Mykonos, Santorini, Panos, Naxos – all of these Greek islands are beautiful but a journey to Crete, Greece is truly rewarding. Keeping aside the fact that Crete is the largest of all the islands in Greece, there are other plenty of reasons why Crete, Greece is a must-visit for all the people with a keen thirst for traveling. Beach vacation, a roller coaster ride of adventure, fun, and frolic amidst mountains, caves, and picture-perfect natural beauty – whatever be your preference, this Romantic island ticks off all the boxes. Planning to visit this island with unparalleled beauty? Here is a checklist of all the best places to visit while you are in this mesmerizing and most versatile Greek island.
Crete is a pretty big piece of land and it is impossible to cover up the whole island within a span of a couple of days. You need at least a week to visit with all the amazing destinations and attractions Crete, Greece has to offer. Being the center of Europe’s first advanced civilization, Crete also holds a strong place in the history of Greece. The Palace of Knossos and Gortyna are among the top archaeological sites and the island also has some pristine mountain villages and coastal towns at display. The cliff-rimmed southern coast, the Ideon Cave (the birthplace of Zeus), and the White Mountains – unfold everything that this bewitching island has to offer. Okay, now without making this intro anymore longer, let’s dig into the top attractions of Crete, Greece and let’s set a bucket list.
Most Beautiful Places To Visit In Crete, Greece:
#1 Palace Of Knossos:
It is undeniably the most visited tourist attraction in Crete. The Capital of Minoan Crete, Knossos is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and is also famed as the oldest city in Europe.
Locating just South of Heraklion, the palace is built on an area of about 150,000 sq feet. According to many archaeological evidences, the Palace of Knossos was the largest of all the Crete palaces and it was pretty unique in the construction style and shape. The stunning frescoes, the Throne room, the baths, the courtyards – all of them are extremely eye-pleasing. Take a guided tour inside the palace that will take you back to the 3500-year-old Greek history and you will be all drenched in artistic grandeur, archaeological splendor, and the technique of marvelous water-management systems.
After you are done with the palace tour, take out some time to explore the Heraklion city and do not miss out on the Famous Heraklion Archaeological Museum.
#2 Explore The white Mountains:
The White Mountains or Lefka Ori locates in Western Crete. The range gets its name as the White Mountains because of its white appearance throughout the year. In summers, the reflection of the sun makes the limestone peaks powdery white in color and until late spring, the summits remain snow-covered.
Lefka Ori is also the largest mountain range in Crete with over 30 peaks over 2000 m height, Pachnes, being the highest (2,453 m). It is also the second-highest peak in the entire Crete only next to Mount Ida.
Other dramatic features of this massive mountain range include gorges, waterfalls, and a number of plateaus. Hike through the gorge trails, enjoy the panoramic view of the Chania’s town and a visit to the White Mountain is going to be a unique experience while you are in Crete, Greece.
#3 The Old Town Of Rethymnon:
One among the best-preserved towns of the Renaissance, the Old Town of Rethymnon will give you that laidback, romantic, nostalgic chirm that Chania and Heraklion lack in. you will see a true blend of Turkish and Venetian architecture in the buildings and a slow stroll through the alleys of the Old Town promises you to offer a soulful journey back to the past.
When in the town, go visit the Venetian Fortezza fortress, the harbor, the very famous lighthouse that was built by the Turks in the 7th century, and many more.
This third largest town in Crete also houses some of the most magnificent beaches. Head to the beaches of Skinaria, Ammoudi, Damnoni for the best ever exotic beach experience.
Stroll around the city, enjoy a beautiful sunset and hit the cafes and restaurants to enjoy quality time with your loved one.
If we have to pick only one place that you must visit in Crete, Greece; Elafonissi would be the place. It is a small island locating near the southwestern corner of the Crete bestowed with surreal natural beauty. A protected nature reserve, Elafonissi is all famous for its picturesque pink sand beach, unexplored coves, and clear water.
When you are done enjoying the vast beach, sun, and surf; head to the Chrysoskalitissa monastery to complete your visit.
#5 Balos Beach & Lagoon:
A full day trip to Balos Beach will enrich your whole Crete, Greece travel experience. There are three main exciting features you will get to see here – the Balos Lagoon, a beautiful islet called Cape Tigani, and Balos Beach. If you have loved the Elafonissi beach, you would probably love the Balos Beach trip too.
You can opt for a full day ferry tour starting from any of these points: Kissamos, Heraklion or Rethymnon. The trip continues up to 10 hours, sometimes up to even 12 hours where you would get a minimum of 3 hours to spend at the idyllic beach of Balos. Enjoy the beauty of the coves filled with azure water and get lost in the serenity of the feather-soft beach and heavenly surroundings.
