10 Must See Things in Crete

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Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Crete is the largest island in Greece and it is a real paradise on earth! Not only the sea, which in any case is of a disarming beauty, but also history, culture and excellent food, as well as different landscapes, but all like a postcard.

For this great vastness and variety of landscapes and activities, Crete is a truly perfect destination for anyone: for families with children, for those looking for nightlife and fun, for those who just want to relax and for those looking for adrenaline-pumping experiences.

Being very extensive, there are so many things to see, but we will try to summarize the most beautiful for you: here 10 things to see absolutely in Crete!


  1. Heraklion and Archaeological Museum
  2. Palace of Knossos
  3. Agios Nikolaos
  4. Rethymno
  5. Palace of Phaistos
  6. Chania
  7. Balos Lagoon and Gramvousa Island
  8. Spinalonga Island
  9. Palm grove of Vai
  10. Gorges of Samaria
  11. User questions and comments

1 - Heraklion and Archaeological Museum

We can only start from Heraklion (Iraklio), the capital of the island and the perfect starting point to start your vacation. In fact, if you reach Crete by plane, you will land at the Heraklion Nikos Kazantzakis Airport, just 5 kilometers from the historic center.

On the coast of the island, it is also the fifth largest city in Greece, it is very busy and also chaotic. Also in the course of the article, we will always use Heraklion as a reference point to reach the other proposed destinations.

But it is absolutely worth a visit if only for its important and famous Archaeological Museum, where various fundamental finds are exhibited for the study of the Minoan age. The collections in general span a time span of approximately 5.500 years, from the Neolithic to the Roman period. Many of the works and objects exhibited here come from the Knossos Palace, another important place to visit and which we will talk about in the next point.

After visiting this amazing museum, we recommend that you enjoy Heraklion and of stroll through its beautiful old town and along the promenade and to start getting into the atmosphere and way of life of Greece.

  • from the airport, about 5 km away, you can get to the center by taxi (fixed cost of € 20,00 / travel time 20 minutes) or by bus (ticket € 0,75 / travel time 35 minutes) - Get directions
  • the city can always be visited; the hours of the Archaeological Museum vary according to the months, from year to year, generally it is open in the summer period from 8:00 to 20:00 and in the winter from 9:00 to 17:00, before your visit check the exact time on the official website
  • € 6,00; cumulative admission with the Palace of Knossos € 10,00

2 - Palace of Knossos

If you are in Crete you cannot absolutely miss a visit to Palace of Knossos, associated with stories such as that of the Minotaur and Daedalus and Icarus, stories that we all know or have at least heard once. Reaching it will be very simple, as it is located only 6 kilometers from the capital Heraklion, to which it is continuously connected with numerous buses.

According to legend, it was built by the architect Daedalus, who was locked inside with his son once the work was completed. Hence the myth of the wax wings and Icarus' attempted escape. It is connected instead to the Myth of the Minotaur and Ariadne as it was really a very large building, full of rooms and corridors, it almost looked like a labyrinth. During your visit you will feel like you are stepping back in time and you will be able to relive the moments when the Palace was at its maximum splendor.

  • 6 km from Heraklion, reachable in 13 minutes by car via the Leof road. Knosou or with the numerous buses of line 2 departing from the port area or Piazza dei Leoni and leading to Knossos (average cost € 2,00) - Get directions
  • every day from 8: 00 to 18: 00
  • € 5,00; cumulative admission with the Heraklion Archaeological Museum € 10,00

3 - Agios Nikolaos

We move a little from the capital, but we always stay on the northern coast of Crete, this time further east, where the beautiful town of Agios Nikolaos is located. Reaching it will be very easy, thanks to the many daily buses that connect the two cities at a really cheap cost, less than € 10,00.

This is a beautiful one seaside town, with colorful houses and characteristic streets. It is a very popular and sought-after destination, so in the summer the beaches of the city will be quite crowded, but if you move just outside you will find many beaches and much quieter coves. In the evening, dine on the waterfront, watching the lights of the city on one side and the sun setting on the other. And don't forget to sit in one of the many small bars and order a Saumàada, made with almond milk.

  • 62 km from Heraklion, reachable in 50 minutes by car or with one of the numerous daily buses that connect the two cities, with a journey lasting from 60 to 90 minutes (ticket cost from € 7,00 to € 9,00) - Get directions
  • always accessible
  • free

4 - Rethymno

If Agios Nikolaos is located in the northern part of the island, now from Heraklion we move towards the western one, until we reach Rethymno, another beautiful city on the sea about 80 kilometers from the capital. Again, from Heraklion so many buses leave for the city, about every hour!

This is one of those cities that absolutely must be visited on a trip to Crete! What attracts and makes this city unique are its beautiful architecture and its surroundings, with beaches and landscapes that seem straight out of a postcard! It is a perfect city to relax, between one beach and another, and to enjoy a delicious dinner in one of the many restaurants located directly on the sea. Not to mention the beautiful sunsets during the aperitif time.

  • 80 km from Heraklion, reachable in an hour and 10 minutes by car or by one of the numerous daily buses with departures every hour that connect the two cities (journey time about 90 minutes, ticket cost € 8,00) - Get directions
  • always accessible
  • free

5 - Palace of Phaistos

Less known and smaller than the Palace of Knossos, but with nothing to envy in terms of beauty. Located in the southern part of the island, to reach it from Heraklion you will have to cross the hinterland of the island, and travel about 55 kilometers. There are some connections with buses to Moires, from there then you will need to continue by taxi, it is only 4 kilometers.

