Crete is the largest island of Greece and one of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean Sea. It is a magical place filled with splendid beaches, impressive mountain scapes and remnants of glorious civilizations. Exciting cities and dreamy villages offer a variety of opportunities that can satisfy all types of visitors. Let the locals share with you their unique culture and customs as well as their wonderful Cretan cuisine. Explore the bewitching natural beauty of the island along with the richness of its history and be prepared to live an unforgettable experience!
Cost of Living:
When to Visit
April & May Very few visitors and many areas, such as Chania, are inactive during this period; however, the first tourists arrive, since the weather is getting better.
June – September The most popular time to visit Crete with high temperatures and low rainfall. Matala Festival, an international beach festival, usually takes place every June next to the caves of Matala.
October & November Cooler than summer but still very mild temperatures with overcast rainy days. Ideal for those who want to avoid the crowds of the peak season.
Heraklion or Iraklion is the largest city in Crete and also the administrative capital of the island. Located at the eastern side of Crete, it is a very dynamic and cosmopolitan area. This popular city attracts numerous tourists every year owing to the fact that it is a place that caters for all their needs. It perfectly combines the most fascinating museums and historical areas with an intense nightlife. Heraklion is the place where the Minoan civilization flourished and its monuments are visited by thousands of tourists every year. Visit this town and discover all the reasons that make Heraklion such a picturesque island town!
Located almost twenty minutes south of Heraklion, Knossos includes the ancient Minoan Palace as well as the surrounding city. The name Knossos survives from ancient Greek written texts where people referred to this great city. This grand palace with the stunning architecture and design indicates that the culture of Knossos was dominant at the Neolithic period. Considered as the center of the Minoan civilization, Knossos was eventually abandoned in 1375 BC due to the multiple earthquakes, invasions and the volcanic eruption of Thera. The remnants of this glorious palace were excavated at the early 20th century by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans.
Open: 08:00AM-03:00PM Daily (Last entry 02:45PM)
Price: €15/Reduced Ticket €8
There are some snack bars close to the entrance of the monument. Keep in mind that Sundays are usually less crowded. To find out more about the archaeological site visit www.visitknossos.com.
The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is located in the town center and it is regarded as one of the greatest museums in Greece and one of the most important in Europe. Home of the Minoan civilization, it houses significant unique collections of Minoan antiquities. The museum was built by architect Patroklos Karantinos between 1937 and 1940. The building itself is a beautiful example of modernist architecture. Among the most famous artifacts are the Phaistos Disc, the Bull Leaper, Minoan jewelry and the Neolithic fertility goddess. Visit this stunning museum and get a taste of the Minoan glory!
1 November-14 April: Monday 10:00AM-05:00PM/Tuesday-Sunday 09:00AM-04:00PM
15 April-31 October: 08:00AM-08:00PM Monday-Sunday
Price: €10/Students and citizens 65 or over €5
6 March (in memory of Melina Mercouri)
18 April (International Monuments Day)
18 May (International Museums Day)
The last weekend of September annually (European Heritage Days)
Every first Sunday from November 1st to March 31st
For more information about the museum visit the official page www.heraklionmuseum.gr or call at +30 2810 279000.
Located 62 kilometers south of Heraklion, Phaistos is an archaeological site with a great significance for the Minoan civilization. It was the most powerful city in southern Crete and its first palace was built around 2000 BC. Just like most of the Minoan palaces, it was destroyed several times and it was then rebuilt. Today, we can admire the remnants of the later palace and, compared to Knossos, Phaistos’ architecture is more simplified. The excavation started in 1884 by Italian Federico Halbherr.
Open: 08:00AM-03:00PM Daily (Last admission 02:45PM)
Price: €8/reduced ticket €4
Located in the heart of the city, the central market is filled with shops, supermarkets and piled up counters. Walking up the old market of Heraklion, you will find from fruit and vegetables to fresh fish coming straight from the Cretan sea. There are also some small taverns where you can drink ouzo combined with sea food!
Situated 26 kilometers east of Heraklion, Hersonissos is regarded as the largest tourist resort in Crete. The town offers many opportunities for an unforgettable night out! Known for its intense nightlife, Hersonissos is home to a variety of bars, clubs, restaurants and guesthouses. Mostly famous among British tourists, it is a place that attracts a great number of young people who seek for an exciting night out.You can also enjoy the incredible beach of Hersonissos in the earlier hours!
Malia is considered to be the party town of Crete! Filled with hotels, shops, bars, restaurants, cocktail bats and dance clubs, Malia has everything you need. Except for the exciting nightlife, the area has also a historical significance due to the Minoan ruins that are located only three kilometers east of the site.
