Crete is an island of great beauty in the south of Greece. It is a popular holiday destination all year round. On this complete Crete travel guide, you can find useful tips for your holidays on the island as well as information about the best beaches, activities, sights, food and ports. Find all ferry schedules from/to the island ports and book cheap ferry tickets to Crete in just 4 clicks.
The quaint old port of Agios Nikolaos in Crete
Vacation in Crete
The island of Crete is the largest island in Greece and it's located in the south Aegean Sea.
The island's major port cities like Heraklion, Chania, Rethymno, Sitia and Agios Nikolaos are located on Crete's northern coast. Other significant harbors in Crete are Ierapetra and Sfakia that are on the southern coast of the island.
The heavenly island of Gavdos is also close to the southern coast of Crete, making it the southernmost island in Europe.
Vacation in Crete means swimming in some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece, eating delicious food and enjoying unspoiled nature.
Crete is perfect for holidays all year long. It is famous for its impressive coast as well as the beautiful mainland with mountains, forests and gorges.
This is why it's a popular destination amongst lovers of outdoor activities and water sports. Holidays in Crete are also great for families with kids.
In the major cities, you can go shopping and sightseeing, while you can also find some of the best clubs and bars on the island.
Read our Crete travel guide below and find tips for your vacation on the island.
How to get to Crete
You can get a ferry to Crete from Athens and several Aegean islands. You can also fly to Crete from Athens and Thessaloniki.
There are daily ferry routes from the port of Piraeus in Athens to the ports of Heraklion and Chania.
The connection of Athens to the port of Sitia is weekly while during the summer there are also routes from Athens to the port of Rethymno.
You can also travel by ferry to Crete from the islands of the Cyclades, as well as the Dodecanese. Find more details about ferry routes to Crete below.
Hiking through the impressive Samaria Gorge
What to do in Crete
In Crete, you can visit important historical sites of international significance, such as the Palace of Knossos, as well as wonderful natural sites such as the Gorge of Samaria and Seitan Limania.
The island is also famous for its delicious cuisine, popular around the world.
As for entertainment, Crete is one of the liveliest vacation destinations in Greece. There are traditional festivals throughout the year, as well as beach parties, cultural happenings and a plethora of clubs, bars and restaurants to choose from!
Beaches in Crete
There are so many beautiful beaches in Crete, it’s really hard to choose where to swim!
There are large beaches with visitor amenities, remote coves surrounded by trees, beaches with sand and pebbles, as well as popular coasts perfect for water sports.
Some of the most secluded beaches might be challenging to reach, but most beaches in Crete are easily accessible by car.
Since distances on the island are quite long, we recommend you take your pick!
Here are 10 of the best beaches in Crete:
- Preveli: A beach of wild beauty on the southern coast of Rethymno with golden sand and crystal-clear waters. It is surrounded by palm trees and there’s a small river emptying into the sea. There are no visitor amenities, but you can buy snacks and drinks from a food truck. You can get there by boat or taking a 20-minute hike.
- Elafonisi: Beach on the southern coast of Chania that is part of a narrow peninsula. It has a Caribbean feeling, with pinkish sand and turquoise waters. There are visitor amenities, such as umbrellas, showers, sun loungers, changing rooms and a lifeguard on its east side.
- Lygaria: A popular beach close to the city of Heraklion with thick sand and calm emerald waters. There are umbrellas, sun loungers, cafés, tavernas, water sports facilities and diving schools.
- Agios Pavlos Sand Dunes: One of the top beaches in Crete at the south of Rethymno. The large sand dunes and emerald green waters create a magical scenery. There are also some rocks for shade. You can enjoy the sunset from the beach, but make sure you stay vigilant as it can get quite windy.
- Matala: The sandy beach of Matala is on the southern coast of Crete, approximately 1 hr from Heraklion by car. One of the most popular beaches on the island, famous for its impressive cave formations and deep blue waters. There are plenty of visitor amenities such as umbrellas, showers, lifeguards, bars and sports facilities. You can also find some shade under the tamarisk trees.
- Almyros: Located on the northern coast of Crete, close to Agios Nikolaos. It is a large sandy beach with shallow waters, great for kids! There is a food truck for drinks and snacks, as well as water sports centers.
- Falasarna: Popular beach on the northwestern coast of Chania. It's a large sandy beach with turquoise waters and an awe-inspiring sunset view. There are umbrellas, a beach volley court, water sports facilities and food trucks, and it’s perfect for windsurfing!
- Seitan Limania (Stefanou): Seitan Limania is on the Akrotiri Peninsula, close to the town of Chania. It’s a small picture-perfect beach surrounded by tall rocks. It has golden sand and crystal-clear blue waters. Access to the beach is via a challenging downhill 10-minute hike, so make sure you wear proper shoes.
- Skinaria: The beach is on the southern coast of Rethymno and it’s one of the prettiest in the region. A small beach with grey sand, small pebbles and clear turquoise waters. It’s great for snorkeling and there’s a diving school at the beach.
