14 Best Things to Do in Crete

Out of all the Greek islands, Crete is, without a doubt, the largest. Europe's first civilizations arose on this Mediterranean island. There's a lot to see, try, and do here, including historic forts, mouthwatering Greek cuisine, and breathtaking scenery. Even when you're far from civilization, the island features some of the most stunning beaches you've ever seen and mountain ranges and gorges.

Crete is the largest Greek island and one of the biggest in the Mediterranean. Full of legend and mythology is the land of the Minotaur, the land of Zeus and its beauty is incomparable. The people of Crete will tell you that it is cold, but you will always find it to be above 15 degrees in winter, it will be quite pleasant.

And there is so much to see on the island that you would never be able to discover in the summer because of the heat and the tourists! You will be in the cradle of Ancient Greece, so you will get sick of seeing museums, temples and ruins, which you can combine with hiking or cycling routes through the beautiful and green hills of the island.

The blue of its waters contrasts with the white of its mountains. The sun is the best of its claims but the possibilities that the island offers the traveler are endless.

And of course, do not stop tasting the Greek food. For something it is said that Cretan cuisine is the kitchen of the gods. You can taste the virgin olive oil and the Cretan wine of Manoliopulo and Kissamos, in Xamoudochori, Omalos and Sfakia, enjoy the local liquor Tsikoudia, taste the aromatic honey and traditional Xirotigana breads from Sirili or walk through the picturesque chapels and stop to rest in the cool Dere.

There are so many options for everyone that it's hard to name only the top ten things to do in Crete! We've compiled this guide to give you an idea of places you can't miss.

Best Things to Do in Crete

1. Minoan Palace of Knossos

You can find around 10 archaeological sites in Crete, the most famous being Knossos in Heraklion, the capital.

Is the world's oldest faith in Crete? In the ancient palace of Knossos you can see the 2,500-year-old throne. The throne is made of alabaster and is surrounded by less impressive plaster benches. If you want to go deeply in history and explore the Ancient one, well what better than Knossos Palace which is the biggest Bronze Age site across all of the island and is often referred to as Europe's oldest city.

Minoan culture was formerly centered around the Palace of Knossos. Look out for the stunning frescoes and amazing Throne Room situated there.

For hours, you can explore historical elements such as bright paintings, crumbling staircases, and towering columns at the ruins around five kilometers south of Heraklion. The restored frescoes showing everyday life in the ancient city of Knossos attract the majority of visitors. It's a remarkable site, so make sure you fit it into your schedule.

You can visit the Venetian fortress that is preserved in perfect condition and protects the entrance to the port, the medieval Agia Ekaterini Church, which displays a large collection of icons, the archaeological museum in Eleftheria Square. You can visit the center of the city that houses pottery, miniatures, jewels and frescoes of the Minoan culture, the Historical Museum, to the west of the port, where you can admire the view of Mount Sinai.

2. Rethymnon

The island's third-largest city, Rethymnon, boasts what may be the island's best-preserved old town. While Crete was under the rule of the Republic of Venice, its narrow cobblestone streets were carved out in the 14th century, preserving Renaissance houses, arches, and catholic churches. It's a beautiful old town that gets an entirely new glow in the winter, so it's worth visiting even in the colder months.

The province of Rethymnon, situated between the area of Chania and Heraklion, is bathed, to the north by the Cretan sea and to the south by the Libyan sea. The small town of Rethymno keeps much of its Venetian, Byzantine and Ottoman past on the one hand through its small Venetian port and on the other hand visiting the multitude of small Byzantine churches there. It's a charming place that will surely capture your heart!

3. Agios Nikolaos

Take a drive around the whole region, pop into the Sea of Crete for a little dip and head to the town of Agios Nikolaos for a bite to eat. Agios Nikolaos is a pretty little town on the north coast of eastern Crete, 65 kilometers east of Heraklion, bordered by stunning beaches and overlooking picturesque Mirabello Bay.

One can find many seaside cafes and restaurants along Lake Voulismeni - a popular destination for visitors. Two famous statues may be seen as you walk from the port to Kitroplatia beach, as well as breathtaking views of Mirabello Bay and the mountains of eastern Crete.

This town is so beautiful that you might decide to move here! If you do, we recommend consulting with experts such as fourwinds-ksa.com for everything that interests you about moving. And if you like the wonders of nature, visit Diktean Cave, with its breathtaking stalactites and stalagmites. Along with Diktean Cave, you may also pay Kritsa a visit - a mountain village where local craftspeople offer leather goods, ceramics, and hand-woven rugs.

4. Chania

Chania occupies the western end of Crete and is the second largest city of Crete. At the western end, next to one of the most beautiful beaches of Crete are the extraordinary ruins of ancient Phalasarna. It is safe behind the strong Hellenistic walls and has a protected harbor that transformed it into one of the largest naval forces and a city of corsairs of Crete.