Located southwest of Heraklion and close to Phaistos, Matala is one of the most popular tourist destinations of Crete. The pebble beach is mostly known for the hippy travelers that used to gather or even live here in the 1960s. The series of sandy caves create one of most unusual and unique beachscapes of Crete. Matala used to be a fishing village and it has retained the character of this quiet lifestyle, even though it is a popular attraction nowadays. Except for sports facilities, there are also some activities provided for the children.
Spinalonga is a small fortified islet near Elounda, in northeast Crete. Also known as the Leper Island, it was the place where lepers from Crete and the whole Greece were quarantined in the first half of the 20th century. Today, it serves as a tourist attraction which you can access from Plaka, Elounda or Agios Nikolaos. There is no accommodation in Spinalonga so the tours are completed within a day. Don’t miss the opportunity to view the island’s ruined buildings and experience the eerie thrill that the area causes to every visitor.
April-October 08:00AM-06:00PM Monday-Sunday
Closed in winter (November 1st - March 31st). Open only on request for groups.
Price: €8/Reduced ticket €4
Boats to Spinalonga depart daily at fixed times from Agios Nikolaos, Elounda and Plaka.
Located in the western side of Crete, Chania is the second largest city of the island. Considered as one of the prettiest cities in Greece, it is filled with colorful old buildings in narrow street-sand a wonderful Venetian harbor, the most popular spot of this area. Chaniais divided in two parts; the old town and the modern city.The old town, filled with bars and restaurants, resembles an Italian city but with the culture and the traditions of Cretan people. The modern city is the area outside the Venetian walls and it is also the largest part of the city. Chania offers many options for relaxation, exploration and sightseeing. It is a destination that can satisfy every kind of visitor; you can find here from the most tourist to the most secluded beaches. The crystal-clear waters and the breathtaking natural views will make your visit to Chania an unforgettable experience!
Chania Venetian Harbour, followed by the Venetian Lighthouse which serves as its distinctive feature, is the trademark of the city. Built between 1320 and 1356 by the Venetians during their colonization in Crete, the harbour was one of the most important trade centers in the Mediterranean Sea. The quay is filled with pastel-coloured historic homes as well as cafés, restaurants, bars and other shops. Walking around the harbour is a must for any visitor to Chania. Enjoy the architectural mixture of East and West in one of the most photographed places in Crete.
Established in 1962, the Archaeological Museum of Chania is located on Halidon Street in the centre of the old town. It is housed in the 16th century Venetian church of St Francis, an important monument of the city. The museum includes collections of Minoan and Roman artifacts which were excavated from the city or the surrounding areas. These collections contain a wide range of coins, jewelry, vases, and sculptures dating from the Neolithic to the Roman eras. Opposite of the museum there is a domed building, the remains of a Turkish hamam.
Open: Tuesday-Sunday 08:30AM-03:00PM
Price: €4/ reducedticket €2
The reduced fee is valid for all visitors from November 1st to March 31st. For more information about the museum visit https://chaniamuseum.culture.gr/.
Located at Plateia Venizelou, the market building, also known as the Agora, is a particularly lively spot full of vendors and shoppers. It has a cruciform shape and space inside for a large number of shops. It is the perfect place to buy the famous Greek olive oil, herbs, honey and, of course, Cretan souvenirs. Known for its colors and scents, Chania market is considered to be the city’s landmark.
Do not leave this place without tasting Cretan olives and olive oil! The basic elements of the Greek diet are found here in their purest and tastiest form. Taste or even buy some olives and olive oil to take with you! Keep in mind that it will be much cheaper than it would be in your country.
In the center of the old quarter, you can find the Skridlof Street, one of the most famous shopping streets in Chania. This is the place where handmade leather boots, sandals, satchels and handbags are manufactured. Filled with saddle-makers and cobblers it is the ideal place if you are looking for leather products.
One of the most popular tourist attractions of Crete, the Samaria Gorge cuts its way through the Lefka Ori (White Mountains). Due to its 16 kilometers length, it is marked as the longest one in Europe. Thousands of people walk through the gorge every year during summer and it is a must for every visitor. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the stunning natural beauty of the area while going for a five-to-six-hour trek. It may be strenuous but it is totally worth it. There are also some organized tours provided by local operators. Specifically, you can do the walk as part of an excursion tour, or independently by taking the bus from the bus station in Chaniato the head of the gorge at Xyloskalo. From there, you can walk the downhill to Agia Roumeli on the coast, from where you can take the ferry to Sougia (adults €11/children €5.50) or Chora Sfakion (adults €12.50/children €6) and then a bus back to Chania. Bring your hiking footwear, food, water as well as your sunscreen, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in the most striking area of the island.
Open: 1 May-15 October 06:00AM-04:00PM
Price: Adults €5/Students€2.50/Children under 12 free entrance
Visitors are not allowed to spend the night in the gorge, so be prepared to complete the walk in one day or spend the night in one of the nearby villages.In case you want to complete the walk independently, you have to report it to the Forest Guardhouse at Xyloskalo before. Also, don’t forget to keep your ticket because you will need to show it at the gate in the end of the trek.