But why see it? why this palace it is the real symbol and the best testimony of Minoan culture and civilization.
All those who decide to subtract two hours from the beach to come and visit this archaeological site are not disappointed with the choice made!

Many of the artifacts found during the excavations are now on display at the aforementioned Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, here you can see the remains and ruins of the ancient palace. According to a myth, the Phaistos Disc seems to contain a code among his images, not yet deciphered today!

  • 55 km from Heraklion, reachable in 50 minutes by car via the EO Irakliou Faistou or you can take a bus (cost € 9,00) from the capital to the city of Moires, located 4 km from Phaistos, and from there continue with a taxi - Get directions
  • every day from 8: 00 to 18: 30
  • € 8,00

6 - Chania

Beautiful Greek city located on the sea: we are talking about Chania, in the southwestern part of the island, 140 kilometers from the capital. You can also easily reach it by bus, there are departures every hour and the journey takes about 3 hours.

Just know it is known as the Venice of the East, as its architecture still reflects the influences of the Venetian and Turkish dominations, and has an atmosphere reminiscent of Venice, with canals, houses on the water and a suggestive promenade where you can enjoy relaxing walks and admire the beautiful sunsets.

  • 142 km from Heraklion, reachable in 2 hours by car via the VOAK / E75 or with the numerous daily buses departing every hour that connect the two cities (travel time about 3 hours, ticket cost € 14,00) - Get indications
  • always accessible
  • free

7 - Balos Lagoon and Gramvousa Island

In Chania we advise you to stop for a few days, as it is a perfect starting point to explore the entire western area of ​​the island. In fact, from the city you can visit the Balos lagoon, a marvel for the eyes! There are two ways to get there: or with an organized tour, which perhaps involves moving by ship, or with your own vehicle. There is no public transport available.

Even if to get there you will have to rent a means of transport, what you find in front of your eyes will pay off!

The Balos Lagoon is indeed the most beautiful lagoon in all of Crete and, we could say, one of the most beautiful views in all of Greece! Opposite is located Gramvousa Island, a small unspoiled island with dense vegetation where more than 400 species of birds find their home.

  • 54 km from Chania, reachable in an hour and 20 minutes by car or by taking part in a sea excursion that will take you to the lagoon (cost between € 25,00 and € 30,00 per person), departures between 10:30 and 12:30 from Kissamos port - Get directions
  • always accessible
  • free

8 - Island of Spinalonga

It is an island to visit, especially if you are looking for an experience that makes you live the real Crete, away from tourists!

The island is located in the northern part of Crete, off the coast where the city of Plaka is located. The latter is just over an hour from the capital Heraklion and from here you can take a ferry to reach the island in just 5 minutes.

This beautiful and characteristic island is dominated by the Fortress of Spinalonga, built by the Venetians during their domination on Crete. But what really characterizes the island is its history: it was in fact used as a leper colony until 1957 and the people who were expelled here created a real community among them, trying to lead a normal life, working together, creating relationships and families. From those years only some ruins of old structures remain, very suggestive to see from the outside.

  • reach Plaka in an hour and 10 minutes by car (66 km from Heraklion), then take a ferry that will take you to the island in just 5 minutes (cost € 10,00); Ferries to the island also depart from Agias Nikolaos (one hour journey) and Elounda (15 minute journey) - Get directions
  • during ferry timetables, operating every day from early morning until 18:00
  • free; cost of the ferry € 10,00

9 - Palm grove of Vai

On the extreme tip of the island, on the eastern side there is one of the most beautiful of the whole island.

To reach it there we recommend renting a car, as there is a long way to go, otherwise you can take part in one of the many organized tours.

This beach is famous because the Largest palm grove in Europe, belonging to the Toplou Monastery.
Here for a moment you will feel like you are on a paradise beach typical of the Caribbean!

Of course, it is also one of the most crowded beaches and besieged by tourists, who are not always the most respectful people. For this reason, the beach is protected by national laws aimed at trying to prevent its nature from being affected by the disrespectful behavior of certain people.

  • 152 km from Heraklion, reachable in 2 and a half hours by car; 92 km from Agios Nikolaos, reachable in an hour and 50 minutes by car; also reachable with the many organized tours - Get directions
  • always accessible
  • free

10 - Samaria Gorge

This is a beautiful natural attraction in the hinterland of the island, in the western part!

It is also about one of the most beautiful trekking routes in Crete, in addition to being one of the most impressive canyons in Europe. The gorge is about 16 kilometers long and offers truly spectacular landscapes and views.

And as for the difficulty of the route, don't worry, it is a trekking suitable for everyone! Please wear comfortable shoes because there will be walking!

  • 70 kilometers from Chania, you can take the direct bus from the Chania bus station to Omalos (cost € 14,00 per person) or by taking part in one of the many tours organized every day, which also include the transport (from € 30,00 per person) - Get directions
  • indicates opening and closing periods and times
  • € 5,00; for children € 2,50

Plan your stay in Crete: flights, hotels and tours

Crete is a very popular destination and this has led to a consequent rise in prices, especially during the summer!

In the summer months, a flight can cost as much as € 200,00 and in the same way the prices of hotels also rise. For this reason, if you want to organize a trip to Crete we advise you to get there early and book, especially flights, in advance!

As for travel, as you have seen, there are numerous buses that connect all the main towns of the island and the costs are also contained.
But if you want more freedom and autonomy, our advice is to rent a car. During the summer season, the rental will cost you from € 25,00 per day, then it depends on the car you choose.

Alternatively, if you don't want to rent a car or travel by bus, you can take part in the many organized tours every day on the island and that will take you to discover every corner

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