Updated on 05/01/2023. Crete is a stunning and fantastic island, and it hides many incredible treasures!
It is a large island (the biggest in Greece), and even if we have visited it many times in the past years, there are still some parts waiting for us to discover! And we promise we will visit them!
There are many different choices, and I constantly receive emails from the readers about which part of Crete they should visit!
This post will make all the choices clear with detailed tips, photos, and a map at the end with all the places that we are going to recommend at this post!
- Best place to visit if you visit for the first time Crete
- Chania or Heraklion or Rethymno?
- Best places for families and children
- Best places for a young couple
- Best places for nightlife
- Best places for hiking routes
- Best places for honeymooners
- Best places for watersports
- Best places to enjoy amazing beaches
- Best places for those that have visited Crete many times!
Good to know about Crete
Crete is the largest island in Greece and fifth in Europe, so you might need weeks or even months to discover it fully!
It consists of 4 municipalities Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion, Lasithi.
1. Best place to visit if you visit Crete for the first time!
If you are visiting for the first time Crete, then the Chania area should be your first choice, as it provides everything that you might look for!
- It has some of the best beaches in Europe, like Balos, Falasarna, Elafonisi, Kedrodasos and much more!
- You should visit Chania old town and stroll around the alleys and its fantastic vibe! There, you will also find great nightlife with many bars and clubs.
- In Chania areas, you can visit beautiful towns like Palaiochora or the unique Loutro, a small coastal village that can be visited only by boat and no car is allowed there!
- Finally, for those that prefer activities during their summertime, Samaria Gorge is the longest in Europe (total length 16km) and one of the most impressive gorges in Greece!
- On our road trip to the Chania region, we spent there 8 days and here is our itinerary and our experience!
Chania has an international airport with many connections with the major European cities, especially during summer.
Note that if you choose to stay in Chania town, check our dedicated post with the best hotels and apartments.
2. Chania or Heraklion or Rethymno?
The above trilemma is something that I often meet on your questions about which place you should visit in Crete!
But the answer isn’t straightforward! So, let’s analyze it!
Chania should be your first choice as we described it on the first point.
But Heraklion has some quite lovely advantages!
It has the second biggest airport in Greece, so it is easier to reach Heraklion.
It is the capital of Crete and the biggest city.
And most importantly, it has some beautiful museums, and of course, the impressive Palace of Knossos is very close! Here you will find our article about the best hotels and apartments inside and outside Heraklion city.
And last, Rethymno is another good choice as it is located between Chania and Heraklion and you can get something of both worlds!
But also Rethymno itself is a lovely little town. In the past, it was under the occupation of Venetian and Turkish occupation, which is quite obvious if you walk around the Old Town, as the town is filled with beautiful houses and churches and a 16th-century fortress!
Note that there is no airport in Rethymno, and you can use Chania’s or Heraklion airport to reach the town. Both airports are 1 hour and 10′ away from Rethymno town.
Also, some nice things to do close to Rethymno would be visiting the Monastery of Arkadi (~25 to 30′ by car), Preveli Monastery and the amazing beach nearby (~45 to 50′), Kourtaliotiko Gorge (~30′) Eleutherna archaeological site Eleutherna archaeological site (~ 35-40′), and even Chania old town(~1 hour).
Best Hotel inside Chania town
Best Hotels in Rethymno
Best Hotels inside Heraklion
3. Best place for families and children
Crete is a great place for spending the family holidays as you will find everything you are looking for, from nice hotels with swimming pools to beautiful beaches with many activities for kids and adults!
My first option would be Hersonissos or Chersonissos as it has some large and luxurious all-inclusive hotels. I am not a huge fan of them, but I do understand their convenience and benefit, especially if anyone has little kids.
Note, that in Hersonissos, mass tourism is dominated by nice and busy beaches, many shops, various restaurants and cafes.
In Crete, you will find two aquariums that I really like. One is the CretAquarium in the Heraklion area and the Aquaworld Aquarium & Reptile Rescue Centre in Hersonissos. Both are lovely and I am sure that kids will love to visit and spend some time there!
Of course, if you prefer something more peaceful, then you can choose a villa around Crete in a small town or outside big cities to be quieter and less crowded.
Best Hotels for families
Creta Maris Beach Resort – HersonissosLyttos Beach – HersonissosPilot Beach Resort – GeorgioupolisPorto Platanias Beach – Luxury Selection – Platanias, Chania Region
4. Best places for a young couple
Crete is a wonderful place for a young but also older couple! It has beautiful romantic spots, awesome activities for two and amazing sunsets!
So, our first choice would be western Crete and especially the Chania region. You will enjoy beautiful sunsets at Chania old harbour, where you can enjoy the great Egyptian lighthouse, the Ottoman Mosque to your right, and the beautiful colourful old buildings on the left. Also, Falasarna beach has an amazing sunset which you can enjoy from the beach or Orange Blue bar (location here!).
I can also recommend two romantic activities in the Chania regions, one enjoying the sunset on a boat “Chania: Sunset Boat Cruise with Guide” and the other one on the mountains “Chania: Off-Road Tour at Sunset with Wine Tasting”
If you are a more adventurous couple, you can hike the famous Samaria Gorge or the Gorges of Theriso, which both are close to Chania town.
Finally, Loutro town that we mentioned above (location here!), is an excellent spot for couples!
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Other romantic spots in Crete is the Venizelos Tombs in Heraklion and the Venetian fortress, which look over the old and picturesque town of Rethymno. From the Venetian watchtower, you can enjoy the sunset over the sea and the mountains of Crete!
