Whether you’re an adventure-seeker looking to hike the Samaria Gorge, a history buff fascinated by ancient Minoan ruins, or simply seeking to relax in the sun with a glass of raki, Crete is the perfect destination.
In this article, we’ll explore the best things to do in Crete, from exploring the old town of Chania to taking a dip in the crystal-clear waters of Elafonisi Beach.
Chania is one of the largest cities on the Greek Islands and has a lot to offer. Be sure to check out the Venetian Harbour, the old lighthouse, and the Agora Marketplace, where you can indulge in freshly picked figs. Taking a boat tour to Elafonisi Island from Chania is also a must-do activity. It’s a beautiful place that you won’t want to miss..
2. Relax at Seitan Limania Beach
Located near Chania and Chania Airport, Seitan Limania is a small cove that offers stunning views of the Aegean Sea. However, the beach can get quite crowded during peak season, so it’s best to visit early on a weekday morning to avoid the crowds. Despite its size, Seitan Limania is a beautiful location that’s worth visiting..
3. Visit Europe’s oldest city
The Knossos Palace is the largest Bronze Age site on the island and is commonly referred to as the oldest city in Europe. It’s recommended to visit the site with a knowledgeable historian who can share both factual and mythological stories related to the 22,000 square-meter ruins.
Archaeologists have discovered that Knossos underwent multiple renovations and expansions since it was first built around 1950 BC. Don’t miss the breathtaking frescoes and the impressive Throne Room, which date back thousands of centuries..
4. Hike through Samaria Gorge
Samaria Gorge National Park in Crete offers a unique experience compared to other Greek islands. The narrowest part of the gorge, often called the gates, is a spectacular sight to see. While it’s not an actual gate, it’s definitely worth the hike to get there..
5. Gorge on Greek Dishes
If you want to indulge in some delicious Greek cuisine. Cretan cuisine is not to be missed. Some must-try dishes include Kalitsounia, a cheesy treat, and Dakos, made with chunks of rusk, ripe tomatoes, sheep’s cheese, and Greek olive oil. Be sure to wear stretchy pants, as you’ll likely overeat from enjoying the food so much!
Next up, take in the stunning views of Balos Lagoon. The Balos Lagoon hiking trail is one of the most beautiful in Crete, offering breathtaking views. To avoid the crowds and heat, it’s best to arrive early in the morning. You can also take a small boat from Kastelli to Balos if you’d like to venture out onto the sea. Walking the Balos Beach Trail is a great way to enjoy the scenery and take advantage of the various viewpoints along the way.
7. Visit Spinalonga Island
Another must-see destination is Spinalonga Island, which is rich in Venetian history. The small island is accessible via a short boat ride from Crete and has a turbulent past due to Arab raids, Venetian conquest, and Ottoman occupation. It was later used as a leper colony but is now a peaceful destination. Book a boat tour that departs from Agios Nikolaos to explore the island’s highlights, including Pirate Barbarosa’s cave and the sunken city of Olous.
8. Visit the cut-off village of Loutro
This hidden gem is a small fishing village in south Crete that offers a glimpse into old Greece without being overly developed for tourists. Accessible only by boat or hiking through the mountains, Loutro boasts a beautiful waterfront, stunning views, and delicious seafood.
9. Explore the Holy Trinity Monastery
IIf you’re looking for a break from the beach life near Akrotiri, consider visiting the Holy Trinity Monastery. It has some of the best-gilded interiors on the island and is a popular spot for cat lovers.
10. Explore Mirambello Bay
Mirambello Bay is one of the top five largest bays in Europe. You can drive around the entire region, take a dip in the Sea of Crete, and visit Agios Nikolaos for a meal. Once you’ve finished exploring the wonderful attractions of Crete during the day, treat yourself to some delicious meze at To Pareaki.
If you’re a photographer, you’ll love Elafonisi Beach on the western shores of the island. It has beautiful champagne pink coral sand and clear sparkling waters. There are plenty of restaurants and bars in the area, so you can spend a relaxed afternoon and turn it into a romantic evening effortlessly.
12. Head to Preveli beach
Preveli Beach is a must-visit spot in Crete thanks to its warm and clear waters, the well-known ‘Heart Rock,’ and its position at the mouth of the Kourtaliotikos Gorge. To get there, visitors will need to take a short hike from the parking lot to reach the shore. Once there, you can enjoy activities such as abseiling down a waterfall in Kourtaliotiko and swimming in the Megalos Potamos River. This area is also known for its picturesque palm tree-lined banks.
