Greece > Crete Travel Guide

Updated: Mar 2023 | By George the traveler

Crete is the largest and most populous island in Greece, located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea. Known for its rich history and diverse culture, Crete has been inhabited for thousands of years and was the birthplace of the Minoan civilization, one of the most important ancient cultures in Europe.

The island is home to stunning natural beauty, from rugged mountains to pristine beaches, and offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors, including hiking, water sports, archaeological sites, and traditional cuisine. With a warm climate, welcoming locals, and a fascinating history, Crete is a popular destination for tourists from around the world.

2023 Crete Travel Guide

  • Things to Do
  • Best Museums
  • Best hotels
Crete Hotels
Crete Trip Planning
Crete Attractions and Activities
  • Acropolis tickets
  • Best museums
  • Best archeological sites
  • Best beaches

Tips and Advice about Crete

Where Crete is Located

Crete is a large island located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, south of the Greek mainland. It is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean and the largest of the Greek islands.

Crete is approximately 260 kilometers long and 60 kilometers wide, with a total area of around 8,300 square kilometers. Its coastline is over 1,000 kilometers long, making it a popular destination for beach lovers. Crete is situated at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and has been a strategic location throughout history.

The island has been inhabited for over 9,000 years and has a rich cultural heritage, with influences from Minoan, Greek, Roman, Venetian, Ottoman, and modern Greek cultures. Today, Crete is a popular tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors each year with its beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes, and rich cultural heritage.

Crete is located at the southernmost part of Greece, in the Aegean Sea. It is approximately 160 kilometers south of the Greek mainland and is bordered by the Libyan Sea to the south and the Cretan Sea to the north. Crete is also situated between the Greek islands of Kythira and Karpathos, and is closer to the African continent than it is to the European mainland. The island has a mountainous terrain, with the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) being the highest peak, reaching an altitude of 2,454 meters.

Crete has a mild Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and mild winters, making it an ideal destination for those seeking sunshine and warmth. The island’s location has played an important role in its history, as it has been a strategic point for trade, culture, and war throughout the ages.

What is the best month to go to Crete?

Crete is an amazing island in Greece, known for its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and beautiful landscapes. The best month to visit Crete largely depends on what you want to do during your vacation.

Generally, the summer months from June to August are the most popular, but also the busiest and most expensive. If you prefer less crowded beaches and comfortable weather, it’s best to visit Crete in May or September when the temperatures are warm, but not scorching, and the island is not as crowded.

May is a great time to visit Crete as the island is in full bloom, and the weather is warm and comfortable. The sea is also perfect for swimming and watersports, making it a great time to explore the beaches.

The prices are also relatively lower, and the island is less crowded, so you can enjoy a more peaceful vacation. September is another excellent month to visit Crete when the temperatures start to cool off, and the crowds start to dissipate.

The sea is still warm, and the weather is perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and exploring the ancient ruins and historical sites that Crete is known for.

What is Crete famous for?

Crete is an island located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and is the largest island in Greece. It has a rich history and is famous for its stunning beaches, unique culture, and delicious cuisine.

The island is known for being the birthplace of the Minoan civilization, which is considered to be one of the most advanced and sophisticated civilizations of the ancient world. Visitors can explore the ruins of the Minoan Palace of Knossos, which is a fascinating archaeological site and one of the top attractions in Crete.

Crete is also famous for its beautiful beaches, such as Elafonisi and Balos, which are considered to be some of the most beautiful in the world. Visitors can enjoy swimming in the crystal-clear waters, relaxing on the golden sand, or taking part in water sports activities like snorkeling and windsurfing.

Aside from its fascinating history and beautiful beaches, Crete is also famous for its delicious cuisine. The island’s cuisine is known for its use of fresh, local ingredients, including olive oil, herbs, and seafood.

Traditional Cretan dishes include dakos, a salad made with tomatoes and feta cheese on barley rusk, and gamopilafo, a rice dish cooked with meat and broth. The island is also famous for its cheese, including graviera, a hard cheese made from sheep’s milk, and myzithra, a soft, creamy cheese.

Visitors can sample these delicious dishes at local tavernas and restaurants or take part in cooking classes to learn how to make them themselves.

How long should I spend in Crete?

Deciding how long to spend in Crete depends on your travel goals and preferences. Crete is the largest island in Greece, and it offers a plethora of activities, sights, and experiences. If you want to explore the island in-depth, and immerse yourself in its history, culture, and natural beauty, then you should plan to stay for at least a week or more.

This will give you enough time to visit the main attractions, such as the Palace of Knossos, the Samaria Gorge, the Venetian Harbor of Chania, and the Elafonisi Beach. You can also venture off the beaten path, and discover hidden gems, such as traditional villages, secluded coves, and local tavernas.

