Things to do in Crete Greece

Check out things to do in Crete Greece during Summer! Here are the TOP places and attractions of the island! Read it carefully and enjoy your stay in Greece.

Doesn’t matter if you are going for a week or two, it’s always worth to make a plan for your trip and choose earlier things to do in Crete. How much do we want to relax on the beach and where? What we want to see? How do we want to move: by public transport (not recommended as it doesn’t reach every place) or rent a car? Or maybe you prefer excursions with travel agencies? In order not to waste time, it is worth to prepare to your holidays.

Read my other posts from Crete to prepare your amazing holidays:
1. My own Cretan cuisine experience
2. The most beautiful pink beach Elafonissi

Things to do in Crete: explore the cities of Rethymnon and Chania

Rethymnon and Chania are two of the most interesting cities on the island in terms of sights and history.

In Chania attention is drawn to the Old Town and the Venetian port, but the town itself is quite expensive (especially in peak season), although undoubtedly all the restaurants gathered around the marina tempt the tourists. It is worth coming here for sightseeing, but don’t stay for longer. Chania is located on the west of the island, so it is a good base to do some sightseeing in that part of island.

For the accommodation in Chania I can recommend Helena Hotel, which is located just near the marina. It’s a very nice family run hotel with a cosy charm! Click here for booking, rates and availability

things to do in crete
the Küçük Hassan mosque in Chania

I personally liked Rethymnon (Rethymno) much more with its narrow streets in the old town and the Venetian fortress. You can find there many places that serve fairly cheap (in comparison with Chania) and tasty food. And besides, in Rethymnon there is quite long sandy beach. Not the most beautiful (definitely there are more picturesque beaches in Crete), but it is easily available and convenient, if we want to stay here for longer. And the city itself is located in the central part of the island, allowing visiting both eastern and western parts of it.

things to do in crete
colourful street in Rethymnon

Learn the history: Spinalonga, Knossos and the ruins of other cities

My favorite place in Crete relating to its history is Spinalonga – reportedly the last leper colony in Europe. It was placed on the island, where the Venetians built a fortress cut off from the mainland. The perfect place to isolate sick people from the world. Today Spinalonga can of course be visited and I have to admit that the place has its own atmosphere and is able to awaken your imagination!

things to do in crete
the island of Spinalonga

By the way, I recommend a great and fairly cheap dinner in Amalthea in Agios Nikolaos (the largest city near Spinalonga), where we ate … snails cooked in Cretan way. Delicious! (We also tried that dish in Rethymno, but it was not as tasty). Generally Cretan cuisine is quite different from that of the Greek mainland, so I encourage you to try it!

things to do in crete

Another place in Crete, which is known to everyone who remembers lessons of history in school, are the ruins of the palace of Knossos (pronounce K-nossos). According to the mythology, it was the headquarter of the legendary King Minos, whose employed Daedalus (father of Icarus – you know the myth how they made wings of feathers and wax and fled from the island but Icarus flew to high and sun melted his wings, right?). He constructed the maze in which the Minotaur, half-man, half-bull was closed. Many scholars of mythology believe that this myth refers precisely to the palace of Knossos, because the palace complex counts so many corridors, passageways and floors that it could be easily called a maze. The ruins were discovered in the 19th century. And the famous archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans conducted in the 19th/20th century detailed excavation and reconstructed the part of the palace, which outraged the scientific community (before World War I such actions were highly controversial).

things to do in crete
in the palace of Knossos

If someone has not seen the ruins of ancient Rome, it is worthwhile to visit the ruins of the palace of Knossos. But if you did see the ancient Rome, don’t expect too much from Knossos. It is a place to visit, but not at any price.

Other ruins of Cretan cities that have experienced the glory days some 3,000 years ago and were destroyed by earthquakes, are also in the villages of Aptera, Phaistos and Gortyna.

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If you are not interested in history, and you don’t feel comfortable in the cities, fortunately Crete can offer plenty of places connected with nature and stunning landscapes.

