Are you heading to Greece and looking for unique things to do in Chania Crete Greece? The Greek Islands are one of the world’s top destinations when it comes to dreamy holidays at the beach.
Whitewashed landscapes, deep blue seas, and a unique romantic atmosphere. Add to that some fantastic gastronomy, top-class wines, and incredible traditions, you have the right equation for a perfect holiday.
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Let’s face it, though. Holiday time is limited… if only we could endlessly wander from island to island… right? I know! Well, unless you have a bottomless source of income, that’s usually not the case. You need to decide on which island to visit on a limited amount of time. And that’s the hardest task of all.
So, f you can’t make up your mind on what’s the perfect island for you, this post comes to the rescue. I’m going to suggest to start by exploring the biggest island of all, Crete!
Why? Well, there are so many things to do in Crete Greece and has a lot to offer to any kind of traveler! Those who love history, the ones that cannot do without a dreamy beach, people interested in adventures, and even foodies. So, let’s see what Crete has on offer for you and I’ll show you the best places in Crete!
Where is Crete Chania?
Crete is the biggest but also the southernmost Greek Island in the Mediterranean sea. That means mild weather all year round and very hot summers. Since the island is really close to the north of Africa, you will also be getting a very limited quantity of rain during summer.
Language in Crete?
The official language is Greek, of course, but given the fact that Greek is a very difficult language, almost everyone involved in tourism speaks at least English. They often also speak French, Russian, or Italian, but be certain that communication won’t be a problem.
Currency in Crete
Being Greece part of the European Union, the official currency is the Euro. There are banks, ATM machines, and currency exchange offices in every main city, you just need your passport to confirm your identity and have your money exchanged.
Best Time To Visit Crete
Any time of the year is a good time to visit Crete due to its mild weather. Generally, most tourists will visit during the warmer months starting from April to about October. The best time to visit Crete for the beaches would be spring and summer but be warned that it is also the busiest time to visit Crete.
Another great time to visit would be early spring or late fall as it’s not too hot and most of the tourists have gone home.
How to Get To Crete
The best way to get to Crete is to fly into Athens. The flight from Athens to Crete is a direct one hour flight.
For flights, I like to use Google Flights or Skyscanner to find the best deals on flights. These search engines compare millions of options from airlines and travel agents. Click here to find the best flight deal!
Where to Stay in Crete
For hotels, I always use Booking.com, as they always seem to have the best prices. I love them as they always have the best prices on hotels. Click here to search Booking.com for the best deals.
When I’m not staying at a hotel, I love booking our stays through Airbnb. An Airbnb can provide an authentic local experience. If you are traveling with a family, Airbnb is great as you can often get more space by renting an entire house for less money than a hotel stay. Click here to get $40 off your first stay.
All About Crete Chania
I’ve already told you that Crete is the biggest Greek Island. That means that you’ll need from 4 to 6 hours to drive from one tip to the other. However, you don’t want to do all that road non-stop! The island is divided into four regions and each of them has a lot of interesting things to do in Crete.
The best way to seeing the best of these four areas, Chania, Rethymnon, Heraklion, and Lasithi, is to design an accurate itinerary and stick to it. You can check my own first-time Crete itinerary which is also useful to understand where it’s better to stay in Crete.
This itinerary worked so well that I fell in love with the island, I kept going back, and finally… I even moved to Crete! So everything I’m gonna tell you about Crete has been tested, it’s fool-proof and it’s really helpful!
Top Things to do in Chania Crete by Region
So here you have the top unique things to do in Crete, broken down by each of the four regions.
Best things to do in Crete – Heraklion
The region of Heraklion is home to Crete’s capital, Heraklion, a vibrant city on the northern coast of Crete. Chances are that your plane or your ferry boat will be arriving in Heraklion. So you will certainly have the chance to check these three unique things to do
1. Marvel at the ancient Minoan civilization in the Palace of Knossos
The Minoan Palace of Knossos is arguably the most popular place on the island. People who come to Crete every summer flock to Knossos to discover the mysterious site that’s closely connected to the myth of the Labyrinth and the Minotaur.