Only 10 kilometers west from the city of Chania, Platanias is a popular tourist village with a beautiful beach. It includes a variety of hotels, cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops. However, what makes Platanias popular among the young people is its exciting nightlife. The pubs, clubs and discos of the village are full of people especially during summer weekends. If you are looking for an unforgettable night at an open-air dance floor till the sunrise, then this is your place!
In the east of Akrotiri, northeast of Chania, there are many small coves shaped in the coasts. In one of these coves, there is the popular Seitan Limani Beach, or Stephanou Beach. The word ‘Seitan’ means ‘satanic’ and it has remained from the period of the Turkish conquest in Crete. Famous for its crystal clear waters surrounded by huge rocks, Seitan Limani is a well-known exotic tiny beach. It has become a trend the last few years and many young people choose to visit this beach at weekends or during summer. Due to the fact that it is a small area, it can be overcrowded especially during high season. Seitan Limani is accessible only by cars or motorbikes.
This area is a famous tourist attraction and an agricultural area. Located at the northwest coast of Crete, Falasarna is an ancient Greek harbor which includes notable structures, such as roads, baths and warehouses that were excavated in 1986. The diversity in the flora and fauna of the area as well as the long sweep of yellow sand make Falasarna one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island. An ideal destination for the romantics who would like to view with their partner the most beautiful sunset in west Crete!
Located at the Akrotiri district of Chania, Stavros is an alternative destination if you are looking for some quietness and tranquility. Across the beach there is a big steep mountain, emblematic of this area. This area featured in the film Zorba the Greek, where Anthony Quinn danced the famous syrtaki in 1964. Stavros resembles a lagoon and it perfectly combines the wild landscape of the mountain with the calmness of the sea.
Elafonisi is an island located close to the southwestern corner of Crete, famous for its white crescent of white and pink sand. It is possible to reach the island by walking through the shallow water. This magical place consists of lagoon-like sandy beaches that are really close to the main – usually busy – beach. It is also a protected area due to the fact that it is home to 110 plant species. If you visit Elafonisi, don’t forget to visit the Chrysoskalitisa monastery, 5km north of the island. Built on a high rock, this monastery is very interesting and it resembles a fortress.
If you are looking for a relaxing holiday away from mass-tourism, this is the place to be! Located in the south-west of Crete, Sougia is a small village consisting of almost 140 inhabitants. Its pebble beach is around one kilometer long and is considered to be one of the cleanest beaches in Crete. There are only a few beach cafés and umbrellas are provided in limited areas. Enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of Sougia beach or go for a walk in this peaceful area.
Located 75 kilometers south of Chania, it is one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole island. Glyka Nera actually means ‘sweet water’, due to the fact that fresh water gushes from the pebbles. The access to this beach can be difficult, since you can reach the place either by boat from Loutro or Chora Sfakion, or by climbing a rocky path from Loutro. There is also a small tavern at Glyka Nera, where you can enjoy fresh fish while viewing the amazing sea scenery.
Gramvousa is the name of the long peninsula located northwest of Crete as well as the name of the island next to it. Both places are remote and barely populated. The peninsula’s most popular attraction is the lagoon-like beach of Balos, whereas Gramvousa Island is known for its Venetian castle. You can get to the island by boat from the port of Kissamos village. What makes Gramvousa a very interesting place to visit is its nature and uniqueness due to the fact that it is one of the most remote areas in Crete!
Balo Lagoon is undoubtedly a must visit! Located 56 kilometers northwest of Chania, it is the most photographed area of the island. The pinkish sand and the warm waters create a dreamy beachscape that resembles an exotic beach. You can get here either by car or by boat. There are daily cruises to Balos from Kissamos port. The boat remains at Gramvousa for a couple of hours and then you have to walk for about half an hour to reach Balos beach. You can stay here till the boat departs back to Kissamos. A challenging but feasible way to get to Balos is on foot as well. Walking for 3 hours can be difficult but it is definitely rewarding once you reach the beach; however, it is mostly advisable to travel by boat.
Chora Sfakion is a mountainous area located in the most southern part of Crete, Greece and Europe. What makes this place really special is the fact that it has not been fully exploited and occupied by tourist operators. Untouched by mass-tourism, Chora Sfakion includes small traditional villages along the coast and the White Mountains. Here you can admire the original Cretan lifestyle, with inhabitants living as shepherds, fishermenor farmers. Also known for its quiet beaches with crystal clear waters, Chora Sfakion is the ideal place if you’re looking for tranquility during your holidays.