Before its relocation to Heraklion in 1971, Chania served as the island's capital and the largest city in western Crete. The fantastic atmosphere comes from centuries under Venetian rule, views of the Aegean Sea, and the White Mountains, which are snow-capped in winter. Chania is a beautiful spot to walk around and see the sights.

The village is surrounded by a 16th-century defense wall, with beautiful lanes and pastel-colored buildings. It stretches to a picturesque fishing bay. Don't forget to stop and gorge on the amazing Greek food while you're there! You can find fresh seasonal products at the Municipal Market, such as Cretan cheese and honey.

Moreover, the charming city of Chania is an idyllic place for a historical sojourn in the old town with kids. Head to the town of Loutro on the south side of the island, with whitewashed houses, blue doors and crystal clear waters. One can also have great luxury accommodation in the small fishing town of Elounda.

5. Samaria Gorge

You can make the excursion to the beginning of the Samaria gorge. You will reach the picturesque village of Omalos and visit the lake Agia, Alikianos and from there you can explore the beginning of the Samaria gorge.

This gorge is one of Crete's most satisfying outdoor adventures, encompassing a 15-kilometer hike through tiny roads and abandoned settlements. It boasts a variety of sceneries, from steep rocky terrain to lush green forests. Along the route of Samaria gorge, you'll come across a number of churches and chapels such as St. Nicholas's and the slightly larger but no less quaint Osia Maria.

On this hike, you don't want to bring too much stuff, as it can get tiring. Renting storage is perfect for this occasion, as you can leave all your belongings in a trusted storage facility. The ideal time to rent storage is when you know that you have plenty of items to bring which will be necessary during your trip.

6. Balos Lagoon

Balos Lagoon is a truly paradisiacal beach. We hope you packed properly for your trip because it's swimming time! Lagoons Gramvousa and Tigani create an oasis of shallow blue water between two capes. To get to Tigani from the lagoon, you'll have to trek down the steep slope, which is an adventure in and of itself. Once in Tigani, you'll see the white sand lagoon.

7. Falassarna Beach

Located on the west coast, where the Gramvousa Peninsula meets the mainland, Falassarna Beach is often ranked as one of the greatest things Crete has to offer. So if you are looking for the best things to do in Crete, a visit to the Falassarna Beach is just what you need. A vast bay that served as a port in ancient times has five different beaches.

Central Beach is a popular site for sunbathers because of its large stretch of pale sand and clean, shallow water with barely mild waves. If you're up for the challenge, tandem paragliding is available.

8. Monastery of Arkadi

The stunning Sacred Monastery of Arkadi is nestled in the Cretan countryside. Rethymnon is around 20 kilometers away - thus, driving is the best choice for getting to the monastery. Make sure you see the Corinthian columns and the bell tower.

9. Aquaworld Aquarium

This little aquarium in Hersonissos is one of just three in the country and a welcome diversion from the island's famous Minoan monuments and vast landscapes. Aquaworld is charming because of its small size, cheerful employees, and the opportunity to interact with the animals. If you’re traveling with children, they will surely love this place!

10. Seitan Limania

It is home to the amazing beaches starting from the one just a few km near the Chania Airport where you might land. The tiny little cover of Seitan Limania is a great spot to chill out and relax in that stunning Aegean Sea, where you can enjoy moments of privacy. If you want a large beach, that has room for everybody, well, you can spend a day or two in one of the largest bays in all of Europe, Mirambello Bay.

11. Elafonisi

A couple of years back Elafonisi was a hidden spot. At this point the mystery is certainly not a mystery any longer. This spot pulls in huge amounts of travelers consistently. Today, the flawless sandy beach is the target for everyone and young adventurers as the place offers an unmatched view of the sunset. Go in the high season and you'll find this once unfilled shoreline, bounded by a sandbar and an natural island, swarming with tourists.

12. Agia Triada Tzagaroli Monastery

Not too far from Akrotiri is the Holy Trinity Monastery that's amazing to visit when you're looking for a break from all that beach life. Make sure you head inside the monastery itself, it has some of the very best gilded interiors you’ll find on the island.

13. Diktaion Andron

Well, according to mythology, Zeus himself was born in Crete. The Dikteon Cave in south-central Crete, is known as the birthplace of the greatest of all Mythology Gods. He must have had a good reason to choose this Island.

Crete is also birthplace to one of the greatest painters of all times El Greco. His art name says it all. Right?

14. Spinalonga

With a small boat ride, you can get to Spinalonga in less than an hour from Crete. Visiting it is one of the nicest things to do in Crete. It's a small piece of Crete's Venetian history, located in the Gulf of Elounda in the island's northeast. This little town has a history of Arab incursions, Venetian conquest, and Ottoman occupation, culminating in the establishment of a leper colony.

Fortunately, the island has returned to a more tranquil state. It is a fascinating site for tourists, so make sure you see for yourself why visiting it’s considered to be one of the best things to do in Crete!

Kalyan Panja