The Minoan civilization thrived on the island thousands of years ago and has left behind an important cultural legacy regarding architecture and advanced building techniques that you can still see in the archaeological site.
Since this is Crete’s best-known archaeological palace (not the only one, though), it tends to be crowded during the whole year-round. So if you really want to see it, take note of the following tips:
- The site extends for several kilometers and there’s almost no shade. It’s a good idea to pack a water bottle, a hat, and sunscreen with high UV protection (the sun can be merciless from June to September). If you forget any of those items, you can buy them on the small stores outside of the site.
- Wear comfortable shoes. The floor is mostly irregular, you will be climbing stairs, walking on bare rock, and waiting in line. Do it comfortably. Knossos is definitely not a place for flip flops or heel. A good pair of running shoes or hiking sandals will provide support, tire you less, and keep you in a better mood.
- The best moment to visit is early in the morning or during sunset. The area will be less crowded, the heat milder, and you’ll love the experience much more.
- Buy your ticket in advance to avoid long lines. If you’re also planning to visit the Archaeological Site in the center of Heraklion, but it there! You’ll save about €15 euros if you buy the pass to both places (Archaeological Site entrance ticket + Museum pass: €16).
- If you’re not renting a car for your trip across Crete (something I’d eagerly recommend), but rely on public transport, the bus to Knossos departs from the center of Heraklion (old central station) several times a day (bus number 2, ticket €1.50). It stops right in front of the site.
- To better understand what you’re seeing inside the palace, you can book a guided tour.
2. Explore the capital of Crete
There are different buildings and monuments worth checking in the capital. First of all, you want to pay a visit to Lion Square, a traditional meeting point for locals and visitors alike. The area is full of small pubs and restaurants where you can take enjoy local pastries or even a gyro wrap.
After you visit the square, walk along 25 of August Street, a pedestrian road that leads directly to the old Venetian port. Once there, go inside the Venetian Fortress, also known as Koules, and check Heraklion’s stunning landscape from its roof.
3. Sunbathe on the north coast of Heraklion
About 30 minutes from the city center, towards the west of the island, you can visit one of the region’s most popular beaches, Agia Pelagia.
Once a forgotten fishing village, Agia Pelagia has been transformed into a collection of beautiful hotels and nice little bays that you can explore renting a boat in the area.
Some of the beaches in the area are only known to locals and can be a great place to disconnect and relax by the sea. Not far from Agia Pelagia, you can visit the small village of Fodele, where it’s possible to see one of Crete’s most beautiful Byzantine churches as well as the El Greco museum.
Best things to do in Crete – Chania
4. Walk along the cobblestoned paths of the old town
Probably Crete’s most beautiful city, Chania is the second important city of Crete, right after Heraklion. It’s located on the northern coast of Crete, about 1 hour away from Rethymnon.
The city boasts a traditional Venetian old town and one of Greece’s most beautiful ports and lighthouses.
In the old town of Chania, you can also visit the mosque of the Janissaries, the Firka fortress right opposite the lighthouse, and the magnificent cathedral of Chania, in the center of town.
5. Explore the Chania Beaches
There are over 30 magnificent beaches in Chania, and the truth is, it’s extremely difficult to decide which one to put in your itinerary. Start with the world-famous pink sand beach of Elafonisi, on the South coast and then move to the wide shore of Falassarna, better-known for the spectacular sunsets you can witness in the area.
If you still have time, drive all the way to Balos Beach and Lagoon, one of Crete’s top destinations. If you prefer not to rent a car, you can visit Balos with a day cruise that departs from the coastal city of Kissamos, less than an hour away from Chania.
Balos beach is a fantastic exotic beach with crystal clear waters and a gorgeous, harsh landscape all around.
6. Trek along one of Chania’s gorges
Those interested in outdoor trips will be pleased to know that there are dozens of gorges that you can walk in Chania. The region is home to the White Mountains, counting several impressive peaks, cliffs, and ravines.
The longest hike of all is the Samaria gorge, which can take anything from 4 to 7 hours to cross. The path takes you from the Omalos plateau on the North to the southern village of Agia Roumeli. Once there, you will need to take a ferry boat and a bus to come back to Chania.
