Crete | Aegean Sea

35.205145° N, 25.019634° E

Crete

A land of myth and untamed beauty

The Cretans are notoriously proud of their island, and for good reason. Crete's landscape is as diverse as it is enchanting, from its cosmopolitan seaside towns with the yacht-packed marinas to its hidden mountain villages where time seems to stand still. Driving along the coastline is an experience in itself, every turn revealing a beach more beautiful than the last. Like their land, Cretans are rugged, yet renowned for their hospitality, an attribute that traces back to the ancient times, when the thriving Minoan civilisation influenced both sides of the Mediterranean. Equally famous is the local cuisine, a fusion of traditional and modern recipes that introduces a whole new world of tastes.

Crete Highlights

Chania

Chania offers everything a visitor can ask for: an enchanting waterfront that buzzes with activity, gourmet restaurants, fashionable bars, stylish shops and beaches that are among the best in Greece. A stroll through the town will reveal not only the beauty of modern Chania, but also traces of the blend of cultures and civilisations that forged the town in its current form - the Minoan palaces, the Venetian port, the Turkish houses and the Greek-Orthodox churches.

Elounda

Cosmopolitan Elounda grew from a little fishing village into a destination that attracts celebrities and jet-setters from across the globe. Yet the quaint seaside village with its small bars, cosy cafes and charming little beaches, does not reflect its visitors' glamorous disposition. On the contrary, its charming simplicity and friendly locals create an inviting, laid-back vibe that makes it ideal for a relaxing family vacation.

Heraklion

Being the fifth largest city in Greece, Heraklion might not the average typical island destination. Yet it is a lively place full of youthful energy and a rich culture, with glimpses of older times seamlessly woven into the urban landscape. The main attraction in Heraklion is of course the palace of Knossos, the centre of Ancient Greece’s Minoan civilisation. Heraklion also offers a great nightlife, lots to do for every taste, and the island's best shopping.

Rethymno

With its picturesque waterfront, cobbled streets and Venetian architecture, Rethymno is undoubtedly one of Crete's most atmospheric towns. At the same time both ancient and modern, the town is a melting pot of different cultures and historical periods, as revealed by its ancient ruins, Enetic castles, Byzantine monasteries and enchanting little villages. Rethymno also boasts a vibrant nightlife, superb dining options and some of the island's most spectacular beaches.
What to do & see in Crete

Among all of the Greek islands, Crete is perhaps the only one that offers such diversity, both in terms of scenery and lifestyle. The northern coast of the island is the more populated and popular part. Heraklion, the island's capital and main port, has one of the country's best archaeological museums. A few kilometres away lays the palace of Knossos, a place of legend and home to the Minoans, one of Greek history's greatest civilisations.

About 70km west from Heraklion, the seaside village of Matala has been a popular tourist attraction since the '60s, when the hippies used to live inside the caves formed in the sandstone cliffs of Kokkini paralia (red beach). Just 15 minutes away from Matala, the ruins of the palace of Phaestos offer a glimpse of ancient grandeur in a spectacular natural setting, with the imposing peaks of Mt Psiloritis on one side and the Libyan Sea on the other. The village of Polyrrinia, in the north-west part of the island and just a short drive from Kissamos, is a traditional settlement that features ruins from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods.

Chania and Rethymno are picturesque and colourful, with their distinct Venetian architecture and buzzing waterfront areas lined with restaurants and bars. Some 23km from Rethymno, is the historically significant Arkadi monastery, a stark symbol of resistance during the Ottoman occupation.

Moving toward the heart of the island, the White Mountains soar up to 2.000m and offer some excellent climbing and hiking trails. Moving southwards, the gorge of Samaria offers some mind-blowing scenery. The south coast is rugged and less-visited, but has some of the island's most spectacular beaches. In the north-east part of the island, close to Sitia, the second biggest town and port of Crete, you will find the 15th century Moni Toplou, an impressive monastery that today houses the icon Lord Thou Art Great, by the celebrated local artist Ioannis Kornaros.

A little further to the north is Vai, the largest natural palm forest in Europe, which leads to the beach of Preveli, one of the island's most spectacular sites. Nearby you will find the two monasteries of Moni Preveli, a place of great importance in demonstrating the island's heroic wartime history.  

