Crete is full of things to do and see, the island is the largest in Greece and is rich in history thanks to the remains of great civilizations.
In addition to the cultural attractions, Crete is famous for its beaches with tropical charm and the sea with crystal clear waters.
To get oriented and better understand Crete, let's say that it is divided into four provinces: Hania, Rethymno, Iraklio, Lassithi.
As we said, the island is quite large and therefore it becomes even more important. choose well the area where to stay in Crete.
Let me start by saying that it is best to rent a car to be able to move comfortably around the island and see the most beautiful beaches and the main attractions.
The choice in the area to stay in Crete, should be made according to the days you have available and especially what you prefer to visit.
The ideal would be to choose some main stages that will be the basis of the various movements.
Some distances between the main cities:
- From Heraklion to Chania: 140 KM (approximately 2 hours).
- From Chania to Kssamos: 37 km (about 30/40 minutes)
- From heraklion to rethymno: 80 km (about 1 hour)
- From heraklion to agios nikolaos 62 km (about 55 minutes)
- From Agios Nikolaos to Crete: 10 km (about 18 minutes)
Best places: where to stay in Crete
Heraklion is the capital of Crete, 4 km from the city is the airport of Heraklion (HER), the main airport of the island.
Do not miss the archaeological museum of Heraklion, the best place to know and admire the Minoan civilization. Heraklion can be a good starting point to visit the island, just 5 km away is the palace of Knossos.
Otherwise, the city is perhaps too chaotic and the most beautiful beaches are quite far away.
Chania ( Chania )
A great area to stay in Crete is definitely Chania, located in the prefecture of the same name, where the island's second airport is located.
See the Archaeological Museum of Chania, located inside the church of San Francesco and where you can admire the findings brought to light by the excavations carried out in the western part of Crete.
It is a very nice and quiet area and above all there are beautiful and easily accessible beaches, do not miss the splendid Stavros and Marathi beach.
From Chania you can reach the beautiful beaches of Falasarna, the lagoon of Balos and the charming Elafonissi.
A great hotel to stay in Chania is the Royal Sun, perfect as a base for visiting the island, close to the center of Chania for evening strolls.
Royal Sun Hotel
Paizi 36, Chania, Crete 73133, Greece
Another strategic point to visit the west of Crete and therefore the best beaches is Kolymbari.
But the best and most strategic place to stay in Crete in my opinion is Kissamos, close to the three most beautiful beaches of Crete, Falasarna, Balos and Elafonissi, 30 minutes from Chania and 45 from Rethymno.
In Kissamos I recommend sleeping at the Galini Beach Hotel (Trip Advisor rating 4.5 / 5).
The hotel is located directly on the sea, a few minutes from the center of town, where there are tavernas and bars, the rooms are clean and the staff is always friendly and helpful.
Galini Beach Hotel
Teloneio Beach, Kissamos, Crete 73400, Greece
If you decide to take a vacation traveling, I recommend you to stop in Matala for at least a couple of days, from here you can reach the ruins of Festos in about 30 minutes.
Matala beach is also beautiful with crystal clear sea, it is about 300 meters long and is characterized by cliffs that form a small bay.
Among the cliffs are the ancient prehistoric caves.
The town is small but very pretty, full of bars, tavernas, restaurants and stores. Matala was famous in the 70's for the presence of hippies, and even today it has kept that charm and that slightly quirky atmosphere.
From Ierapetra ferries depart to the paradise Chrissi Island. For this you can choose Ierapetra as a base to visit the island. As accommodation I recommend the Popy Apartments (Tripadvisor rating 5/5). The hotel is in an excellent location close to the harbor and the center.
Apartments in Popy
Kazantzaki 27, Ierapetra, 72200, Greece
Along with the very popular Balos and Elafonissi, Chrissi Island is another place not to be missed, an uninhabited island that has nothing to envy to the Caribbean, crystal clear sea and white beach.
There are two fairly inexpensive gastronomic options and the beaches are equipped with sun loungers and umbrellas.
Staying in Agios Nikolas is a good solution to visit beautiful beaches without traveling too many kilometers. Agios Nikolas, however, is very touristy and is the posh area of Crete, not exactly cheap.
From Agios Nikolas you can easily reach the more characteristic Kritsa, a more traditional corner of Greece with white houses and the beautiful church of Panagia Kera.
Another excursion not to be missed isSpinalonga Island, a small island with the ruins of a Venetian fortress and a leper colony. The island can be reached by ferry from Plaka (5 minutes) or from Elounda (about 20 minutes).
Sitia is an excellent starting point for visiting the eastern part of Crete. This town is located in the province of Lassithi 64 kilometers east of Agios Nikolas and not far from the beautifulbeach of Vai.
This small village has excellent cafes along the road from the harbor to the long beach east of the center. to see the Kazarma castle and the Archaeological Museum.
But as I said, Sitia is a perfect base to enjoy the beautiful beach of Vai.
A great hotel to stay at is the Petras Beach Hotel / TripAdvisor rating 4.5 / 5) 2 kilometers from the center of Sitia, with a free beach right in front of the hotel.
Petras Beach Hotel
Karamanli Ave. | Petra, Siteia, Crete 72300, Greece
Now that I have listed the main places on the island of Crete, you will surely have a clearer idea. I would conclude by saying that if you have at least two weeks, you can go around the island and stop at the main places.
If, on the other hand, you have less time, maybe only a week, choose a base to see what interests you most, for example Chania or Kissamos, both perfect for relaxing and visiting part of the island at the same time.