- Red Beach (Kokkini Ammos): It’s an impressive remote beach on the southern coast of Heraklion. The beach is covered in red sand and it has amazing emerald green waters. It’s accessible via a 20-minute hike. There are strong swells when the wind blows from the west.
Palm trees and emerald waters at Preveli beach
Activities and sightseeing in Crete
Are you wondering what to see in Crete?
The Greek island is a destination with many cultural sights and attractions, as well as numerous sites of pure natural beauty. The ancient settlements and archaeological museums are some of the top things to see in Crete.
Moreover, there are impressive gorges, where you can go hiking and explore the flora and fauna of the island, as well as awe-inspiring forts of grand architecture from the Venetian era.
You can visit small islets and take hiking trails amidst ancient ruins, lush forests and quaint villages leading to secluded beaches.
What should I not miss in Crete?
Here is a list with our favorite natural and cultural attractions in Crete to choose from:
- Samaria Gorge (Chania)
- Seitan Limania (Chania)
- Elafonisi (Chania)
- Kedrodasos cedar forest (Chania)
- Balos Lagoon (Chania)
- Venetian Harbor of Chania (Chania)
- Lefka Ori / White Mountains (Chania)
- Arkadi Monastery (Rethymno)
- Ideon Andron cave / Psiloritis Mountain (Rethymno)
- Knossos Palace (Heraklion)
- Archaeological Museum of Heraklion (Heraklion)
- Matala caves (Heraklion)
- Palm Forest of Vai (Agios Nikolaos)
- Spinalonga islet (Agios Nikolaos)
- Chrysi islet (Agios Nikolaos)
- Diktaion Andron cave (Agios Nikolaos)
- Elounda (Agios Nikolaos)
The marvelous remnants of the Minoan Palace of Knossos
Nightlife in Crete
Crete is a lively island all year round. There are many things to do in Crete at night, either in the major cities and towns or at small beaches and resorts.
Cretans are known for their open-hearted manners and there are always local festivals, glendia, where you can mingle with locals, drink raki and listen to traditional music.
If you prefer dancing till morning, there are many clubs and loud bars all over the island. Chania, Malia, Hersonissos and Elounda are popular for their wild nightlife, ranging from lounge bars to intense open-air clubs!
In all major towns there are atmospheric bars and family-friendly restaurants, where you can enjoy a nice dinner and try local wine.
For an original dining experience, head to the mountain villages of Crete and try some of the local delicacies at a traditional kafeneio!
Food in Crete
Cretan cuisine is one of the staples of Greek gastronomy.
Amazing local products, organic ingredients, original recipes and a deep love for food and hospitality make Crete the ultimate Greek destination for foodies!
There are many delicious local dishes to try, so we recommend you get to it as soon as possible. You can try local recipes at restaurants, tavernas, kafeneia and local festivals around the island.
It’s also common to start with a treat of ice-cold raki, the traditional Cretan spirit.
Ferryhopper suggests you try the following dishes:
- Antikristo lamb: lamb cooked over a fire pit
- Staka: slow-cooked milk roux made from goat or sheep milk
- Kaltsounia: savory pastries with mizithra cheese
- Chochlioi: escargot with rosemary and vinegar
- Apaki: smoked pork
- Eggs with stamnagathi: wild bittersweet chicory
- Skioufichta: fresh pasta cooked with garlic and butter
- Gamopilafo: pilau rice cooked in butter
- Sfakiani pita: flatbread with white cheese and honey
- Kreatotourta: meat pie with cheese
- Ntakos: barley rusk topped with tomatoes, white cheese, oregano and olive oil
- Graviera: gruyère cheese served with honey
Delicious “ntakos” salad with barley rusk, white cheese and fresh tomatoes
Tips for Crete
- The island is one of the most accessible destinations in Greece for people with disabilities. Read our accessibility travel guide for more information.
- The island of Crete is perfectly safe for tourists and travelers. There are many accommodation, entertainment and sightseeing options and it’s one of the most visited islands in Greece, welcoming families, college mates, couples and single travelers!
- Crete is an affordable vacation destination with numerous options for accommodation and entertainment on a budget. You can stay at a small village and dine at traditional tavernas, while exploring the island by public bus. Traveling by ferry is the best way to cut down on the vacation cost.
- The fastest way to get to Crete by ferry is to travel from the port of Piraeus to Chania on board Kydon Palace. You will reach the island in 6.5 hours.
- At the bottom of the page, you will find our Crete ferry route map where you can check all ferry connections from the ports of the island.
- Should you travel by ferry, we suggest that you book a cabin. Most ferries to Crete travel during the night and the journey can be quite long. Relaxing in privacy and comfort is key to enjoying your holidays in Crete!
- The old town of Chania is one of the best holiday spots in Crete for couples. It radiates a nostalgic air and it’s great for romantic night strolling.
- Have a look at the latest ferry schedules for Greece to plan your holidays in Crete.
