Crete is the largest island in Greece and one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world. Thousands of visitors choose the beautiful island for their holidays, wishing to explore the amazing natural landscape and the rich Cretan tradition. If you’re wondering where to stay, which beaches and sights to visit and how to travel by ferry to the island of Crete, you can find all the info you need for your trip on Ferryhopper. Find all ferry routes to Crete and book cheap ferry tickets with no extra fees!
The quaint old port of Agios Nikolaos in Crete
Vacation in Crete
The island of Crete is in the southern part of Greece. Major cities and towns such as Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos, Rethymno, Sitia and Chania are located on the northern coast of the island, while Ierapetra and Sfakia are on the southern coast. The southern part is also famous for its breathtaking beaches and unspoilt countryside. The heavenly island of Gavdos is also close to the southern coast of Crete, making it the southernmost island in Europe.
Crete is one of the most authentic destinations in Greece, ideal if you’re looking for quiet holidays, wild party nights and cultural sightseeing. Holidays in Crete are also great for families with kids! The island welcomes visitors mostly during the summer, but you can also visit for your winter holidays to see the snowy mountains.
How to get to Crete
Crete is regularly connected with mainland Greece at the port of Piraeus in Athens. As it’s the largest island in the country, this means there are daily Crete ferry routes from Athens to 3 ports in the island: Chania, Sitia and Heraklion. You can also travel by ferry to Crete from the islands of the Cyclades, as well as the Dodecanese. During the summer, there are enhanced ferry schedules to the island, occasionally departing from the port of Rafina as well. 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: This is an exotic beach on the southern coast of Rethymno. Preveli is a beach of exceptional beauty 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: This beach on the southern coast of Chania is part of a narrow peninsula and it has pinkish sand and turquoise waters. It has a Caribbean feeling and there are visitor amenities, such as umbrellas, showers, sun loungers, changing rooms and a lifeguard on its east side.
- Lygaria: It is 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: This beach south of Rethymno is one of the top beaches in Crete. 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 hour from Heraklion by car. It’s 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: It’s 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: The popular beach is 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. It’s 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. Ferryhopper suggests that you visit the following natural and cultural attractions in Crete:
- 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!
- The nicest part of Crete is the southern coast of the island, particularly if you’re looking for unspoilt nature. If you prefer the hustle and bustle of the city, then the northern coast is the perfect choice.
- 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.
- 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 for 2021.
Important information for Crete
Crete is a large modern island with all 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. There are also all-inclusive resorts and villas if you’re looking for luxury vacation.
Useful phone numbers for your stay in Crete
Here are some useful phone numbers 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
There is 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 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. You can find international airports in Chania and Heraklion.
Ports of Crete
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. The port of Heraklion is the best starting point for island hopping. There are daily ferry routes from Heraklion to the Cyclades during the summer, as well as weekly routes from Heraklion and Sitia to the Dodecanese. You can also catch a ferry from Rethymno to popular Cycladic islands such as Mykonos, Santorini and Naxos.
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 ferry route map 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 ferries depart from the port of Piraeus to Heraklion, Chania and Sitia in Crete. There are also some seasonal ferry schedules from the port of Rafina to Crete ferry ports. Depending on the type of vessel and your final destination, the journey duration ranges from 7 to 20 hours.
- From Piraeus to Heraklion: The ferry route from Piraeus to Heraklion is one of the most frequent and it’s available throughout the year. The average sailing duration is 9 hours.
- From Piraeus to Chania: 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 around 10.5 hours to reach the port of Souda in Chania.
- From Piraeus to Sitia: The crossing from Piraeus to Sitia is normally seasonal. It lasts around 20 hours and it’s usually available by a single ferry company.
Tip: We recommend that you book a cabin as 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!
Where to book ferry tickets online to Crete
Are you looking forward to traveling to Crete and having a shot of raki? On Ferryhopper, you can find all the information you need about the top destinations, beaches and sights in Crete, to plan your trip. Compare companies and schedules for Crete ferries, and book cheap ferry tickets in just 4 clicks!