Moreover, Crete has a rich gastronomic scene, with a variety of fresh and flavorful dishes, and you can savor it by taking cooking classes, food tours, or simply by indulging in the local cuisine.

On the other hand, if you have limited time or budget, you can still enjoy Crete, albeit with some compromises. A minimum of three to four days is recommended to get a glimpse of the island’s highlights and get a feel of its vibe.

You can focus on one or two regions, such as Heraklion and Rethymnon, or Chania and Balos Beach, and make the most of your time. You can also prioritize your interests, whether it’s history, nature, or leisure, and plan accordingly.

Keep in mind, however, that Crete has a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, and rushing through it might defeat the purpose of visiting. Therefore, it’s best to balance your itinerary with some free time, to wander around, and enjoy the moment.

Crete landmarks

Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, with a rich history dating back to ancient times. As a result, there are a number of impressive landmarks and historic sites to visit throughout the island.

One of the most iconic landmarks in Crete is the Palace of Knossos, located just outside the city of Heraklion. This Bronze Age site was the political and cultural center of the Minoan civilization and is said to be the mythical Labyrinth of King Minos.

Visitors can explore the palace’s many rooms, courtyards, and frescoes, and learn about the fascinating history of the Minoans and their advanced civilization.

Another landmark worth visiting in Crete is the Venetian Fortress of Rethymno. Built in the 16th century by the Venetians, this impressive fortress dominates the skyline of Rethymno and is a testament to the island’s long and complex history of occupation and conquest.

Visitors can climb the fortress walls for stunning views of the surrounding city and sea, and explore the labyrinthine tunnels and chambers that once housed soldiers and prisoners.

The fortress also houses the Historical and Folklore Museum of Rethymno, which offers a glimpse into the island’s traditional way of life through exhibits of clothing, tools, and household items from the past.

Art and culture in Crete

Crete is an island that has been inhabited for thousands of years, and its rich history has left an indelible mark on its art and culture. From the Minoan civilization to the Byzantine era and beyond, Crete has been home to a diverse array of artistic and cultural expressions that continue to inspire and intrigue people today.

One of the most famous examples of Cretan art is the Minoan frescoes that were discovered in the palace of Knossos. These vividly colored paintings depict scenes of everyday life, as well as mythological creatures and figures. They are a testament to the sophistication of Minoan art and culture, which thrived over 4,000 years ago.

In addition to its ancient heritage, Crete has a vibrant contemporary art scene that reflects the island’s unique cultural mix of east and west. Traditional Cretan music, dance, and festivals continue to be an important part of the island’s cultural identity, while contemporary art galleries and museums showcase the work of local and international artists.

The island’s natural beauty, with its rugged mountains, crystal-clear waters, and fertile valleys, has also inspired generations of painters, photographers, and sculptors. Overall, Crete’s art and culture are a reflection of its long and complex history, as well as its ongoing creativity and innovation.

Food and drink in Crete

Crete is an island located in the Mediterranean Sea and is the largest island in Greece. It is known for its beautiful beaches, ancient ruins, and unique cuisine.

The Cretan diet is considered to be one of the healthiest in the world, and it is based on fresh, locally sourced ingredients such as vegetables, herbs, and olive oil. Cretan cuisine is also heavily influenced by the island’s history, which has been shaped by many different cultures and civilizations.

One of the most famous dishes in Crete is dakos, a traditional salad made with barley rusk, fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, and olive oil. Other popular dishes include lamb with stamnagathi (a wild green), snails cooked in tomato sauce, and kalitsounia, a type of cheese pie.

In addition to the delicious food, Crete is also famous for its drinks, especially wine and raki. Cretan wine is made from indigenous grape varieties and has a unique flavor that is influenced by the island’s terroir.

Some of the most popular Cretan wines include Vidiano, Vilana, and Kotsifali. Raki, on the other hand, is a traditional Cretan spirit that is made from distilled grapes.

It is often served as an aperitif or after-dinner drink and is a popular choice among locals and tourists alike. Whether you are looking for a traditional Cretan meal or a glass of local wine or raki, the island of Crete has something to offer every food and drink lover.

Nightlife in Crete

Crete is the largest island in Greece and offers a vibrant nightlife scene for tourists and locals alike. The island boasts numerous nightclubs, bars, and music venues that cater to all tastes and preferences.

The capital city of Heraklion is known for its energetic nightlife, with many bars and clubs staying open until the early hours of the morning. The waterfront area is particularly popular, with trendy bars and restaurants lining the shore, offering stunning views of the sea.

For those looking for a more laid-back atmosphere, the old town area offers cozy tavernas and cafes, where visitors can relax and enjoy a drink or two.

