7 Tips on what to visit on the island of Crete

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Which place first comes to your mind when someone says Greece? Crete? It would make sense; according to legends, the island of Crete is the birthplace of Zeus, the ruler of the Greek pantheon. But that’s certainly not the only reason to visit the island. We have put together 7 tips for you on what trips to take on Crete.

A jewel in the Aegean Sea, the island of Crete ranks among the largest and most renowned Greek islands. This stunning destination is famous not only for its rich history but also for its breathtaking natural beauty, beautiful beaches, and captivating culture. But which part of Crete is the most beautiful? Let’s take a look at some tips to help you find an unforgettable piece of paradise on this beautiful island, the cradle of the gods.

Weather in Crete

If you’re considering a vacation on Crete, before delving into specific fantastic destinations, acquaint yourself with the local climate. It’s typically Mediterranean, and the island of Crete is among the warmest places in Greece and, consequently, all of Europe. In general, the eastern part of Crete is drier, while the western part is greener with lower temperatures and more precipitation. The north is separated from the south by a high mountain range, which results in different weather conditions on the north and south sides even during the same season. The northern part of Crete is on average 3°C cooler, but the water is slightly warmer than in the south.

Summers on the island of Crete are very dry and hot, with maximum temperatures ranging from 35–40°C during the day and 25–30°C at night (making the southern half of the island even warmer). You can forget about any precipitation during the summer period, and if the local northern wind, known as Meltemi (or Etesian), is not blowing, it can become quite unbearable due to the intense heat.

Winters are mild on the island, with the lowest temperatures not dropping below 10°C. Snow can occasionally fall in the mountainous areas (the highest peak on the island, Mount Psiloritis, reaches 2,456 meters). In the lowlands, you may encounter mostly rain, but throughout the year, the total annual precipitation in these areas doesn’t exceed 500 mm.

The ideal season for a vacation on Crete appears to be autumn – the mildest of all the seasons on the island. Temperatures are higher than in spring but not as extreme as in summer. The sun still shines for quite a long time in the fall. You might encounter occasional rains in the latter half of October, but it’s much more likely to experience them during November.

Tours in Crete

If you’ve decided in which season, you’d most enjoy your vacation on Crete, you can now embark on a taste of our favorite Cretan destinations.

Chania: Venice of Crete

The second-largest city of Crete, Chania, located on the western coast, is like something out of a fairy tale. It was built by the Venetians in the 14th century. If you’re on Crete to explore historical sites, this is the ideal place: ancient streets, historic buildings, three-kilometer-long walls with the stone fortress of Firkas, and a beautiful harbor – all create a picturesque backdrop for your strolls and discoveries. A visit to Chania is like stepping back in time with the opportunity to savor traditional Cretan cuisine at open-air restaurants.

Tip: Try the local specialty Dakos, a traditional Cretan appetizer and a variation of the famous Italian bruschetta Caprese. It consists of Paximadi bread with fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, fresh oregano, and olives drizzled with, of course, olive oil.

Rethymno: a combination of History and Beautiful Beaches

Rethymno is a city that combines Crete’s historical and cultural heritage with beautiful beaches. The ancient fortress, narrow streets full of boutiques and cafes, as well as an extensive sandy beach, create a unique atmosphere, and it also boasts a Venetian-style harbor. The Four Witnesses Church is also worth a visit. Don’t miss the traditional villages in the surrounding area, which showcase the authentic face of the Cretan countryside.

Heraklion: Gateway to Minoan History

Crete’s capital, Heraklion, serves as a gateway to Minoan history. The city is modern, and vibrant, and offers great shopping and dining opportunities. Popular tourist destinations include the Koules Fortress and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. In fact, for lovers of archaeology and history, Heraklion is a clear destination – in its immediate vicinity lies the Palace of Knossos, one of Crete’s most important landmarks.

It’s an almost 4,000-year-old site that is tied to the most famous myths and legends. Among the most well-known is the myth of the Minotaur, a creature with a body that is half-human and half-bull. Right here is where the famous Minotaur’s Labyrinth was located, and it’s also where the infamous fate of Icarus came to a head when he tried to escape on his wings and ascended too high.

Elafonisi: the unique Pink Beach of Crete Island

Elafonisi Beach, located on the southwestern coast of Crete, is known for its magically appearing pink sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters. This place is ideal for beach relaxation, exploring the surrounding nature, and swimming in the freshwater. Elafonisi Beach has ranked 24th in the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards.

Tip: In this case, it’s more of a warning – it’s strictly prohibited to collect and export the locally pink-colored sand from the country.

Caribbean paradise on Crete

Balos is a beautiful lagoon on the northwestern coast of Crete. This place looks like a piece of the Caribbean transferred into the Mediterranean Sea – with its white sand, turquoise water, and steep cliffs all around. The best way to reach Balos is by taking a boat trip. More adventurous visitors can opt for a trek across the Gramvousa mountain.

Samaria: the longest European gorge

The island of Crete isn’t just about ancient sites and beautiful beaches. As we mentioned in the introduction when discussing the weather in Crete, there are also relatively high mountains here. However, we recommend a significantly lower-lying place, Smari, to you. It’s a vanished village where only a few houses remain today, but it’s also the namesake of a national park, featuring a magical 16-kilometer-long rocky gorge, the longest in all of Europe.

Other Places you Definitely Shouldn’t miss on Crete

If we were to thoroughly list all the places you should not miss during your vacation in Crete, it would be a very long list. Therefore, here are just a few more “telegraphic” tips:

  • Agios Nikolaos: a tourist center in the eastern part of the island of Crete.
  • Spinalonga: an island fortress that formerly protected the port of Elounda.
  • Kournas: a fairytale freshwater lake and, at the same time, another protected landscape area.
  • Vai: the only palm beach found on the island of Crete.
  • erapetra: the largest settlement on the southern coast of the island.
  • Agia Marina, Platanias: the most famous tourist area with good amenities.

Crete – a vacation with experiences for a lifetime

Crete presents a fairytale world full of beauty, history, and adventure. Whether you choose the picturesque atmosphere of Chania, the historical riches of Heraklion, or unique beaches like Elafonisi and Balos, you will be amazed by the natural and architectural beauty.

No matter which part of Crete you select, one thing is certain: unforgettable experiences await you, memories that will last a lifetime. Prepare for a vacation filled with sun, sea, and culture.

Steffy Alen

Steffy Alen