13. Climb the Venetian fortress on Gramvousa Island
The island of Gramvousa offers magnificent views of shipwrecks, the picturesque Balos Lagoon, and nearby islands from its stunning white sand and rocky peaks. It’s an exceptional spot for swimming with seals and endangered sea turtles living in the nearby caves. Don’t forget to charge your camera completely before you go.
14. Walk in the footsteps of a god at Zeus Cave
Want to walk in the footsteps of the most famous of all Greek gods? Visit Zeus Cave, also known as Psychro Cave or Diktaion Andron. This stunning cave is filled with stalagmites and stalactites and stays cool even on hot summer days. Keep in mind that it’s located on top of a mountain and requires a bit of a climb, so wear comfortable shoes.
15. Sit back and Relax at Vai Beach
If you’re looking for a peaceful getaway, Vai Beach on the eastern shoreline of Crete is an excellent choice. Surrounded by palm trees and rocky cliffs, the sandy shores are perfect for sunbathing with a refreshing cocktail in hand.
16. Wander through Rethymno
Rethymno’s old town is steeped in history and charm. Spend a few hours strolling through its narrow, cobbled streets, taking breaks at the cafes for a frappe, and eventually make your way to the Venetian Harbour – a real delight.
17. See the Fortress of Koules
The Venetian-built Fortress of Koules is a must-see location, even if you can no longer enter it. You can still view it while exploring Heraklion. While you’re in the city, make sure to visit the stunning Cathedral of St. Minas. And if you want to explore the beautiful island of Santorini, take the daily high-speed ferry from Heraklion.
18. Visit the Sacred Monastery of Arkadi
The Sacred Monastery of Arkadi is located in the countryside of Crete, approximately 20 km from Rethymnon. It’s best to visit by car, and having a knowledgeable guide is recommended due to its historical significance in the 1866 revolution. Don’t miss the bell tower and the Corinthian columns – two unique and sacred attractions of Crete.
19. Take a day trip to Santorini
If you’re a fan of beautiful landscapes and picturesque towns, then Santorini is a must-visit destination. This famous Greek island is just as gorgeous in person as it appears in photos. You’ll love the contrast between the blue waters, black-sand beaches, and whitewashed buildings. Foodies will rejoice at the abundance of fresh seafood available, while Instagrammers will find the island perfect for their feed. And if you’re a couple looking for a romantic experience, make sure to catch the sunset in Santorini. Read my article “From Santorini to Crete” for more information.
20. Find the fishing village of Sissi
Sissi is a laid-back village with a welcoming environment that will easily catch your attention. Spend a day exploring the village to soak up the relaxed atmosphere that every vacation should offer. Don’t forget to bring your swimming gear as there’s a small beach where you can unwind after a few hours of sightseeing.
Traveling to 🇬🇷 Greece soon?
I recommend these travel resources for Greece that I personally use:
🏨 Hotels: I have found that Expedia and Booking.com consistently have the best deals on hotels and resorts in Greece. If you prefer to stay at a vacation rental, check VRBO that is usually cheaper than AirBnB’s added fees!
✈️ Flights: To find the best flight deals to Greece, I always use Kayak. Remember to subscribe to their price alerts for the travel dates you want. Another great alternative for flight deals is Expedia.
🚗 Rental Cars: I always use and highly recommend Discover Cars because it allows me to compare several car rental companies and view ratings on various factors such as overall value, pick-up procedure, agent efficiency, car condition, and total time taken.
🚙 Airport Transportation: For the fastest and easiest way to travel, I suggest arranging a private transfer from the airport and beetween destinations with Welcome Pickups. Honestly, no better way to travel from the airport to your hotel or resort.
🤿 Tours & Activities: For tours and activities in Greece, I highly recommend using either Viator or GetYourGuide. These websites offer a full refund if you cancel your booking 24 hours before the start of the tour, and they also provide excellent customer service in case of any issues.
🚨 Travel Insurance: I always suggest purchasing travel insurance as a precaution before traveling, especially after a recent accident in a taxi in Greece. For short trips, I recommend Travel Insurance Master, whereas for digital nomads, Safety Wing is a better option.
📷 Best Camera for your trip: I always carry with me a GoPro, It’s light, compact, takes great video and pictures, and most importantly, it’s waterproof! You just can’t go wrong with one. If you are interested in higher quality video and photography, I always carry with me on my trips and highly recommend the Sony A7IV which I think is the best travel DSLR Camera out there.
☀️ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Remember to include a good sunscreen to protect yourself from the summer sun. I always use and suggest Sun Bum Sunscreen, which is vegan, reef-friendly, and cruelty-free.
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