Welcome to Crete!
Crete is a mystical tapestry of diverse landscapes, dramatic scenery, castaway villages, and a rich history that make it the ultimate travel destination. The birthplace of Zeus is a Mediterranean haven of coastal towns juxtaposed with mountain villages, an unparalleled gastronomic scene, and a bewitching history. Despite the fact that it’s the largest island in Greece, you’ll find that Crete has an unmistakable personality to it and apart from the craggy gorges and seafront villages, the richness of its history cannot be ignored. Famous palaces, ancient towns, and Byzantine influences make it a trove of historical treasures. Of course, if you’re a foodie, you’ll pretty much be in heaven in Crete. Delightful herbs, fresh food, a healthy cuisine, and excellent local wines are just some of the few things you’ll fall in love with.
Now Crete is huge, and there is a lot to see. You won’t be able to see everything in Crete in a week, or even two, but that shouldn’t deter you from visiting! A week there is enough to give you a glimpse into the multifaceted beauty of Crete. For this itinerary, you’ll mainly be based in Western Crete, specially the town of Chania!
Today – Now
PLANNING & BOOKING
The dreaded part of any vacation - planning! Every savvy traveler knows that it’s always better to plan and book early in advance to bag those irresistible bargains. Not only do you get to save up to 25% on flight and hotel prices, but you also get to never settle for second-best! Lower flight prices, room deals and early bird discounts are only some of the many benefits of booking your tickets, excursions and accommodation early on. We recommend planning and booking 3 to 6 months in advance – a surefire way to have a worry-free pre-holiday buzz when the time to travel is near!
Unforgettable Moments - Crete Highlights.
There is a lot to see and do in Crete, from beautiful islands, ancient palaces, learning about olive oil production, and Mediterranean beaches, to horse rides, idyllic coves, hidden churches, drinking coffee at a kafeneia, trekking through Europe’s largest gorge…You’ll be spoilt with choices of things to do!
Day 1: Arrival + Chania
The old capital of Chania, huddled around the Venetian harbor, is the largest and most populated of the Greek Islands and is a great place to base yourself. We recommend booking a hotel there for the entirety of your stay and then moving from there to nearby towns daily. There are hundreds of taverns, incredible nightlife, gorgeous beaches nearby, and is one of the most scenic of the islands. You will love nothing more than walking through the winding alleys, beckoning at architecture that dates back to the Egyptian eras, and sipping on wine by the charming 14th century harbor.
You’ll be arriving at the Chania International Airport (CHQ), and there are 3 ways you can get to Chania Town:
· Taxi: A taxi will take you 25 minutes, and will cost around EUR30 for the trip.
· Car: If you decided on renting a car, then driving will take 25 minutes. Make sure your car rental company has a location at the airport so you can pick your car up from there.
· Bus: The bus will take around 90 minutes to the city center and will cost you EUR2.5 one-way. However, the bus only runs a few times a day (every 2 hours), so it might not be a convenient option for some.
Yasou and welcome to Crete! Once you’ve arrived at your hotel, you’ll want to start exploring right away! We recommend taking the earliest flight to Chania so you can make full use of your first day. Start by walking to the Venetian Lighthouse, where you’ll be met with a lighthouse that has been standing there for centuries and is considered one of the oldest lighthouses in the world. You can walk around the harbor for incredible views of the lighthouse and the water. The Venetian harbor itself is considered the gem of Chania, so spend some time there exploring the surroundings and taking the beauty of Crete in.
Grab lunch at Chrisastamos. This is where you go for incredible traditional Greek food, a great vibe, huge portions and great house specialties. Make sure you make a reservation before heading there. After that, visit the Maritime Museum of Crete – where you’ll find a collection exhibiting ship models, photographs, and everything related to sea-life from the bronze age.
We recommend taking your first day slow, and nothing beats a lazy first day than visiting the market hall and sampling some typical Crete snacks and kalitsounia there. Stop at Cretan Nature for some delicious mountain tea.
Spend your night listening to some jazz, swing and blues at Fagotto, and try their unique malt and special whiskey for a perfect end to your first day.
Day Two: Chania & Beaches
Start your morning by peacefully enjoying a freddo espresso at To Stenaki in the heart of Chania, and then pay the area of Tabakaria a visit. It’s a nice area to walk around for a little bit and is well known for the leather processing houses there that date to the time of Egyptians in Crete.
Take a boat, bus, or your car to Elafonisi, a splendid island with powdery white and pink sandy beaches, shallow azure waters that ripple with the breeze, and lush greenery all around.
You’ll be spending your entire afternoon basking under the sun, enjoying the warm, shallow waters and exploring small coves. By sunset, you’ll be aching for a good meal - and Innahorian with its terrace and views should be your top choice. It’s the best in the area for traditional Cretan cuisine.
If you’d rather have lunch at Chania, then try Glossitses for waterfront dining, and fresh seafood. To really enjoy your experience, though, make sure you don’t sit on the seats that are right on the harbor because you’ll be bombarded by all types of people trying to sell you things.
Spend your night eating incredible Cretan food, sipping on cocktails and listening to live acoustic Cretan music at Halkina. The outdoor seating is worth spending the entire night there!
Day 3: Heraklion
Heraklion is one of those must-visit places if you’re in Crete. An outstanding blend of architecture, ancient civilizations, and turquoise waters that are to die for. We definitely recommend leaving Chania at around 7 am so you can be able to fit in all the sights in one day. There is a direct bus that will take you about 3 hours to Heraklion, or you can drive for 2 hours and a half if you have a car.