Considered as one of the best preserved cities in Greece, Rethymno is Crete’s third biggest city. This region is rich with old history, mostly through the Minoan civilization. It also retains much of its Venetian and Turkish influence. This is evident through the old-fashioned Venetian and Turkish houses that fill the streets of the city.It is an area not only known for its historical importance but also for its stunning natural beauty. Long beaches with crystal clear waters and golden sand, as well as breathtaking gorges such as the Samaria Gorge, are only some reasons to visit this place.
Built in the 16th century, it is one of the largest castles ever built by the Venetians. The giant Fortezza is located almost in the center of the old town and it is visible from every corner of the city. Within the walls, the most interesting structure is the Ibrahim Han Mosque with its impressive dome, which was originally a Venetian cathedral built in 1580. There are also a few other historic buildings inside the fortress. Nowadays, Fortezza is home to numerous exhibitions as well as to the Erofili Theater where concerts and theatrical plays take place during the Rethymnon Renaissance Festival.
Below the fortress, there is a small inner harbour with old houses and a number of fish taverns. One of the most picturesque harbours in Greece, the Inner Harbour attracts a lot of tourists especially for its pleasure boats. Visit this busy quayside and enjoy your lunch at one of the restaurants overlooking the sea!
The Porta Guora (or Guora Gate) is the only remaining part of the Venetian fortifications constructed between 1540 and 1570. The Gate stands at the Market Street and used to be the main entrance to the town during the Venetian times. Nowadays, it serves as an entrance from the old to the modern part of the city. This magnificent gate leads to the central square, where some of the most important buildings, such as the Clock Tower, are located.
A great place to buy Cretan souvenirs or local products such as honey, olive oil and herbs. They may even serve you a glass of raki! Visit the area north of Ethnikis Antistasis street and enjoy a coffee at one of the numerous cafés or enjoy the pleasant scents from the herbs of the small open-fronted shops!
If you are looking for a place with lots of souvenir and jewelry shops, this is your place! Souliou Street used to be – and still is – an imperative commercial center with a variety of different shops. At this up market shopping street you can find from copies of traditional Cretan pottery and modern ceramics to linen and embroidery.
One of the most famous and large commercial roads, Ethnikis Antistasis is a street you must definitely visit! Numerous open-fronted shops and stalls make this area very busy and attractive to visitors. It is also a good idea to drink a coffee in one of the cafés of this bustling street and observe the people walking along.
The Arkadi Monastery or Moni Arkadiou is an Orthodox monastery situated on a fertile plateau southeast of Rethymno. Most of the monastic buildings here were built during the 16th century and were influenced by the Renaissance architecture. However, the monastery’s great significance can be found in Cretan history. During the Cretan revolt of 1866, the monastery served as a refuge for Greeks. After three days of siege by the Turks, the refugees chose to sacrifice themselves by blowing up barrels of gunpowder, rather than surrender to the enemy. Since then, the monastery has been serving as a national sanctuary in honor of the Cretan resistance. In case you need more information, you can call the monastery office at +30 28310 83136 or send an e-mail to
Located next to the Venetian port, Rethymno’s town beach is always busy due to the fact that it is only 1 kilometer away from the city center. It stretches for many kilometers from the east side of the main harbor to Skaleta. This well-organized sandy beach offers many facilities such as umbrellas, lifeguard, beach bars, showers, water sports etc. Behind it there is an esplanade filled with palm trees and numerous cafés and restaurants. Except for swimming in this lovely sea with the crystal clear waters, you can also go for a wonderful evening walk near the coast.
Considered as the most idyllic beach in Rethymno, Preveli is where the blue sea and the green river meet. The Kourtaliotis River ends at this beautiful beach and creates an exotic oasis surrounded by huge palm trees. Due to this incredible natural beauty, Preveli attracts many tourists mainly during high season. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy these crystalline waters under the superb palm trees, or admire the historical monastery nearby, dedicated to St. John.
Unlike the other cities, Agios Nikolaos is not a very popular tourist destination. Located east of Crete, it is a coastal medium-size town which was settled by Dorians in the late Bronze Age. Agios Nikolaos took its name from one the churches that are scattered within the streets of the town. Its location on a hill overlooking the shores of the Mirabello Bay, along with its modern architecture makes Agios Nikolaos a very interesting destination.
Makrigialos is a large village and a popular tourist resort located in Lasithi, on the southeast coast of Crete. It includes a large coastline filled with secluded sandy and pebble beaches. You can find a variety of hotels, taverns, bars, cafés, supermarkets and bakeries. Visit this area and enjoy the beautiful sea along with the stunning mountainous landscape, visible north of the village.
No matter what, do not take photographs of military installations, including military airfields, naval vessels or army bases in order to avoid being charged with spying. Greek authorities are very strict on this matter, so you better avoid photographing such areas if you want to stay out of trouble.