Crete is the most populated and the largest of all the Greek islands. From one tip to the other is an area 260 kilometres in length and 60 kilometres wide. There is more than enough coastline to keep even the biggest beach addict happy (over 1000 kilometres.) Another stand out feature of the island is its beautiful mountains. There are three different groups of mountains in total making this a hikers paradise.
There is also a plethora of gorges on the island including the Samaria Gorge, Ha Gorge, Plantania Gorge and several more. Perhaps check out the mysteriously named Gorge of the Dead whilst you are here.
Crete receives a lot of its income from the huge tourist industry that is here, especially during the long summer months. However, Crete is the only Greek island that could sustain itself if that industry did not exist. This is due to the flourishing agriculture and stockbreeding industry that has existed for many years. With so much going on the island has a very low level of unemployment and a higher than average salary for Greece.
How to get to Crete
Crete has three airports which for an island is hugely impressive. The two main airports are Heraklion (Airport Code: HER) and Chania Airport (Airport Code: CHQ.) Both are pretty impressive and welcome many airlines. The low-cost airlines that fly in include the likes of Jet2, EasyJey, Monarch and Thomson Airways. Most of the flights from Europe are direct but if you have to change then you will most likely have to do so in Athens.
If you wish to come by boat you also have several options. Boats come from Athens, the Cyclades Islands and also Rhodes. There are are also options from Santorini and Anafi but they are known to be very expensive.
Top Crete Resorts
Agia Marina: Agia Marina is on the main coastal road that runs through Crete. On one side of the road you have a fantastic sandy beach and on the other a row of excellent restaurants and bars
Agia Pelagia: Agia Pelagia was once an ancient city on the island of Crete. Today it is a peaceful town that is home to several tranquil beaches, restaurants with home cooked food and cocktail bars.
Agios Nikolaos: Agios Nikolaos has its town centre right by the sea, meaning that everything you need is in close proximity to your hotel. There is also a fabulous marina that often has stunning yachts moored.
Ammoudara: Ammoudara is Greek for Big Sand and this is very true in this situation. Here you will find a 7 km long beach that is perfect if you like to spend your days soaking up the suns rays.
Anissaras: Anissaras has large resorts that are upscale and generally provide everything you need for your holiday in one place. There is no nightlife here but you are close to Hersonissos if you need some.
Bali: Bali is a mix of small villages that blend together to make up the resort area of Bali. You will find a blend of upmarket hotels and down to earth tavernas that cater to holidaymakers of all types.
Chania: If you love busy towns but also want to be near the sea then you need to visit Chania Town. Here the Venetian town is full of the most beautiful buildings and fantastic restaurants.
Daratsos: Sitting just five kilometres west of Chania is Daratsos. A quiet and reserved tourist resort that still retains a local feel to it. There are some permanent residents in this area and they generally used to live in Chania before discovering the quieter life.
Elounda: Few places can match Elounda when it comes to providing a perfect place for a holiday. The sandy beaches, clear waters and archaeological sites will ensure that every day here is enjoyable.
Georgioupolis: Georgioupolis has fantastic beaches and is a great location for families that wish to come to Crete. The area is child-friendly but also has a good selection of bars for those wishing to stay out late.
Gournes: Gournes has a wonderful sandy beach and lots of small family run hotels. There are currently no large chains in the area which helps to maintain the traditional Greek hospitality we all love.
Gouves: Gouves has a mixture of sandy and pebbly beaches with waters that are crystal clear. There are plenty of bars, restaurants and souvenir shops that cater to the ever growing tourist population.
Heraklion: Heraklion is a busy, bustling metropolis of a city that is one of the most popular destinations in Greece. Heraklion is famous for its excellent restaurants as well as its beautiful Venetian marina.
Hersonissos: Hersonissos is the most popular resort in Crete and home to many luxury all-inclusive hotels. The surrounding town is busy and full of restaurants and bars catering to the ever increasing tourists.
Ierapetra: Ierapetra is a very lively resort and the largest town in the south of Crete. An excellent choice of location if you are looking to get involved in all that the area has to offer.
Kissamos: Kissamos is a town that has grown up and developed around the sea. There are plenty of things to do in the town and in the evening the bars come alive with music and fun, the party here goes on late into the night.
Kokkini Hani: Kokkini Hani has a wonderful beach which is surrounded by great restaurants and tavernas. The atmosphere here is calm and relaxed. If you like to party the bars in the nearby towns open till late.
Kolymbari: Kolymbari Quietly nestled between the sea and the cliffs is the town of Kolymbari. It is a small town that is new to tourism and currently has none of the large hotel chains which keeps the town traditional.
Maleme: Maleme has long been famous because of its beautifully clean beach and gentle waters. It is also popular with tourists that enjoy discovering the rich history that this part of Crete offers.
Malia: Over the years Malia has become a party destination that is especially popular with young Brits. The bars here open long into the night and the restaurants generally serve a mix of Greek and English.
Panormos: Panormos is ideal for couples looking for a place to escape to for a romantic break. Panormos is only a small town that is set along the coast, it has been almost completely unaffected by tourism.
Rethymnon: Rethymnon has everything that you could want from a holiday that is in a large city. There are plenty of fine eating establishments here as well as a busy nightlife. The nearby sea is a deep blue colour and incredibly tempting.
Sissi: Sissi is home to a fantastic little port that is both beautiful and mesmerising. The area itself is much quieter than its party-loving neighbours but there is a great mixture of restaurants and bars.
Stalis: Stalis is set along a coastal road that is full of bars and restaurants on one side and the sandy beach on the other. The area is popular with families as it is quieter than its neighbouring towns.
Stavros: This area became famous when it was featured in the film Zorba The Greek. Even today though it is just a small town with a quiet outlook and some beautiful mountains.
Top Crete Attractions
Arkadi Monastery: Like most of the attractions in Crete this holds a special historical interest. The Arkadi Monastery is located about 20 kilometres outside of Rethymno and it sits up on a plateau. A beautiful day out for anyone looking to indulge in some history.
CretAquarium: This is one of the most modern and also one of the largest aquariums in Europe. It was opened in 2005 and has since then received various renovations. An excellent choice for anyone holidaying with a family.
Elafonisi: In the southwestern corner of Crete you will come across an island called Elafonisi. The island can be walked to if the tide is low and the weather is good. Many people come to the island due to the pink sand that covers the beach.
Knossos: Knossos is believed to be the oldest city in Europe and the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on the island. There is a lot to see here including the Great Palace, Little Palace and the Royal Villa.
Psychro Cave: This Minoan Cave is located in the eastern part of Crete and is associated with the Diktaean Cave. If you love Greek mythology then you will have a lot of fun here learning about the birthplace of Zeus. Another point of interest in the caves are the various stalagmites that make for excellent viewing.
Samariá Gorge: This stunning national park is one of the real highlights of Crete. In 1962 it was confirmed as an official park and also as a World Biosphere Reserve. There used to be a small village inside the park but all the properties are now abandoned. If you love walking there are some fantastic walks to be had here. They are not for the faint hearted they can last several hours.
When to visit Crete
Crete is always stunning and due to its size, there is always people around the big cities. If you are staying in a city and you dont mind the cooler weather then anytime is good. If you are going to one of the smaller resorts then you are best to go between April and October. The busiest (and most expensive) months will be July and August. My personal preference is during the early season. The weather is still great, the hotels are cheaper and the hospitality staff are at their freshest after the winter break.