#6 Mount Ida:
It is the highest peak of the island and is considered as a sacred mountain. It is in a cave that lies on the slope of Mount Ida, where Zeus was born (according to old belief). A tedious three hours hike will take you up to the top of this holy mountain in Minoan Crete. There are 4 to 5 different trekking routes to reach the summit from where you get magnificent views of the surrounding. In the north, you will see Heraklion and the Aegean Sea. Lefka Ori would be to your west and a portion of the Libyan Sea can be seen to the south.
If you opt for the route from Heraklion, you will get the Ida Cave on your way where Zeus was born according to mythology. Be equipped with a good amount of water, hat, sunscreen, good hiking boots, etc and you can even spend a night at the summit. As the temperature goes down extremely low in the night coupled with strong chilled wind, you are recommended to bring sweaters and necessary stuff for the night stay.
#7 Áyios Nikólaos:
A beautiful coastal town, locating to the east of the capital Heraklion, Áyios Nikólaos is a must-visit when you are in Crete, Greece. Pretty beaches, modern resorts, charming waterfront with happening cafes and restaurants – Áyios Nikólaos is such a pleasure to the eyes. Have a stroll along the waterfronts of Lake Voulismeni or set a trip to the nearby Diktean Cave to witness some stalactite and stalagmite features.
You must taste some seafood when in Áyios Nikólaos and the beach at Kitroplatia must be on your wishlist but for its one of its kind town settlement centering the sea. Walk along the stone-carved walkway and admire the spectacular views of the bay of Mirabello.
Shopping is mandatory in this town. Shop local goods, china wear, home décor items, crockeries, foodstuff – the options are endless. Visit the marina, stay in one of the posh hotels of Elounda – your vacation will be all fragrant with ever-lasting sweet memories.
#8 Samaria Gorge:
In the White Mountains, there is another stunning trekking route that ends at a black-sand beach in Agia Roumelli. Well, Samaria Gorge trek requires effort and it is certainly not a walk on the rose petal. But as you trek through the dense ancient forest, the marvelous cliff sides and the narrow to narrower parts of the gorge – the wild beauty is sure to overwhelm you.
It is also a National Park and a World’s Biosphere Reserve that is home to the rare Kri-Kri goat species. Trees like Cyprus, pine are abundant and you must be physically fit to complete the 16 km long downhill trek. It usually takes five to seven hours to reach the endpoint from where you can get a ferry to reach Hora Sfakion. Avoid summer months as the trek can get more strenuous during that time.
It is not very often that you get the rare chance of relaxing in turquoise water with a picturesque island lying just in front you that is also a National Monument. Spinalonga embraces the true timeless flavor of the Greek antiquity dipped in the beauty of nature and grand architectural aesthetics.
Once a part of the mainland Crete, it was carved out of the coast to serve as a Venetian fortress. Locating in the gulf of Elounda opposite to Plaka, Spinalonga was of great importance for its strategic location.
Getting to this island is pretty easy as there are boats available from Áyios Nikólaos, Plaka village, and Elounda at a very reasonable price. once you reach the island, buy a ticket and then either opt for a guided walking tour or just roam around on your own.
The lonely streets, the beautiful Venetian construction, the shabby edifices where the lepers had stayed during their exile – you will get goosebumps walking down the streets. There is a graveyard, a museum which are worth exploring. And when done with all the sightseeing, head to the café near to the dock to fill yourself up with tasty drinks and amazing seafood.
#10 The Old Town of Chania:
Probably the most photographed destination in the entire Crete, Greece, the Old Town of Chania is a place that resembles your dream. Wonderful architecture, bustling cafes, and the beautiful backdrop of the White Mountains; these are the elements that define the Old Town of Chania. All the old buildings in this romantic town having fortification by the age-old defensive walls are now either hotels, cafes or beautiful pastel-colored houses. Explore the town on your foot and do not miss shopping at the Market Hall. It is a historical market where you will find everything from local foods to crafts to buyable souvenirs at a bargain deal.
Best Time To Visit Crete, Greece:
Crete is a year-round destination. If you are planning to spend your days there like a water-baby then summer months between late May and early October will be the most suitable time.
If you are up to bargain deals on food, accommodation then early June or late September, and early October will be the ideal months for you. Stay in the Old Towns and travel in the AC buses to cut down expenses.
Late October to April is the winter season in Crete. It is the ideal time for surfing as the wind is not as strong as in the summer months. If the festivity of Christmas and the glitz and glamour of Crete’s Christmas isn’t enough to woo you, the cheapest deal on hotels and food will surely convince you to head to Crete, Greece during the Winter.