Best place to stay in Loutro
5. Best places for nightlife
On most of the travel guides, you will find that the most popular places for nightlife in Crete are Malia and Hersonissos.
This is partially true, as both areas are indeed popular and have intensive nightlife for younger ages!
But if you are looking for something else than teenagers to be wasted around the streets every night then there are some excellent choices as well.
Chania is an excellent choice as it has nice bars and clubs and elegant cocktail and wine bars!
Another good choice is Rethymno town, where you will find various and stylish bars and clubs, taverns and restaurants.
Finally, when we talk about Cretan nightlife, we cannot mention the traditional panigyria. Panigyria are traditional festivals organized during the summer months, where the main saint of an area is celebrated. If you find one whenever you go, try to visit it. It might not be for everyone because it has a strong Greek character and music but it would be perfect to get a “taste” from a traditional Cretan way of entertainment.
Best Hotel in Malia
6. Best places for hiking routes
For those that love hiking, I think Crete is a perfect place!
Also, Crete is famous for its gorges. My favourites are based particularly in the Chania area and are:
- Samaria Gorge, the largest gorge in Europe and it is an activity that I totally recommend!
- Gorge of Imbros. A relatively easy gorge, which can be nice e for families
- Agia Irini Gorge. A moderate in difficulty gorge that passes through beautiful scenery!
But also other municipalities in Crete have amazing gorges, such as
- Kourtaliotiko Gorge in the Rethymno area, which passes the Great River that ends at the beautiful lake of Preveli with the dreamy palm forest!
- The Gorge of Gafaris in Psiloritis (Heraklion municipality), which crosses the enchanting forest of Rouvas.
- Richtis Gorge is located on the north side of the Prefecture of Lassithi, between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia and it is one of my favourites in that area!
Note that at the end of the article, I will include a map, so you will know where all the mentioned gorges and other places are based!!
For those more experienced, I would highlight that the E4 European path ( which starts in Portugal, continues through Europe and ends in Crete) crosses all of Crete and ends on its eastern side! The E4 hiking trail in Crete starts from Elafonisi are in the west and ends in Kato Zakros on the east side (note that some parts of the trail may be bad signed or be closed, ie. by stones that have been swept away by rain etc.)
Therefore, I recommend that before you start hiking in Crete, get a good hiking map and ask the locals about the current state of the hiking trails!
7. Best places for honeymooners
I thought to write a separate section about the best places for honeymooners in Crete and not include it in the above number 5, as in honeymoon many times you are looking for luxurious resorts and places where you can relax after all the pressure and fuss of the wedding!
So, the Agios Nikolaos read and Elounda would be my first recommendation as there you will find some of the most luxurious hotels in Greece with amazing facilities and services!
- Abaton Island Resort & Spa – Hersonissos
- Daios Cove Luxury Resort & Villas – Agios Nikolaos
- Minos Beach Art Hotel – Agios Nikolaos
- Minos Palace Hotel & Suites – Adults Only – Agios Nikolaos
- Elounda Beach Hotel & Villas, a Member of the Leading Hotels of the World – Elounda
- Domes of Elounda, Autograph Collection – Elounda
- Amirandes, Grecotel Exclusive Resort – Gouves
- Serenissima Boutique Hotel – Chania Town
- Villa Kerasia – Kerasia, Vlakhianá
8. Best places for watersports
Chania Region: The Gulf of Souda and the rocky shores from Kalyves to Georgioupolis are home to dozens of impressive diving spots with dozens of caves and rocky abysses.
Lasithi Region: The Agios Nikolaos area the island of Agios Pantos, Voulisma and the wild shores of Cape Sidero (which I think is one of the more interesting seabeds in Crete) are the main places for diving!
The best places for kitesurfing in Crete would be Elafonisi, Kedrodasos in Chania region, Kouremenos in Palekastro Sitia, and Ammoudara in Heraklion.
Admittedly, the best place for windsurfing in Crete would be Kouremenos in Sitia! Here you will find strong winds and easy access to equipment. Other places would be the Tenda beach in Cape Sidero, the Hersonissos area, and the west side like Falasarna, Kedrodassos, Elafonisi and Stavros beach.
9. Best places to enjoy amazing beaches
Chania region has the best beaches in the island like Falasarna, Balos, Elafoni and Kedrodasos.
But amazing beaches you can find in Vai (Lasithi area), Preveli (Rethymno regional unit), Voulisma Beach (Agios Nikolaos), Ammoudara Beach (Heraklion beach)!
10. Best places for those that have visited Crete many times!
If you have visited Crete a few times and you have already been to the most touristy places, then don’t worry there are still places that need to be discovered!
- Sitia area in general is much less known.
- South of Crete is a place that fewer tourists visit it and it has some amazing gems!
- The well known – hippies of the ’70s – Matala is a must-visit. Near Matala is the famous Phaistos, the second biggest Minoan Palace in Crete, and don’t forget to visit the calm and peaceful Odigitria Monastery.
- Also, in south Crete, there is Paliochora, Loutro, Sfakia and Plakias beach in Chania Region.
- The palace of Zakros is the smallest and probably the most unrecognized of the Minoan palaces found in Crete. It is located in Lassithi, and you can combine the sightseeing in the ruins of the palaces with the hiking of the gorge of Zakros!
- Gavdos is a terrific island and very special as it is one of the most famous destinations for free camping! And it has an energy that you won’t meet on any other Greek island!
Here is the map with all the above-mentioned places!
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