Just like you, I have a bucket life of travel destinations. At the top of my list is Greece. In fact, I’m planning a trip this September to celebrate the launch of my second book, With New Eyes. Excited, I have already begun investigating the best beaches, water activities, best tavernas, historical walks, and more. To check my results and find other travel info and tips, I always contact someone who knows the area. Please enjoy my travel writing peer, Nikola, and his recommendations on Crete with, “How to Conquer Crete in 12 Days!” Opa!
Your Guide to Where to Stay and What to Do on Greece’s Biggest Island
Europe’s oldest center of civilization, Crete is not only the largest of the Greek islands, but also one of the biggest in the Mediterranean. Discover its rich history, distinctive culture, unique atmosphere, and wealth of attractions with an itinerary that includes multiple destinations.
Located in the easternmost corner of the island, Sitia is a perfect starting point for exploring the beauty of this part of Crete. This charming town with a nice beach is refreshingly free of heavy tourism, making it a great spot to spend a couple days just relaxing. Short excursions outside of Sitia will take you to some of Crete’s most famous tourist attractions, such as the historical Toplou monastery or the stunning palm beach at Vai. The solid selection of accommodations in and around Sitia ranges from self-catering options to luxurious resorts.
Devote at least one day on your Crete itinerary visiting Ierapetra, the Europe’s southernmost city and a hidden gem on the coast of the Libyan Sea. Connected to the north coast by several scenic roads, Ierapetra offers a great mix of laid-back atmosphere and historical attractions. Take a short trip out of town to enjoy some of the island’s most beautiful beaches. The selection of places to stay is not as big as elsewhere on Crete, but the fair amount of hotels, campsites, and private accommodations should satisfy most tastes.
Though smaller in size, the port city of Agios Nikolaos is a busy place perfect for a enjoying a couple of days of urban buzz. Cafes, tavernas, and restaurants are plentiful and the overall atmosphere is very relaxed. A cluster of charming resort villages surround the town, offering beautiful beaches and a selection of water activities. One of the places to visit when in Agios Nikolaos is the Venetian fort of Spinalonga, which sits on a small island just a short ride outside of town. Available accommodations are quite diverse and you can find everything from budget-friendly places to stay to very luxurious options.
Settled between Agios Nikolaos and Heraklion on the northern coast, the town of Hersonissos is the place to go if you’re looking for a party. Renowned for its beaches, vibrant nightlife, and abundance of shops and restaurants, the town is one of the island’s main tourist hubs. The best way to take a break from the bustle is to go on a short trip out of town and visit some of the nearby archeological sites. From budget-friendly options to luxurious hotels and private villas, Hersonissos offers an impressively broad range of places to stay.
One of the largest towns in Crete, Rethymnon is a must-see when exploring the western part of the island. Its network of charming pedestrian streets, selection of cafes and restaurants (from traditional to extravagant), and nice sandy beach allow you to immerse yourself fully in the town’s atmosphere. Rethymnon boasts an array of historical sights, of which the main attraction is undoubtedly the hilltop Venetian fortress overlooking the town. There are plenty of accommodations in the town’s center, and those looking for more peaceful lodgings can easily find a place to stay in one of the surrounding villages.
Widely regarded as one of the most charming places in Crete, Chania Town unquestionably merits a visit. The island’s second-largest town offers a great selection of activities, cultural venues, historical sights, nightlife venues, and shopping. The town is also a perfect starting point for exploring the western part of the island, including the must-see Balos Beach and Samaria Gorge. As a well-established tourist destination, Chania and surrounding villages provide a range of accommodations to match all tastes and budgets. For a real taste of the Mediterranean city atmosphere, book a room in one of the charming Old Town hotels. Include Chania in your Crete trip plan to have a wonderful experience.
An island of beauty and diversity
From snow-capped peaks to breathtaking beaches, and from Minoan cities to Ottoman mosques and Greek monasteries, Crete is a place with countless gems for you to discover. Instead of tying yourself to one spot, use our vacation itinerary planner to explore and give yourself an once-in-a-lifetime experience.
**Based in Belgrade, Nikola Mihaelj writes about travel when he’s not actually traveling.