If you prefer a shorter path, try the gorge of Imbros, which you can cross in about 3 hours to reach the southern village of Chora Sfakion, one of the most traditional settlements of Crete.
Best things to do in Crete – Rethymno
7. Spend a day in the old Venetian town
Rethymnon is the capital of another of Crete’s region. The city, which is home to an important university, is very popular among young people for the many pubs and clubs. But that’s not the only reason to visit!
Rethymnon hosts a stunning old town with an imposing fortress by the sea. There’s a tiny Venetian port lined up with picturesque fish tavernas and several interesting buildings such as mosques and minarets dating from the Turkish occupation of Crete (1669-1898).
8. Take a day-trip to the southern coast of Rethymnon
Once you’re in Rethymnon, you will certainly want to see the southern coast, where you’ll find some of the prettiest beaches in the region. If you’re in the mood for a road trip, the best piece of advice I can give you is to rent a car and simply explore.
Head south through the mountains to reach the stunning Triopetra beach, about 50 km from the center of town. This incredibly wide beach is bather by the stunning blue waters of the Libyan sea and it’s known for the characteristic rock formations (Triopetra means three rocks in Greek) that clearly stand out on the extreme east of the beach.
The beach is popular and organized, however, there’s no chance you’ll feel in a crowded place since it’s really a huge shore with plenty of space for everyone!
9. Check the lion head springs of Spili
On your way back from Triopetra, stop at the mountain village of Spili for a curious view and a local dinner. The main important feature of Spili is the spring known as Kefalovrisi.
Kefalovrisi is a unique series of 25 equal fountains in the shape of a lion head from which mouths flow a constant 330 cubic meters of water per hour, maintaining always the same temperature.
The village is also known for the traditional watermills around the beautiful river and lush vegetation in the south of the area.
Top things to do in Crete – Lasithi
10. Explore the coastal town of Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos is the capital city of the region of Lasithi, the easternmost portion of Crete. In the city, you can enjoy a walk along Lake Voulismeni, which connects to the sea through a very narrow passage.
In Agios Nikolaos, you can also discover one of the many churches and museums, or even go shopping in some of the exclusive shops in town.
11. Visit the former leper colony island of Spinalonga
Less than 20 minutes away from Agios Nikolaos, Spinalonga Island is one of those unique places you can see on Crete.
Spinalonga is a small, fortified island which you can walk around in less than an hour, but it’s incredibly rich in history and tragedy. The island was one of the last leper colonies of Greece, where patients affected with this terrible disease where secluded until their death.
The island closed its gates when the cure for the disease was found back in 1957 and it remained abandoned for several years. Later, it was restored and transformed into an archaeological site. To visit the place, it’s possible to board a boat form Agios Nikolaos as well as from the nearby resorts of Plaka and Elounda.
Once you dock in the small port of the island, you will pass the entrance tunnel and access the abandoned roads, the hospital building and the private houses of the lepers. If you want to know more about the history of the island, it’s a great idea to book a guided tour.
12. Taste the flavors of the local cuisine
They say that Crete is a paradise for food lovers, and there’s no way to contradict that statement! Crete is the cradle of the Cretan diet, which also gave origin to the most famous Mediterranean diet.
Cretan cuisine is very simple, super healthy and full of flavor. The main ingredients are seasonal products, bread, cheese, not much meat, and — of course — liters of extra virgin local olive oil.
Crete produces top-quality extra virgin olive oil which remains a staple of the local diet, abundantly used for cooking but also for seasoning.
Other typical ingredients of the Cretan diet are cheese, thyme honey, local wine, oranges, and several herbs. All ingredients that add an extra touch of flavor, very characteristic of the local cuisine.
Things To Do in Crete Greece Conclusion
There you have the top things to do in Crete by each region. There are so many regions to explore and definitely an island that can’t be missed while in Greece. Have you visited Crete and have suggested things to do in Crete that we missed?
About Gabi Ancarola: Gabi is the writer behind the Crete travel blog The Tiny Book. A long-time expat, she moved to Crete a few years ago to show the best of the island to first-time visitors. Every summer, she hosts gastronomic tours in Chania, and she has recently published her second travel guide. She also talks about Crete on her Facebook group.