One of the most highly recommend places to start your day with while in Heraklion is Lambros Café. This family café serves breakfast, freshly brewed coffee, homemade delicacies and dakos – all with a beach view! Once you’ve had your energy fix, head to the Grand Venetian Walls of the city of Heraklion. Walk through the gates, check out the interesting exhibitions usually happening there and don’t miss out on visiting the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis (who is renowned for Zorba the Greek).
Now it’ll be time to visit one of Europe’s most renowned attractions and a top place visit in Greece – the Archeological Museum of Heraklion. There are over 10,000 artifacts there that will take you on a journey through the Minoan civilization.
Grab a hearty Mediterranean lunch at 7 Thalasses (the shrimp saganaki is one of its most famous dishes!) and then walk towards The Palace of Knossos. This Minoan Palace is an incredible example of grandeur to the extent that it was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The palace used to house Europe’s first civilization, and you’ll be able to explore the sophistication of their culture, check out the labyrinth where the Minotaur was said to have lived, and the scenery is incredible for photographers and nature-lovers.
Heraklion is known to be the entertainment capital of Crete, with bars, activities, and clubs to keep you engaged. If you want loud people and loud music, head to Hersonissos, but if you’re looking for a quitter adventure, you can always go to the town of Agia Pelagia for cozy bars, and good drinks!
Day 4: Santorini Day Trip!
It really is hard to convey just how incredibly beautiful Santorini is. In the end, it is every Instagrammer’s dream island to be in, every photographer’s heaven and just an all-around photogenic island that perfectly reflects the beauty of Greece. If you’re visiting Santorini for just one day, chances are you will be pressed for time, but every minute you spend there will be worth it.
Morning – the journey:
Take the Hellenic Seaways Highspeed 7 that departs from Heraklion at 9:00 am and arrives at 10:45 to Santorini. The trip will cost EUR56.
However, the trip leaves Santorini at 17:25, so you only have a few hours there to see everything there. Start your day by having fresh seafood at Spilia tou Nikola, and then head straight to Fira. This is the main town, with a lot of shops, beautiful alleyways and streets. Because Fira is nestled on top of a crater, you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views of the entire shore with the backdrop of soaring mountains.
Hike your way from Fira to Oia – the most popular destination in Santorini. Known for its white-washed buildings, Mediterranean vibe, and unparalleled views from every angle, Oia is the definition of a picture-postcard-view.
Take the ferry back to Chania at 17:25. You’ll probably be itching for a good meal by then, so grab lunch at To Monastiri Tou Karoulo. The restaurant is one of the most unique in Crete due to the building it’s located in. The building used to be a Catholic monastery, and now you can find both an exhibition space and a restaurant in one.
If you’ve got any energy left in you, a visit to Safe as Milk is a must. This lively bar has an incredible atmosphere, and is usually visited by locals so you’ll get a good gist of the local Cretan vibe while you sip on their famous mojitos!
Day Five: Rethymnon.
Rethymnon is another small city in Crete, but it’s one that carries thousands of years worth of history, and is one of the most picturesque as well.
Take the bus from Chania to Rethymnon (it will cost you around EUR7 and the trip lasts for an hour) as early as possible. We recommend taking the 7:30 am bus. Once you arrive at Rethymnon, have breakfast at one of its many waterfront cafes located on the Venetian port, then head to Fortezza. You’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the fortress, and the sea, and you’ll also get to explore the inside.
Give yourself at least a couple of hours to enjoy the Venetian-era citadel, enjoy the views and learn about the history of the Venetians who used to live there.
Prima Piora is one of the most famous waterfront restaurants at Rethymnon, and you’ll enjoy some of the best seafood and local wines there. Reservations are definitely recommended before you go there. The main attraction of Rethymnon is the Old City and you could pretty much spend your entire day just wandering around and enjoying the 16th century buildings there. Another important attraction is the Arkadi Monastry, where you’ll fall in love with the most beautiful Venetian church in Crete.
If you’re in the mood for listening to some authentic live Greek music, then Stathmos is a great place to go for drinks and live music.
Day Six: Gorge of Samaria.
Morning + Afternoon
A cool freddo cappuccino at Café Mavrakakis will be essential for your sixth day! Visiting the Gorge of Samaria is simply a life-changing experience that attracts hikers from all over the world who want nothing more than to experience the majesty of this gorge.
We highly recommend booking a tour that includes all the transfers, and the guides as well.
The Samaria Gorge is the longest in all of Greece, and the hike will take you around 4 to 7 hours (almost entirely downhill), where you’ll get to experience a diverse variety of flora, fauna and the infamous Kri-Kri, the wild goats of Crete.
You will descend to the beautiful beach of Agia Roumeli, that boasts turquoise waters, restaurants and cafes. This will be the perfect end to your trek.
Once you’re back in Chania, you’ll most likely have no energy to do anything. However, if you still have some energy left in you and you want to end your trip with a bang – head over to Eclipse, a lively nightclub and bar that invites holidaymakers and locals alike.
Day 7:αντίο Crete!
Your last day should be spent basking under the sun, enjoying a drink or tea on the beach, or trying to fit in a little more exploration of the Old Town of Chania.
We recommend booking the latest flight outside of Chania so you can get a few more hours to explore.