Best beaches in Crete
Agia Fotia Nestled within mountain slopes, Agia Fotia is one of the most popular beaches of Lasithi. A small charming coast with small grey pebbles and azure deep waters, Agia Fotia is an organized beach that will steal your heart.
Agiofaragko Found at the outfall of the homonymous gorge, Agiofaragko is a coast of wild beauty surrounded by steep mountain slopes. The only way to reach the beach is passing through the Gorge but you will be rewarded by its pristine beauty.
Agios Pavlos A breathtaking scenery of massive rocks descending to the coast through sand dunes, Agios Pavlos, Rethymno, is a place of exceptional beauty. A narrow, medium sized beach with greyish sand and cooling turquoise waters.
Ammoudi Very close to Rethymno city, Ammoudi is a sun kissed wide shore of thin golden sand and crystal clear waters. The coast is well protected by winds while right next to it you will find Mikro Ammoudi, a similar yet smaller, fully organized organized beach.
Balos An idyllic scenery that evokes tropical landscapes. The exotic beach and lagoons of Balos offer fine sand, translucent shallow waters and views to Gamvousa islet, which you can reach by walking in the water.
Damnoni A long and wide coast mostly organized with hoarse white sand, small pebbles and azure waters. The beach is mostly organized and visitors here can explore the adjacent small coves offering utter serenity.
Elafonisi Powdery sand-dunes, semi-secluded coves and shallow turquoise waters compose a tropical scenery of unsurpassed beauty and place Elafonisi among Europe's most spectacular beaches.
Erimoupoli At the archeological area of Itanos, eastern Crete, three beautiful untouched beaches are to be found, all of them completely non-organized and quiet. Ruins of the ancient city are scattered throughout the area so snorkeling is a must.
Falasarna A vast coast on the western side of Crete with amazing thin golden sand. Falasarna has been awarded as one of Crete’s most beautiful beaches but mind to visit when winds are not blowing in order to indulge in its turquoise calm waters.
Gavdos Gavdos is Crete's largest offshore islet and Europe's southernmost point. Deserted beaches untouched by tourism, brilliant crystal clear waters, a taverna or two and a rich aquatic life conjure a perfect atmosphere of summer bliss
Gaidouronisi Although practically not on mainland Crete, Gaidouronisi is a small deserted islet some 10km from the shore of Ierapetra that features stunning fine-sand beaches, turquoise waters, a cedar forest and even a couple of tavernas.
Glika Nera Untamed beauty, pristine waters and unobstructed views to the Liviko Sea are more than one can ask for. Glika Nera, meaning sweet water, is a hidden gem accessed only by boat from Sfakia where springs of sweet water gush on the shore and the sea. A definition of paradise.
Kedrodasos Right next to the popular Elafonisi an area of virgin beauty and untouched sceneries is found. Kedrodasos is named after the surrounding forest of cedar trees, protected by Natura, and boasts thin whitish sand and turquoise waters.
Kouremenos A long sand-and-pebble beach and one of the island's most popular windsurfing destinations. The beach is well organised and offers tavernas and bars.
Matala Overlooking the bay of Messara, Matala became popular in the 60s when the backpacking hippies camped in the caves of the sand-stone cliffs of the beach.
Preveli Isolated and exotic, the beach of Preveli features fine white sand, crystal clear waters, palm trees and a river that spills into the sea creating a dreamy scenery.
Seitan Limania A thin stripe of sea enters the huge cliffs forming one of Hania’s most beautiful coasts. Narrow and small this inlet with azure deep waters is ideal for those who want to indulge in the wild natural beauty of Crete.
Souda (Plakias) Souda, right next to Plakias at southern Rethymno, is a huge wide coast partially organized with hoarse greyish sand surrounded by clusters of the unique Cretan palm tree. Souda is ideal for a refreshing day at the beach.
Vai For a Caribbean vibe head to the exotic beach of Vai, a mind-blowing setting of golden sand and dazzling blue waters backed by Europe's largest natural palm-tree forest.
Voulisma A well protected bay with white sand and turquoise waters, Voulisma is one of the most popular beaches of Lasithi, thus well organized. One can also visit the nearby coasts that share the amazing ambience of Voulisma.
How to get to Crete

Crete has three airports that serve flights from Greek and other European cities. There are also three main ports in Heraklion, the island's capital, Chania and Sitia, with ferries coming from Pireaus and several Aegean islands.

 

Where to stay in Crete

Crete is vast and offers plenty of options regarding accommodation. Our team has created a diverse collection of hand-picked luxury villas in Crete's hottest locations. Whether you are looking for an isolated holiday villa with a pool where you can sit back and take in the Mediterranean sunshine away from the summer frenzy, or a luxury private villa that offers tranquility but is at the same time minutes away from some seaside town buzzing with activity, our Greek Villas team will find the ideal home for your perfect holiday.