Useful information for Crete
Crete is a large modern island with all the necessary amenities for locals and visitors.
In the large cities and towns of the island you can find hotels, banks, ATMs, medical centers, hospitals, post offices, gas stations, pharmacies and visitor information centers.
There are visitor amenities throughout the island and you can enjoy a comfortable trip.
What is the best part of Crete to stay?
If you’re looking to be around unspoiled nature then the most beautiful part of Crete to stay in is the southern coast of the island.
If you prefer the hustle and bustle of the city, then the northern coast is a perfect choice. In the ports of Chania and Heraklion, you will find many options for accommodation depending on your budget.
Staying in one of the large cities of the island makes it easier to travel to nearby beaches and attractions.
Across the coast of the island, there are also all-inclusive resorts and villas if you’re looking for a luxury vacation.
How many days do you need in Crete?
Crete is a large island and definitely a place that you need to visit more than once in order to explore its different areas and authentic beauty.
The island is perfect for a short holiday break, while it's also great for long road trips and beach vacations.
To be realistic, we would recommend spending at least 10 days in Crete in order to see some of the top sights and best beaches.
If you wish to move from one region to the other and splitting your stay into different areas (which is an amazing idea!) we would suggest planning a 3-week Crete vacation.
Important phone numbers for your stay in Crete
Here are some useful contacts for your trip to Crete:
- Port Authority of Souda (Chania): +302821089240
- Port Authority of Heraklion: +302813406910
- Port Authority of Rethymno: +302831022276
- Port Authority of Sitia: +302843022310
- Hospital of Agios Nikolaos: +302841343000
- Hospital of Chania: +302821022000
- Hospital of Sitia: +302843340100
- “Venizeleio” Hospital of Heraklion: +302813408000
- Public bus service of Chania: +302821093306, +3028210 93052
- Tourist Police: +302810274046
- Tourist Office of Chania: +302821341665-6
Transportation in Crete
Crete has an extended public bus network connecting all major cities and towns in Crete.
You can easily get around using public transport and taxis, but we recommend that you bring your own vehicle by ferry or get one there if you wish to explore much of the island.
There are public buses (KTEL) in Sitia, Agios Nikolaos, Heraklion and Chania, as well as urban buses in Heraklion and Chania.
Crete has 2 international airports, Nikos Kazantzakis in Heraklion and Ioannis Daskalogiannis in Chania.
There are 5 ports on the northern coast of Crete that connect the island with mainland Greece and the Aegean Islands.
You can catch a ferry from Athens to 3 Crete ports: Heraklion, Chania and Sitia.
Here are the major ports of Crete:
- Heraklion Port
- Chania Port (Souda)
- Sitia Port
- Rethymno Port
- Agios Nikolaos Port
Island hopping from Crete
You can catch a ferry from Crete to other islands in Greece and explore the microcosm of the Aegean Islands.
During the summer there are ferries from Crete to Santorini and Mykonos, with daily departures from Heraklion. You can also catch a ferry from Rethymno to popular Cycladic destinations.
The port of Heraklion is the best starting point for island hopping. Apart from crossings to the Cyclades, there are also weekly routes from Heraklion and Sitia to the Dodecanese.
Here are some popular island-hopping suggestions:
Tip: One of the top destinations to visit when in Crete is the island of Gavdos. The remote island off the south coast of Crete is one of the most peaceful and unspoilt destinations in Greece. It’s great for carefree vacation on the beach and it’s popular with campers and nudists! To get to Gavdos, you can catch the boat from Sfakia, Agia Galini or Paleochora.
Start your island-hopping experience from Crete and check our Map of ferries for inspiration! Find schedules and fares for all ferries from Crete, to plan your trip in the Aegean Sea.
Early evening walk at the port of Chania
Crete ferry: schedules and tickets
Crete is well-connected by ferry from Athens. Most Crete ferries depart from the port of Piraeus and travel directly to Heraklion, Chania and Sitia.
During the summer, there are enhanced ferry schedules to Crete ferry ports, occasionally departing from the port of Rafina as well.
Depending on the type of vessel and your final destination, the duration of the ferry to Crete is between 6.5 hr and 20 hr.
Some more specific information on Athens to Crete ferry:
- The ferry route from Piraeus to Heraklion is one of the most popular and frequent crossings. It's available throughout the year and the average duration of the trip is 8.5 hr.
- You can travel by ferry from Piraeus to Chania daily all year round. During the summer, you can also catch a highspeed vessel. It takes between 6.5 hr and 10.5 hr to reach the port of Souda in Chania.
- The crossing from Piraeus to Sitia usually runs once a week and the trip duration is approximately 20 hr.
Read more on how to get to Crete this summer on our blog.
Where to book ferry tickets online to Crete
On Ferryhopper, you can find all the information you need about your trip to Crete, Greece. Compare companies, prices, ports and schedules for Crete ferries, and book cheap ferry tickets in just 4 clicks!