In addition to Heraklion, other cities on the island such as Chania and Rethymnon also offer exciting nightlife experiences. Chania’s Venetian harbor is a hub of activity at night, with numerous bars and restaurants to choose from. Rethymnon’s old town area is another popular spot, with narrow, winding streets that lead to lively bars and clubs.

Overall, the nightlife in Crete is diverse and dynamic, offering something for everyone, whether you’re looking to dance the night away, enjoy a few drinks with friends, or simply soak up the lively atmosphere.

Is Crete safe?

Crete is generally a safe place for visitors. It is considered one of the safest destinations in Greece and has a low crime rate. However, like any other destination, it is still important to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings.

Petty theft and pickpocketing can occur in busy tourist areas, so it’s recommended to keep an eye on your belongings and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuables.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to use common sense and take basic safety precautions like not walking alone at night and avoiding deserted areas.

What is the best area to stay in Crete?

Crete is the largest island in Greece and a popular destination for travelers seeking beautiful beaches, rich history, and vibrant culture. When it comes to choosing the best area to stay in Crete, it largely depends on what you’re looking for in a vacation.

If you’re looking for a bustling city with a vibrant nightlife and plenty of shopping and dining options, then Heraklion might be the best choice for you. As the island’s capital, Heraklion is a hub of activity with plenty of attractions, including the Palace of Knossos, the Archaeological Museum, and the historic Venetian Walls.

If you prefer a more laid-back vacation with stunning beaches, then the area around Chania might be your best bet. Located on the western end of the island, Chania is home to some of the best beaches in Crete, including Elafonisi and Balos.

The old town of Chania is also a beautiful destination with plenty of shops, restaurants, and historic sites to explore. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach or soak up the local culture, Chania is an excellent choice for a peaceful vacation.

For those seeking a luxurious getaway with stunning views and high-end amenities, the area of Elounda might be the perfect spot. Located on the northeastern coast of the island, Elounda is known for its luxurious resorts, private villas, and serene beaches.

The area is also home to the historic island of Spinalonga, which served as a leper colony in the early 20th century and is now a popular tourist attraction.

With its stunning scenery, upscale accommodations, and rich history, Elounda is an excellent choice for those seeking a high-end vacation experience in Crete.

What are the best beaches in Crete?

Crete, the largest island in Greece, is well-known for its stunning beaches that attract millions of visitors every year. With its crystal-clear waters and picturesque landscapes, Crete has some of the best beaches in the world. Here are some of the top beaches in Crete:

  1. Elafonisi Beach: Located on the southwestern coast of Crete, Elafonisi Beach is a true paradise with its turquoise waters and pink sand. The beach is accessible by car and there are also frequent bus services. Elafonisi is perfect for families with children due to its shallow waters.Another top beach in Crete is Elafonisi, located on the southwestern coast of the island. Elafonisi is known for its stunning pink sand and crystal-clear waters, which make it a perfect destination for swimming and snorkeling. The beach is located on a small island that is connected to the mainland by a shallow lagoon, giving visitors the opportunity to explore the surrounding area. Elafonisi is easily accessible by car, and there are plenty of amenities such as restaurants and cafes nearby. However, due to its popularity, the beach can get crowded during peak season, so it’s best to visit early in the day or in the off-season.

  2. Balos Beach: Balos Beach, located on the northwestern coast of Crete, is another gem that is worth a visit. This beach is characterized by its turquoise lagoon and white sand. Visitors can reach the beach either by car or by boat. Balos Beach is ideal for couples seeking a romantic getaway.Crete, the largest island in Greece, is famous for its stunning beaches that attract tourists from all over the world. With crystal clear waters, golden sand, and breathtaking scenery, Crete’s beaches are a true paradise for beach lovers. One of the best beaches in Crete is Balos, located in the northwestern part of the island. Balos is a unique beach with turquoise waters and pink sand, surrounded by impressive cliffs. Visitors can access Balos either by boat from Kissamos or by car and then walking down a steep path. The beach is located in a protected area, so visitors are advised to be respectful of the environment.

  3. Vai Beach: Vai Beach, located on the eastern coast of Crete, is famous for its palm tree forest that surrounds the beach. The beach is accessible by car and there is also a bus service that runs from nearby towns. Vai Beach is perfect for those who want to enjoy a peaceful and secluded atmosphere.

In conclusion, Crete offers an incredible range of beaches that are sure to satisfy every visitor’s taste. Whether you’re seeking a family-friendly atmosphere, a romantic getaway, or a peaceful retreat, you’re sure to find a beach that fits your needs.

The weather in Crete

Crete, the largest island in Greece, boasts a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. The island is situated in the southern Aegean Sea and is known for its long stretches of sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and stunning landscapes.

