Crete Travel Guide for 2024

Written by James
 Last updated: February 11, 2024

Cities, towns & villages in Crete

Heraklion

Agia Marina

Agios Nikolaos

Agioi Apostoloi

Almyrida

Amoudara

Analipsi

A Travel Guide to Crete, Greece

Situated in the Mediterranean Sea, Crete is an incredibly beautiful, culturally vibrant and historically rich island and a great place to explore on holiday. 

With its dazzling coastlines, picturesque towns, ancient ruins and love of music and dance, the largest of the Greek islands has something for all travellers. 

You won't be disappointed if you're looking for simple beach holidays, sightseeing tours, active outdoor adventures or cultural experiences.

Our last trip to Crete was during October 2022, during some of the worst storms the island had seen in 40 years. While we experienced flooding, high winds and plenty of rain, on the average year you'll see almost perfect weather year-round.

A Short History of Crete:

Crete is the birthplace of the Minoan culture, one of the oldest advanced civilizations in the world, which dates back to 2700 BC. 

Home to the ancient Minoan palaces of Knossos and Phaistos, several other classical sites, and the mighty Lasithi Plateau, Crete is a place of substantial historical interest. During the Second World War, Crete was the site of significant battles between German forces and Allied troops from 1941 to 1945.

Where to Go:

Heraklion:

The capital of the island and its largest city, Heraklion, is a great spot to visit and feel the heart of Crete. Explore the vibrant nightlife, old Venetian harbour, and bustling markets and eateries.

Heraklion offers a modern city vibe on an otherwise relaxed island of beaches and ancient ruins. We love the Heraklion Archaeology Museum for its artefacts and detailed depiction of ancient life on the island, and the fortress paints a picture of how the Venetians protected their lands from invaders.

The central market is a shopping street of (mostly) reasonably-priced goods from local traders, and is one not to miss. While you're there, check out Lukumades Me Meli for traditional Greek doughnuts with a variety of toppings.

Elafonisi Beach: Famed for its pink sand and surrounded by palm trees, Elafonisi Beach is the quintessential Greek beach. Enjoy stunning views from the sea and across the lagoon, or relax and sunbathe with a piña colada.

Samaria Gorge: This world-renowned gorge is 18 kilometres long and one of the most spectacular places in Crete. Walk to the end to enjoy breathtaking views and a cooling dip in the Aegean Sea.

Knossos Palace: 

This incredible Minoan Palace, one of Europe's most impressive archaeological sites, dates to 2000 BC and is a must-visit for history and archaeology lovers.

A tour guide is a must here, as wondering around on your own you'll miss out on the expertise of a local historian and you'll leave unfulfilled.

Here you'll see how oil, food and wine were stored, and learn how advanced this civilisation was, with the earliest known examples of underground plumbing to bring in fresh water and remove wastewater. But, as mentioned, you won't know any of this without a guide, so we can't stress enough how valuable it will be to book a guided tour.

Cretaquarium: 

If you're travelling with kids (or just curious yourself), visit the Cretaquarium. With waters that host some of the rarest species and fascinating interactive exhibits, it will be a day to remember.

This aquarium was very popular on the day we visited, with two schools of children and teachers joining us. However, kids move quickly so if you can hang back and take a leisurely pace, you'll be able to enjoy the sea life in peace.

What to do:

Watersports: Crete is a mecca for watersport enthusiasts. From diving, sailing and boating to surfing, windsurfing and yachting, there's something for everyone!

Horse riding: Explore Crete on horseback and take in the stunning scenery from a different perspective. Many places offer packages and tailored explorers for all abilities.

Hiking and trekking: Crete is a nature lover's paradise with many incredible walking trails. The Samaria Gorge trek is particularly awe-inspiring.

Food and wine tours: With vibrant food and wine culture, taste some regional speciality food and wines with a guided tour. Learn the secrets of local Greek cooking.

Island hopping: Explore the Cyclades islands' unique cultures and stunning beaches. Take a boat tour from Santorini to Mykonos to Antiparos to Milos and experience a little slice of Greek paradise.

Flights to Crete

Where to Stay

Arolithos Traditional Cretan Village - This 4-star hotel is in the mountains, offering a unique experience of traditional Cretan life. It features an outdoor pool, a restaurant, and a bar/lounge. Guests have rated it 8.0 out of 10. The average cost per night is approximately £45. Book here

Galaxy Villas - This 4-star aparthotel is situated in the entertainment district, just 0.9 miles (1.4 km) from Star Beach Water Park. It offers a restaurant, a bar/lounge, and a poolside bar. Guests have rated it 8.4 out of 10. The average cost per night is around £55. Book here

Village Heights Resort - This 5-star aparthotel is located near the beach, 1.8 miles (3 km) from Crete Golf Club. It offers 3 restaurants, 2 outdoor pools, and an indoor pool. Guests have given it a fantastic rating of 9.2 out of 10. The average cost per night is approximately £60. Book here

Arolithos Traditional Cretan Village - This 4-star hotel is nestled in the mountains, offering a unique experience of traditional Cretan life. It features an outdoor pool, a restaurant, and a bar/lounge. Guests have rated it 8.0 out of 10. The average cost per night is approximately £45. Book here

Galaxy Villas - This 4-star aparthotel is situated in the entertainment district, just 0.9 miles (1.4 km) from Star Beach Water Park. It offers a restaurant, a bar/lounge, and a poolside bar. Guests have rated it 8.4 out of 10. The average cost per night is around £55. Book here

Local Foods to Try:

Dakos: A traditional Cretan dish, Dakos are dried rusks topped with shredded tomatoes, feta cheese, olives and herbs.