Things to do in Crete: sunbathe on beaches Elafonisi, Balos

These are my favorite places in Crete. Not because I can just lie down and do nothing, but simply because of the beauty of landscapes. Balos is a turquoise lagoon, where you can laze all day without leaving the water, and to Elafonisi we walked along the trail, which hardly anyone knows. You have to be well prepared for this march, because the trail is quite demanding (we also slept on a wild beach on our way), but we liked more the trail, creeks and water colors, as well as the complete lack of tourists more than the Elafonisi beach, which supposed to be pink. I mean it is pink for sure, but this pink is a lot less than we expected.

things to do in crete
the Balos lagoon
things to do in crete
on our way to Elafonisi

Things to do in Crete: trek in the gorges Samaria and Imbros

Those who prefer spending time in more active way should go on a trek to the Samaria gorge and / or the Imbros gorge. Samaria is certainly the most famous ravine as it is the deepest in Europe, but it is open only since May due to the snow lying in the mountains. You have to make sure exactly when the gorge is open to the public. Snow’s melting can cause flooding of the gorge, which more than once ended dramatically for tourists who entered the gorge too early.

Imbros, although smaller, is also very picturesque and is open all year.

things to do in crete
the Samaria gorge, source: flickr.com

Other places in Crete to visit

I recommend to visit the south of the island, as there is one of the most spectacular, and dangerous roads in Crete – the road to Chora Sfakion – which serpentines descends from the mountains to the sea. Another interesting place is Matala with its caves in the cliff, where the hippies once lived – but today the caves are open to the public for a fee.

things to do in crete
Matala, source: flickr.com

Of course on the island, you can see even more interesting places, but the limited duration of stay usually needs us to select a few only. The above list is the top summary of things to do in Crete.

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Some practical information:
– I recommend to rent a car while visiting Crete because public transport is quite expensive per person and does not reach every place
– if we want to do a lot of sightseeing I recommend to stay in the central part of the island (from Rethymno to Heraklion)
– If you’re going for 2 weeks and you want to get to know the island, I would recommend to change accommodation every few days or for a second week (eg. one week stay on the west part of the island and the next one on the east)

Have you been already on the island of Crete? Have you visited some interesting places? What things to do in Crete would you recommend?

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things to do in crete

things to do in crete

10 comments

  1. Greece is wonderful place to spend holiday and fun for the sun – Peloponez (Argolida) is great localization! Have fun this 2015 Summer:)

  2. I lived on the island of Crete for 2 years, I was a military child, my dad was stationed at the Air Force Base that used to be there, I guess you didn’t go to Pebble Beach, It had a great sand cove with volcanic rock on the left side when your looking out towards the sea, my mom and I would skin dive and break the sea urchins open and watch the fish feed. And we would hunt for octapus, I sure miss it, we left and got stationed back in the states in 1974, I would go back in a heartbeat.

  3. Your post is so helpful thank you! I’m going to Crete for five days in May and I looked up how old you have to be to rent a car. Unfortunately it’s 20, which sucks because I’ll be turning 20 less than 10 days after I’m on Crete. Is there any other way you’d suggest to get around besides renting a car or the public transport?

    • Well, Crete is quite difficult to get around without a car, but I would still ask if I can rent a car. Another thing are private tours but I don’t know how does it look like in May :/

  4. Hi Hanna, loving your blog
    I’m going to Create in 2 days and I hope to collect plenty shells, any beach you recommend me? Thanks x

  5. I like your post… You summed up very well a journey in Crete.
    We do have amazingly beautiful places here in Crete to explore it’s true!!
    I have people in my tour agency office who come for 3-4 years, every summer and i still find excursions, traditional villages, beatiful beaches, and adventures to send them…

  6. I felt the same about Chania vs. Rethymnon! 🙂 Was expecting a lot from Chania, but after visiting it was very happy that we were staying in Rethymnon.

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