The average temperature in Crete during the summer months is around 30°C (86°F) and can sometimes reach up to 35°C (95°F). The summer season usually lasts from May to October, with July and August being the hottest months. The coastal areas are generally cooler due to the sea breeze, while the inland areas can get quite hot and dry. Visitors can expect plenty of sunshine during their stay in Crete, with almost 300 days of sunshine annually.

During the winter months, the weather in Crete is mild and rainy, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F). The rainy season usually begins in October and lasts until March, with December and January being the wettest months.

However, even during the winter months, there are still plenty of sunny days to enjoy. The island’s rugged landscapes and picturesque villages are especially beautiful during the winter, making it a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers.

Overall, the weather in Crete is ideal for those who love warm weather and sunshine, with plenty of opportunities to explore the island’s stunning natural beauty throughout the year.

Events in Crete

Crete is a Greek island located in the eastern Mediterranean and is known for its rich history and stunning landscapes. The island is a popular destination for tourists from all over the world and is home to a wide range of events throughout the year.

One of the most popular events on Crete is the Matala Beach Festival, which takes place in late June. This event features live music, art exhibits, and street performances, as well as a range of food and drink vendors. The festival has a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, making it a great place to unwind and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Another popular event on Crete is the Rethymno Carnival, which takes place in February or March each year. This carnival is one of the largest in Greece and features a range of events, including parades, live music, and traditional dancing.

The carnival is a colorful and lively celebration that attracts visitors from all over the world. Visitors can also enjoy traditional Cretan food and drink during the carnival, as well as a range of other cultural events and activities.

Overall, the events in Crete are a great way to experience the island’s rich culture and history, as well as its beautiful natural landscapes.

What currency is used in Crete?

Crete is a Greek island located in the Mediterranean Sea, and as such, the official currency used in Crete is the Euro. Since Greece is a member of the European Union, it adopted the Euro as its national currency in 2002, replacing the previous currency, the Drachma.

Therefore, all transactions, purchases, and financial operations in Crete are conducted in Euros. Visitors to Crete can easily exchange their foreign currency at local banks, currency exchange offices, or ATMs, which are widely available throughout the island.

It’s important to note that while most businesses in Crete accept credit cards, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand, especially when visiting smaller towns and villages where cash is more commonly used. It’s also worth noting that some businesses in Crete may only accept cash, particularly in more rural areas.

Therefore, it’s recommended to have a mix of both Euros and credit/debit cards when visiting Crete to ensure you have a range of payment options available to you.

Other Factors to Consider

Crete is a popular destination for tourists due to its beautiful beaches, fascinating history, and unique culture. However, there are other factors to consider when planning a trip to Crete, such as the weather and time of year.

Crete has a Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and mild winters. The peak tourist season is from June to September when the weather is warm and sunny. However, this is also the busiest time of year, and prices for accommodations and activities can be higher.

If you prefer quieter and less crowded surroundings, consider visiting Crete during the shoulder season from April to May or October to November. During this time, the weather is still pleasant, and prices are lower. Keep in mind that some tourist attractions and businesses may have limited operating hours during the offseason.

Another factor to consider when visiting Crete is transportation. While there is a public transportation system on the island, it may not be as convenient as renting a car or hiring a driver. Driving in Crete can be challenging due to narrow and winding roads, so it is essential to be cautious and take your time.

If you prefer not to drive, hiring a driver or joining a tour can be a good option. Taxis are also available but can be expensive, so it’s a good idea to negotiate the fare before getting in. Another transportation consideration is the distance between destinations.

Crete is a large island, and it can take several hours to travel from one end to the other. It’s important to factor in travel time when planning your itinerary to make the most of your time on the island.

Crete travel guide overall

Crete is the largest and most populous island in Greece, located in the southern Aegean Sea. The island is renowned for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and beautiful beaches, making it a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.

Crete boasts a diverse range of attractions, including ancient ruins, picturesque towns, and impressive mountains, making it a perfect destination for both culture and nature lovers. The island also has a vibrant food scene, with a unique cuisine that blends traditional Greek flavors with Middle Eastern and North African influences.

Whether you’re interested in exploring the island’s rich history, relaxing on the beach, or indulging in its delicious food, Crete has something to offer for everyone.

As a travel destination, Crete is incredibly diverse and offers a wide range of activities and experiences for visitors. From hiking in the Samaria Gorge to exploring the Palace of Knossos, there are countless things to see and do on the island.

Crete also has a thriving nightlife scene, with lively bars and clubs that cater to all tastes and preferences. Whether you’re looking for a quiet, secluded beach or a bustling town with plenty of amenities, Crete has it all.

With its warm climate, stunning scenery, and rich cultural heritage, Crete is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to explore the beauty and history of Greece.