Dakosy salad: A regional salad of lettuce, tomatoes, olive oil, herbs, olives and feta cheese.

Apaki: A pork dish with vinegar, garlic and bay leaves.

Koulouri: Dough rings topped with sesame seeds, perfect with coffee or tea.

Kaltsounia: Cretan-style pizza pockets filled with cheese, herbs and spices.

Souvenirs to Buy:

Olive Oil soap: A traditional Cretan speciality, other than being delicious, it also is free of chemicals and preservatives. If you're on the lookout for olive oil soap, we recommend to steer clear of any that are advertised with English writing in multi-packs on "offer", as these are commonly on show just for tourists and often low quality. Instead, find a reputable pharmacy or health store, head inside, and find soaps with Greek writing on the packet.

Handmade ceramics: Choose from a vast range of hand-painted ceramics, from traditional vases, plates and cups to intricate figurines. Many of the ceramics you'll find in highstreet stores in popular tourist locations sell cheap replicas of ancient works. While there's no issue in buying those, they may not be the best quality, and you can find higher quality ceramics in pottery studios further out.

Sculptures and carvings: From wooden figures to marble statues, there's no shortage of tiny sculptures and carvings to adorn your home.

Jewellery: Unique gold, silver, and shell jewellery make for a stunning gift, and Crete certainly has some beautiful designs.

Wines: Treat yourself to a bottle of locally produced wines. They come in a wide range of styles and flavours.

Is Crete Expensive?

Overall, Crete is a reasonably affordable destination. In resorts like Elafonisi and Rethymnon, prices tend to be slightly higher. However, there are still plenty of reasonably priced places to stay.

Plenty of budget-friendly eateries serve delicious food, and accommodations like Heraklion and Chania offer value for money.

Crete is the most touristic island in Greece so you are more likely to find tourist prices than anywhere else, but in our experience it is not significantly more expensive than smaller islands such as Rhodes.

Helpful Recommendations:

Hire a car: Our experience of Crete showed that their public transport system is severely underfunded during the peak season. On several occasions we had to wait over an hour for a bus to arrive despite the timetables showing they stop every 20 minutes. Taxis can also be quite expensive if you're travelling between cities.

The roads are relatively easy to navigate and you won't experience the craziness of driving on islands such as Malta, so driving on Crete is a great option for convenience.

Embrace the Greek spirit: Greeks are known to be warm and welcoming, so why not embrace the energy and get friendly with locals. Many will happily share their stories and culture with curious travellers.

Stay up late: Sweat it out in some of the local bars and taverns; the nightlife of the Greek islands is wonderfully memorable. From taverns to nightclubs, find some music and keep the night alive.

Pack good shoes: Crete requires much walking from rural paths to archaeological sites. Make sure you're comfy and ready to explore with a good pair of shoes.

Try an organised tour: As busy as the locals can get, an organised tour (whether food, historical or sightseeing) can make your experience more magical.

Don't over-plan: The best approach is to wander and explore without a pre-meditated plan. The islands are full of surprises; don't hesitate to get off the beaten track.

Crete Weather

Crete has a Mediterranean climate and is blessed with 300 days of sunshine yearly. The mild winters, hot summers and blooming flowers make it a great destination all year round. The sunniest months are July and August, while the warmest months are also July and August, making them ideal for swimming. The rainiest months are January, February, November, and December.

JAN

12.8°C / 55°F

7 days rain

FEB

13.6°C / 56°F

7 days rain

MAR

15.6°C / 60°F

6 days rain

APR

18.9°C / 66°F

4 days rain

MAY

23.5°C / 74°F

2 days rain

JUN

28.2°C / 83°F

0 days rain

JUL

29.8°C / 86°F

0 days rain

AUG

29.9°C / 86°F

0 days rain

SEP

27.5°C / 82°F

1 days rain

OCT

23.2°C / 74°F

4 days rain

NOV

18.8°C / 66°F

6 days rain

DEC

14.8°C / 59°F

6 days rain

Best time to visit Crete

The best time to visit Crete is during the late spring or early autumn, specifically May, June, September, and October. Spring in particular is a charming time to visit when the island is awash with colour and perfect temperatures.

During these months, the weather is warm but not excessively hot, perfect for exploring the island's beaches, ancient ruins, and charming villages. The sea temperatures are also comfortable for swimming. Avoid the winter months if you prefer to stay dry, as they tend to be the rainiest.

Samos
Argostoli
Lassi
Tigaki
Kassandra
Macedonia
Halkidiki
Malta
Heraklion
Athens
Attica
Lesbos