa, Sissi, Crete

Posted in Hotel Reviews

Review Rating: 4/5 Date of visit: September 2019 I chose to spend 8 nights at Sentido Vasia early September, travelling solo for a bit of quiet relaxation. All-inclusive hotels aren’t…

Ourania Apartments, Kato Gouves, Crete

Posted in Hotel Reviews

Review rating: 4/5 Date of visit: May/June 2018 Just returned from a lovely week in Crete at Ourania Apartments. This was my 9th time on the island, but first time…

Royal Heights Resort, Malia, Crete

Posted in Hotel Reviews

It’s Malia, but not as you know it When you hear the word “Malia”, premium relaxing hotels probably aren’t what first spring to mind. Yet the Royal Heights Resort Malia…


Crete Blog Posts

Day 13: Gortyn, Heraklion and Sitia

Posted in Crete, Trip Reports

Monday 19th July 2021 Matala Sunrise I woke just after 6 am having gone to bed early last night. Sensing an opportunity to see Matala without the crowds, I got…

Day 12: Phaistos and Matala

Posted in Crete, Trip Reports

Sunday 18th July 2021 Sneaking Extra Beach Time Although I had another fairly packed itinerary, I knew it wouldn’t take me all day and so I decided to catch some…

Day 11: Preveli and Agia Galini

Posted in Crete, Trip Reports

Saturday 17th July 2021 A Busy Day Ahead The next few days have been planned in detail compared with the time in Palaiochora. I need to return my hire car…

Day 10: Road Trip Across Crete

Posted in Crete, Trip Reports

Friday 16th July 2021 Another Morning Run It was time for some more cardio, so for the last time (in Palaiochora, anyway) I got up just before 7 am, put…

Day 9: Last Day in Palaiochora

Posted in Crete, Trip Reports

Thursday 15th July 2021 The Adventure is Almost Beginning Today is our last full day in Palaiochora: tomorrow morning I’ll drive my parents back to the airport and really get…

Day 8: Last Time at Grammeno Beach

Posted in Crete, Trip Reports

Wednesday 14th July 2021 Nearly Time to Move on With only two full days remaining in Palaiochora, we decided to spend today back at Grammeno beach and tomorrow at the…

Day 7: Elafonissi Beach

Posted in Crete, Trip Reports

Tuesday 13th July 2021 Early Breakfast No first visit to western Crete would be complete without a trip to the famous Elafonissi beach. It’s about an hour’s drive from Palaiochora…

Day 6: Finally the Wind Dies Down

Posted in Crete, Trip Reports

Monday 12th July 2021 More Morning Cardio Woke up this morning to find the wind had finally died down, hurrah! I had set my alarm early for another morning dose…

Day 5: Grammeno Beach Again

Posted in Crete, Trip Reports

Sunday 11th July 2021 More Sunbathing in the Breeze We decided on another beach day after our sightseeing expedition yesterday. It was still fairly windy, though not quite as strong…

Day 4: Exploring South-Western Crete

Posted in Crete, Trip Reports

Saturday 10th July 2021 Escaping the Wind…or not! The strong winds we’d been experiencing over the past two days showed no sign of easing today. To avoid a repeat of…

Day 3: Palaiochora Morning Exercise

Posted in Crete, Trip Reports

Friday 9th July 2021 Jogging in the Heat I don’t usually exercise on holiday as I lead a very active lifestyle at home and treat vacations as a rest period…

Day 2: It’s Windy in Palaiochora

Posted in Crete, Trip Reports

Thursday 8th July 2021 Early Morning Vlogging I woke bright and early just after 7 am and decided to take a stroll south around the headland, partly to explore the…

Day 1: Crete Arrival

Posted in Crete, Trip Reports

Wednesday 7th July 2021 An Early Start Like most of my trips to Greece, the journey began with an early alarm for our morning Ryanair flight. London Stansted, the closest…

Touring Greece Without a Plan

I Want to Freestyle it, But… How do you plan a three-month island-hopping itinerary? Well, one option – perhaps the best option really – is to freestyle the entire trip….

An Exciting Journey Begins

Posted in Crete, Trip Planning

Summer is on the Horizon 2021 has been a rather dull year so far. With most countries under some form of lockdown or other, all we’ve been left to do…

Kato Gouves: Resort Guide

Posted in Crete

I recently took an impromptu trip to Crete with a friend. Due to the lateness of booking, our options were limited and we ended up in Kato Gouves, a resort…

Day 18: Crete and journey home

I woke early following another poor night’s sleep (damn that mattress, it’s definitely marking down their TripAdvisor review!) and went to breakfast as usual. My transfer wasn’t set to leave…

Day 17: Crete

s you can hopefully see from the video above, I had an idea while laying in bed last night that it’d be cool to make a night lapse video of…

Day 16: Crete

I woke up early feeling rather achy, disappointed to find that the bed wasn’t more comfortable. In fact, it was one of the least comfortable of my entire trip –…

Day 15: Santorini to Crete

It’s my last day on Santorini today. The ferry to Crete wasn’t leaving until 5:30 pm so I went to reception before breakfast to ask about a late check-out but…